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Dr. Pugh: I assure the hon. Lady that trains from the north are never 90 per cent. full because half the train is
 
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first class. The standard class section is often 120 or 130 per cent. full, but the train as a whole is never 90 per cent. full.

Dr. Starkey: I accept that I might have exaggerated slightly, but the general point remains.

As soon as it became evident to my constituents that there would be a problem with the timetable that was due to be introduced in 2004, that they would no longer be able to get on quite so many fast Pendolino trains and that they would have to rely on Silverlink trains instead, I raised the issue repeatedly with the Secretary of State, and I am incredibly pleased that he responded very positively. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Halton (Derek Twigg), was able to join me on Milton Keynes Central station a couple of months ago to celebrate the fact that the scheme for providing an extra platform is being funded by this Government to the tune of £24 million from the community infrastructure fund; a very large slice of a national fund of only about £200 million, for which I am immensely grateful.

Network Rail is providing another £85 million and it has been agreed with Milton Keynes council that a further £6 million would come from section 106 contributions. The platform is timetabled to be built for 2008; as Members will be aware, such a major scheme has to be fitted in with all the other things planned on the railway. It will provide a turn-back facility at Milton Keynes, enormously increase capacity at Milton Keynes Central and improve the service for my constituents.

At this point I want to get on the record, so that the Secretary of State can give this due attention, the fact that the excellent Milton Keynes and Bletchley Rail Users Group, which I was instrumental in starting, has set out what it is hoping will be delivered in the 2008 timetable, which is even now being discussed, so that users can benefit from this Government's munificence in planning such extra works.

The group would like at least three non-stop trains an hour in the evening peak between London and Milton Keynes; two fast trains an hour to Birmingham in the morning and evening peaks; a half-hourly fast service between Bletchley and London in the morning and evening peaks; and a northbound hourly service to Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow with connections to intermediate stations to allow effective business travel to and from Milton Keynes. The group has written directly to the Department for Transport, whose Ministers have heard my speech, so I am sure that they will give those requests due consideration.

The people of Milton Keynes are extremely grateful for the funding that they have received. They are grateful, too, for the funding that will be used to upgrade Wolverton station as part of the regeneration of Wolverton. They are grateful for the additional investment from the private sector in Bletchley station to improve the service. Every hon. Member would want even more to be spent on transport, particularly transport schemes in their own constituency. We all know perfectly well, however, that public spending is always a balance of priorities; the more that is spent on one service the less that is spent on another, or the more that has to be raised from general taxation.
 
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I am grateful for the funding that my constituents have received from the Government transport strategy. The Government have delivered a great deal more than the last Government or, frankly, any Tory Government ever would.

6.6 pm

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): The Secretary of State made a sensible change to the Government's approach to transport when he began his difficult job. His predecessor thought that it was possible to shift a large number of people off the road on to the train to solve environmental and capacity problems. The Secretary of State quickly realised that we are short of capacity of all kinds. He realised that the fundamental transport problem facing the country is insufficient capacity on the roads and railways to deal with the current level of economic activity. That problem will become much more acute in the years ahead, assuming reasonable growth in the economy.

To give some figures, if we grow at European levels of only 2 per cent. per annum—it is feared that we will go down to such levels—we must make capacity available for a two-thirds increase in the journey miles travelled in the next 20 years. If we return to Anglosphere levels of achievement and secure 3 per cent. growth, or if we return to our old trend rate of 2.5 per cent., there will be an increase of between 75 per cent. and 100 per cent. in the number of miles travelled by people as all those extra goods are taken to market and extra services are provided, and as more people travel to work and go about their business spending their extra leisure pounds. They will want access to facilities, so they will need more transport.

The Secretary of State will agree that we want to live in a vibrant and growing economy, which naturally means more transport. I therefore find the Liberal Democrats' attitude absurd. They presumably want to live in a prosperous country, but they say that we cannot make more capacity available in transport alone. They rightly argue that we have to make more hospitals available for the ill, and that we have to make more schools available for children. They believe that we cannot make more transport capacity available, but that would mean that we would not have a growing vibrant economy and people would not be able to travel to school, hospital or work. How on earth do they think that we can manage if we do not tackle the underlying capacity problem?

The Secretary of State inherited a grand scheme, with a total spend of £180 billion consisting of a mixture of public and private funds. I remember criticising the scheme when it was announced for two main reasons. First, the modal shift could obviously not be achieved on the scale that the right hon. Member for North Tyneside (Mr. Byers), the then Secretary of State, imagined. The new Secretary of State has recognised that. Secondly, I did not think that £180 billion was nearly enough expenditure over a 10-year period to tackle our serious capacity problems. I want much more to be spent, but we can fund that increase by raising private capital. We do not need to increase the public component.

By way of contrast to the £180 billion so-called transport strategy, outside that document was all the spending that individuals and companies are
 
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undertaking on motor vehicles. People are buying cars, vans, lorries by the thousands every month and that, I compute, probably adds up to more than £180 billion over the 10-year period that people will spend on new vehicles, leaving aside the trade in second-hand vehicles. So we know that there is plenty of money available for transport. People must spend that money. It is often their only way of getting around, of getting goods to market or of getting to work on time, particularly for those who work unsocial hours, so people make that money available.

I want the Government to provide more opportunities for private money to be made available to solve the capacity problem. I am a great fan of a recent scheme which was begun under the Conservatives and was finished under the Labour Government; a bi-partisan effort. I refer to the toll motorway to the north of Birmingham. It is a very good scheme. It provides flexible tolls so that motorists pay more if they travel at a popular time of the day or night, and less if they travel at a less popular time. Perhaps the tolls need to be made more flexible to get maximum capacity use. I am sure that will happen, as there is an economic incentive for it. I would like to see the Government come up with opportunities for the private sector to start tackling the big capacity problems on our road network through that kind of private finance for new facilities on our roads.

I see from the document that the Secretary of State has made a number of changes, compared with the original 10-year plan. Some of his changes have been sensible. He is right that some of the tram and mass transit systems that were proposed do not offer good value for money, and some of them could be dangerous. If people wish to introduce a tramway system into a busy and congested city or town centre on existing roads, it can be extremely dangerous. That, after all, is why the original trams and trolleybuses were taken out some years ago, because there were conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists and other road users, and there were some very bad accidents.

Mr. Lee Scott (Ilford, North) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that for people such as my constituents, who must endure travelling on overcrowded underground trains, the fact that they are penalised if they wish to pay with a strange old commodity called cash is not an encouragement to get them out of their cars and on to trains? There is a double whammy. If they use their cars, they are penalised by congestion charging; if they do not, they are penalised by not being able to travel comfortably to their destination.


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