There have been 19 exchanges between Chris Heaton-Harris and Department for Transport
|Thu 17th September 2020||Oral Answers to Questions||28 interactions (672 words)|
|Thu 10th September 2020||Manchester Piccadilly to Rose Hill Marple Trains||8 interactions (1,712 words)|
|Wed 22nd July 2020||Southern Heathrow Rail Link||4 interactions (1,658 words)|
|Wed 15th July 2020||Railway Station: Gamesley||2 interactions (1,004 words)|
|Thu 2nd July 2020||Oral Answers to Questions||37 interactions (787 words)|
|Mon 29th June 2020||Dronfield Station:150th Anniversary||4 interactions (1,340 words)|
|Tue 16th June 2020||Transport in Carshalton and Wallington||4 interactions (1,653 words)|
|Fri 13th March 2020||Roadworks: Rayleigh||4 interactions (1,275 words)|
|Thu 12th March 2020||Oral Answers to Questions||51 interactions (1,057 words)|
|Tue 10th March 2020||East Putney Station: Step-free Access||2 interactions (1,258 words)|
|Wed 5th February 2020||Rail Services: Maidenhead, Twyford and Branch Lines (Westminster Hall)||9 interactions (1,383 words)|
|Tue 4th February 2020||Rail Services: North-East England||8 interactions (1,509 words)|
|Thu 30th January 2020||Oral Answers to Questions||66 interactions (1,229 words)|
|Wed 22nd January 2020||North Cotswold Line (Westminster Hall)||11 interactions (2,428 words)|
|Tue 21st January 2020||High Speed 1: Rolling Stock (Westminster Hall)||6 interactions (1,577 words)|
|Tue 29th October 2019||Colne to Skipton Railway Link (Westminster Hall)||13 interactions (2,991 words)|
|Thu 24th October 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||24 interactions (516 words)|
|Wed 16th October 2019||Portishead Railway||8 interactions (1,738 words)|
|Tue 1st October 2019||South Western Railway||20 interactions (2,952 words)|
What steps is he taking to improve accessibility for disabled people using the rail network. 
Since July, the lifts at Luton Airport Parkway station have been in the process of being fixed, so people in my constituency who are disabled, have mobility issues or have a family with children and a buggies are not able to access the railway. I am pleased that Luton station has been granted Access for All funding. I spoke to the Minister six months ago about the decrepit state of Luton station and the need not just to add shiny lifts to something that is not fit for the 21st century. Will the Minister give me an update on the much-needed renovation of the station, the accessibility needs that have to be addressed and where we are now?
Will the Minister accept a wider definition of accessibility and comment on the plans to stop the free travel for under-18s, which gets students all around London? Is there a plan for the Government to assist Transport for London, given its financial situation, to bring back free travel from half-term for under-18s, so they can get to schools and to other pursuits?
What steps his Department is taking to improve the condition of roads. 
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What support his Department is providing to local authorities to maintain and increase levels of cycling and walking. 
It is a pleasure to see Tracey asking this question. We miss you; we really do.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I miss you all too.
Thanks to the Government’s active travel grants, Medway Council has managed to upgrade many of its cycling and walking routes, which is superb news for those at the Chatham end of my constituency. However, at the other end, part of the Aylesford towpath collapsed into the River Medway earlier this year and is now closed to the 6,000-plus users per month. Despite Kent County Council’s incredible efforts to find funds to repair the towpath, it still faces a significant shortfall. Could the Minister offer any guidance towards emergency central Government funding pots that would enable the reopening of that incredibly popular path for cyclists and walkers?
During the summer, I enjoyed a socially distanced walk with the regional Canal and River Trust team along the canal towpath between Marsden and Slaithwaite in my constituency. I support its bid for £45 million of funding from the Department as part of the commitment of £2 billion for cycling and walking to get people out on the canal towpath. Does the Minister agree that supporting such regional bids is a big part of encouraging more cycling and walking in our regions, and that it is a vital part of our levelling up the country and improving the health of our constituents?
What steps his Department is taking to improve rail infrastructure. 
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What plans he has to enable public transport authorities to operate their own bus services. 
I thank the Minister for his response, but I do not think it amounted to an answer to my question, so let me try again. If publicly owned bus services are right for London, why are they not right for the Liverpool city region?
What recent representations he has received on the creation of additional integrated public transport systems throughout England. 
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What recent assessment he has made of the effect of the covid-19 outbreak on the viability of the coach and bus sector. 
Many of the coach companies based in my constituency are family-run businesses, and they inform me that they are facing a year-and-a-half-long winter in economic terms as a result of the covid pandemic. They are, of course, vital cogs in the tourism sector, yet they cannot access covid-related hospitality, leisure and tourism funding. What discussions is the Minister having with colleagues in the Treasury and the devolved Governments to address this anomaly?
Absolutely, that makes it more difficult. That is why Northern needs to know that the operation has changed. It needs to know that it has to improve, that it is perhaps doubly accountable, because of the involvement of the Department for Transport.
To remove all services on the Rose Hill line will cause serious problems for many of my constituents, including schoolchildren, in particular those who attend Marple Hall School, and commuters generally. It flies in the face of the Government’s laudable desire to ensure that people can go about their lives using covid-secure public transport. The jargon of the rail industry—“securing timetables” or “keeping customers on the move”—is surely not achieved by wholesale suspension of services. It is high time that the line from Piccadilly to Rose Hill via Hyde was properly regarded by all as a valuable rail route, with enormous potential for the future. That ambition is already recognised by the public, given the increased passenger numbers over recent years. We cannot allow the line to be disregarded for administrative ease.
The excellent work done by local friends groups to champion and enhance stations must be recognised. I know how much work it was for the friends groups from my own area, including Rose Hill station, Marple and Romiley, to name but a few, and how much work they have done to oppose the proposals. Such groups are more than just responsible for the hanging baskets and the planters, even though—if I may plug this—Rose Hill station won the award for the best-kept station in Cheshire in 2019. Notwithstanding that, they are an integral part of understanding the needs and concerns of passengers. We must do all we can to engage with them properly and to value them.
I do not want to waste any more time this afternoon lamenting Northern’s past record. Now is the time for change and action. I need to hear the following from my hon. Friend the Minister—I hope he will forgive my assertiveness—who has been very helpful throughout the summer in seeking a solution: what will he do to stop a complete removal of service from the Rose Hill line? What will he do to ensure that Northern prioritises the line for driver training and for new trains? What will he do to avoid my constituents of Rose Hill, and some at Romiley and at Woodley, being without services on that line for three months as of Monday next week?
Rose Hill station has faced many challenges over the years. Perhaps its greatest was seeing off the machinations of Dr Beeching. We must not allow covid-19 to become the Beeching of our age for the railways. On the contrary, we must do all we can to support them and to ensure a steady and safe return of passengers to the network.
I am grateful to everyone who has worked to get the best possible outcome today, including the thousands of local petitioners. I know that, like me, they will listen keenly to the reply from my hon. Friend the Minister, from whom it is now time to hear.
I hope momentarily to draw the Minister away from Cheshire and the north-west. Last October, my constituency neighbour, the right hon. Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox), had an Adjournment debate on the subject of the Portishead line, which I also supported. We are very keen to see that line expedited. I wrote to the Minister further in August and hope he can look into that so that I can share in the good wishes of the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Mr Wragg).
Let me say on behalf of my constituents in Hyde that that is extremely welcome news. A service that focuses on peak demand will go a huge way to meeting the need that is there, putting concerns at rest and keeping people on the railway, which is what we all want. I thank the Minister on behalf of my constituents.
I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for that announcement and for the work he has done to secure it. He mentions the short, medium and longer term. Without wishing to look a gift horse in the mouth, I wonder if he could elaborate further. Will Northern prioritise this route for the restoration of services before the deadline in December? Might there perhaps be the potential for better news in the weeks ahead?
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Angela Richardson) and the Minister for allowing me to speak in this debate. I also admire my hon. Friend for the strong case—it was a tour de force—she made for a southern rail link, which would provide a local economic boost and create and support jobs in Runnymede and Weybridge at a time when they are sorely needed. It would deliver greater connectivity between Heathrow and London and my constituency, and cement my constituency’s status as one of the best places to live and work—alongside, of course, her constituency of Guildford.
A southern rail link would improve our local infrastructure and economy, but, crucially, it would also help us meet our environmental targets. Air pollution and noise pollution from the M25 and M3 affect Runnymede and Weybridge badly. We want people to use public transport, but the infrastructure needs to be in place. This would support the aviation sector, which both directly and indirectly supports many jobs and businesses in Runnymede and Weybridge. A new train track to Heathrow airport would not just help those who want to head off to Lanzarote—dare I say it, but I think everyone in this country could do with a holiday? It would also create jobs in the sector and help those in those jobs to get to work, day in, day out.
At a critical point in our country’s economic recovery from covid, a southern rail link would help us to not just bounce back but bounce higher.
The Minister and I have spoken briefly on this matter since he took up his post. May I make a request to him because I think there is an opportunity in this world of projects to move forward? Sometimes there has not been a coherent debate, a proper assessment and proper criteria against which to evaluate a scheme. In the interests of the hon. Member for Guildford (Angela Richardson), who wants to see support for her constituents, in the interests of regeneration, and knowing that it takes two buses sometimes to get one and a half miles to Heathrow for my constituents as well, for work or for travel, is it time to convene a small cross-party taskforce in this place to look at how we might break through some of that and give those perspectives from our constituencies to help move this forward for the Minister?
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Robert Largan) for securing this important debate. It is widely known among his fellow northern MPs that he is a doughty champion for his constituents on a range of issues, not least this important project. In that vein, I wish to take Members on a brief journey, one that I hope will be as enriching and swift as commuters will soon enjoy from Gamesley to Manchester. That journey begins where else but in ancient Rome. In the senates of the Roman republic there was an august member of that body known as Cato Censorius, who was convinced that war was coming between the republic and the city of Carthage for control of the Mediterranean. So convinced of that was he that he began to end every oration with
“Ceterum autem censeo Carthaginem esse delendam”
or, “Moreover, I consider that Carthage must be destroyed.” It did not matter what the debate was on, be it taxation, agriculture or the most auspicious date on which to go to the Circus Maximus, each and every speech would end the same way. That was helpfully shortened by 19th century historians to “Carthago delenda est”, which is less of a mouthful.
It was another 2,237 years before there would be another orator to match that clarity of purpose and single-mindedness—Robertus Architectus, or Robert the builder. This champion of the people of Alto Cacumen—High Peak to we mere Anglo-Saxons—has skilfully worked the building of Gamesley station into no fewer than eight debates, covering topics as diverse as rail fares, the economy and the Greater Manchester spatial framework. He has mentioned Gamesley station more times in his eight months as a Member of this House than all his predecessors combined.
That might all be to put a humorous spin on things, and I do so because my hon. Friend is a great friend of mine, but it does not diminish the fact that he is doing what we all came here promising to do: to put the interests of those who elected us first. The construction of Gamesley station will, much as the extension of the Metrolink to Middleton, do a great deal of good for the local economy, the environment, jobs and the prosperity of the region he represents. We are all seized with the idea that we need to get cars off the road and improve transport infrastructure, as well as boost our economy in the post-covid era. As Cato may well have said, this is bonum commune communitatis—for the good of the whole community.
It is an absolute pleasure to participate in this debate and I will bring my thoughts to a close by simply saying: ceterum autem censeo Stationem Ardotaliæ esse ædificandam!
What steps his Department is taking to increase the frequency of rail services following reductions in those services as a result of the covid-19 outbreak. 
The Prime Minister is a big fan of buses, just as I am a big fan of trains—I do not make model trains yet, though—so I am proud to support a Government who are investing £48 billion into railways, giving them the biggest upgrade since Victorian times. Will my hon. Friend assure me that such funding will be used to ensure that communities across all parts of the country such as mine in Stourbridge, have access to reliable, punctual railways?
I pay tribute to our wonderful rail workers, who have played a vital role in keeping our nation moving in the midst of a pandemic. As we come out of lockdown, I welcome the Government’s plans to increase the frequency of rail services as, indeed, I wholeheartedly welcomed the Government’s plans and efforts to effectively nationalise our rail services at the start of lockdown. It is disappointing to note, however, that other operators such as Hull Trains have been refused the exact same support from the Government, thereby risking hundreds of jobs.
There is no point in having lots of trains running if people are not using those services because they fear it is not safe to do so. Given the Government’s mixed messaging, with weakening social distancing requirements on the one hand and patchy compliance with the new face-covering law on the other, how does the Minister propose to protect passengers and rail workers while restoring public confidence in our network?
What recent discussions he has had with transport providers on safe access to public transport for people with sight loss as covid-19 lockdown restrictions are eased. 
I thank the Minister for his answer. My constituent Janice, who is blind, is anxious about how to keep safe and stay socially distant on public transport, and she is not alone. The Royal National Institute of Blind People’s director of services, David Clarke, said:
“Social distancing is near-impossible for…blind and partially sighted people which makes it difficult to go out and get food…exercise or attend medical appointments”.
Will the Minister take this opportunity to reassure the RNIB and my constituent by acting early to ensure that all transport providers in England have the funds available for new accessible signage, so that social pressure to keep to the rules does not have an unfair impact on blind and partially sighted people?
What assessment he has made of the potential effect on the (a) freight logistics and (b) road haulage sector of not reaching a deal on the future relationship with the EU by the end of the transition period. 
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What steps his Department is taking to encourage people to use electric cycles. 
Southampton has received Government funding for additional cycle lanes, many of which lie unused for most of the day. My constituency is surrounded by hills, which is quite a deterrent for people on cycles. E-bikes and e-scooters could make a significant difference. I welcome the news that e-scooters will become legal this weekend, but without relaxing the regulations for privately owned e-scooters, a city centre hire scheme will make little or no difference in Southampton. Will my hon. Friend look again at privately owned e-scooters to encourage more of my constituents out of their cars?
Whether the Government plan to make a sustainable transport plan implementation strategy mandatory for every local authority. 
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What recent steps the Government have taken to increase passenger confidence in the railway. 
Covid-19 has had a profound impact on the railways, but my constituents in Bedford and Kempston have been particularly hard hit. The Bedford-to-Corby electrification is now delayed; the long-awaited return of the East Midlands Railway service is delayed until May next year; the current Thameslink service is slow; and the Bedford-to-Bletchley trains have been stopped altogether. Does the Minister agree that this is a far cry from the transport revolution that his Government promised?
What steps his Department is taking to fast-track construction on transport projects while fewer passengers are using the transport system during the covid-19 outbreak. 
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The Government have devolved a great deal of responsibility to the Mayor of Greater Manchester, who has to deliver on the Greater Manchester spatial framework and a transport infrastructure required to meet the demands of increased house building. The whole project has suffered delay after delay, so vital infrastructure such as the Westhoughton bypass is not being delivered. What can my right hon Friend do to remove the roadblock in the Mayor’s office? 
Funding for buses in South Yorkshire has been cut by 40% in the past decade. Will the Minister commit to the additional funding needed to implement the recommendations of the South Yorkshire bus review? 
As the Secretary of State will know, many of my constituents in Chesham and Amersham depend on Heathrow for their work. Do the Government plan to introduce a covid-19 testing programme at airports, and is he working with our trading partners to establish a common international standard for health screening to accelerate the recovery of the aviation sector and rebuild consumer confidence in our airports and our aviation industry? 
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As I am sure my right hon. Friend will be aware, a number of local authorities, such as Dudley Council, can derive a significant income from their shareholding in local airports. Will he and his colleagues in government do all he can to mitigate the negative impact of a substantive loss in income during the pandemic, as that income would have paid for services? 
A worried constituent of mine who has worked for BA for 30 years has helped the Government with vital repatriation flights, which put him at risk and meant heartbreaking self-isolation from loved ones between flights. BA has paid my constituent and his colleagues back with a jobs betrayal that the Transport Committee has called “a calculated attempt to take advantage of the pandemic”. Unite and the BA Betrayal campaign have called on the Minister to act if BA continues with these plans by amending BA’s access to lucrative UK landing slots. Please will the Government agree to this? 
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Will my right hon. Friend assure me that transport infra- structure will be at the heart of this Government’s levelling up agenda, and that the £100 million that was announced for roads in the Prime Minister’s new deal for Britain is only the start? May I also ask the Minister to spare a thought for the roads and potholes of Beaconsfield? 
It was a privilege to celebrate Dronfield station, its supporters, their determination and their grit, and their sheer hard work to make a success of a microcosm of Dronfield as a town and North East Derbyshire as a whole.
To everyone who has been involved in the first 150 years, thank you, and here’s to the next 150. This is a brilliant example, for the Government and the Minister to take note of—a successful community aspiring to do more and coming together to forge a real and enduring success story.
Just to help the Minister, as we know, even the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) cannot link himself to 150 years of Dronfield railway station, hence he is not here. As much as he would love to and as much as he may find a connection, I could not put him on the right track for this one.
I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and the Speaker’s Office for granting this Adjournment debate to discuss transport issues in Carshalton and Wallington. Along with St Helier Hospital, education and, more recently, issues relating to coronavirus, transport remains one of the most common issues that appear in my postbag. It is also something that affects me as someone who commutes to this place every day.
Because my constituency sits within a London borough, the borough of Sutton, there is an assumption that we must be well covered by public transport, but the statistics tell a very different story. Sutton has an average public transport accessibility level—PTAL—of just 2, with the majority of Carshalton and Wallington ranking at 2, 1 or even zero in some places. The borough is ranked 29th out the 32 London boroughs and the City of London for connectivity and is the only borough in London that does not have access to an underground, Overground or Crossrail station. We are also not on the map for Crossrail 2. The only reason we are not dead last for connectivity is that technically we have access to a tram within our borders, but I will talk more about that later.
Notwithstanding the ability to walk, cycle or drive, this situation means that Carshalton and Wallington residents have a choice between limited bus and National Rail services when travelling by public transport. One might argue that this reflects the borough’s contribution towards the Mayor’s council tax precepts, which stands at 28th out of the 32 London boroughs, but this argument immediately falls down because the remaining four boroughs have received higher funding and have greater connectivity than Sutton.
This poor level of access to transport cannot continue. As the population of Sutton continues to grow, our ability to have economic growth, access services and play our part in tackling the climate crisis is severely stunted without better transport connections. Carshalton and Wallington is in a London borough, and that borough is the eighth most economically active in London. It is time we had investment in our transport networks that reflected those realities and allowed us to reach our full potential.
I will turn first to rail connectivity. My constituency is home to Carshalton, Wallington, Hackbridge and Carshalton Beeches stations, providing northbound services to central London and southbound services to Sutton, Epsom and beyond. Of course, reliability is always an issue raised by Members, and it is no different for me. I will be working constructively with Southern and Thameslink, the rail operating companies that serve my constituency, to ensure that improvements continue to be made. I would also be grateful if the Minister could comment on the work the Government are doing to ensure greater reliability on our rail network.
One of the primary issues for my constituents, however, is rail frequency. Prior to lockdown, peak services would be full by the time they reached our local stations, meaning an uncomfortable or even delayed journey for many and pushing some to reconsider using the rail network or even their employment in order to avoid it. Having met with Govia Thameslink Railway and Network Rail since being elected, I am clear that there are two primary issues preventing additional services from being run on our lines. The first is something I know many colleagues have raised in the House: infrastructure on the railway. Often it is so outdated that it prevents trains from being turned around as quickly as they are on the London Underground, for example, which would allow additional time and space for more trains to be put on the line. I would be grateful if the Minister could comment on updating our rail infrastructure, including things such as digital signalling, electrification and joint command centres between rail operating companies and Network Rail.
Nevertheless, it appears that congestion is the real barrier to running additional services. Many, if not most, of my services run through Selhurst junction, which is currently massively congested, and Network Rail has just launched a consultation on its plans for what it calls the Croydon bottleneck scheme. It is designed primarily to unlock congestion on the Brighton main line but would have the knock-on effect of allowing more frequent services to run through my constituency. I am encouraging constituents to take part to demonstrate the huge support there is for putting on additional services once that is unlocked. Could the Minister comment on whether the Government support the Croydon bottleneck project?
There are things that can be done in the here and now, however, to help commuters once the lockdown measures are eased. First, there is safety. The gap between the train and the platform at Hackbridge and Carshalton Beeches in particular is so high that even the use of ramps is not particularly safe. I have raised this with GTR and Network Rail, and I hope to see the platforms heightened, at least in places, to make it safer to board and depart from trains. Secondly, there is accessibility. The southbound platform at Carshalton Beeches does not have step-free access, so I have submitted a bid in order to help to secure funding to deliver that. I hope that that will be favourably looked on by the Department.
Finally, there is the issue of the platforms themselves, with the platform at Hackbridge, for example, able to accommodate only seven cars. If there could be an extension to allow it to accommodate 10 cars, which it currently runs at peak services, that would reduce congestion on the concourse. These changes, plus a commitment to investment in infrastructure and the Croydon bottleneck project, will help to unlock many of the transport issues of my constituents.
Apart from trains, buses are the only other public transport option for my constituents. It is fair to say that, as we heard in the previous statutory instrument debate, compared with other parts of the country, Carshalton and Wallington does have okay bus services, but they are certainly not perfect. Again, access is an issue for some, particularly those living in Clockhouse and the more rural parts of Carshalton Beeches. It is possible to get around the borough fairly easily by the bus services that operate there. The introduction of the Go Sutton bus, which Transport for London operated on a trial basis as an Uber-style on-demand bus service travelling to more or less every part of the borough, was very welcome. I hope the Minister would agree that TfL should seek to reinstate this service as soon as possible. It is currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
There are also a number of bus services that go to and from Croydon, but a limited number that go outside the borough to any other destinations such as Merton, Wandsworth or Kingston. There are also very few services that travel southwards outside the Greater London Authority area and into Surrey, with which I share a border. I will say more about this problem later. As Carshalton and Wallington grows, connecting us up to new destinations by bus, as well as increasing the frequency of some routes and making busier services double-decker, would help to connect Sutton with its surrounding areas and make it easier to travel within the borough as well.
However, improvements in the rail and bus networks are only part of the solution, and in order to reach our full potential we need new transport options. Of all the potential options, perhaps none has been discussed for so long as a Sutton extension of the London Tramlink. The long and convoluted history of the Tramlink could be an Adjournment debate in itself, so I will not bore the Minister with too much back story, particularly as discussions about this started as early as 2002, only two years after the Croydon Tramlink was launched. However, I do want to draw to his attention the fact that sadly, if anything demonstrates that the current Mayor of London seems to forget that Sutton exists as a London borough, it is the Croydon Tramlink. When he was a Transport Minister in this place, he said:
“I am not sure what the Mayor’s priorities are, but they are not the Croydon Tramlink”.—[Official Report, 28 January 2010; Vol. 504, c. 939.]
How fitting that 10 years on, the same could be said of him.
In a London Assembly report released last year, it was shown that Sutton came dead last for investment from City Hall out of all the London boroughs. Just £16 million has been spent in the borough since the Mayor was elected in 2016, compared with, for example, £2.1 billion of investment for Newham. The previous Labour Mayor of London showed that he was not particularly interested in outer London, and unfortunately the current Mayor seems to be following in his footsteps. Funding was set aside by the previous Conservative Mayor to help to deliver this project, which equated to £100 million. Unfortunately, the current Mayor redistributed that funding. After lobbying from our excellent London Assembly Member, Steve O’Connell, the Mayor has agreed to set aside a smaller figure of £70 million to put towards the project. Sutton Council and Merton Council have also set aside some moneys for it. However, the overall projected cost of delivering the Sutton extension to the Tramlink has been rising considerably since it was first mooted. Perhaps if the Mayor had not driven down TfL’s finances to such a state, particularly in allowing Crossrail to get out of control, we would not be in this position.
As I said at the beginning of my remarks, technically my constituency has two tram stops on the route. However, these are in the far north-east corner of my constituency on the border with Croydon and Merton. They are behind an industrial estate and serve a very, very small number of residents who live just outside that area. The next residential streets are more than a 30-minute walk away, and they are much closer to other transport options. Extending the tram to Sutton would therefore do wonders for the local economy but also connect Carshalton and Wallington residents up with new destinations.
TfL has now completed a consultation, agreed the route, and agreed, indeed, to go with the tram rather than the alternative bus rapid transit option, but we are now at a standstill. The project is ready to move on to the next stage of official designs and to go into the planning system. Even the Mayor himself has said that he estimates that the first services could be in place in the next few years if there was no delay, but without any additional funding this project will not go anywhere. Local, regional and national Government need to come together on this issue to ensure that the consultation is not allowed to collect dust, become too expensive and ultimately be consigned to the dustbin of history, so can the Minister give me any view on how the Government see the Sutton extension of the Croydon Tramlink?
As we work towards that extension, I hope the House will indulge me if I throw another possibility into the mix. Hackbridge is an important part of my constituency that is currently experiencing considerable growth. The New Mill Quarter development will bring 805 new homes and well over 1,000 new residents to the area, and Hackbridge definitely needs additional transport capacity to be able to cope. Currently, many residents go to Mitcham Junction, which is just one stop up the train line from Hackbridge, to intercept the tram. I wonder whether there is an argument for TfL doing exploratory work and extending the tram down the Network Rail line, perhaps running a single track alongside the Network Rail route, to provide tram services to Hackbridge. I hope that the Minister would agree that is at least worth TfL’s taking a look at such a project.
Next, I wish to draw attention to another potential extension that I believe would benefit Carshalton and Wallington residents: extending the London Overground service to Sutton, via Waddon, Wallington and West Croydon—an idea backed by Neil Garratt, our excellent candidate for the London Assembly. The London Overground could directly connect local residents to destinations that they cannot currently reach without making more than one change. It is my understanding that Sutton was originally mooted as the end point for the London Overground service, but it was decided that it would end at West Croydon instead because the service would be too popular with Sutton residents and therefore too busy by the time it got to Croydon. I hope the Minister agrees that that is a nonsensical argument, because surely that only demonstrates the need for such a service and how much capacity could increase on the line.
Luckily, there is an existing rail line between Sutton and West Croydon, so to make the change, all that would have to happen is that the trains would quite simply have to keep on going and not stop. Of course, I realise that things are never quite as simple as that, and there would be difficulties with congestion and the potential timetable changes needed to deliver it, but I hope that the Minister agrees that the absence of the need for a large infrastructure project to see the idea through to completion would mean that it would be relatively easy to deliver, so would be worth the work to deliver it.
Finally, I wish to touch on the issue of roads and pavements, because all too often in conversations about transport, roads and pavements are left out. As a borough with one of the highest car ownership rates in London, more than a quarter of journeys are done on foot but more than half are done by car, according to the 2011 census, so conversations about roads and pavements are incredibly important for residents of Carshalton and Wallington. They are also important because just as many—if not more—residents commute south into Surrey by car as commute north into the city by train.
When I talked about buses, I mentioned the difficulties of travelling south, and I wish to outline a problem which I believe many outer-London boroughs suffer: working across the Greater London Authority boundary. The border between the GLA and Surrey County Council is much firmer and more cumbersome than those between the London boroughs, and understandably so for many reasons. However, that presents difficulties when talking about transport, because in essence TfL can look only north and Surrey has no jurisdiction in the area at all. The road network between Sutton and Surrey therefore needs to be strong to allow traffic to flow more easily without causing congestion. Action must also be taken to tackle potholes, and I am grateful for the Government’s pothole funding, which has drastically increased the amount of money that Sutton Council has to repair our roads.
It is also important to make sure that our roads and pavements are safe for other road users, particularly pedestrians and cyclists. Again, I thank the Government for the funding to introduce new walking and cycling spaces. I am just sorry that the incompetent Lib Dem council in Sutton did not see fit to work collaboratively to discuss the proposals, despite other councils managing to do so.
The new spaces must be safe and effective; I worry that sometimes cycling routes can be seen as a box-ticking exercise, with a few yards put here and there across boroughs that do not connect up and ultimately lead to nowhere. Any such measures must, though, strike a balance with other road users, such as cars, to ensure that there is no congestion on our roads. As we work towards a greener future, in which safer roads will play an incredibly important part. it is vital to offer incentives to walk or cycle and, indeed, to use electric vehicles. I would be grateful if the Minister could say a little about how the Government are investing in safer streets.
In bringing my remarks to a close, I would just observe that transport is incredibly important for many reasons. It not only connects us but enables us to drive economic growth and it will play a massive part in tackling the climate emergency. Carshalton and Wallington has been left growing without the investment to match it and without reaping much reward from being a London borough. As one of the worst, if not the worst, connected borough in London, it is no longer acceptable to not get our fair share of transport investment. Some changes may take years, but there are those that could be achieved very quickly indeed. I hope the Minister will agree that work should advance on those as soon as possible. We need to unlock the Croydon bottleneck to allow more trains to run through the area and we need to make better use of bus services to connect with surrounding boroughs. The question mark over the tram needs erasing and replacing with a completion date. The London Overground needs to be extended to connect commuters to new destinations, and our roads and pavements must be safe and well maintained for all users.
Madam Deputy Speaker, I thank you and Mr Speaker for granting me this Adjournment debate on a subject that, as you will see, is of pressing importance to many of my constituents.
It is good to see the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris), at the Dispatch Box to reply for Her Majesty’s Government. I have known him for many years. Ironically, I lobbied him very recently about the atrocious performance of Abellio Greater Anglia on the Southend to Liverpool Street line. However, as today’s debate is about roadworks, I will concentrate my remarks on those—but the rail line is not getting any better.
Let me give the background. Last autumn, Essex County Council’s Essex Highways granted three property developers, Barratt David Wilson, Countryside Properties and Silver City Estates, permission to begin digging up the roads in and around Rayleigh, all at the same time, in some cases on the day that schools resumed after the summer holidays. Unsurprisingly, that led to traffic chaos in and around Rayleigh, including in nearby Hullbridge. As the local MP, I had to intervene repeatedly with Essex Highways and all three developers to try to sort the situation out. Crucially, this included Countryside agreeing to lift its contraflows during the morning and evening rush hour on Rawreth Lane, and Barratt David Wilson working 24/7 in Hullbridge to finish the job.
After an autumn of severe disruption, the works finally concluded, and I held a summit in my Westminster office with Essex Highways, the developers, local councillors and residents’ groups, at which we all faithfully agreed that this could never be allowed to happen again. Crucially, we agreed that when further planned works took place in Rayleigh in the following year, it would be necessary to separate the works, and ideally lift the contraflows during morning and evening peaks, and during the school run, to make the situation liveable for local residents, even if it took longer to complete the works as a result.
However, a further meeting took place at Rochford Hundred golf club in February this year, at which Essex Highways and the developers agreed a new schedule of works, to commence in March, principally on the A129, London Road—a single carriageway that is one of the principal arteries in and out of Rayleigh. It now transpires that Essex Highways officers granted Silver City permission to work throughout March, seven days a week, from 7 am to 7 pm, with contraflows in place throughout that time—that is, they were not to be lifted during the morning and evening peak and the school run, as was previously suggested.
Moreover, Countryside was then told that it could work for three months on its much larger site from early April to late June, again from 7 am to 7 pm. In other words, the developers would be able to dig up one of the primary arteries in and out of Rayleigh for 12 hours every day for four months. Thereafter, Barratt David Wilson would begin work off Rawreth Lane to construct a new major roundabout. Some of that work can be undertaken offline, but there will still be weeks of disruption when the roundabout is connected to the main carriageway. Yet again, that work is permitted to be carried out from 7 am to 7 pm. For the avoidance of doubt, I declare that I am a resident in the Rawreth Lane area.
I am afraid to say that part of this has occurred because of a total lack of effective oversight by Essex Highways, which has clearly reneged on the commitments it gave me in my Westminster office prior to Christmas. Moreover, there appears to be an unhealthily cosy relationship between the highways officers and the developers, much of it based on first-name terms, with the county council failing my constituents in its regulatory duties to oversee the roadworks effectively.
As a result of those decisions, Silver City began its work early in March and, to cut a long story short, my constituents have gone up the wall. There have been extremely long tailbacks trying to get in and out of Rayleigh during the rush hour and the school run, with some constituents reporting journeys that would normally take about 15 minutes now taking well over an hour each way. In some cases, it is even worse. Businesses have suffered, with one small dance school having been put in real financial jeopardy because parents have cancelled lessons. Medical appointments have also been missed and children’s education has been interrupted.
No one undertook any strategic communications to warn my constituents of these four months of impending chaos until I posted a video on Wednesday evening on my Facebook page to explain to my constituents exactly what is going on. The Minister might like to know that that post has since been viewed by more than 24,000 people. Aside from perhaps coronavirus, this is currently the overwhelming topic of conversation in Rayleigh. Many residents have left comments, of which the following four stood out. Mr A said:
“Well done Mark. And thanks for the best efforts possible. It’s a shame it’s all about the fast profit for fat cat companies in construction, and the quick buck and fast turn over in more council tax, etc. Than the thought of others losing out from struggles to get to work or schools.”
Mr P said it is an
“Absolute joke of a system. How can we get them out of a job? It’s the only thing they will listen to. Enough is enough—crazy when a five minute journey takes 40 minutes.”
Ms B said:
“It’s completely unacceptable that these two works run consecutively. That in itself should not happen. Developers should be inconvenienced, not existing residents and our livelihoods…Developers in this situation should be forced to work nights irrespective of cost to them. As per usual, why is it the general public that appear to have more common sense than the idiots that make decisions”?
Lastly, Ms C said:
“24/7 working is a fantastic ethic to implement. Silver City should cover the cost for overtime or be fined if they don’t complete by a certain timeframe. I live on Little Wheatley Chase”—
one of the local roads—
“and I can tell you…the workmen don’t seem to be in any rush! Lots of cups of tea…smoking…slowly walking up and down whilst cars sit in queues. It is very distressing.”
There have been some instances of residents abusing the workmen. For the avoidance of doubt, I completely deprecate that behaviour, but that does give some idea of how frustrated local people have become. Yet again, I have had to intervene on behalf of my constituents to try to sort out this mess, which I was faithfully promised by Essex Highways would never happen again. In the last week I have had meetings in Westminster with the managing director of Silver City, the new corporate chief executive of Countryside and County Councillor Kevin Bentley, the current deputy leader of Essex County Council and cabinet member for infrastructure, including roads.
I asked both Silver City and Countryside if they would consider lifting the contraflows during the rush hour in order to make the disruption more bearable. I also asked Countryside, whose work site is a couple of hundred yards away from any inhabited dwelling, if it would consider working 24/7—as, indeed, Barratt David Wilson did in Hullbridge last year—in order to try to accelerate the works as much as possible. I regret to inform the Minister and the House that neither has been forthcoming. In the case of Silver City Estates, which is based in Rochford, I received a two-paragraph email, written with the grammar of an eight-year-old, effectively saying that it intended to carry on regardless. The company is clearly only interested in its own profits, and obviously does not give a damn about my constituents, who I hope would not want to buy its houses in return. This is the two-paragraph memo—I am ripping it up to show the House what I think of Silver City Estates.
Countryside, conversely, has written me several charming letters, admittedly saying that it would look into all this, but not actually promising to do anything at all. Given my experience of dealing with developers over nearly 20 years as an MP, particularly last autumn and this spring, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that they generally do not give a damn about the disruption they cause to local communities, and that all they are really interested in is maintaining at least a 20% profit margin on house sales while keeping construction costs, including for labour and roadworks, to an absolute minimum.
I know that the Minister is not responsible for housing, but I think that one of the reasons that almost any major housing development in this country is met with hordes of placard-waving local residents is that they have come to realise the utterly hard-nosed attitude of the developers and the local traffic chaos that is likely to result if and when the houses are actually built. In fairness, that is a challenge for the whole house building industry, not just the three companies that I have highlighted today, but I throw it out there none the less, and will be interested to see whether any of the developers have the moral courage to reply.
When I met Councillor Kevin Bentley two days ago, he agreed that the situation was unacceptable and said that he would look again at Essex County Council’s process for giving consent to these proposals—not least as I understand that Essex County Council has not yet signed Countryside’s permits to legally allow it to commence the work. In other words, it has agreed in principle, but has not formally permitted it. County Councillor Bentley has now agreed to review the situation to see if the proposals can be altered, and I am very grateful to him for doing so. Silver City is clearly beyond the pale, but I do hope that Countryside might yet be reasonable, perhaps encouraged by Essex County Council, and might yet adopt some of the mitigating proposals that I have recommended before its work commences on the London Road in April. I shall certainly be keeping up the pressure on it to do so.
One thing that I have learned from this whole debacle is that the regulation of roadworks in this country is a mess. One of the great frustrations in modern life is queuing for ages to get through a contraflow on the highway to then discover that there is no one actually working on the site in the first place. The whole process is massively weighted in favour of the developers and the utility companies, at the clear expense of local residents and motorists. Indeed, Councillor Bentley has told me frankly that he would like to see the law changed to give highways authorities much greater powers to limit how and when people should be able to dig up the roads.
By sheer chance, after 19 years in this place, for the first time ever I got a placing in the private Members’ Bill ballot this year, and my Control of Roadworks Bill is now due for its Second Reading on Friday 12 June. I plan to publish a draft Bill—for consultation with interested parties in May—designed to materially speed up roadworks in this country and to fine heavily those who do not comply. I very much hope that Ministers in the Department for Transport might look favourably on this initiative, and see it as an opportunity to help to address one of the great banes of our everyday lives. I very much hope that the Minister will carry back to the Department my genuine desire to try to improve the situation for all concerned, and to promote a sense of urgency among anyone who tries to dig up our roads.
In summary, I had honestly hoped that lessons had been learnt from the chaos last autumn and that I would never again need to intervene like this. Nevertheless, now that these problems have arisen once again, I have sought to raise them in the House of Commons and, in so doing, to reflect the extreme frustration of many of my constituents at the whole way that this has been badly maladministered. I hope that County Councillor Kevin Bentley will now indeed act proactively to help sort this mess out, and that Countryside, and Barratt David Wilson after it, will adopt a more co-operative approach, even if it costs them money.
Finally, I hope to get legislation on to the statute book to codify the regulation of roadworks, which is currently spread across multiple pieces of legislation, into one clear and simple Bill that everyone can follow. That will be designed to ensure that when people do unfortunately have to dig up the roads, they will do so with a sense of urgency, rather than complacency, and with a determination to respect the local communities within which they are working. I earnestly hope that the Minister can offer me some comfort that in that aspiration I might yet receive Government support. Thank you for your patience, Madam Deputy Speaker.
I have only been a Member of Parliament for 19 years, but I have learned when not to look a gift horse in the mouth. If there is a lacuna in the current legislation, I would be pleased to talk to the Minister and his colleagues about how I might genuinely be able to help them address it.
9. What steps he is taking to reduce the cost of rail fares. 
Given that rail fares have gone up by a massive 40% since 2010, we now have the second most expensive railway in Europe. However, I still have a situation where constituents in the Northwich part of my constituency cannot get a reliable train service—in fact, disabled passengers cannot get one on one side at all. What are the Minister and the Government going to do about that?
Under the Conservatives, rail fares have rocketed by 40%. An annual season ticket from Coventry to London is now £5,760, to Birmingham it is £1,400 and to Nuneaton it is £1,200. That unfairly puts rail travel beyond the reach of many of my constituents and it discourages green travel. Privatisation has failed, so will the Government bring our railways into public ownership to slash fares and combat the climate emergency?
Trade unions represent the hard-working staff on Northern who have had to take the brunt of passenger frustrations as the franchise has collapsed under Arriva Rail North. Will the Minister explain why, with Northern having been taken back into public ownership, the expert advisory panel established to guide the new service through its first 100 days excludes rail unions, the experience and expertise of which could ensure that passengers in the north finally get the rail service that they need and deserve?
Many Portsmouth people rely heavily on South Western Railway for their daily commute. The service that they receive is substandard, with less than 50% of mainline services operating on time, while rail fares have soared by 2.7%. Put simply, Portsmouth people are paying more but getting less. Will the Minister confirm what steps his Department is taking to address this injustice for my community?
As we have heard, rail passengers throughout the country are struggling with the exorbitant cost of train travel, with fares having risen by a staggering 40% since the Conservatives took office. In stark contrast, Germany has recently cut rail fares, and in Luxembourg public transport has been made entirely free, thereby both supporting families and helping to tackle the climate crisis. The Government used yesterday’s Budget to prioritise once again unsustainable and expensive new roads ahead of support for public transport. When will the Government finally treat this issue seriously and take the urgent action that is needed?
Question 18, Mr Speaker. [Interruption.] Will my hon. Friend give an indication of his estimate for completing the new airports national policy statement? Will there be sufficient time to take into account—
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I note that the questions that my honourable and hairy friend has answered so far were about reducing the cost of rail fares, but that implies that either more people must make more journeys by rail, or taxpayers generally, such as those in Lincoln, must subsidise the rail industry more. Which would my hon. Friend prefer? Does he have any plans to improve the franchise process to make bidding for them more attractive to businesses?
It is important to have affordable rail fares so that residents can access our railways, but many of my constituents do not have any access to trains at all because they do not have a local train station. The people of Gamesley were promised a railway station more than 50 years ago, but it has still not been delivered. Will the Minister meet me to discuss the bid for Gamesley train station?
The Secretary of State is already aware of how unhappy my constituents who use Lockerbie station are—after fare increases, they have seen an appalling level of service from TransPennine. TransPennine has now made certain commitments to improve the service; what can the Department do to ensure that it meets those commitments?
While rail fares remain too high, the cost of disruption to our commuters when services go wrong, as is so often the case with Southern, is considerable. Although Delay Repay has been helpful, it does not reflect the true cost of taxis, hotels and loss of work that our constituents have been suffering. Can the Minister tell us whether the new ombudsman is going to tackle the issue and make sure that we have a compensation scheme that accurately reflects the costs that our commuters and constituents suffer?
People who live and work in Nottingham need Ministers to do something about fares, sooner rather than later. Highways England’s partial closure of the A52 Clifton bridge is making their car journeys unbearable, and we urgently need more people to use trains, trams and buses to get into the city. Will the Minister or one of his colleagues meet me and other hon. Members representing constituencies in and around Nottingham, to discuss how the Department and Highways England can support Nottingham City Council and its efforts to get our city moving during this serious disruption?
3. What steps he is taking to improve bus links in North Warwickshire. 
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19. What recent assessment he has made of the viability of the rail franchising system. 
I thank the Minister for his comments. Passengers in my constituency and across northern England welcomed the decision to bring Northern Rail into public ownership on 1 March, following the collapse of Arriva Rail North. In the past decade, more than £178 million has been paid in dividends to Northern Rail shareholders, while simultaneously, there have been cuts to safety-critical staff on trains and stations. Research has shown that if our railway was in public ownership, we would save £1 billion a year—enough to fund an 18% cut in rail fares. Will the Minister assure Members that Northern Rail will be kept in public ownership, to rebuild the trust and confidence of rail users, and that it will not be privatised at the earliest opportunity?
Problems with the franchising system mean that London North Eastern Railway is now under control of the Minister’s Department. He will be aware of my long-running campaign to get through trains from King’s Cross to Cleethorpes. Can he tell me when that will happen?
20. If he will bring forward legislative proposals for the mandatory collection of bus accident data by bus companies for publication by local authorities. 
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T2. Greater Anglia, which runs the trains round our way, is currently introducing a £1.4 billion fleet of brand new trains—very good. Among other benefits, that will support the local economy and tackle social exclusion. However, the great eastern main line needs to be upgraded quickly. What steps is the Department taking to ensure that key upgrades, such as the Bow junction remodelling, extra loops between Chelmsford and Colchester, and the provision of digital signalling, are delivered within the next five to 10 years? 
More than 12 months has passed since the Government announced a consultation on banning old tyres from public service vehicles. The Tyred campaign and tens of thousands of supporters have waited far too long. I pay tribute to Frances Molloy and my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) for the work they have done. The Secretary of State has the power to act now before more innocent people are needlessly killed. Is it not time for the Government to get this done?
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T9. Yesterday’s Budget provided no further clarity on the £350 million for cycling that the Prime Minister mentioned on 11 February. As a consequence, from the start of next month, local authorities outside London have nothing earmarked for their local cycling and walking infrastructure plans. Will the Minister explain why cyclists were forgotten in yesterday’s Budget? 
T5. A short-sighted decision by Transport for Greater Manchester and Stagecoach to scrap the 375 bus service, serving my constituents in Mellor and Hawk Green, has been met with dismay. Will my hon. Friend, the excellent Minister, meet me urgently so that we can maintain this important service and keep the wheels on the 375 bus going round and round? 
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