HC Deb 20 November 2001 vol 375 cc158-9
2. David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire)

What investment is planned in new east midlands local rail services in the next 10 years. [13552]

The Minister for Transport (Mr. John Spellar)

The extension of the Midland Mainline franchise to 2008 provides for a £240 million investment package that will benefit passengers in the east midlands. The Strategic Rail Authority's forthcoming strategic plan will set out its plans for enhancing the network to deliver key rail targets in the 10-year plan.

David Taylor

Given the early success of the rail passenger partnership scheme in adding routes, services and stations on to the rail network, does the Minister believe that the recently revised criteria will allow more effective revenue and capital support to be given to schemes such as the national forest line through north-west Leicestershire? Will he visit our area so that he can have a look at the road congestion and community inaccessibility that projects such as that could start to tackle?

Mr. Spellar

My hon. Friend is right to say that the rail passenger partnership scheme has been successful, and some £45 million has already been approved for 31 schemes. However, he is also correct to say that the SRA has reconsidered the criteria and recently announced some improvements. I can confirm that from the end of the year, both capital and revenue support will be available. The limit for fast-track applications will also be increased from £100,000 to £ 50,000. Revised guidance reflecting those changes will be issued shortly.

With regard to my hon. Friend's invitation to visit his constituency, I receive several such invitations and I will be more than pleased for my office to liaise with him to see whether we can arrange a visit so that he can show me the problems that he wants us to address and, I hope, reach a successful conclusion.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)

Does not the Minister recognise that, while many of us on both sides of the House who take an interest in rail issues have worked with rail development groups to encourage investment in the east midlands and throughout the country, the Secretary of State's decision to pull the plug on Railtrack has severely damaged the prospects for rail investment? Does the Minister accept that what the House and the country now need are the civil servants' minutes—especially those of Treasury civil servants—of the meetings with the Secretary of State so that we can assess what the Secretary of State has said?

Mr. Spellar

That contribution, from an hon. Member who represents a Surrey constituency, indicates the level of trivia to which the Opposition have descended, instead of being interested in the real issues of travel that my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor) was rightly addressing.

Vernon Coaker (Gedling)

Will my right hon. Friend talk to Railtrack about improving the western approach to Nottingham station? That improvement is essential if the local rail services are to be developed by making use of the old colliery lines in constituencies such as mine in Gedling.

Mr. Spellar

I am pleased that my hon. Friend, unlike the Opposition, is addressing rail issues in the east midlands. I was able to see what was happening in Nottingham during a recent visit, when I had discussions with the local council. I know that the matter is being progressed.