HC Deb 04 March 2003 vol 400 cc668-9
9. Mr Vernon Coaker (Gedling)

What recent assessment he has made of the plans Network Rail have to improve the signalling and track from Nottingham to London. [100185]

The Minister of State, Department of Transport (Mr. John Spellar)

None. I understand that the Strategic Rail Authority and Network Rail are working together on a range of strategic measures to include in the midland main line route plan. This will form part of Network Rail's 2003 business plan, due to be published in April.

Vernon Coaker

Given the billions of pounds that are being invested in St. Pancras station as part of the channel tunnel rail link, would not it be sensible to invest a significant amount in the midland main line so that we have a fast link between Nottingham and that part of the east midlands into London? Although there is a need to invest in the west and east coast main lines, many of us in that part of the east midlands think that the midland main line is often neglected when it comes to investment decisions.

Mr. Spellar

I know of my hon. Friend's considerable interest in the subject, which he regularly raises with us. He will be aware of the major transport interchange in the St. Pancras and King's Cross complex. We are keen to encourage development of the midland main line. As for the details, we will have to await the outcome of the work by Network Rail on, for example, signalling, which will no doubt cover the famous Trent signal box.

Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam)

Speaking as an hon. Member who represents Sheffield, I add my voice to the calls for the midland main line to be a higher priority. Will the Minister consider doing something about the rolling stock on that route? It is distinctly inadequate and there are frequent cancellations simply because trains are not available.

Mr. Spellar

As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, considerable work is being done on the renewal and replacement of the high-speed train fleet. That is of particular significance to the midland main line and other routes. I must say that when I have used the midland main line, it has been remarkably reliable.