Westminster archive

Rail Update

29 November 2017 

Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP makes a statement on rail. The transcript is available here.


Improving rail links in South West England

24 October 2017 

Luke Pollard (Lab, Plymouth Sutton and Devonport) secured a debate on rail links in the south west. The coverage is available here.


CMA considers proposals to protect London to Exeter rail passengers

HM Government – press release

19 July 2017

The CMA is considering proposed fare controls to protect London-Exeter rail passengers following the award of the South Western franchise.

Exiting the EU and Transport

Commons Debate

23 November 2016

The Secretary of State for Transport (Chris Grayling)

I beg to move,

That this House has considered exiting the EU and transport.

If I may crave the indulgence of the House briefly, I would like to say a couple of words about the situation on the railways in the south-west. As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, there has been considerable disruption as a result of storms, including line closures and very extensive delays. I can inform the House that following the flooding that closed the great western main line between Exeter and Tiverton, the line has now just reopened. The Barnstaple branch is due to reopen this afternoon. The Looe branch is still closed, but I hope it will reopen on Thursday. There was also disruption when the South West Trains route was closed. I am immensely grateful to all the staff at Network Rail. They sometimes get a hard time when things do not work, but they rally around when there are major incidents and deliver solutions quickly. I thank them all very much for their work.

Johnny Mercer (Plymouth, Moor View) (Con)

I thank the Secretary of State for speaking to the House about this matter because it is not good enough for the south-west to be cut off again, or to be the poor relation of the national rail network. The report by the Peninsula Rail Task Force that was presented yesterday must be the framework for a fair deal going forwards, so will he commit to doing everything in his power to deliver on this piece of work and to make sure that Network Rail delivers for my constituents?

Chris Grayling

I absolutely understand the importance of the task ahead of us. The report, which I have read carefully, shares my view that the No. 1 priority is the sea wall and the cliffs at Dawlish. My hon. Friend will also be aware that last Thursday I announced—this was also in today’s autumn statement—the provision of £10 million for the next stage of the project. I am committed, as is the Chancellor, to making sure that it happens. It is a strategically important project for our nation—we cannot have a situation where the south-west can be cut off via its principal railway routes—so I assure him that we will move ahead expeditiously with it.

Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con)

I thank the Secretary of State for his comments and join him in thanking the Network Rail staff who turned the situation from that of two days ago, when there were literally hanging tracks, to one in which trains can run again. I am pleased that the Chancellor today described the £10 million of funding as the first step in this programme, and I thank the Secretary of State for his personal interest in this issue and his commitment to sorting out the issues with our rail infrastructure once and for all.

Chris Grayling

This absolutely needs to be done, and we will move ahead as quickly as we can. Following the incident on the Cowley bridge this week, flood protection works are due to start there imminently. It is a shame that the works have not quite started yet, but they will be starting very shortly, and I hope that they will deal with that issue so that such an incident cannot happen again.

Moving to the main business, the autumn statement demonstrates the Government’s commitment to modern infrastructure that can serve the public and support a dynamic economy. Our forthcoming departure from the EU represents a huge opportunity for Britain to carve out a new role in the world and to be a stronger and more ambitious country—a country that is better able to shape its own future in the world and a country that is outward-looking and open for business. That was what I campaigned for in the summer, and it is what the Government will deliver.

Business is starting to share this optimism. Since the referendum, several companies in the transport sector have announced significant investment in the UK. Nissan’s commitment of investment is fantastic news for the British economy, the north-east and the car sector, particularly as it is not just maintaining capacity at the plant, but expanding it. In August, Bombardier received an order for 665 new vehicles from Greater Anglia, which will secure jobs and skills in Derby. When I spoke to the international head of Bombardier’s rail division about a month ago, he said that such was the quality of the work in the UK, Derby was going to become a global hub for its rail business, which is another positive statement of commitment to this country.

Alstom has started work on developing a new site at Widnes, which will create 600 jobs along with, crucially, a training academy. The Spanish firm CAF has said it will now set up a train manufacturing plant in the UK, and Siemens, which manufactures rolling stock and other products in the UK, has committed itself to a continuing presence. Its chief executive said in July, “We’re here to stay.” Alongside Hitachi’s new rolling stock and manufacturing and assembly plant in Newton Aycliffe, which is creating 730 new jobs, this shows that we are becoming a centre for high-quality rolling stock manufacturing, so it is with good reason that I view the future with optimism as we approach negotiations on leaving the EU.


Government announces £10 million funding for rail resilience in the South West 
17 November 2016 

Additional £10 million to help strengthen the resilience of the railway line from Exeter to Newton Abbot via Dawlish confirmed.

The government has today (17 November 2016) confirmed an additional £10 million to help strengthen the resilience of the railway line from Exeter to Newton Abbot via Dawlish.

The funding comes as Network Rail publish a report which sets out their proposals for strengthening the route, which was significantly damaged by extreme weather in the winter of 2014.

A section of the sea wall was washed away, leaving the tracks hanging in space, and there was also a major landslip on the cliffs at Teignmouth while the line was closed. The closure of the line was estimated to cost the South West economy more than £1 billion pounds.

The funding is for Network Rail to carry out further planning for how to keep the track better protected from extreme weather.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said:

“It is vital that we do all we can to prepare our transport system for extreme weather.”

“Never has the impact of nature been better demonstrated than at Dawlish and it is important that we make our railways strong enough to weather any storm. The further funding we have today announced will help to make sure that this vital link remains open.”

In their report Network Rail identify 3 priority areas where action is needed to prevent the main Exeter to Plymouth railway line being blocked by further extreme weather. These are:

  • the risk of landslip from the steep cliffs between Teignmouth and Parson’s Tunnel which would block the main Exeter to Plymouth railway line
  • rock falls from the cliffs above the Parson’s Tunnel north entrance
  • flooding from the sea of the railway and the road at Marine Parade between Dawlish station and Kennaway Tunnel

The £10 million funding will allow Network Rail to continue their development work on mitigation against these risks from 2017, when the current funding comes to an end.

Mark Langman, Network Rail’s managing director for the Western route said:

“Keeping the South West connected to the rest of the country by rail is vital to the economy of the region.

We very much welcome the additional £10 million in funds announced today to help us build on the work we’ve already done to prevent this crucial line being blocked in the case of extreme weather.”

Rail update: rail investment in the Great Western route

Written statement to Parliament, Department for Transport and Paul Maynard MP

08 November 2016

Update on the programme of rail investment in the Great Western route.

I wish to update the House on the programme of rail investment in the Great Western route and the steps we are taking to ensure this improves services to passengers while getting the best deal for taxpayers.

We are continuing to invest £2.8 billion in this electrification programme to provide faster journeys, more services, and better stations while providing new or upgraded trains for passengers, with thousands more seats, and increasing capacity for freight. It will improve the experience on over 100 million rail journeys each year, stimulating economic growth from London through the Thames Valley, to the Cotswolds, West Country and to South Wales.

It is a project unprecedented in scale that is building on and around ageing assets in constant use. This is an ambitious and challenging undertaking, but real progress is being made in delivering it.

Projects completed successfully this year include the digital upgrade of large sections of signalling to improve reliability, the modification of over 100 bridges and structures, flood alleviation work, significant improvements to the resilience of the Oxford route and the introduction of the first Great Western electric services between Hayes & Harlington to Paddington which run between some of the busiest peak services in the country.

Works on the Severn Tunnel this autumn made vital preparation for electrification between London and South Wales. Other enabling works include the progression of electrification towards the west, further re-signalling in Bristol, Cardiff and Cornwall, improvements at Bristol Temple Meads Station, enabling works at stations throughout the route, provision of better access for disabled passengers at selected stations, and enhancements to depots from West Ealing in the east to Penzance in the west.

We have been clear that there have been difficulties with this programme. These were set out last year in the review of Network Rail’s delivery plan by Sir Peter Hendy. Following the re-planning of work that followed this review, the programme has been placed on a more efficient footing. A key part of this is the ongoing assessment of investment decisions so that passengers and taxpayers get maximum value.

As a result of this scrutiny from the Hendy review I have decided to defer 4 electrification projects that are part of the programme of work along the Great Western route. The 4 projects being deferred are:

  • electrification between Oxford and Didcot Parkway
  • electrification of Filton Bank (Bristol Parkway to Bristol Temple Meads)
  • electrification west of Thingley Junction (Bath Spa to Bristol Temple Meads)
  • electrification of Thames Valley Branches (Henley & Windsor)

This is because we can bring in the benefits expected by passengers – newer trains with more capacity – without requiring costly and disruptive electrification works. This will provide between £146 million to £165 million in this spending period, to be focused on improvements that will deliver additional benefits to passengers. We remain committed to modernising the Great Western mainline and ensuring that passenger benefits are achieved.

This decision underscores the government’s approach to wider rail investment; that passenger outcomes must be delivered in conjunction with achieving the best value from every pound spent.


House of Commons: Department for Transport

Transport Questions

28 January 2016

Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab): Two years ago, the Prime Minister stood on the ruins of the Dawlish sea wall and said:

“If money needs to be spent, it will be spent; if resources are required we will provide them”.

Now, we learn that Network Rail cannot even afford to fund a report on improving the south-west’s rail lines, putting millions of pounds of investment at risk. Yesterday, the Prime Minister could not say where that money would come from. I want to give the rail Minister a chance. Will she honour her right hon. Friend’s commitment and fund that study?

Claire Perry: I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Kevin Foster), who raised this question with the Prime Minister. The hon. Lady really needs to sort out her facts. The Government spent £35 million on the Dawlish repair and opened the line in record time. We are spending over £400 million on transport investment in the south-west, unlike her party, which wanted to can two major roads. I am looking carefully—[Interruption.] Perhaps she would like to listen, rather than chunter. I am looking carefully at how we can fund this very small amount of money without in any way inhibiting the overall report that we are looking forward to seeing from this very important organisation in April.


House of Commons: Department for Transport

Transport Questions

28 January 2016

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): What additional investment the Government plan to make in rail infrastructure in the south-west during this Parliament; and if he will make a statement.[903324]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Claire Perry): I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, as a fellow south-western MP, will be pleased that the Government have committed to investing about £400 million in rail infrastructure in the south-west. This includes re-signalling the main line from Totnes to Penzance; developing a strategic freight network; electrifying the Great Western main line; refurbishing the Cornwall sleeper; £35 million for the necessary repairs at Dawlish; a brand-new station at Newcourt, just outside his constituency; another station planned in his constituency at Marsh Barton; plus 29 new AT300 trains. The Government get the importance of rail investment in the south-west.

Mr Bradshaw: Of course, that electrification is into south Wales, not the south-west.

The people of the west country well remember the repeated promises from the Transport Secretary, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of billions of pounds of investment in rail in the south-west, but the Minister has just failed, once again, to confirm that the Government will commit a paltry half a million pounds for the feasibility study that Devon and Cornwall needs after the Dawlish disaster into improved resilience and rail transport times. Do not the people of the south-west rightly feel completely betrayed by the Government?

Claire Perry: Month after month, the right hon. Gentleman comes here and seems to be in complete denial about the fact that his Government did nothing for the people of the south-west and that his party wanted to cancel the vital A358 road scheme that helps people directly in his constituency. I have already set out—but I am happy to discuss it further—that I am considering ways to find the very small amount of money required to do this one technical feasibility study, which is a tiny part of the south-west peninsula taskforce study. We expect that report to come out in April and deliver the strategic uplift the region requires.

Oliver Colvile (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Con): To help my hon. Friend, would she be willing to meet me and fellow colleagues in the south-west to ensure that Network Rail and the taskforce have enough funding for the two studies into the electrification of the line through the peninsula and the reduction in journey times?

Claire Perry: I am always happy to meet my hon. Friend, but let me gently remind him that Network Rail has already spent almost £3.5 million supporting the analysis of the resilience groups and the vital geological survey of the sea cliffs along the area. This work will be done, the Government will listen and this Government, unlike that lot on the Opposition Benches, will invest in the south-west.


House of Commons: Cabinet Office

Oral Answers to Questions

27 January 2016

Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con): As my right hon. Friend knows, the peninsula rail taskforce is set to deliver its report on a resilient railway to Devon and Cornwall. Would he be willing to meet me and a number of colleagues to ensure that Network Rail and the taskforce have enough funding for the two studies into the electrification of the line and the necessary reduction of journey times?

The Prime Minister: I had an excellent meeting with the south-west peninsula rail taskforce, which has been working closely with the Government. I will make sure that we continue to liaise closely with it. Clearly, we need to find an answer and we need to find the funding to make it work. We cannot allow to happen what happened in the past when a problem on our railways led to the peninsula being cut off. We cannot see that happen again.