Today I met with the Transport Minister, Andrew Jones MP, to discuss the delay in the electrification of the TransPennine rail line through Stalybridge and Mossley. I requested this meeting at a previous session of Transport Questions in the House of Commons.
Andrew Jones assured me that the Government remains committed to the project, and the Hendy Review into the work is designed to get a grip on all aspects of the scheme (including costs) but is not seeking to scrap it. It will however cover more than just the electrification work, but other engineering work on the line too. It should report around November this year.
The Government could not give me a time scale for the likely completion of the electrification work, but did say that new rolling stock in the franchise bids is not dependent on electrification happening. This means that before the new franchises start in April 2016, we should have an indication of what new trains we are getting.
I remain deeply frustrated at this delay, but I appreciated the chance to seek further clarity and commitment from the Government on this vital project.
Commenting on the news that the Manchester Piccadilly to Hadfield and Glossop via Hattersley rail route is to lose rolling stock, Stalybridge and Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds said:
“Yet again rail commuters in the North are losing out, this time seeing rolling stock going to the West Midlands. This loss of trains will hit commuters at numerous stations in Hyde who rely on this route in order to get to work in Manchester City Centre.
This is yet another example in a series of announcements in recent months that have hit rail infrastructure in the North, and which make a mockery of this Government’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ agenda. I will be writing to the Transport Secretary to find out what plans he has in place to replace the trains we will lose.”
You can view the full story on the BBC News website here.
The Transport Secretary yesterday (Thursday 16th July) confirmed to me during Transport Questions in Parliament plans for a rail and road study into the technical feasibility, benefits and impacts of constructing a tunnel under the Peak District, connecting Manchester and Sheffield.
Patrick McLoughlin has recently written to all 28 MP’s affected by the TransPennine schemes, and I was seeking confirmation that the possibility of a tunnel was being considered, and that this would be in addition to the Mottram by-pass announced before the election.
The Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin has recently written to all 28 MP’s affected by the TransPennine schemes, and Mr Reynolds was seeking confirmation that the possibility of a tunnel was being considered, and that this would be in addition to the Mottram by-pass announced before the election.
I believe that one of the most important decisions in the previous Parliament was the decision to proceed with the Mottram Bypass, something I have campaigned for since I was first elected. A number of issues still need to be resolved however, once of which being the feasibility of building a new tunnel under the Pennines, so I am pleased this is being looked at.
I will continue to press the Government to make sure they deliver on their promise, including when I meet the Transport Minister after the summer.
Yesterday (Tuesday 14th July) I spoke in the House of Commons during the debate on the Government's emergency budget. Whilst there were some aspects of the budget I support, such as the ending of permanent non-Dom status, overall this is a budget that will do more harm than good to people in Stalybridge, Hyde, Mossley, Dukinfield and Longdendale.
In particular, I believe the replacement of university grants with loans is unacceptable, along with the Government's failure to tackle the country's housing crisis, the lack of commitment to the Northern Powerhouse initiative, and the changes to tax credits that will hit ordinary working families especially hard.
This morning I visited Gorse Hall Primary School in Stalybridge to meet with pupils who form the ECO Committee, and launch the school’s charity wellython. The school’s ECO Committee recently visited the House of Parliament and Downing Street and were keen to tell me about their visit.
I was also delighted to launch the school’s charity wellython, where each teacher and pupil will walk one mile around school grounds, with a target of walking 500 miles to hopefully raise £500. The money raised will go towards the opening of the Ilamula house, an orphanage for young vulnerable girls under 16 years old in South Africa.
Gorse Hall do fantastic work with their ECO Committee, and it sounds like they had a great visit to Parliament and Downing Street. It’s always heartening to see young people interested and passionate about environmental issues.
The wellython is a great idea, and for a very worthy cause. I have no doubt they will be successful in achieving their target, and I'm sure it will be worth the aching legs afterwards!