Robert Largan – 2020 Speech on Gamesley Railway Station

The text of the speech made by Robert Largan, the Conservative MP for High Peak, in the House of Commons on 15 July 2020.

About 2,000 years ago, the Romans built a fort near Gamesley in my constituency; some say that that was the last time central Government put major investment into the area. When residents first moved into their homes on the newly built housing estate at Gamesley, they were told, “Yes, the transport links are poor, but don’t worry: a new railway station will be built shortly so that you can easily get to Manchester or Glossop town centre.” That was in 1968. The world has changed in many ways over the past 50 years, but Gamesley still does not have a station.

Before I was elected, the last time that an MP had even mentioned Gamesley station in Parliament was in 1968. Since December, I have been working hard to get Gamesley back on the agenda. I am grateful to the rail Minister for meeting me several times already to discuss the proposals and for the way the Government have been prepared to listen. The fact that we are having this debate shows how far we have come. The truth is that over the past 50 years, Governments of all parties have failed properly to invest in transport infrastructure outside London and the south-east, and especially in places such as Gamesley.

Gamesley is a great place to live and people are rightly proud to live there. It is a tight-knit community where people really look out for each other. That has never been more clear than during the lockdown, when organisations such as G52 have done amazing work supporting the most vulnerable. But Gamesley is also one of the most deprived communities in the whole country —on some measures, it is in the top 1% most deprived. A huge part of the reason for that is that local transport links are simply not good enough.

The Local Trust has carried out really important research into what it calls “left behind” communities and has identified Gamesley as one of the areas most in need of support. According to the Local Trust, 46% of households in Gamesley do not have a car, compared with the national average of 26%. It takes an estimated 53 minutes for people in Gamesley to travel to the nearest hospital by public transport—that is 36% longer than the national average.

Local bus services are also in a poor state: the 341 bus from Glossop to Gamesley stops running at five o’clock, which is not much help for anyone who finishes work later than that. Many of my constituents end up having to pay for a taxi to get back home to Gamesley after their shift ends. Local bus services are now set to get even worse: Stagecoach has just announced its intention to scrap the 236 bus between Glossop and Ashton, which will leave people in nearby Brookfield and Woolley Bridge without any direct service.

Travel is not the only barrier facing people in Gamesley. The national average broadband speed is 45.1 megabits per second; Gamesley’s is just 28 megabits per second. Low digital connectivity is just another reminder of how places such as Gamesley have been left behind, denied the essential infrastructure that they need to unleash their full potential. The lack of infrastructure ​and public transport connections to places such as Glossop and Manchester has had a significant and negative impact on the lives of local people. It has led to fewer job opportunities and a real impact on people’s quality of life.

Building Gamesley station will help to transform the life chances of local people. The case for a station is very strong. Transport for Greater Manchester and Derbyshire County Council are currently working jointly on a strategic outline business case, and they have already said: “Gamesley station has a good strategic case and excellent local support.” I can certainly attest to the strong local support. A huge number of local people have signed my long-standing petition in support of the station. As it stands today, more than 30% of the entire population of Gamesley have now signed my petition; by any yardstick that shows pretty strong support.

The strategic case is clear: the cost is relatively low, sidings already exist and trains already pause before going over Dinting viaduct, so a new station would have only a minimal impact on the current timetable of around one or two extra minutes’ journey time. That would be a small price to pay for the huge benefits that the station would bring to the people of Gamesley.

Mark Fletcher (Bolsover) (Con)

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, who is making an exceptional argument for the need for a railway station at Gamesley in his constituency. Pinxton in the Bolsover constituency is in a similar situation: a train track runs through it but it does not currently have a station. Passenger services to Pinxton could have a transformative effect; does my hon. Friend support such a proposal?

Robert Largan

My hon. Friend and county neighbour is an excellent champion for the people of Bolsover and I absolutely agree with him.

Gamesley station will not just benefit the people of Gamesley. The nearest station to Gamesley is Dinting. Demand at Dinting has grown significantly in recent years as more and more houses are built in the Glossop area, which has led to growing parking pressures at Dinting. Building the new station will help reduce those pressures, shorten commuting times for many people who drive to Dinting and, crucially, get more cars off the road. That would help address the notoriously bad traffic problems in the Glossop area.

Traffic is not a new problem. The need for the Mottram bypass has been talked about for over half a century, and traffic is now worse than ever. For many in the region, Glossop has become synonymous with traffic jams, so I am pleased the Government recognise that and that the Prime Minister recently backed building the bypass. It would not just be a gamechanger for people in places such as Glossop, Hadfield and Charlesworth, but would help address a major bottleneck in the national strategic road network between Manchester and Sheffield. We also need to address the traffic problems at Tintwistle, and I am pleased that the Government continue to study proposals for the trans-Pennine tunnel, which would reduce journey times in the region by around 30 minutes.

To solve the problem in the long term, however, we need not just to build the Mottram bypass, but to get more cars off the road, and Gamesley station would be a key part of that. People in High Peak are serious ​about tackling climate change, and Gamesley station would play a part in reducing carbon emissions and getting the local economy to net zero carbon. An awful lot of rat running goes through Gamesley and Charlesworth to Broadbottom station, and Gamesley station would remove the need for that. If done right, there is also an opportunity to link the new station to the Trans Pennine Trail, and the station can be linked by footpath to Simmondley.

I said at the start of my speech that Governments of all parties have failed to invest in our transport infrastructure for decades, but we now have a Government who have promised to build, build, build. The political will is clearly there, but we need more than just political will. We need to change our whole approach for infrastructure, and that means sorting out the Treasury Green Book rules and traditional WebTAG approach.

Chris Loder (West Dorset) (Con)

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this Adjournment debate. I agree with what he says about the Green Book, which the Government and the Treasury use in determining the economic value of infrastructure enhancements, particularly for rail. While the coronavirus has been devastating across the country, does he agree that there are many opportunities in terms of infrastructure, levelling up and ensuring that the models to which he refers can be recalibrated to help station projects such as Gamesley?

Robert Largan

My hon. Friend is an expert in rail matters and infrastructure projects and a real asset to this House. He is absolutely right that the current approaches just do not properly assess the true value of infrastructure projects. They fail to take fully into account the wider economic and social benefits of levelling up, and that has helped contribute towards the bias in spending on infrastructure projects towards London and the south-east.

When Transport for Greater Manchester and Derbyshire County Council complete the business case later this month, I hope the Government assess the proposals based on the wider benefits, rather than just narrowly focusing on outdated Treasury cost-benefit ratios. The cost of Gamesley station is modest—perhaps we could call it a rounding error in the Crossrail budget. We can also help to reduce the cost of infrastructure projects by getting the nuts and bolts of delivery right, focusing on things such as our infrastructure industries. The Chancellor’s great announcement about training schemes was welcome, and we should be thinking about focusing that on to the industries we need to deliver infrastructure investments.

Chris Loder

Does my hon. Friend also agree that leaving the European Union gives us an enormous opportunity to shed some of the shackles, rules and regulations that we have had to contend with for decades and that have massively increased the costs of building train stations such as Gamesley?

Robert Largan

My hon. Friend makes a good point. There are huge opportunities ahead for places such as Gamesley.

By building Gamesley station, the Government can offer a helping hand and send a clear message to the people of Gamesley that they are not forgotten. It is time to deliver on the promise made 52 years ago and build Gamesley station.