Robert Largan – 2021 Speech on the Integrated Rail Plan

The speech made by Robert Largan, the Conservative MP for High Peak, in the House of Commons on 8 December 2021.

First, I associate myself with the excellent speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones) and for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard), two experienced former rail Ministers who set out why they welcome the integrated rail plan while perhaps hoping that it had gone further in some areas. I completely agree with every word of both of their speeches.

One area of the IRP that I really welcome is the continued commitment to the £137 million upgrade to the Hope Valley line running between Manchester and Sheffield. That is important for several reasons. First, the line is one of the worst performing in the country in terms of reliability and punctuality, so this extra capacity to improve reliability and frequency and help freight get out of the quarries and into market is a really positive step, along with, finally, the retirement of the Pacers and their replacement by the new class 195 trains, and the much-needed reforms to rail franchising. That £137 million investment in our railways, combined with the £228 million new Mottram bypass and Glossop spur road, which is due to start construction in 2023, represents the biggest investment in transport infrastructure in the High Peak in my lifetime at least.

On top of that, it is important to ensure that local passengers on the stopping stations on the Hope Valley line, such as Hope, Edale, Bamford, New Mills and Chinley, also benefit from this, and that we link up the bus services from those stations to destinations. That is why the Hope Valley explorer bus pilot is such a positive step forward. I also welcome the commitment to look at electrification of the line.

I also want to talk about HS2, which benefits the High Peak directly. I am very pleased that the western leg and extension is going ahead. That will free up capacity on the Stockport corridor of the west coast main line through to Manchester Piccadilly, a big bonus for those travelling there from places including Buxton, Whaley Bridge, Chapel-en-le-Frith and New Mills.

However, we do need to go further. That is why I continue to campaign for a railway station for Gamesley, one of the most deprived places in the country. It has one of the lowest car ownership rates but atrocious transport links, including a bus service that ends at 5 o’clock in the evening. That desperately needs sorting out. We also need to replace the loss of the 236 bus, which means that at the moment people in Glossop have no connection and no direct bus route through to Tameside Hospital and Ashton College. I really hope that gets fixed too.

Overall, there are lots of really positive things in the integrated rail plan for us to welcome. I would like to see it go further in other places, but the key now is that we get on and deliver it, and that we get spades in the ground as soon as possible. I look forward to the start of the construction of the upgrade to the Hope Valley line within the next few months.