17 June 2015: Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon moved that this House takes note of transport connectivity and infrastructure in the north of England.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, judging from the many excellent speeches so far, the subtitle of this debate should be, “The North Fights Back”. We have just heard a very good example of that from the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake. I congratulate the Minister on what I believe is his first speech from the Dispatch Box in his new role. I hope that he will not mind my saying but, coming after the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, who was in her place earlier, and my noble friend Lord Adonis, he has two very hard acts to follow. Both those Ministers presided over and contributed to the revival in Britain’s railways, in which I wholeheartedly rejoice.
Since 1997-98, the annual growth in passenger journeys has been around 4%, compared with just 0.3% in the previous 16 years. The Office of Rail and Road recently reported that the total number of journeys on franchise operators last year was up to 1.654 billion—the highest ever. Noble Lords, I think, will have heard me speak before about the contrast in recent years with the situation in which the railways found themselves in the post-Beeching 1970s and 1980s, when decline, contraction and penny-pinching were all the order of the day
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