Part of my role as a Transport Minister is to discuss and then visit major transport infrastructure projects across the country. I can be in the North East one day and on the south coast the next.
There are big national issues to deal with. For instance, we are seeing the biggest investment in our railways since Victorian times, as around £40billion is being invested between 2014 and 2019. The results of that investment will benefit millions of passengers across the country.
In addition, £55billion will be invested in High Speed 2 – a new railway linking London to Birmingham by 2026, and Manchester and Leeds by 2033. This will form the new backbone to our national network.
When Parliament breaks for the weekend and during Parliamentary recess I am back home in the constituency.
Locally, we are seeing a period of change and some great successes in the field of transport. We should be proud of what has already been achieved after decades of under-investment locally and nationally in our public transport network.
The first evening direct trains from London in over two decades, over £1million worth of improvements at Harrogate station, the award-winning 36 bus service and contactless payments on public transport are just some items but there is a lot more happening.
There are works underway at Knaresborough train station. Contractors are repairing damaged areas of the station as well as improving the station environment for passengers.
This work includes making platform canopies watertight, replacing guttering and pipework and repairing brickwork throughout the station. It is due to conclude towards the end of November.
Arriva Rail North have committed to ensuring Pannal and Starbeck stations will be staffed between 7am and 11am, and Hornbeam Park and Knaresborough staffed between 7am and 7pm.
The Leeds-Harrogate- York line is set for an improved timetable including four trains per hour between Leeds and Harrogate from 7am to 7pm (there are currently two), enhanced evening services and an additional late service to York.
Also on Sundays there will be two trains per hour between Leeds and Knaresborough – there is currently one.
A new franchise for the East Coast Mainline has been awarded with a marked increase in the number of direct trains between Harrogate and London.
In 2011, I worked with the Chamber of Trade and rail firms to get a new evening service from London re-introduced after 25 years absence. Now the new franchise will see two-hourly trains running between Harrogate and the capital from 2019.
On our roads we are seeing greener bus services. A new generation of 100 per cent electric buses will bring cleaner journeys to Harrogate thanks to a £2.25million winning bid for Government funding by operator Transdev.
Using the funding from the Government’s Low Emission Bus Scheme, Transdev’s local subsidiary, the Harrogate Bus Company, will introduce eight 100 per cent electric powered new buses, and install charging points at key locations to keep them on the move.
The new vehicles are expected to enter service in early 2018 on routes serving the Bilton, Jennyfield and Pannal Ash areas of Harrogate.
This comes as 10 Transdev buses used on services between Harrogate and Knaresborough, passing through the Bond End Air Quality Management Area, are being modified to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide by at least 50 per cent. These modifications should be completed by late November.
Low emission buses are particularly important in our area because we have three Air Quality Management Areas where action is needed to improve air quality.
So we have already seen some good improvements derived from national funding alongside local investment, and with more to come.
I know too that there are a great many local initiatives underway. These include consultations on improvement schemes for Bond End in Knaresborough, a new study into a bypass for Harrogate and proposals for cycling improvements alongside dedicated funding provided by the county council from parking revenue to fund sustainable transport initiatives.
All these individual projects add up to a significant change in our area.