Passenger rail provision in Stoke-on-Trent South is nowhere near its potential and our communities deserve better. I have written to the Department for Transport to take part in the consultation on the East Midlands rail franchise, which concerns the Crewe-Derby line and Longton train station. Here is the letter I sent as part of the consultation:
I am writing to take part in the East Midlands rail franchise consultation, specifically concerning the Crewe-Derby line, which provides an important transport link for my constituents in Stoke-on-Trent South.
Like many areas nationally, Stoke-on-Trent has seen a significant resurgence in our local economy in recent years. The city is perfectly placed to at the heart of the UK to benefit from growth in key sectors and particularly manufacturing. We are now rated nationally as the second-best place to start a new business, and the ninth fastest growing economy in the UK, with over a 25% increase in productivity since 2010. Our big ceramics businesses have increased production by over 50%; alongside which we have seen an 18% reduction in unemployment and more than 22,000 apprenticeships created.
There is also a large and expanding market for industrial heritage tourism in North Staffordshire, including the Gladstone Pottery Museum and World of Wedgwood sites in my constituency already attracting visitors from around the world. The experience of people using local train station facilities has also improved; the volunteers of the North Staffordshire Community Rail Partnership have done a fantastic job in improving the state of facilities at stations along this route including Longton.
Despite this huge and growing demand, rail services on the line remain inadequate and require serious improvement. Both the capacity and quality of the rolling stock currently employed on the Crewe-Derby line are far below the required standard. Stoke-on-Trent city council has conducted studies on the usage of the line and has found services to be above capacity not only at peak times but throughout the day. Local media have also reported on passengers being forced to call taxis as they are unable to get onto carriages. Furthermore, the use of one- and two-carriage trains, operating only once per hour, does not make the use of this part of the railway network reliable. A service every half hour would provide much greater reliability and significantly improve connection for people on to other routes. The rolling stock is also not compliant with PRM-TSI legislation for accessibility. Part of the route is electrified so consideration should be given to replacing the rolling stock with bi-modal, three carriage units.
The Crewe-Derby line has huge potential in terms of both local and national transport infrastructure. There is much spare capacity on the line, which could be utilised to take pressure off other East-West transport routes and significantly enhance East-West connectivity. The further potential to link large cities in the North-West and the East Midlands – from Liverpool and Chester to Nottingham and Leicester – is self-evident. As HS2 is constructed, the Crewe-Derby line could be used to provide a vital link between the two HS2 branches at the hub stations of Crewe and Toton, via Stoke-on-Trent.
Locally for the residents of Stoke-on-Trent South, the potential for increased rail provision would benefit not only residents living near the line, but would help improve congestion problems on roads in the city at a relatively limited cost. The areas of Meir and Fenton, which are situated along the Crewe-Derby line, have seen significant housing and business development since the stations were closed in the 1960s. Consideration should be given to re-opening either or both of these stations. Reopening of these stations would significantly enhance the local rail connectivity in the South of Stoke-on-Trent, helping to address wider transport issues. This would help facilitate further economic growth, both in terms of new housing and business development. It would also ensure that existing communities are much more effectively connected to benefit from future prosperity.
The prospect of greater use of this part of the railway network should also encourage further improvement of facilities to improve the consumer experience of the railways, such as increased car parking provision and the introduction of electronic ticketing facilities.
I hope that you will take these points into consideration as part of this consultation, and that you recognise the potential of the Crewe-Derby line, particularly for Stoke-on-Trent South.
Thank you and best wishes,
Jack Brereton MP
Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent South