Thanks for that welcome.
And thanks for inviting me today (10th April 2014).
It’s an absolute pleasure to be at Derbyshire County Cricket Club once again for the Rail Forum conference.
A year ago I stood here and talked about some of the challenges, and opportunities, we face. First, as a government. Second, as an industry.
I explained how it’s our job in government to create the right environment for your businesses to grow. And how it’s your job to compete and take advantage of opportunities as the economy recovers.
Well 12 months on from that speech, we’ve made excellent progress.
The economic outlook is considerably brighter.
By sticking to the Chancellor’s plans, Britain is recovering far faster than anyone expected.
Faster than Germany.
Faster than Japan or the US.
And three times faster than the independent Office of Budget Responsibility predicted at last year’s budget.
We’ve helped build the right conditions for growth by cutting corporation tax and reducing regulation.
Manufacturing is up.
Unemployment claims have fallen by almost a quarter.
And over the coming year, we expect to reach a key milestone - by cutting the deficit to half the level we inherited.
But we didn’t just inherit a fiscal deficit.
We inherited an infrastructure deficit too.
And a crowded and congested transport network that was holding back our economy.
So we’ve made a very significant commitment to prioritise infrastructure spending, particularly on the railway.
And now we’re seeing tangible evidence of that investment benefiting Derby’s rail cluster, with many companies stepping up to the plate, innovating and competing for new business, and by doing so, further strengthening Derby’s reputation as a world class centre for rail expertise.
Just last week, the Derby Telegraph reported on hundreds of new rail jobs that are being created in and around the city.
With companies like Interfleet Technology and Van Elle expanding and gearing up for the electrification of the Midland Main Line.
It quoted the Derby and Derbyshire Rail Forum, saying that the upgraded link to Sheffield and London would see “enormous opportunities” for the local supply chain.
Of course that’s not the only piece of good news the local rail industry’s had recently.
I was delighted to announce a few weeks ago that Bombardier had successfully landed the rolling stock contract for Crossrail.
The benefits of this contract will be felt across the sector – and across Derby.
Because Bombardier will channel at least a quarter of the contract value through small and medium sized companies.
The challenge now is to build on these achievements.
Because we’re entering a period of historic opportunity for Britain’s rail industry.
And with the biggest conglomeration of rail firms in the country, it’s certainly a huge opportunity for Derby.
Already, rail passenger journeys have doubled in just 20 years.
And passenger and freight demand is going to continue climbing for the foreseeable future.
We have to be ready for that growth.
So Network Rail will spend £38 billion over the next 5 years on maintenance and improvements.
Providing more trains, more seats, and better stations.
Improving reliability and performance.
But even this substantial figure won’t provide all the capacity we need.
Busy arteries like the West Coast Main Line will be overwhelmed if we don’t take action.
That’s why we need High Speed 2. To boost capacity on north-south routes by almost 20,000 seats an hour, and free up space on the existing railway for more commuter services.
The construction of HS2 will also ensure a long-term pipeline of rail investment.
To sustain thousands of engineering jobs across the country.
This will be the biggest transport infrastructure project in Britain since the coming of the motorways.
To equip the industry for the challenges ahead, we’re investing in training and skills.
The Crossrail Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy is teaching a new generation of engineers.
And we’ve begun the search for a place to host the new High Speed Rail College.
From 2017, the college will teach some of the brightest engineering and construction students in Britain.
Providing them with the specialised training and qualifications they need to work on HS2 and other future infrastructure projects.
As part of the bidding process, we want cities like Derby to tell us why they are best placed to shape and develop these young talents.
And how their long established links with industry will help students find the right job.
In the long term, we want to export British rail expertise gained with HS2 to other countries developing their own high speed rail networks.
So the High Speed Rail College has an exciting future – as will the town or city which successfully bids to host it.
Our ambition is to develop a world class railway for Britain once again.
Managing such an ambitious plan brings its own challenges.
So, as you’ve heard from Clare Moriarty earlier today (10 April 2014), we’re making some changes to the way we operate at the DfT, with the launch of our new Rail Executive.
The Rail Executive is tasked with managing the relationships between different parts of the railway, getting better value for money for both the farepayer and the taxpayer, and focusing more strongly on the customer.
Now that the investment for the network has been secured, the Rail Executive’s priority will be effective and efficient delivery.
We’ve seen fantastic growth, for example in the King’s Cross and St Pancras area, which has become a destination in its own right; but also at Nottingham, and the Northern Hub. All of which means that the prospects for this industry are looking up.
We’ve set out a programme to revitalise the railways.
What we have to do now is put it into practice.
And in doing so, help your businesses to grow.
It’s fitting, perhaps, that 2014 marks the 175th anniversary of the railway coming to Derby.
Because I think our Victorian rail pioneers, like Derby’s own Sir Charles Fox, can help inspire a new rail renaissance in this country, including the first new north-south railway line to be built for more than a century.
The lesson we can learn from them is that we have to think big.
We have to be ambitious.
And we have to grasp opportunities while they’re available.
So on that note, can I thank you for listening – and wish you all the best for the next year.