We have asked High Speed 1 to consider the potential development of a high-speed line beyond the west midlands, in particular the potential for the new line to extend to the conurbations of Greater Manchester, Yorkshire, the north-east and Scotland.
It is expected that high-speed rail services to Yorkshire would result in a measurable impact on economic benefits. Greengauge 21, for example, suggests that a high-speed network would create some £6 billion of economic benefit to the region. The Government look forward to receiving High Speed 2’s report on high-speed rail at the end of the year.
It is good to see the Government taking action to promote high-speed railways, but when Network Rail published its report in August favouring the north-west over Yorkshire and the north-east, did the Minister of State notice, as I did, that it had failed to conduct the same economic analysis of the benefits of the north-west route and the Yorkshire route? Will he confirm that the Government will continue to consider Yorkshire and the north-west on equal terms, and to pursue equally claims for routes on both sides of the Pennines?
May I, through you, Mr. Speaker, reassure my hon. Friend that HS2’s outlook is national? It is important that we bear that in mind. Some people would draw on the back of an envelope a line from London to Birmingham to Manchester to Leeds, and that would be their high-speed link. We examine the benefits to all the corridors in our country to ensure that all parts of the country get the benefits of high-speed rail.
Does the Minister accept that a high-speed rail link to the north-west that did not go to Yorkshire would have a detrimental impact on the economy in Yorkshire?
The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. I hope that his Front Benchers are listening.
Successive Governments have spectacularly failed to tackle the north-south economic divide in any meaningful way. Businesses and politicians in the north-east now believe that one way to tackle the north-south divide is to make the travelling times between the two shorter and bring the two closer together. Those are the priorities for the north-east in terms of high-speed rail. Does the Minister share them?
My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point about the vision we have for high-speed rail. One of the things we deliberately asked High Speed 2 to look into was the benefits of extending the high-speed link to Manchester, Yorkshire, the north-east and Scotland. It is important that, when HS2 reports this year, we consider the report and come back with proposals next year. The alternative is short-term gimmickry to get a standing ovation at a party conference.
Will the Minister particularly take into account the negative economic effects on the north-east of building a line only as far as Leeds?
I did not realise that I had so many allies in the Chamber, but it is good to hear that we have allies who are committed to investment in high-speed rail, which is probably the biggest single infrastructure investment in my generation.
The Yorkshire Post this morning again highlights the importance of high-speed rail for the north of England, with its “fast track to Yorkshire” campaign, so I want to ask the Minister: will he promise us a year by which time construction of a new high-speed rail line to the north of England will have begun?
I welcome the hon. Lady’s contribution to infrastructure investment. I wish she was as enthusiastic about Crossrail in London as she claims to be about high-speed rail. As for the timeline, we look forward to receiving the report from High Speed 2 later this year. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who is a workaholic, will consider the report from HS2 and, I am sure, come back with proposals as soon as possible. Perhaps, if his infectious workaholism spreads, the construction work will begin as soon as the hon. Lady wants.
What the Minister does not tell the House is that the formal remit of HS2 is a route from London to the west midlands. The Conservative commitment to high-speed rail covers Manchester and Leeds. Why will Labour not match that?
I am sorry that the hon. Lady has spent so much time arguing with the Mayor of London that she has not read, for example, the evidence given by David Rowlands to the Transport Committee in June, or the copies in the Library of letters sent by Lord Adonis to David Rowlands, and his responses, which make the matter quite clear. My noble Friend writes in particular about
“the potential for HS2 to extend to the conurbations of Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, the North East and Scotland.”
I undertake to send the hon. Lady copies of Hansard, the minutes of the Select Committee and letters confirming our commitment. I wish that she would make the same commitment.