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Volume 508: debated on Monday 22 March 2010

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport what research has been done on the business case on the proposed route of a high-speed rail link (a) including starting with a link between London and Birmingham and (b) directly from London on to the north of England and Scotland. (323361)

The report published by HS2 Ltd estimates the benefit:cost ratio of their proposed line from London to the West Midlands to be 2.4:1, rising to 2.7:1 with the inclusion of wider economic benefits such as agglomeration.

The report also made a strategic assessment of the business case for a range of options for a network linking London to Scotland, and concluded that the ‘Inverse A’ network, with branches either side of the Pennines, was most promising with an indicative benefit:cost ratio of 2.3:1.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport which organisations have informed his Department of their support for a shorter journey time by rail between London and Birmingham. (323362)

The Department receives regular correspondence and other representations from a range of organisations on a range of issues, including high speed rail.

“High Speed Rail”, the Command Paper published on 11 March 2010, sets out the Government’s intention to consult by the autumn on the proposals it contains. It is at this stage that all interested parties will have opportunity to comment on the proposed high speed rail network, including any journey time savings it could deliver.

A summary list and the full text of detailed submissions that stakeholders submitted during the engagement process undertaken by HS2 Ltd was published alongside “High Speed Rail”.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport what assessment has been made of the economic effects of a reduction in rail journey times of 20 minutes between London and Birmingham; and if he will make a statement. (323363)

HS2 Ltd assessed the comparative business cases of new high speed and conventional lines between London and the West Midlands, which would deliver a 35 minute and 20 minute reduction in journey times respectively (assuming the conventional line, like the high speed proposal, included no intermediate stations between the two conurbations).

Its conclusion was that the slower journey times offered by a conventional speed line would reduce the number of people travelling on the line in comparison to the high speed alternative by 20 per cent. This would cause overall benefits to fall by 23 per cent. or £6.7 billion, in contrast to a net cost saving to Government of around £1 billion.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport what assessment has been made of the effects of tunnelling activities associated with the high-speed rail route proposed in Chesham and Amersham constituency on chalk aquifers in the area. (323364)

The potential for the construction of HS2 to affect surface drainage and ground water would be fully assessed during the detailed design stage of the project, which itself would commence following consultation should the Government choose to proceed.

HS2 Ltd would draw from the experience gained by others in the construction of tunnels through similar geology. Appropriate mitigation of such effects would be undertaken during construction, if necessary.