The coalition Government take very seriously the potential impact of a high-speed rail line on line-side communities and property owners. HS2 Ltd’s current preferred route utilises a range of mitigation techniques, including tunnelling and culverting where appropriate, practical and economically justifiable.
On page 174 of the HS2 proposals, the report states:
“It is difficult to analyse exactly where the benefits of HS2 would accrue.”
HS2 is a project that will clearly be expensive in construction costs, mitigation costs and the costs of compensation. Will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that next year’s consultation will include a consultation on the principle of HS2 and on whether the same amount or even less money spent on the existing rail infrastructure could produce similar or even better results?
I can assure my hon. Friend that the option of spending money on enhancing existing rail infrastructure to provide the capacity and the additional connectivity that a high-speed railway will provide has been examined in detail and has been found not to be a practical option. The consultation next year starts from the premise that the Government believe that a high-speed rail network will be in the United Kingdom’s interest, but it will consult on issues to do with the design of that network, the route and the details of the proposals for the London to Birmingham link.
The Secretary of State will be aware of the potentially very important role for Stratford International as a stop for through services from High Speed 1 to High Speed 2. Given the prospect of competitive services on the channel tunnel rail link and developments in east London, as well as the success of the O2 dome and so on, does he agree that there is a growing economic imperative for international trains to stop at Stratford?
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, Eurostar services are operated by a commercial company that makes decisions on the basis of its commercial best interest. I think the answer that he should be looking for is more competition and more operators on the line. I am very pleased to hear that Deutsche Bahn intends to start operating services through the tunnel to London. The more operators there are, the more likely they are to seek additional niche markets and to provide additional station stops.