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High Speed Rail

Volume 520: debated on Monday 20 December 2010

With permission, Mr Speaker, I want to make a statement on the Government’s plans for the development of a national high-speed rail network, and on the proposed route that we will put forward next year for public consultation.

One of the coalition’s main objectives is to build an economy that is more balanced both sectorally and geographically, and that will deliver sustainable economic growth while also delivering on our climate change targets. Investment in infrastructure, and transport infrastructure in particular, will be a key part of that approach. To deliver economic growth and carbon reduction, we must provide attractive alternatives to short-haul aviation while addressing the issue of scarce rail capacity between city centres. Network Rail has calculated that by 2024 the west coast main line will effectively be full, with no further enhancements that could reasonably be made to meet future demand.

The Government believe that the best long-term solution to those challenges is the development of a national high-speed rail network. Our proposed strategy is a Y-shaped network, to be delivered in two phases, the first being a line from London to the west midlands and the second the onward legs to Manchester and Leeds, with connections to points further north via the east and west coast main lines.

Our proposals will provide an unprecedented increase in capacity on the key north-south routes out of London through a combination of new infrastructure and released capacity on existing lines. Reliability will be improved and journey times between major cities slashed. Central Birmingham will be brought within 49 minutes of London—potentially less for non-stopping services—and within one hour five minutes of Leeds. The released capacity on the west coast main line offers the possibility of commuter-frequency fast services to London from places such as Coventry and Milton Keynes.

By running trains seamlessly on to existing inter-city routes, the proposed network will also bring Glasgow and Edinburgh within three and a half hours of London, which is fast enough to induce a major shift of passengers from domestic aviation. In the longer term, we will also explore with the Scottish Government the options for further reducing journey times to Scotland.

The development of a high-speed rail network has been a key factor in our decision on additional runways at London’s airports, which is why we said from the outset that any such network must be linked to our principal gateway airport and integrated with the European high-speed network via High Speed 1. In June, I asked HS2 Ltd to carry out additional work on such links. I have studied that work and the recommendations of Lord Mawhinney’s review, and I have also examined Arup’s proposals for a transport hub near Iver.

I have concluded that a spur route to the airport, running on the surface close to the M25 for part of its length, is the best option. It is lower-cost than the other options considered by HS2 Ltd, will keep journey times between London and Birmingham to a minimum and will retain the flexibility to be extended into a loop in future. To deliver the best possible value for taxpayers’ money, I propose that a spur route be constructed as part of the second phase of the network, opening at the same time as the routes to Manchester and Leeds. I have today asked HS2 Ltd to carry out further work on such a spur route, with a view to public consultation later in this Parliament alongside the routes to Manchester and Leeds. For the period prior to the opening of that second phase, high-speed rail travellers to the airport will be able to change to fast Heathrow Express services at Old Oak Common, where there will also be a direct interchange with Crossrail.

With regard to a link to HS 1, HS2 Ltd’s report identifies that a connection can be made via a new tunnel from Old Oak Common to the North London line near Chalk Farm, from where existing infrastructure can be used to reach the HS 1 line north of St Pancras. That proposal is significantly cheaper than any other option for a direct link, and it will enable direct trains to run from the midlands and the north to Europe without affecting existing service levels on the North London line. Such a tunnel can be constructed only before the Old Oak Common interchange comes into operation, so the link will be included in the phase 1 scheme put forward for consultation.

The Government believe that the construction of a high-speed rail network will support economic growth and the rebalancing of the UK economy, but we recognise that the proposed line will have significant local impacts on the areas it passes through and that we have a duty to do everything practically possible to mitigate those impacts. That is why, since my appointment as Secretary of State, I have reviewed the proposals of the previous Administration. I have looked at the case for high-speed rail, at the corridor options for a north-south route, at the different route options put forward by HS2 Ltd and in detail at the route option recommended in its March report. I have reached the conclusion, as the previous Administration did, that the route option recommended in March represents the most appropriate general alignment for the high-speed railway between London and the west midlands.

However, before finalising the detailed route that I am publishing today for consultation, I travelled the length of it and talked directly to local authorities, property owners, and many of the protest groups and their Members of Parliament, and I commissioned additional work on the options for improving the proposed alignment. As a consequence, significant amendments have been made to both the vertical and horizontal alignment, and to the proposed mitigation measures. In total, around 50% of the preferred route proposal published in March has been amended in some respect.

I am confident that solutions have now been found that can significantly mitigate the impacts of the railway at local level which, when properly understood, will reassure many of those who have been understandably apprehensive about the potential impact on their lives and their property values. For instance, in Primrose Hill, work to identify the most appropriate locations for the necessary vent shafts has shifted the proposed tunnel, and thus also the vent shafts themselves, to the north, away from the most sensitive areas of that part of London, locating them alongside the existing railway.

Between Amersham and Wendover, opportunities to cover sections of the proposed cutting to create a green bridge and a longer green tunnel have been incorporated into the route design to reduce its visual impact and avoid severance of public rights of way. By moving the alignment away from the historic property of Hartwell house, HS2 Ltd has been able to ensure that the line would not be visible from the house itself and that additional earthworks and planting can be undertaken to further reduce visual and noise impacts. In the most northerly section of the route, an improved alignment has been identified that would move the line further from Lichfield.

Despite our best efforts at mitigation, however, we will not be able to avoid all impacts on property values. Where a project that is in the national interest imposes significant financial loss on individuals, it is right and proper that they should be compensated fairly for that loss, so I have asked my officials to prepare a range of options for a scheme to assist those whose properties will not be required for the construction of the railway, but who will none the less see a significant diminution of value as a result of the construction of the line.

The forthcoming consultation will include proposals for such a scheme, which will sit alongside the statutory blight regime, which covers those whose properties would need to be taken to build the line. I am publishing today on my Department’s website, and placing in the Library of the House, a set of reports by HS2 Ltd that sets out for each route section the options considered and the changes proposed, together with detailed maps showing the revised preferred route from London to the west midlands in full. That route will form the basis for the public consultation, which I expect to begin in February next year.

When the consultation is launched, I will also publish a revised business case, a full appraisal of sustainability, noise contour maps and route visualisations, all of which can be completed only now that the final preferred route for consultation has been determined. Let me be clear that the consultation will encompass the Government’s strategy for a national high-speed rail network, the choice of corridor and the detailed line of route that I have outlined for the initial phase from London to the west midlands. As part of the consultation process, roadshows will be held along the length of the preferred route from London to the west midlands to ensure that local people have the opportunity to find out more about the project and to discuss specific concerns with those involved in developing the scheme.

It is my view that a high-speed rail network will deliver a transformational change to the way Britain works and competes in the 21st century. It will allow the economies of the midlands and the north to benefit much more directly from the economic engine of London, tackling the north-south divide more effectively than half a century of regional policy has done, expanding labour markets and bringing our major conurbations closer together. The consultation exercise that we will launch in the new year will be one of the biggest and most wide-ranging ever undertaken by any Government, and I urge all hon. Members with an interest to participate and to encourage their constituents to do so. These proposals have the support of political and business leaders from all parts of the United Kingdom, and I hope they will gain cross-party support in this House. I commend this statement to the House.

I thank the Secretary of State for early sight of his statement. Today, he is facing a rising tide of criticism over the transport chaos gripping the country, so it is unlucky that he is scheduled to update the House on high-speed travel on a day when most people would settle for travel at any speed at all. As he knows, it was Labour in government which set out a vision for a high-speed rail line running from London to Birmingham from 2026, and on to Leeds, Manchester and Scotland in phases during the following years. I pay tribute to the tenacity and determination of his predecessor, the noble Lord Adonis, whose exhaustive work on the scheme has allowed the right hon. Gentleman to pick up and run with the vision he has set out today for high-speed rail.

I recognise the importance of increasing rail capacity and connectivity, particularly in respect of the west coast main line and the Chiltern line beyond 2020. I assure the Secretary of State that Labour remains committed to investing in a world-class rail system, and that high-speed rail could have an important role to play in delivering it. That is why we began the planning process when in government—in fact, I suspect that his proposals probably have more support on the Labour Benches than on the Benches behind him. He is the one sitting in a divided Government, although for once the divisions do not involve the Liberal Democrats. No doubt, he will find out in due course whether he has done enough today to persuade the Secretary of State for Wales, who is in her place, not to resign in protest at his plans.

We have just embarked on a fundamental review of our policies, just as the Conservatives did after the Prime Minister became leader of his party—and just like the leader of the Liberal Democrats, who appears to have looked again at all his party’s policies since joining the Government. It would be ridiculous for our future support for high-speed rail not to be at the heart of that review—and it will be at the heart of it—given that it is a £30 billion commitment on future Parliaments. In the meantime, however, the Secretary of State has the support of Labour Members as he moves forward with the next stage of planning the route he has set out today.

It would be good if the Secretary of State were to show the same determination and commitment to other critical investment in our rail industry—investment needed now, not in future Parliaments. He has cut and delayed the vital investment we had planned for this Parliament; he has delayed the new generation of inter-city express trains and cut our plans for 1,300 new carriages; he has delayed much of the electrification that we planned and cut Great Western line electrification beyond Bristol and into Wales; and he has delayed the Thameslink and Crossrail schemes, which will not now benefit passengers until 2018—or is it now 2019? It keeps slipping.

We have set out an additional £7.5 billion of capital investment from which significant sums would have been invested in our rail networks in this Parliament. Does the Secretary of State realise that because he has cut so much spending in this Parliament while post-dating a £30 billion cheque for a high-speed rail scheme, the cost of which will fall in future Parliaments, people may well be sceptical about the extent of his commitment to Britain’s railways today? Does he understand how he puts at risk public support for future investment such as high-speed rail, given that he cannot even get the investment to keep our trains and other transport infrastructure running during severe weather?

Does the Secretary of State also understand the anger that will be felt in communities across the country when people hear him claim that his support for high-speed rail is due to concern about the north-south divide in Britain? His party’s support for high-speed rail is a fig leaf to disguise the fact that it has no strategy for investment, jobs or growth in the north. If he were really bothered about the north-south divide, he would not be supporting the scrapping of the regional development agencies, the future jobs fund and the education maintenance allowance, or the trebling of student fees, the delaying of broadband roll-out or the increase in VAT to 20%—another broken promise from both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. If he were really bothered about the north-south divide, he would not be loading the largest cuts on to councils in the midlands and the north. If he were really bothered about transport links beyond the south, why is it that authorities in the north are facing the biggest cuts in their road maintenance and local travel projects, with Merseyside facing cuts of 49% and Manchester cuts of 42%, while midlands and southern counties are doing much better?

Let me ask the Secretary of State some specific questions about the scheme that he has announced today. What impact will the changes to the route, the additional compensation and hardship payments, and the other commitments that he has made today have on the £750 million that he has allocated in this spending period? Can he offer an assurance that that will not have a knock-on effect on other rail schemes already facing cuts and delays, and that it will not set a precedent for compensation in other cases where infrastructure is driven through people’s homes and businesses? He has previously referred to the construction costs for major projects in the UK being significantly higher than for comparable projects elsewhere in Europe. What progress has he made, working with Infrastructure UK, to find ways of bringing down the cost of the scheme to the taxpayer?

Will the Secretary of State confirm whether the cost of the trains to run on the high-speed line has been included in the figures used for the cost of the scheme; or, as with other schemes, such as Crossrail, do they constitute separate expenditure yet to be identified? One of the things missing from the debate on high-speed rail to date has been the likely cost of using the service. Does he agree that if all taxpayers are to contribute so significantly to the cost of constructing the route, it cannot be a service with ticket prices outside the grasp of most people? Does he agree that many people will question his commitment to take the line beyond Birmingham, when he is restricting his proposed legislation to the first part of the route? Why is he not taking powers in the hybrid Bill to build the line to the north of Birmingham?

The Secretary of State’s party has no credibility when it comes to investing in our railways. We remember the 18 years of Tory under-investment in Britain’s railways, and the botched privatisation, which resulted in years of instability and uncertainty. It was Labour that delivered years of sustained investment, leading to a doubling of passenger numbers. He is right to continue the work, which Labour began, to prepare for high-speed rail in the UK. However, we must also see investment in rail schemes that will benefit the country and assist growth and economic recovery now, not just in 15 to 20 years’ time. We must see investment in technology to improve the resilience of the network to severe weather, and we must see passengers protected from the spiralling cost of fares. If the Secretary of State is really serious about maintaining a consensus on high-speed rail and building public support for his plans, he should think again about some of the decisions that he has taken in his first few months in the job. He should think again about cuts to new carriages, the delays to electrification and the massive hike in fares.

I will start with the good bits. I thank the hon. Lady for what I think was her support for the next stage of the process—going through the consultation and introducing a Bill later in this Parliament, if that is what we decide as a result of the consultation. I am also happy to pay tribute, as she did, to the work of my immediate predecessor in developing the case for high-speed rail, although it is worth noting that not all his predecessors seemed to have been quite so committed to the project.

I am afraid that it is the hon. Lady who lacks credibility, in talking about our failure to invest in the railway. She can talk about a decade of Labour investment as much as she likes. What most people will have noticed is a decade of driving us towards the brink of bankruptcy. What we have done is salvage a substantial programme of investment in rail infrastructure—a programme the scale of which neither she nor many commentators outside this place predicted we would be able to continue with—in the context of the extreme fiscal constraints that we face. We have gone ahead with Crossrail and Thameslink, and with a programme of additional rail vehicles—gone ahead with, not merely announced unfunded promises, which is her legacy. We will go ahead with the inter-city express programme, as I have already announced. We will announce to Parliament the details of that programme, along with the electrification associated with it, in the new year. The hon. Lady can go on all she likes about proposing £17 billion of additional investment. Her party has no economic plan, no policies and no credibility.

Turning to the specifics of the hon. Lady’s response, the high-speed rail investment that we are proposing will be approximately £2 billion a year over a period of 16 years. That is roughly what we are spending now on Thameslink and Crossrail, so large infrastructure projects can be funded while the investment in the mainstream main line railway is funded as it is now.

The hon. Lady asked about our commitment to high speed rail as a means of addressing the north-south divide, and she reeled off a string of tried and failed mechanisms for addressing that persistent problem. We have decided to take a new approach to closing the gap between economic growth rates in the north and south, and the experience of other countries suggests that investment in strategic infrastructure is the best way to deliver that outcome.

The hon. Lady asked whether the change of route and the exceptional hardship scheme will impact on the £750 million that has been set aside for HS 2 during this Parliament, and the answer to that is no. She also asked whether there would be an impact on other rail schemes’ budgets, and the answer is again no. The HS 2 budget is ring-fenced; other rail schemes are typically funded through Network Rail and through support to train operators.

The hon. Lady asked about the compensation scheme. I have indicated that we will seek to go further than has happened with previous such infrastructure schemes in the UK, because it is right and proper that individuals who suffer serious financial loss in the national interest should be compensated. She also asked whether we will be setting a precedent in that regard. She should be aware that developing European jurisprudence in the area of property rights and the need for Governments to compensate is pointing towards more generous compensation becoming the norm, and I suspect that that will be the case for future projects.

On construction costs, yes, we are of course anxious to get such costs down to something closer to European norms. The hon. Lady will know that Sir Roy McNulty is carrying out a review, one element of which relates to the cost of UK rail construction, and Infrastructure UK is also engaged in that issue. A report will be published in April. She asked whether the cost of the trains is included in the total figure, and I can confirm that it is.

The hon. Lady also asked about the assumption with regard to ticketing and to the prices of tickets. I can tell her that the business case modelling assumes the same ticket pricing structures as those that are now in place on the west coast main line. In practice, however, the west coast main line and High Speed 2 will be in competition with each other. The operator of High Speed 2 will have a very large number of seats to fill, and we anticipate that the processes of competition in the marketplace will create opportunities for passengers who are prepared to buy advance tickets and to shop on the internet to get bargains for travel between London, the midlands and the north.

Finally, the hon. Lady asked about the strength of our commitment to going beyond Birmingham. With respect, when her party was in government, its position was always focused on a line from London to Birmingham. It was us who took the debate beyond Birmingham and made the case for Manchester and Leeds. Indeed, the business case for this railway, for the connection to Heathrow airport and for the connection to HS 1 depends on a railway that forms a complete network linking Britain’s four principal population centres, so I can assure her of that commitment.

I put it to the hon. Lady, however, that if we had sought to carry out the detailed work required for a hybrid Bill that covered the entire route, including the legs to Manchester and Leeds, it is unlikely that we would have been able to introduce such a Bill until the end of this Parliament. Our decision was therefore to introduce a hybrid Bill to deal with the London to Birmingham section—which is already a massive undertaking—in 2013, and that, while that Bill is going through Parliament, we should continue our detailed work on the legs to Manchester and Leeds, so that they can be included in a further hybrid Bill in the next Parliament.

The Secretary of State kindly visited my constituency to investigate the impact of the route there. He will recall that he himself noted how high it would be. There would be large gantries and viaducts crossing motorways. At the time, he said that he would ask HS2 Ltd whether it could do anything to mitigate the impact. He did not mention North Warwickshire in his statement; is he able to give people in the area any good news?

I think that my hon. Friend is referring to the point at which the railway will cross the M6 at Coleshill. At my request, HS 2 looked into whether it was possible to build under the motorway, but I am afraid that that is not technically possible. HS 2 has managed to reduce the height of the proposed flyover by a modest amount, but I am afraid that it will still be quite high at Coleshill.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that what he has announced will involve the demolition of 350 flats in my constituency, the building over of a well-loved park, and the abandonment of a proposal to rebuild a girls’ Catholic secondary school on the part of the site that has been taken over? While people in Primrose Hill may welcome the minor changes that he has announced, they will feel a little surrounded if there is to be a further tunnel on the other side of Primrose Hill, emerging at Chalk Farm, because they will have a tunnel on both sides. Does the Secretary of State accept that HS2 Ltd really ought to go back to the drawing board? The idea that the connection of a significant network will be dependent on a spur connecting HS 2 with HS 1 is preposterous, and the company really ought to start again.

Before the right hon. Gentleman describes the proposal as preposterous, he should look at what has been published and consider it carefully. It is a carefully worked-out engineering solution that provides a value-for-money answer for people who believe that it is essential for trains to run directly from the midlands and the north of England, through the channel tunnel, and onwards to the European high-speed network.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about the impact on his constituency, which arises largely from the planned expansion of Euston station. Yes, there will be a number of property demolitions and replacements. It is planned to replace the properties that I have seen alongside the railway in his constituency with new properties. Some of the existing properties date from the 1920s and 1930s, and could do with being replaced. As he said, part of a small park will also be required.

The detailed design for the replacement Euston station has not yet been completed, but it is possible that it will be largely below ground level. At present, a large piece of the structure effectively creates a barrier down the middle of the right hon. Gentleman’s constituency, separating east from west. Camden council is keen for that barrier to go, and for a natural pattern of streets to be opened up at the back of Euston station. I hope that we shall be able to facilitate that through this project, and to bring a positive benefit to the people of Camden.

My right hon. Friend is well aware that my constituency has been severely blighted by the proposed route of the high speed railway, and he has received about 500 letters from me explaining quite how devastating that is for my constituents, so I shall not dwell on that now. Let me ask him, however, whether this is really the best value for money and the best solution to the undoubted need for new transport infrastructure. In particular, is the demand for seats really going to grow by 3% every year, as has been forecast to make the economic case? Is it really true that people do nothing when they are sitting on a train, and that that is dead time? There is also a lack of connectivity: there is nothing in it for anyone who is under the track.

Let me say finally—as you are looking at me crossly, Mr. Deputy Speaker—that there is a risk that other trains will be axed later to make way for HS 2 trains on the platforms. I should be grateful for the Secretary of State’s comments on that.

I can reassure my hon. Friend on the last point. Other trains will not be axed to make way for HS 2 trains. This will be a dedicated high-speed passenger line, and it will not affect other railways.

My hon. Friend asked about the impact on South Northamptonshire. Obviously I am well aware of her concerns: I spend most Sunday afternoons signing letters to her and my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan). We have gone to great lengths to try to minimise the impacts on my hon. Friend’s constituents and the communities she serves. If she looks at the maps and plans we have published today, she will see that we have been able to achieve a reduction in the impact, and I hope that, during the course of the consultation, I will be able to engage with local communities about the mitigation measures that will be put in place, including extensive planting, bunding and sound barriers to reduce that impact further. On the question about growth in passenger numbers, the model the Office of Rail Regulation uses is based on demand for travel growing broadly in line with the economy and all the evidence suggests that that is the case. Those growth forecasts are robust and we expect them to be achieved.

High Speed 2 is about vital economic development, as well as about providing essential additional capacity for passengers and freight, but when will the Secretary of State explain how this essential economic development will take place, and will he guarantee that the line will run past Birmingham so as to bring benefits to the north, as well as between London and Birmingham?

The hon. Lady is, I think, repeating the suspicion—I can only describe it as that—of the Opposition spokesman, who expressed some concern that we might not be going to continue beyond Birmingham. Our firm intention is to go to Leeds and Manchester. Indeed, the business case will be based on the completion of the Y network to Manchester and Birmingham, but I would not like anyone to be—

Yes, and Leeds. However, I would not like anyone to be under the illusion that benefits for people living north of Birmingham will begin to accrue only when the second phase is built. The point of reconnecting the first phase of the line to the west coast main line is that people travelling to Manchester, Liverpool and Scotland will enjoy journey-time savings from the point at which the first phase to Birmingham is opened. That is because the trains we will operate on this proposed railway will run straight off the high-speed line and on to the classic line, dropping the speed down to the line speed of the classic line, but allowing passengers to enjoy the benefit of the journey-time saving between London and Birmingham.

I hope it is in order, Mr Deputy Speaker, briefly to congratulate you on your brave announcement yesterday, and to welcome you to the club.

Has my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had an opportunity to study the experiences of countries such as France, Germany and Spain and the lessons they learned in the construction of their high speed lines? I am thinking in particular about their very effective schemes to minimise noise pollution. Also, please can we ensure that our new railway infrastructure is not a series of new ugly concrete constructions, but instead that we have structures of which we can proud, as we have had in the past with, for example, the Forth bridge and Brunel’s tunnels and viaducts?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. Yes, we have looked very closely at what has happened in France and at what is happening in Spain, and we have drawn on the experience of those countries in modelling the business case and addressing the approach to mitigation. My hon. Friend’s question reminds me to make a rather important point. We will not be committing to orders for trains for this railway until almost 2020, so there is another 10 years’ worth of train design development before the commitment has to be made.

Well, they were your aircraft carriers, and I am not going to let the right hon. Gentleman anywhere near designing our trains; that is for sure.

The Eurostar trains that run on HS 1 were designed nearly 20 years ago and have concentrated power cars at front and rear. There will therefore be about 30 years of evolution in train design in respect of reducing noise and increasing fuel efficiency between the design of the Eurostar trains and the design of the trains that will run on these lines.

I also say to my hon. Friend that where we can hide this line, we will hide it. Where we cannot hide it, we will ensure that it is architecturally designed and that it is something that people are pleased to look at, not a British Rail engineering-style eyesore.

Given the massive cuts to regional and local transport systems that have already been announced and the fact that the capacity problem could be dealt with by investment in the existing west coast main line, why are the Government wasting billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on this scheme?

Because the capacity problem could not be dealt with by further investment in the west coast main line. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman says that it could, but if he looks at the engineering reports that have been published, he will see that, in practice, it could not. We are going ahead with additional rail cars and additional train sets on the west coast main line, and the Network Rail route utilisation study published two weeks ago shows that by 2024 the line will be operating at capacity between London and Manchester, and London and Birmingham. It is not possible, because of the design of the infrastructure—we are not just talking about platform lengths—to put longer trains on a railway that is designed in the way that the west coast main line was designed. If he recalls the chaos that lasted for years when the west coast main line was upgraded a couple of years ago and if, on the back of that, he is seriously proposing that we should add two additional tracks to its entire length while resignalling the whole thing, he needs to think again.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on having the foresight to add a connection from High Speed 2 to High Speed 1. Can he tell me what the capacity will be for this link and so give this House an indication of the proportion of services from Birmingham that will be able to be through services to the continent?

The determining factor, of course, will be commercial considerations: how much passenger load there is and where interchanges might be made in the system between Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Old Oak Common and the route through the channel tunnel. However, the proposed single bore tunnel will have capacity for four trains per hour in each direction.

The Secretary of State’s response to the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Dan Byles) will bring little comfort to people in Warwickshire or those living on the outskirts of Coventry. I wish to ask the Secretary of State specifically about the increase in the frequency of service between Coventry and London that he mentioned in his statement. Does he understand that what will anger a lot of people is the blighting, which can go on for many years? What sort of compensation scheme will he offer? Normally, such schemes are based on market values, but the market value of some of the properties involved is set to drop drastically. Can he answer that one?

The consultation will set out the proposals for compensation. Of course compensation arrangements have to be based on market value, but they should be based on the unblighted market value of the property in question. On the frequency of services from Coventry to London, one of the points that I have tried, on several occasions, to make to the hon. Gentleman and to other hon. Members is that the west coast main line will change radically in nature once this railway is built. It will no longer be primarily about long-distance trains from Scotland, Preston, Manchester and Liverpool; it will be about long-distance commuter services. Places such as Milton Keynes and Coventry will be well within commuting range of London with fast commuter services. I say to him that if he looks around the south-east, he will find that one of the great drivers of prosperity is the ability of people to get into London quickly and reliably on frequent services. The ability to extend that to stations on the west coast main line will greatly benefit the population of those areas.

I commend my right hon. Friend on his statement and the speed with which he has brought forward these proposals. He is particularly right to reject some of the criticisms of the Opposition, because I recall that their conversion came only with Lord Adonis and that proposals for anything beyond Birmingham were tacked on only in March this year. What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with Transport for London? Beyond Old Oak Common, what dispersal measures will be needed in London?

By the time the HS2 railway is built, the improvements and upgrades to the Northern line—for which we confirmed our investment funding in the recent spending review statement—will be completed. Dispersal will take place, it is estimated, with about one third at Old Oak Common, with passengers dispersing principally on to Crossrail, and about two thirds at Euston, with the upgraded Northern line. I have also asked HS2 to consider remodelling the station at Euston, so that Euston Square station can be incorporated into the main Euston station, giving access to additional underground lines.

These things are never easy, and the Secretary of State has said that he has done a lot of listening. When he sets up the roadshows for the new proposals, will he personally attend them to hear what citizens have to say about his new plans?

I am not sure that that will be practical, in view of the number and frequency of the roadshow events. I can absolutely assure him that I will attend at least one—probably more than one—but I certainly cannot promise to attend all of them. Perhaps I might elaborate on this point. We intend to hold specific, locally focused roadshows at multiple points along the line of the London to Birmingham part of the route, where the exact route alignment has been defined. We envisage that those discussions will mainly be about local impacts. We also intend to hold a series of more broadly based meetings across the UK to discuss the broader principles of high speed rail and some of the more strategic issues about the route choices.

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s announcement, which I believe will help address the north-south divide. Has he made a detailed estimate that is available to Members of the huge economic benefits of this scheme to the north of England?

A full business case showing the economic benefits of the proposed railway will now be updated on the basis of the route that I have set out today. That will be published at the commencement of the consultation in February.

I am suspicious, even though I do not want to be. I want to give the Secretary of State complete support, but 90% of investment in railways already goes into the south-east. As he said, £2 billion a year goes into Crossrail and £2 billion a year into Thameslink. Now he is suggesting that another £2 billion a year should go into the Birmingham-London link. It would partially remedy the north-south divide if the work was started in the north and moved to the south. If he cannot do that and really wants the support of northern MPs, the hybrid Bill should cover the lines to the north, too. Will he consider that?

I understand the hon. Gentleman’s suspicion. It is in the blood, I suspect. I also understand his point, and it would help to allay these concerns if, in some way, we could include in the first hybrid Bill specific commitments to Manchester and Leeds. We cannot include detailed route alignments and land acquisition because that would make the Bill vast and it would probably be in Committee for about five years. I take on board his points, and also any suggestions he might have about how we might do that practically, which is something that I have also discussed with my predecessor. Everyone who wishes this project well understands the need to give strong reassurance to those communities around Manchester, Leeds, South Yorkshire and the east midlands that stand to benefit from the second phase.

May I, too, offer my best wishes and support to you, Mr Deputy Speaker?

Having travelled down this morning on a very packed train from Leeds, may I say how much I welcome this statement? I am looking forward to seeing HS 2 come to Leeds. Given that trains going in and out of the station in Leeds are expected to see a 40% increase in the number of passengers, what extra capacity does the Secretary of State think that HS 2 will bring to the long-suffering passengers in Leeds and the north of England?

The route will more than triple the potential capacity available to passengers. I suspect that the very packed train that my hon. Friend experienced this morning might have been due to some specific problems on the east coast main line caused by overhead cable difficulties. I welcome his support. This will be a major deliverer of economic regeneration to Leeds and, in the next economic cycle, I hope that Leeds can resume the dash for growth and regeneration that it has so clearly pursued over the past few years.

The Secretary of State will be aware of the strength of support among the Scottish business community and the Glasgow and Edinburgh economic partnership for the principle of extending high speed rail to Scotland. When does he expect to open detailed discussions with the Scottish Government about the financing of high speed track in Scotland, should the Scottish Government decide to accommodate that? Can he give us an indicative timeline, if those discussions prove successful, for when we might expect to see high speed track in Scotland?

It is important for the hon. Gentleman to note that the benefit is incremental. Once we have high speed to Birmingham, that will shorten journeys to Glasgow and Edinburgh, and once we have high speed to north of Manchester, that will shorten them still further. We are committed to discussions with the Scottish Government, but that would be a third phase to the project—we have to get to Manchester and Leeds first. The appropriate time to start discussing that third phase will be when we start the detailed design work on the second phase.

Can we support High Speed 2 as a movement toward sustainability and welcome the Government’s communication with people? I refer particularly to the extension to HS 1, which allows the modal shift from airlines to railway usage. Will the Secretary of State consider supporting the way in which the A45 is to be moved to within Birmingham international airport so that the runway extension is in place for when High Speed 2 comes through?

The hon. Gentleman has thrown a slightly separate question at me there, but I can confirm that I have had discussions with Birmingham airport, and indeed the NEC, and they are strong supporters of the project. Like many others, they see it as opening up huge opportunities for them.

Birmingham airport will be about 30 to 35 minutes’ travel from London Heathrow on the high speed rail link. That is less time than it currently takes, with a fair wind, to get from terminal 4 to terminal 5 at Heathrow. The opportunities are quite significant.

Returning to Birmingham, but this time to the spur that goes into Birmingham, I was intrigued by the Secretary of State’s announcement on compensation and enhanced compensation schemes. Do they apply only to the main line or also to the spur into the centre of Birmingham? As well as applying to private individuals, do they apply to institutions such as universities with halls of residence that are somewhat inconveniently located on some of the routes?

The exceptional hardship scheme, which is the scheme in place to deal with people who have an urgent and pressing need to move and cannot do so because of the effects of uncertainty around the proposals, applies to the complete alignment of the route into Birmingham. It applies to residential properties, but not to commercially owned properties. It is unfortunate that the halls of residence to which the hon. Lady refers—a virtually new building—sit across the route of the railway. If the railway goes ahead, that commercially owned property, or at least part of it, will have to be demolished and full compensation will be paid. I expect that it will be rebuilt in full with the proceeds of that compensation.

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement. He said that after the first stage of the project is complete, trains will run on the existing west coast main line northwards. Given the limit on the number of train paths on that line even now, what effect will that have on existing services and timetables?

The major constraints on capacity are south of Manchester, particularly on the Birmingham to London stretch, but clearly there will still be constraints on capacity as there is not infinite capacity available. We expect a significant proportion of train paths in the early days will be on the London to Birmingham and London to Manchester routes with a smaller number going on northwards, reflecting current patterns of passenger demand.

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I say to the Secretary of State that I am just grateful we are getting a train set for Christmas and not a third runway at Heathrow. He has referred to the Heathrow link, the Mawhinney review and the Arup proposals for a transport hub near Iver and has concluded that there should be a spur to the airport running close to the M25. Does that mean that the Iver hub will or will not take place?

We do not favour the proposal for the Iver hub as a way of delivering high speed rail passengers into Heathrow. It is worth noting that the proposals that Arup worked up on its own account—it was not commissioned to do so—around the hub at Iver were originally intended as a proposal for getting traffic from the Great Western main line into Heathrow. HS 2 came along as a bit of an add-on to that proposal, and Arup may still wish to pursue it as a proposal that is of interest for that purpose, but it is not our preferred route for getting high speed rail passengers into Heathrow.