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High Speed Rail

Volume 533: debated on Monday 10 October 2011

The Petition of residents of South Northamptonshire and others,

Declares that the Petitioners are strongly opposed to the proposed high speed railway; declares that the Petitioners believe it to be a massive waste of money; declares that it will destroy miles of beautiful countryside, thousands of homes and villages; and further declares that there is no business case or environmental case for this railway and upgrading existing rail networks is a better alternative.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to reconsider its support for the proposed high speed railway and support the upgrading of existing rail networks.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Andrea Leadsom, Official Report, 14 July 2011; Vol. 531, c. 585.]

[P000944]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Transport, received 3 October 2011:

The documents published to support the recent public consultation on high speed rail set out the Government’s case that a national high speed rail network would offer a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way we travel in Britain and would provide a step-change in rail capacity, speed and connectivity.

Analysis carried out by HS2 Ltd has indicated that the Government’s proposed Y-shaped network would generate monetised economic benefits with a net present value of around £44 billion and the first phase (from London to the West Midlands) alone would support the creation of more than 40,000 jobs. We estimate that over 50% of the benefits of HS2 would fall to cities and regions outside of London and the South East, helping boost long-term and sustainable economic growth and regeneration in the areas that need it most.

In respect of upgrades to the existing network, the Government are committed to one of the most far reaching programmes of rail capacity improvements since the Victorian era, despite the pressure on the public finances caused by the deficit. However, this will not be enough to deal with capacity pressure of the future which is why we have put forward our high speed rail proposals. Work carried out by Atkins on strategic alternatives to high speed rail concluded that major enhancement packages could provide only a fraction of the potential benefits of a national high speed rail network, while potentially creating significant disruption for travellers during the construction period and creating risks for service reliability.

In addition, the Government’s objectives for high speed rail are broader than can be achieved by simply upgrading current lines. High speed rail would offer potential to release capacity on the existing network, to promote economic growth and regeneration, and to enhance connectivity between inter-urban, urban and international networks, for example via new links to Crossrail and HS1.

The public consultation on the Government’s proposals for a national high speed rail network closed on 29 July 2011 and we are carefully considering all the responses received. I can assure petitioners that any responses they have submitted during the consultation period will be given thorough and detailed consideration.

I fully acknowledge the need to design any high speed line in a way which reduces local environmental and social impacts as far as possible. The Government have been clear that high speed rail must be delivered sustainably; balancing the benefits of high speed rail with the local impacts on landscapes and communities. I believe that through carefully designed mitigation measures the most intrusive local impacts can be eliminated and a solution found which is balanced and fair.

I expect to announce the Government’s response to the consultation process and our decision whether to proceed with the proposal by the end of this year.