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High Speed Rail

Volume 557: debated on Monday 28 January 2013

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about our railways.

Investing in transport infrastructure is not a choice. To create jobs and to rebalance our economy we need better roads, better airports and better trains—and High Speed 2 is a central part of that investment. It will be an engine for growth throughout the country, which is why I am today announcing our initial preferred route north from Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester.

These new services will reach eight out of 10 of our largest cities: Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, as well as Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh. In all, 18 cities and many more towns, too, will be served by HS2 services. It will be completely integrated with the existing rail network; it will bring people and businesses together; it will create an estimated 100,000 jobs; and it has the backing of businesses and cities across Britain. We will introduce legislation for the first phase in this Parliament and legislate for the second in the next one. Construction is set to begin in 2017 and the first trains will run in 2026. The second phase will be open fully by 2033.

I would like to make three further points. The first is about the need for the line. HS2 will be the first main line to be built north of London for almost 120 years. Some say we do not need another, but the truth is that we are already good at squeezing the most out of our present Victorian railway network—and yes, we will get even more out of it in the coming years with the massive investment we have already announced. We are electrifying 800 miles of track, and building Crossrail and the northern hub upgrade. These will help to keep us going for the next decade or two, but what then?

Rail passenger numbers have doubled over the last 15 years, and demand will keep growing. The west coast main line is filling up. There is not enough space for all the commuters, freight trains and inter-city trains that need to use it. That is why, after very careful consideration, I am publishing my initial preferences for phase 2 of HS2. The case for going ahead rests on the capacity it will provide and on the new connections it will create. It is not just about faster trains to London, but about changing the way in which our great cities work and work with each other, providing easy links on journeys that are difficult today, giving muscle to the economies of the cities beyond London and producing an estimated £2 in economic benefit for every £1 spent.

Frequently, colleagues in this House call for better services to their local stations—they are right to ask for them—and High Speed 2 is part of the solution. Creating free space on existing routes will allow better services to places such as Milton Keynes, and more trains for commuters in areas such as Staffordshire, Leeds and Manchester. I am determined to ensure that the benefits of HS2 run much wider than the places directly served by the new line.

Let me turn to my second point. The detail of the route I am announcing today follows the Government’s announcements last year about phase 1 between London and Birmingham. On the western leg from Birmingham to Manchester, I propose two new high-speed stations. The first will be in the heart of Manchester, alongside the existing station at Manchester Piccadilly, allowing easy connections to places such as Salford, Stockport and Bolton and a journey time to London of just one hour eight minutes, down from over two hours today. The second station will be at Manchester airport, giving direct access to the wider Cheshire area.

HS2 will also serve Crewe via a dedicated link, and high-speed trains will continue on the existing railway to Liverpool, Warrington and Runcorn, which will also benefit greatly from reduced journey times. Further north, near Wigan, HS2 will connect with the west coast main line. High-speed trains can then continue at regular speeds to places such as Preston, Carlisle, Glasgow and Edinburgh. I am working with counterparts in Scotland on their aspirations for high-speed rail. I have already set out a long-term ambition to get journeys to Scotland below three hours.

Turning to the eastern leg, we will construct three new stations to bring people and businesses in the east midlands and Yorkshire closer to Birmingham, the north-east and London. The east midlands station will be located between Nottingham and Derby at Toton, and links will be upgraded to provide fast access to both. The second station will be at Sheffield Meadowhall, which already has good connections that can be improved further, allowing it to serve all of Sheffield and south Yorkshire.

The third station will be located in the centre of Leeds alongside the South Bank area. As with the western leg, there will be a connection from HS2 on to the existing rail network. A connection to the east coast main line, just nine miles from York, will allow the north-east to benefit, too, with London to York taking just one hour 23 minutes and London to Newcastle just two hours 18 minutes.

Finally, a decision on how best to serve Heathrow will be taken after the outcome of the Airports Commission has been considered by the Government. From day one, however, HS2 will provide far faster journeys than now via a major new interchange at Old Oak Common, linking to the Great Western main line, Crossrail and the Heathrow express.

The third point I want to make today is about design and help for those most affected. Many hon. Members want the Government to take that extremely seriously, and we do. Although the line will benefit the country as a whole, it will also create great anxiety among those close to the proposed route. We will therefore consult properly, design carefully and compensate fairly. Let me stress that today I am announcing an initial preferred route: this is the start of the process, not the end. We are ready to listen, and ready to improve. I want this line to create jobs and prosperity, not harm them. Where businesses may be affected, we will work with them to find a solution. We will now begin a period of informal consultation on phase 2 that will inform the official public consultation, which was originally planned for 2014 but which, I can announce, will be brought forward to this year. The aim is to reach a firm decision on the route of phase 2 in 2014.

I understand how such proposals can affect property markets. Compensation will therefore be as generous as on the first phase, and more generous than when we built the motorways. Today I am launching a public consultation on the exceptional hardship scheme for those who must sell but cannot do so because of HS2. Under this scheme we will pay the full price, valued as if there were no HS2. That will be followed by the next stage of our property compensation scheme once the final route is confirmed.

There are not many issues on which political parties in the House agree, but this is one of them. Regardless of the nature of the Government when the first trains run in 13 years’ time, what matters are the jobs, the rebalancing of the economy, and our country’s future prosperity. I commend this statement to the House.

I thank the Secretary of State for providing a copy of his statement in advance.

As the Secretary of State was generous enough to say in his foreword to the Government’s Command Paper, which was published today, HS2 is a project that was started by the last Government. Having successfully built HS1, Britain’s first new railway line for more than 100 years, we were determined that the rest of the country, not just the south-east, should benefit from vital investment to increase capacity and reduce journey times on our railway.

I assure the Secretary of State and the House that we are 100% behind this project. We want to see the line built, and we will continue to offer cross-party support, which will include helping to ensure that the necessary legislation reaches the statute book. I know that the Secretary of State faces considerable challenges in securing the support of colleagues on his side of the House. I have spent much of today defending the project in interviews opposite Conservative Members. I hope and assume that the right hon. Gentleman’s lengthy experience as Chief Whip will come in handy when it comes to quelling the rebellions.

The reason why we need to build this new high-speed railway line is clear: capacity. Our existing three main routes between north and south are congested, and in the case of the west coast line, nearly full. If we do not act now, we will face even worse overcrowding. Doing nothing is not an option. Continuing to patch and mend our existing lines is no longer good enough, and will not bring us the major reductions in journey times that HS2 will deliver.

Given the importance of the scheme, I wonder whether the Secretary of State appreciates the level of frustration at the slow progress made so far in the current Parliament. The consultation on the first phase has been botched, not by him, but in his Department. Submissions have been lost, and the Government now face defeat in the courts, which has the potential to take us back to square one on the consultation. The draft route for the second phase was finally set out only today, two and a half years after the election. No legislation has been published. Today’s Command Paper suggests that Royal Assent to the Secretary of State’s first hybrid Bill will not be achieved until some point in 2015, not by the time of the next election as was previously intended. This scheme is too important to be subject either to further delays or to incompetence in the Department for Transport. I hope that the Secretary of State will now do all that he can both to speed up progress and to avoid any further errors.

On the judicial review, will the Secretary of State update the House on when he expects to receive a judgment, and on the impact that a ruling against his Department would have on the plans that he has set out today?

Let me now turn to the specific details of the route announced by the Secretary of State. First, will the right hon. Gentleman think again about his decision to commit himself only to introducing legislation covering the first phase of the line from London to Birmingham in the current Parliament? Of course it is true that a single Bill would need to await completion of the consultation on the second phase of the route, but by introducing the Bill later in this Parliament and carrying it over to the next—as we did with the legislation for the building of Crossrail—we would secure Parliament’s approval for the whole route earlier than we would under the Government’s plans. That would open up the possibility of beginning construction in the north as well as the south, which is something that the Transport Committee has urged the Government to consider.

Secondly, will the Secretary of State look again at the issue of connectivity between HS1 and HS2, which many, including his own party’s Mayor of London and also Transport for London, believe to be totally inadequate? The proposal to make use of an existing part of the North London line looks like a back-of-an-envelope fix that is not focused on the long-term potential for international rail travel. Surely we need to build a dedicated, purpose-built link between HS1 and HS2. I urge him to look at this again.

Thirdly, will the Secretary of State listen carefully to the concerns that he will have heard today about the decision not to connect HS2 with our major city centres in some instances? I appreciate the difficulty, not least in terms of engineering and cost, of taking a new rail line into an existing major rail station and enabling through services, yet the consequences of not doing so are potentially economically to disadvantage city centres and encourage out-of-town development; and passengers losing much of the journey time savings achieved by using the new line as they transfer to get to their city centre destination. I know that there are differing views on this from city to city, and there is no single right answer, but the Secretary of State’s proposals today make it clear that the recommendations are just “initial” recommendations and I hope that that indicates a willingness to continue a dialogue on these issues, not least with the cities themselves.

Finally, will the Secretary of State accept that today’s decision to kick into the long grass how HS2 will connect to Heathrow is a major error? As he knows, our preference, as a result of our policy review, is to take the line direct via Heathrow. That was the Conservative party’s position before the last election and I am sorry that it no longer supports it. However, the Government’s compromise of a spur was at least a recognition of the need to provide a direct link to Heathrow from HS2. Abandoning that today sets back the potential for HS2 to deliver transfer traffic to our hub airport via high-speed rail rather than short-haul flights, an approach that has the potential to free up valuable slots that could be used for new long-haul flights to serve emerging markets.

The Secretary of State says that that decision has been taken because the Davies commission on aviation will not report back before 2015. Surely the answer is not to delay decisions on HS2 but to speed them up on aviation. Will the Government finally accept that 2015 is far too late to have an answer to our longer-term aviation capacity needs? Will he agree to our call for the commission to produce its final report way in advance of 2015, enabling cross-party talks on a way forward that can be put to people at the next election? That would deliver the certainty needed not just for aviation, but on the route for HS2.

I hope that the Secretary of State will consider those four issues in the spirit in which they are raised. We seek to improve the Government’s proposals, because it is vital that we get this right if all the benefits we all seek are to be realised.

May I start by thanking the hon. Lady for the support that she gives, in principle, to the project? I fully accept that HS1 was finished by the previous Government, but if we needed to get into a debating argument, I could say that it was started by the previous Conservative Government, who had the foresight to say how important it would be. Anyone who uses St Pancras station will have seen what a vast difference has been made to that station since HS1. It used to be a station that nobody wanted to go to, but now it is a destination in itself. I wanted to make that particular point first.

The hon. Lady raised a number of points. She said that I will have certain strong voices against me on this side of the House, but I dare say—I know this from some of the letters I have received from Labour Members—there will be some vocal opponents on her side of the House too. We will see how the debate goes, but that is the case. She also asked me to speculate on what might happen in the judicial review. I may have been in the Whips Office for 17 years, but I am not prepared to start speculating from the Dispatch Box on what the courts may or may not say. We will wait to hear what is said, because a judicial review has taken place. I believe that the Government have acted properly in the way this has gone forward, but we will wait to see what happens on that.

The hon. Lady talked about how some cities are disappointed not to have stations directly in the city centre. As I said in my statement, this is the start of the process and not the end of it, but I say to her that HS2 is not just about serving cities; it is about serving the regions, and so this goes a lot wider than just the cities. Some cities will have a station in them, because of the way in which things have been constructed and the way in which we can engineer into them. In certain other areas the engineering is much more difficult and a lot more expensive, but as I have said, we will of course listen. I have engaged with the city leaders—I know that some of them will be disappointed that I have not been able to say to those cities exactly where the route has gone until today—and so that process is there.

The hon. Lady talks about having a greater link between HS1 and HS2, and I am certainly prepared—I have received representations from the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms), who is sitting directly behind her—to look at how that can be done. However, it is true to say that, even as presently announced, HS2 will be able to serve areas of the continent direct if there is a demand and need for that.

The hon. Lady made the point about Heathrow. The Government have set up a commission to try to get a consensus. We have a welcome consensus on HS2—cross-party consensus on big infrastructure projects is a tremendous advantage because of the time that such projects naturally take. However, it is right to see what the Davies commission says.

The hon. Lady’s final point was to ask whether we could hold the project off and bring the measures together in one Bill. That would lead to a tremendous delay. There would not just be a delay while we consulted, but a delay while the environmental assessment was conducted and consulted on. Far from making the process quicker, it would be delayed; I estimate that it would mean we probably could not have a Bill ready until 2018. I want a Bill to begin its progress in this Parliament. Of course, how the Bill progresses is up to Parliament.

Today, Mr Speaker, thousands of people will be faced with the blight and uncertainty that you and I are familiar with, because our constituents across Buckinghamshire have suffered it for nearly four years. If the Government are determined to have HS2 and to force it through, and as the Secretary of State has stressed that the economic need is greater in the north, why not really reconsider and start HS2 in the north so that the benefits are more immediate and the connectivity to the south-east and on to global markets through the as yet undecided hub airport can be better guaranteed and integrated? Would not that make more common sense?

I know how my right hon. Friend feels on this subject, and I appreciate how Members whose constituencies have the line going through them have strong representations to make in the House. However, starting the route in the north, on which, up until today, work had not been done, would not be a better way of getting greater connectivity and connections. We should bear in mind that the routes I have said are overcrowded are even more overcrowded when they come into London, which is where we need the extra capacity in the first instance.

The Secretary of State has said that he will ensure that people are compensated fairly. In December 2010, his predecessor said exactly the same thing about the people in my constituency who are affected by the first phase. However, at a meeting on Thursday in my constituency, officials from HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport made it crystal clear to many people living near Euston station, including some of those who had exercised their right to buy their council flats, that they would not be fully compensated, and that others, including people whose businesses will be totally destroyed, will not be compensated at all. Can we rely on the Secretary of State to ensure that, when he says one thing in the House of Commons, his officials do not set it aside in the country?

I believe the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Norman Baker), gave the right hon. Gentleman an assurance on that point last Friday. I am certainly prepared to meet the right hon. Gentleman to discuss these matters and to try and clear up what confusion there seems to be.

In view of the continued drift from north to south, which has been a characteristic of this country for many decades, and which places enormous pressure on services and facilities in constituencies such as mine, should not HS2 be hailed as the most dramatic attempt yet to correct that national imbalance to the advantage of the country as a whole?

When HS2 is fully up and built, it will have a major impact on the north and will help dramatically to rebalance the economy, which is so desperately needed. I am grateful for my right hon. Friend’s support.

Is the Secretary of State aware that there is great concern in Warrington because it will not get an HS2 station? Warrington has developed its economy based on its good transport links, but we are unsure whether trains running on the existing line from Crewe will be sufficient. There is also concern that the line that will join the west coast main line at Wigan goes through parts of my constituency along a linear park, so we get the disruption without the benefits. Will he undertake to work with Warrington borough council and other interested parties to consider alternatives so that Warrington can benefit from HS2?

Of course, I am prepared to do that and I am sure that Warrington council will want to take part in the consultation I announced today. Warrington will be served in the same way as Liverpool and other areas, such as Wigan, but of course I will consider the hon. Lady’s representations. I want to make it clear that today is the start of the process, not the end. It is, however, the start of a very important and beneficial process for the United Kingdom.

Liberal Democrats very much welcome the announcement today that journey times to Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh will be reduced by almost an hour. I also welcome the Secretary of State’s aspiration to reduce the journey time to Scotland to three hours. How are his discussions with the Scottish Government about that aspiration going?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I announced my proposals for Scotland last October, but I have been concentrating on the proposals I have set out today for the moment. However, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State spoke to members of the Scottish Government about the scheme and they are keen to be involved.

I welcome today’s statement, which represents important investment for the future, but will the Secretary of State confirm that that will be part of investment in an integrated national rail system so that areas that are not on the high-speed line will benefit, too?

Indeed I can. I am grateful to the Chairman of the Select Committee on Transport, who I know will probably want to carry out a detailed inquiry into this matter. Although it is true that some areas are not covered by high-speed rail at the moment, it will go up to Birmingham in the first instance and then to Manchester, and journeys will be able to carry on from there, as they do in Kent on the line that goes down to Ashford.

Thank you, Mr Speaker; your calling me was timely. My right hon. Friend is to be congratulated on having the courage and conviction to seek to drive through investment in this country’s infrastructure future. The hon. Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) sought to take the credit for High Speed 1, but the problem with that is that it is not finished at all. Will my right hon. Friend, while he is doing all this, ensure that HS1 runs through from Ashford to Thanet?

My hon. Friend sees the advantage of high-speed rail down to certain parts of Kent and wants to extend it. I am sure that he will carry on making that case, but at the moment I hope he will forgive me for saying that I want to try to concentrate on the plans I have announced today, although we are always looking to improve services across the country.

The Secretary of State is right: what matters are the jobs. An independent study conducted for South Yorkshire passenger transport executive and Sheffield city council shows that a station in the city centre would bring up to £5 billion more into the local economy than a station at Meadowhall and would create 6,500 more jobs. Will the Secretary of State commit to keeping an open mind on that option?

I said at the beginning of my statement that I would keep an open mind. I accept the points about Sheffield and I know that there will be disappointment that HS2 is not going directly into the city centre. We have tried to ensure that we serve the whole of the region through the Meadowhall station, but as I have said, today is the start of the process and we will enter into discussions, as I have told the leader of Sheffield city council, with all the prominent leaders in the area.

I warmly endorse the proposed station at Manchester airport, but may I also stress the importance of the point that compensation for those living close to the route should be not only generous but creative in ensuring that we can move as quickly as possible towards realising the new high-speed rail route?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. We are consulting on compensation, and at the moment we are part of the way through that consultation. He makes an extremely important point, and I am glad that he welcomes the fact that we will serve Manchester airport as well as Manchester.

Would it not make a lot more sense for the Secretary of State to tell the Chancellor that he ought to be spending £33 billion straight away on capital projects—housing and all the rest? As for Derbyshire, why is it that the preferred route seems to travel to the heavily populated eastern side of Derbyshire? I do not think it touches Derbyshire Dales at all. How many homes will be blighted as a result?

Many things can change—people in the Whips Office can become Ministers—but one thing is certain: the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner) will come out with the same arguments against any proposals. [Interruption.] He wants us to spend money now. We are spending money now. We have had massive investment in the railways and we have announced massive investment in the railways. He points out that the route does not go through my constituency. I am well aware of that, but I can assure him that I took very careful advice and followed the recommendations. The sustainability summary goes into great detail about why that particular part of the route was chosen. There are many people who would have liked it to go to Derby.

I declare an interest. Plans unveiled this morning suggest that the preferred route of HS2 will pass within 100 feet of my family’s home in North West Leicestershire. Can my right hon. Friend confirm the level of consultation already undertaken by those planning the HS2 route? East Midlands airport in my constituency was unaware until this morning’s announcement that a tunnel was planned under its site, and a developer of an area north of the airport looking to produce a rail freight interface was equally not consulted. The route puts in jeopardy a potential £450 million private sector investment now in my constituency, and the creation of up to 7,000 new jobs.

There is always a dilemma for us as to who we talk to and consult. It would have been wrong of me to start telling people where the route was going before I had laid the documents before Parliament this morning. We will start that consultation. If my hon. Friend has had a chance to look at the sustainability summary that goes with the document I published today, he will have seen on page 70 that the area he is talking about is marked for tunnelling under East Midlands airport, and the east midlands gateway rail freight interchange development site is clearly marked. We will obviously work with developers to minimise the impact wherever we can.

The decision to delay the recommendations on the Heathrow spur until the Howard Davies commission has reported means that my constituents face at least another two years of uncertainty. Is not one solution to bring forward the Davies report, as my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) suggested? Even if the Davies commission’s interim report this year dealt with the matter, we would have more certainty about the connection with Heathrow.

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. I have made clear the Government’s position as to why we have done what we have done. We think it is a sensible way to go but I am sure he will make those representations in the consultation process.

Although I accept the need for an additional line to relieve capacity on the rail network, this route plunges through rural Britain, and rural Staffordshire, and should use existing transport corridors. It blights the environment, homes and lives. Does my right hon. Friend understand that what my constituents and all our constituents need is certainty, so that they understand the impact the line will have, what vibrations it will produce and what the visual impact will be? Most important of all, they need certainty about what compensation they will receive.

Part of the reason for bringing forward the consultation period from next year to this year is to help my hon. Friend’s constituents, but I fully accept that where the line is going is inconvenient to some people. We cannot build a brand-new railway line and not upset anybody. We believe that it is very much in the national interest and in the interests of the United Kingdom.

It was a great pleasure to see the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister on platform 6 at Leeds station this morning. He knows the benefits of HS2 to areas such as Leeds and Bradford. This is a long-term project and there are two projects in the short term that will help both Leeds and Bradford—the links to the airport so that it can expand and the Wortley curve between Leeds and Bradford. Will he look at those projects as well?

It was a pleasure also to see the hon. Gentleman this morning. I hope that as a result of having announced in this way where the route will go, improvements can be achieved in the interim period in some of these areas. I have talked to Leeds city council about the site that we have earmarked, and it is, as I understand it, content with it.

The consultation on compensation for phase 1 ends this week. First, I urge my right hon. Friend not to take the word of his departmental officials but to look himself at the impact of the exceptional hardship scheme on many constituents whose lives have been utterly destroyed by incompetent and completely inconsistent panels. Secondly, I urge him to reconsider a property bond. Although officials have said there is no evidence that that works, it would be the one way to ensure that the blight that extends for miles in my constituency is removed. Finally, I urge him to look at the fairness of compensation between phase 1 and phase 2.

As my hon. Friend correctly said, the consultation period on the compensation scheme ends at the end of this week. I know that she has put her own representations into that consultation, and of course I will consider them among many of the other representations we have received.

I welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement of an HS2 station in Sheffield. There is an argument for having it in the city centre, but I understand why he has chosen Meadowhall on grounds of cost and time. In particular, it should be a station for the whole city region. Will he therefore give an assurance that his Department will work closely with local councils and South Yorkshire passenger transport executive to make sure that there is real connectivity in the whole Sheffield city region so that everyone can get to the station at Meadowhall easily?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He is a former leader of Sheffield city council and therefore speaks with authority on this matter, as he does in his role as Chairman of the Communities and Local Government Committee, so I will obviously look at those matters. He is right that there is a balance to be struck. He will see that in the document we address why we have arrived at the conclusions and recommendations that we have, but I am of course prepared to listen to any further representations.

I warmly welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement, particularly the decision to have an additional station at Manchester airport. However, there will be some anxiety among people in south Manchester about the proposal to have a deep tunnel under homes there. What assurances can he give that they will not face years of disruption?

When carrying out these big projects, there will always be the problem of inconvenience caused during the period of construction, and I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. We will work with local communities to try to ensure that we minimise the impact. I am glad that the area he mentions is to be tunnelled; a lot of colleagues would wish that more of the route was tunnelled.

I support this announcement, but it is estimated that it could take up to 20 years to build the line to Manchester. Will the Secretary of State assure me that in the meantime priority is given to making sure that the west coast main line gets the investment needed to improve the current line from London to Manchester, including upgrading Stockport station?

The hon. Lady is consistent, if nothing else can be said about the points that she makes; I had already anticipated the question before she had finished asking it. Yes, money is continuing to be spent on the west coast main line. I will look into the position with her local station, as I promised to last time she asked me a question. I failed to write to her then, and I will certainly do so this time.

I commend the Secretary of State and the Government on this courageous and very significant announcement on HS2. It is particularly of interest to the cities with new stations, but what does he think the effect will be on my constituents in a place that will not be directly affected but is suffering from very poor capacity and a very poor service from London Midland?

My hon. Friend hits on one of the fundamental reasons why we need to build HS2. It is not just a matter of journey times but capacity. Freeing up capacity will allow us to have more services from areas such as my hon. Friend’s, as is so desperately needed.

I welcome the statement, thank the Secretary of State for advanced notice of it and recognise the Government’s ambitions for reduced journey times to Scotland. However, reducing journey times to Glasgow and Edinburgh, and further along the east coast to Dundee and Aberdeen, would require HS2 to go beyond Manchester and Leeds. I know that the Secretary of State is doing this in a phased way, but when will he be in a position to tell the House the time scale for the completion of HS2, so that every major city on the island will be able to benefit from it?

I face a dilemma because some people want us to go a lot faster while others among my colleagues do not want us to go at all. We will have to bear that in mind, but I hope that we will have fuller plans before any decision is made about independence. That depends, however, on whether the hon. Gentleman can let me know the date of the referendum.

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement, particularly how it has highlighted the benefits of the network to my constituents in Milton Keynes. On the issue of city centre against parkway stations, may I draw his attention to the evidence from the continent that both can work and that the critical point is having good connectivity across the region? May I also urge him to continue to work with local authorities and local businesses to make sure that this delivers?

I thank my hon. Friend for his support and, indeed, for his work on the Transport Committee. I agree entirely with his point. Setting out our plans now and confirming them, I hope, by early next year will enable us to look at connectivity between stations in the period between our plans being outlined and the actual development.

There is tremendous support for this project in Manchester and the north of England, but, having heard from the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) that, surprisingly, she supports building HS2 from the north of England, will the Secretary of State reconsider what he said earlier and put both phases of HS2 into one hybrid Bill and consider building them from the north of England? In doing so, he would unite the House in an even bigger way than it is united at present.

The hon. Gentleman says that that would unite the House in a more cohesive way, but it is fairly united for such a controversial subject, as has been clear from the exchanges so far. As I have said, the proposals to go from north to south would mean further delay, and I point out that the first part of the route was actually published by the previous Government, who also thought that the right way to go was from London to Birmingham in the first instance.

I thank the Secretary of State for his announcement. It is vital that the best possible mitigation, including some realignment, is offered to those of my constituents who will be affected by the route. If HS2 is to bring jobs and prosperity, as he desires, to the wider west midlands region, a stop on the route is required in Staffordshire. May I ask him to take that fully into account?

I certainly will. My hon. Friend makes a valid point. The route goes substantially through his constituency and areas that are not near motorway corridors or the like, and I will certainly look at his representations.

On behalf of Manchester, I strongly welcome the proposals that the Secretary of State has laid before Parliament today, not, as others have said, as a panacea to stop the north-south divide, but to build on 15 years of urban renaissance started by the Labour council and Labour Government. The redevelopment opportunities presented in my constituency in and around Manchester Piccadilly station are also exciting. May I echo the comments of other colleagues and ask the Secretary of State to consider introducing a hybrid Bill, so that we can maximise those opportunities here and now, not several years in the future?

I welcome the hon. Lady to the House and to the Transport Committee, where she will no doubt want to return to this topic on many occasions. I was slightly chastised earlier by the hon. Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) on what the courts may or may not say about HS2. If I followed the route suggested by the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell), I know that I would find myself on the wrong side of judicial reviews.

I welcome the announcement on the developments on HS2 and the substantial investment in our rail network. However, will the Secretary of State confirm that the existing west coast line will continue to receive the investment that it requires? In particular, will signalling upgrades be more than just like-for-like and bring capacity improvements?

I can assure my hon. Friend of that. Over the new year, I saw the upgrading work at Shugborough tunnel. That is the sort of investment that no one normally sees. Until that work was done, trains could go through the tunnel at only 50 mph. They can now go through it at 125 mph. I fully accept the need for continued investment. My hon. Friend’s constituents will benefit from High Speed 2 up to Manchester and will be able to pick up the normal lines beyond that.

May I strongly endorse what the hon. Member for South Northampton- shire (Andrea Leadsom) said about property bonds? The Secretary of State is speaking about phase 2, but he has mentioned Old Oak Common. Although I am extremely grateful to the Minister of State, Department for Transport, the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns) for his engagement with the local community, fear still stalks the streets of Greenford, Northolt and Perivale. Will the Secretary of State say whether it is his preference for that section of the line to be tunnelled? If so, it will be a great relief to many long-suffering constituents of mine.

The hon. Gentleman is making a representation to me that he has made before to the Minister of State. We will consider that representation and when we are in a position to make an announcement, we will do so.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his excellent statement. Does he agree that this investment should be seen alongside the other major rail announcements for the north that have been made recently, such as those on the northern hub and the TransPennine Express electrification project? Together, those projects will transform the experience of rail in the north.

I agree completely with my hon. Friend. Those announcements show the Government’s commitment to the rail industry and to the railway services that we all want in our constituencies.

Will the Secretary of State say how major cities such as Coventry will benefit from this project, bearing in mind the representations that I made to him some weeks ago on that matter? Secondly, and more importantly, there will inevitably be people who fall outside the compensation formula. What does he intend to do about that, because I know of cases in Coventry and Warwickshire?

I am willing to listen to any representations, but a line has to be drawn somewhere on such developments. I think that Coventry will be served by the large station at the Birmingham International exchange before the line goes into Birmingham Curzon Street. It is up to Coventry to work with the Department to work out the best possible routes to link in with the line so that people in Coventry have the advantage of HS2.

I warmly welcome the announcement and especially the fact that the route will miss my constituency off to the east. Will the Secretary of State confirm that there will be good links not only to Nottingham and Derby, but to smaller local stations, such as the three in my constituency?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and constituency neighbour. As I have said, capacity is one of the key reasons for building the new route. It will be the first railway line to be built north of London in 120 years. We need extra capacity. By freeing up capacity, the line will enable there to be better services elsewhere.

I, too, welcome the proposed station at Manchester airport, which will help to sustain many new jobs across the city region and particularly within airport city and other parts of the Manchester enterprise zone in my constituency. Will the Secretary of State ensure that those who are responsible for HS2 continue to work closely with the local authorities and the airport so that these different initiatives are properly linked together and bring the maximum possible benefit to local communities?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his support and for his attendance at last week’s meeting of the all-party parliamentary group on high speed rail. I can give him that assurance. As I said earlier, this is the start of the process, not the end. We want to get the maximum possible value out of the investment.

On a number of recent occasions, trains pulling into Leighton Buzzard station have been so full that no passenger has been able to get from the platform on to the train. Will HS2 help them?

I very much hope so. My hon. Friend makes a point about the important need for greater capacity, and I will look in great detail at how the issue may affect his constituents.

Without any three-lane motorway north of north Yorkshire, and with a dual carriageway that ends just north of Newcastle, the north-east has the worst road system in the country. We are now being told that we will also have a second-rate railway system. Does the Secretary of State agree that the best we are going to get in the north-east is HS1.5?

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman feels that way. We have just announced a major investment in dualling the A1 up to Newcastle, and I will look at other schemes in due course.

May I lodge with the Secretary of State some very real concerns from the far south-west in Devon and Cornwall? The area already suffers from the slowest rail speeds and most expensive fares, yet billions of pounds are being invested elsewhere. What message can he give the people of Devon and Cornwall that they will benefit directly from that investment?

I very much recognise the position faced by the hon. Gentleman’s constituents as far as the great western line is concerned, and I have organised a special briefing for Members of Parliament from Network Rail about that section of the rail network. As a new member of the Transport Committee, the hon. Gentleman will want to keep that under guard.

May I press the Secretary of State on the concern raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) about the HS2-HS1 interconnection? As I understand, under current proposals it will be limited to, at most, three trains per hour. As I am sure the Secretary of State will want trains from new HS2 destinations to run beyond London and across the channel, will we not have to do better than that with the interconnection?

I think I tried to address that in an earlier answer. Of course I want to look at how the connection works, and it will be possible to run some services from Old Oak Common direct to the continent if there is demand for that. We will certainly look at the issue, and at how the whole London interconnection works.

This project is very important to the wider economy in the north and north-west. Given that the revised business case remains considerably better than, for example, the Crossrail business case, will the Secretary of State do what he can to deliver this project before 2033?

I take that as a request to get a move on and get building a lot quicker. We will see what progress we can make.

Although the Secretary of State’s comments about Staffordshire provide some crumbs of comfort, may I impress on him that unless we have a station in the north Staffordshire area the damage that will be done to our economy will be huge? Conversely, if we get one, the benefits will be equally massive.

As I said at the beginning of my statement, and as I shall now reiterate, these are our initial proposals. We have considered the issue, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will look at the early part of the sustainability study, particularly page 10, which shows the work that went in to try and model this. However, I hear what he says, and what my hon. Friends the Members for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) and for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) are calling for.

This is positive news for the north-west. What assessment has my right hon. Friend made of the impact that HS2 will have on existing west coast main line services and, not to put too fine a point on it, services to and from Macclesfield station?

As I have said—I hope I am not becoming boring by being repetitious—we are hoping for greater capacity not only so that my hon. Friend’s constituents are served, but so that we see some movement of freight from road to rail.

I welcome the statement and especially the wise and logical decision to connect the High Speed 2 line with the east coast main line at York. Does the Secretary of State realise that next to York station is the biggest city centre development site anywhere in western Europe—the York Central site? It is important for his officials to safeguard land on that site for additional platforms to get maximum connectivity with conventional rail services, and for local government Ministers to work with York city council to ensure that the area is developed as a business site to benefit from the new railway.

I am very pleased that the hon. Gentleman is so welcoming of the development. High Speed 2 will stop just short of York, but it will obviously be served by it. One of the things that we want to look at with this project is how we get regeneration in areas. This should open up huge potential, especially around station sites, for the north to benefit from connections with the rest of the country.

I became aware that the proposed Leeds alignment will run just a few hundred yards from Wilnecote and Stoneydelph in my constituency when I looked at the HS2 website this morning. Will my right hon. Friend agree to meet me to discuss mitigations in the Tamworth area if his initial preferred alignment becomes his final preferred alignment? More particularly, can we discuss other, better alternatives?

I am certainly prepared to meet my hon. Friend and discuss alternatives that he may wish to put forward. I hope that he will realise that in deciding on the route through his constituency we have tried to follow an existing major road network. Of course, I will meet him and listen carefully to any representations he has to make.

I strongly support High Speed 2 and very much welcome today’s announcement. The Secretary of State will no doubt have followed the debate about the arrangements between Birmingham International and the city centre. May I suggest that a way of dealing with that controversy and its unpopularity in certain areas would be to take the route along the existing line north of the city and, instead of having the link in the city centre, have it close to the M5/M6 junction in the black country, alongside the M6 at Walsall? There is a huge railway yard there already, and it would have much better links across the black country and Birmingham. It would support exactly what the Secretary of State has said about rebalancing the economy, because it has the largest concentration of manufacturers anywhere in western Europe. It would greatly help with the regeneration of the black country, and it would be easier, cheaper and quicker to build.

If the hon. Gentleman has one, I will make sure that a Minister answers it properly. I would need to look a bit more closely at the maps, but I think that he is doing the opposite to what most other colleagues with city centre sites are doing. He is asking me to take it from a city centre, and he is thus demonstrating the problems that we have in trying to get a route established and accepted by everyone and that serves the best areas of the country.

The Secretary of State said that this proposal must benefit all our regions, and he will know that the best part of our region lies to the east, in the Humber. Can he confirm whether work will begin now on how we can improve our connectivity into Sheffield Meadowhall or say how we can benefit from the increased capacity on the east coast line?

The truth is that my hon. Friend is looking forward to the benefits that will come from this. Part of the reason for making the announcements now is that once we have the route signed off—it is out for consultation—we can look at getting the right connections into these stations in the longer term, for the benefit of all parts of the United Kingdom.

High Speed 2 is incredibly important for all of Merseyside and our city region’s development. Further to the answers that the Secretary of State has given already on connectivity, will he confirm that the northern hub should not be the end of better inter-city rail services in the north of England, but the start and that we need to start planning for better now?

Yes. I was in Liverpool and met the mayor a few weeks ago. It was substantially easier to get from London to Liverpool than it was to get from Liverpool back to Derby.

Taxpayers of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk and users of the Greater Anglia line will contribute to the cost of HS2. We have had years of neglect by successive Governments of rail investment in East Anglia. The Secretary of State has said that he is determined to make sure that the benefits of HS2 run much wider than the places directly served by the new line. How will it benefit Colchester?

Huge investment—£2.2 billion, I think —is already going into the area that serves the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. I appreciate that he might like us to have a high-speed link to his area. We are being ambitious, but I am afraid that that ambition can only go so far.

This morning I received an e-mail from a constituent who said he found it utterly incredible that the line should go from Birmingham to Manchester without stopping at the north Staffordshire conurbation. There is anger in Stoke-on-Trent that HS2 will just skim the west of the potteries and not stop there. What benefits can HS2 bring to my constituents? Will the Secretary of State explain the current thinking for a stop at Crewe, rather than one along the M6? What assurances can he give that the existing west coast main line will not be affected?

The hon. Gentleman needs to look at the two documents we have published, but I have made it very clear that today is the start of the process and I expect him to make representations, as he has just done. I know Stoke-on-Trent and the surrounding area incredibly well. We have made improvements to its road infrastructure, but they have been very controversial over many years.

I strongly welcome the Secretary of State’s statement, not least as a demonstration of our party’s commitment to the north of England. Although Blackpool will not be getting a high-speed station—I will not stand here today and demand one—will he none the less explain when Network Rail will be able to make an assessment of how much capacity the HS2 project will free up on the west coast main line?

My hon. Friend asks a reasonable question. I think I can best answer it by saying that we will have a better indication of exactly what capacity will be freed up once the line is confirmed and Network Rail is asked to start the work on the consequences of building the line.

The Secretary of State made reference not only to passenger capacity on the west coast main line but freight. Given the importance to the Scottish economy of connectivity between Scotland and the rest of the UK, will he discuss with the Scottish Government how freeing up capacity will benefit freight services to and from Scotland?

Whenever and from wherever construction starts, and whatever configuration High Speed 2 takes, will the Secretary of State ensure that this is a British railway, with the trains built in Britain, the tracks built in Britain, all the equipment coming from British firms, and British workers and British firms building the railway?

I am determined, by the long-term nature of the notice we are giving, that British companies will be able to compete and win the business that will be available, and will go out to tender in the usual way. From what I have seen of British engineering, I believe it is well able to compete with anywhere else in the world.

The publication today states that the Government have been working productively with the Scottish Government on this issue for two years, yet after two years the only firm commitment we have is for a further study into high-speed rail to Scotland, followed by identification of a remit for further work. That does not sound like very high-speed decision making to me. Why will the Government not commit themselves now to extending high-speed rail to Scotland, and start preparing the route now to make sure it actually happens?

I gently say to the hon. Gentleman, because he is bringing a chord of disharmony into what so far has been a fairly harmonious occasion, that we have made more progress on high-speed rail in two years than the previous Government did in 13.

I warmly welcome the announcement today that my constituents’ journey time from London to Preston will be reduced by 30% from 2 hours 8 minutes to 1 hour 24 minutes—a great thing for Preston. However, there is still some confusion among the public, who believe that a stop is necessary to benefit from the speed of HS2. Will the Secretary of State make it absolutely clear to many of my constituents, who use Lancaster and Preston, that as soon as phase 1 is started they will benefit from the reduced journey times, whether or not they have a stop?

My hon. Friend is right to say that his constituents will benefit from the opening of the first part of the line, from London to Birmingham, because the trains will be able to travel at high speed between those two cities, saving about 40 minutes on overall journey times. And that is before we have extended the line further north.

Improvements to rail, road and air transport infrastructure are vital if regions such as the north-east are to continue as leading exporters, so will the Secretary of State outline what discussions he has had with regional airports, such as Newcastle International airport, about ensuring that the HS2 plans lead to a properly integrated transport system?

As I said earlier, some of my discussions with various bodies have been curtailed until the route is announced, but those conversations should start in earnest as a result of today’s announcement.

I commend my right hon. Friend for his statement. He is right about how important connectivity with the London hub airport will be when the issue of the hub is determined. Will cognisance also be taken, however, of the importance of linkage with major international gateways to the south of London, such as Gatwick airport and the Gatwick Express?

My hon. Friend is right. We cannot look at these things singly, but must consider how they impact not only on Heathrow airport but on other airports and availability to constituents who wish to use those services.

I direct the Secretary of State back to the question about construction beginning in the north. Given that London is all-powerful and will see this project completed, if it is in London’s interest, will he take a new stance on the hybrid Bill? If the leaders in Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds could fit in with his timetable, might we have a hybrid Bill please?

Of course I will consider the representations, but it is not so much a question of those leaders of cities in the north fitting in with the timetable, but of the other areas we have to address in the proposals. We are out to consultation, and the right hon. Gentleman will have heard that some people are not too happy with the route proposed and would like changes and adjustments to be made. That takes time, and once we have settled on the route—as I said, we are out to consultation, which means I have not settled on one—we will have to carry out environmental assessments and the like, which I am afraid take considerable time. I am keen to get on with this as quickly as possible, but I am constrained by what we need to do.

I commend my right hon. Friend for what was, in many respects, a courageous statement and one that has support from all corners of the House. Will he confirm, however, that rail fares, which are already high in many areas, will, in respect of HS2, not be too high and will make HS2 accessible to all?

The Department is currently conducting a fares review. Like everybody else, I am keen to see passengers benefit from cheaper fares, but the truth is that those able to book trains in advance and outside rush hour can already get some very cheap fares—cheaper, in fact, than they have been for many years. However, we do not mean to build a railway only to see people unable to take advantage of it. I will want to ensure that people can take advantage of those services.

I welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to a south Yorkshire-based approach to the placement of the HS2 station in the Sheffield city region. Indeed, the choice of Meadowhall suggested today seems to offer a reasonable way forward. Will he consider ensuring, however, that the enabling aspects of the hybrid Bill contain at least a commitment to phase 2? Let us separate the enabling from the quasi-judicial aspects of the Bill.

When it comes to the impact of High Speed 2 on Lancaster and the rest of the north-west beyond—dare I say—Manchester and Merseyside, if I understood it correctly the Secretary of State was saying that high-speed trains from London to Manchester would enter the west coast main line just above Wigan, stopping at Preston, Lancaster, Carlisle and Glasgow, so that we in Lancaster will therefore also get shorter journey times.

The answer—[Interruption]—I am sorry, I was trying to follow exactly what my hon. Friend was saying and checking the points he was making—is that shorter journey times to Lancaster will certainly be a result and a benefit for his constituents.

On the very point that the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Eric Ollerenshaw) has just made, what will be important for those travelling beyond the Wigan area is quality connectivity, so that people can continue and eventually complete their journeys. The Secretary of State has also mentioned that the Minister of State has been in contact with the Scottish Government. Is it best that I meet his right hon. Friend to discuss how those discussions have gone?

I am more than happy for the hon. Gentleman to meet the Minister of State, and I will do all I can to facilitate such a meeting.

The Secretary of State will be pleased that I am not asking for a re-routing via Bridgend or Aberystwyth—yet!—but what I would ask, echoing the sentiments of my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), is whether he will consider bringing forward the Heathrow spur, which would bring a direct, long-term economic advantage to south Wales, Bristol and Avon.

I think the hon. Gentleman is referring to the great western spur, which is in the outline of the plans we have talked about for 2014 to 2019. As somebody who had a daughter who went to Aberystwyth university, I think that what he refers to would create some challenges for us.

Given the dire economic statistics that we saw on Friday, what will the Secretary of State be doing to ensure that those in the UK steel industry are given priority in procurement contracts for long steel products—I am thinking of sites such as Scunthorpe and Teesside beam mill—so that regions such as the north-east can benefit from this project?

The hon. Gentleman makes a perfectly reasonable point. I want to see British industry able to benefit from this. There will need to be competition, but I am pretty sure that British industry will be able to compete and provide the services we want and require. We will also be looking for engineers who can work on this scheme. Indeed, the construction phase will create many thousands of jobs, with, I think, the scheme creating many thousands of jobs for the longer-term future of the country.

As an east midlands MP, the Secretary of State will know that his announcement today has not been universally welcomed across Leicestershire. It is certainly true that the city of Leicester will not see the same advantages that the wider Nottingham and Derby conurbations will see, with the proposal to put the station at Toton. One way he could win over his Leicestershire critics would be to bring forward—and start sooner—the electrification of the midland mainline.

The hon. Gentleman makes a tempting offer. We are committed to the electrification of the midland mainline, which will have substantial benefits for Leicestershire. I would add that East Midlands airport was built by the three counties—Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire—and is situated at the north of Leicestershire, which the county at that time felt was beneficial to it. The Toton sidings are basically not far from the north end of the county, so I think they will have benefits for Leicestershire as well.

Twenty years ago, I could travel from Newcastle to London in 2 hours and 38 minutes. In his announcement today, the Secretary of State said that in 20 years’ time we will be able to do it in 2 hours and 18 minutes. Does he think that 40 years is enough for 20 minutes, given the importance of connectivity for the economic regeneration of a place such as the north-east of England?

I imagine that I would need to check out the timetable that the hon. Gentleman has just alluded to, because it is not unknown for Opposition Members to look on the past through rose-tinted glasses. Part of the problem might be that more people are now using the railways so there are more stops, which means that his journey is perhaps taking a little longer than it used to. However, I am very much minded to ensure that his region, like every other region in the north of the country, can benefit from the proposals I have brought forward today.

The Secretary of State will be aware of the strength of support in the Scottish Chambers of Commerce and in Glasgow and Edinburgh city councils for the extension of high-speed track right up into Scotland’s two major cities. Would it hasten the evaluation of the economic case for that if the Minister were to commit to legislating, in this Parliament, in a single Bill covering the entirety of the route between London, Manchester and Leeds?

I, too, welcome today’s announcement, and I particularly welcome the news that there will be two stations in Manchester. That makes a great deal of sense in relation to the connectivity that will already exist through the northern hub investment. May I reiterate to the few critics of high-speed rail that the case for this project is based on capacity, not on journey times? If we were to spend the same amount of money on the west coast main line, we would get nothing like the amount of capacity that will be freed up by High Speed 2. That is why this is the right choice for the northern economy.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. This will give faster journey times, and I think that people will welcome that, but one of the overwhelming reasons for High Speed 2 is capacity. It is a fact that no new railway line has been built north of London for 120 years, and it is high time that that was put right. If we are to add to the capacity, it is right that we should take advantage of high-speed trains, which every other country in Europe and all our major competitors have already adopted.

This will be good news for the Greater Manchester economy, albeit some time in the future. May I press the Secretary of State on the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies) about connectivity? If the Greater Manchester economy is to get maximum benefit from High Speed 2, we will need proper connectivity with the continent, with London and with Heathrow airport. We can do better than the plans set out in these proposals. Will the Secretary of State commit to providing proper connectivity with Europe and with Heathrow airport?

What we have announced today is exciting for the north and for the future of the rail industry in this country. The hon. Gentleman talks about connectivity, but this is a matter of connectivity not only with the south but with the major cities of the north. As I said earlier, it can take longer to get from Manchester to Derby than from Manchester to London. This is about connectivity between the major city regions in our country, and we are determined to work towards that. I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments, and I hope that we can satisfy his requests at least in part.