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High Speed 2

Volume 568: debated on Wednesday 9 October 2013

The Wales Office is committed to ensuring Wales derives the maximum possible benefit from HS2. In addition to improved journey times and extra rail capacity that passengers across the nation will experience, my Department will be working closely with Lord Deighton’s HS2 growth task force to identify further benefits to Wales.

With respect, that is not a good answer considering the Minister knew of this question three or four weeks ago. Is there a robust cost-benefit analysis of this whole fantastical project?

The cost-benefit analysis indicates that there will be a positive impact of £15 billion, in which Wales will be a full participant.

With some spending projections for this vanity project topping £80 billion, will the Secretary of State commit to fighting for a Barnett consequential equivalent for Wales, which could be between £3 billion and £4 billion and make a huge difference to the Welsh rail network? Will he join his predecessor, the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan), in pleading this case, as reported today in the Western Mail?

I think the right hon. Gentleman knows what my answer will be: HS2 is a UK-wide project from which every part of the United Kingdom will benefit. He is a north Wales MP. He knows that north Wales will benefit from improved journey times to London via the hub at Crewe, he knows that mid-Wales will benefit from travel times via Birmingham, and he knows that south Wales will benefit from connections at Old Oak Common. Of course it will be of national benefit.

Last week, the Welsh Government announced the reopening of the second line between Wrexham and Chester. Does my right hon. Friend agree that such investment in rail infrastructure, including HS2, has a massive role to play in encouraging economic growth in north-east Wales and west Cheshire?

Yes. I was pleased that the Welsh Government reversed their decision not to redouble the line between Chester and Wrexham. It plays an important part in the business case for north Wales electrification, which I am sure all Members would welcome.

14. The £44 million of Labour investment in the Wrexham-Chester line is not a reversal of the decision; it is part of continued investment to improve the network in north-east Wales. I know the right hon. Gentleman is interested in this issue. Will he meet me to explore specifically how HS2 will link to the new development in the rail network in north-east Wales to benefit the area? (900311)

The hon. Gentleman knows that I am always delighted to meet him to discuss rail matters. In fact, I invited him to a meeting only a few months ago to discuss the electrification of the Wrexham to Bidston line. I am entirely happy to keep meeting him.

Is there not a real danger that the economies of north Wales and northern England could be left behind if we rely solely on the existing north-south rail lines, which, by all predictions, will be full to capacity by the mid-2020s?

My hon. Friend is entirely right: it is a question not just of speed, but of capacity. In his area, journey times from Leeds to London will be reduced by about 60 minutes, which I am sure we would all welcome.