[Relevant documents: Thirteenth Report from the Environmental Audit Committee, on HS2 and the environment, HC 1076; Ninth Report from the Transport Committee, on High speed rail: on track?, HC851, and the Government response, HC1085; and Tenth Report from the Transport Committee, Session 2010-12, on High Speed Rail, HC 1185, and the Government response, HC 1754.]
Before I call the Secretary of State for Transport to move the Second Reading, I should inform the House that I have selected the reasoned amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan).
I think it only right, notwithstanding the heavy pressure on time, that there should be modest latitude for representatives on either side of the House in the early stages of the debate. That latitude will apply to the mover of the amendment and to the Chair of the Transport Committee, upon whom no formal time limit will be imposed, but I know that both Members will be sensitive to the wishes of the House and the legitimate expectations of colleagues who wish to contribute. After those two individuals have addressed the House, there will be a five-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
It is 120 years since we last built a main line railway north of London. It is even longer since, in 1833, this House voted to start what is known as the west coast main line. The line was not meant to be a national route; it became one almost by accident. It was a railway built with twists and turns to placate landowners, for slow steam trains pulling open-top carriages. It is worth recalling that in 1832 Parliament rejected the initial Bill because some people objected, arguing that canals were all we would ever need for long-distance travel. Today, we ask far too much of the line. If we were talking about roads, it would be as if traffic still had to go up Watling street, as if the M1 and M6 had never been built, and we tried to solve our transport needs by just patching up old roads—a roundabout here, a bridge there—as if incremental change could make all the difference. Well, we tried that: we spent £9 billion upgrading the west coast main line a decade ago, and most of that work did not even get south of Rugby. Cities and towns in the north deserve better. Scotland deserves better. Britain deserves better.
That is why I stand at the Dispatch Box today to support High Speed 2, a new north-south railway line. I do so with much humility and not a little trepidation, but also with confidence, because although I wholly understand the concerns of hon. Members whose constituents are affected by the route, I also know that this is a decision we cannot duck. We have waited long enough. The west coast main line can take no more; it is increasingly full. More than that, London and the south-east are also increasingly full, caught in a cycle of rising house prices, some of the most expensive commercial rents in the world and transport congestion, while cities in the north want to grow. It is time to help to break that cycle—time to connect great cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Liverpool.
If I may, I will come in a little while to how I think places such as Coventry, Northampton, Rugby and elsewhere will benefit from the building of HS2. It is not just a matter of time; it is also a matter of the capacity available to the United Kingdom in its railway network. However, I will come to that.
I thank the Secretary of State for giving way. Clearly everywhere in Britain deserves better, but there are fears, as he will know, that great cities such as Stoke-on-Trent and Coventry will simply be bypassed. What meetings has he had, in particular with Stoke-on-Trent city council, in the past three months about either a stop on HS2 at Stoke, or a spur from HS2 along the route through Stoke station?
It is important to note that the Bill before us deals with the route from London to the west midlands, which does not go as far north as the hon. Gentleman describes. That route—basically, from the end of the line we are discussing today to Manchester and Leeds—is still out to consultation. Sir David Higgins did a report, “HS2 Plus”, which I very much welcomed. I accepted part of it—removing the HS1-HS2 link—but there are other parts, on which I am asking for urgent work to be done, that are not contained in the Bill before the House today.
As a former Staffordshire county councillor—indeed, I was a member of Staffordshire county council for seven years—I do not need any reminding of where Stoke-on-Trent is, although it is true that Stoke-on-Trent is now a unitary authority and not controlled by that fantastic, first-class Conservative county council of Staffordshire.
I am grateful for the opportunity to raise the matter of Stoke-on-Trent and other issues, but is not the real concern about the Bill that there has not been a proper, rigorous and strategic environmental assessment? In other words, whether or not the Y route beyond Lichfield goes via Stoke-on-Trent or elsewhere, there has not been an opportunity to properly assess HS2 phases 1 and 2 in the round.
One of the questions is “Where is the biggest capacity problem?” and, whether I like it or not, the biggest capacity problem is on the southern part of the route—the route coming into London—but I well understand the concerns of hon. Members representing Stoke-on-Trent and other areas regarding the importance of getting the route right as far as they are concerned. That is why we are in the process of consultation and I am happy to meet and hear representations from those areas, although I am mindful of the huge number of consultations.
Does the Secretary of State agree that we are talking today about a very big item of public spending, not an investment, because the business case makes it very clear that none of the debt can be repaid out of fare revenue and much of the interest in the early years will also fall on the taxpayer?
I believe there is a good cost-benefit ratio. We estimate the cost-benefit ratio to be 2.4 and it is worth pointing out—I will come on to this in my speech—that the initial cost-benefit ratio for the Jubilee line was less than 1% and if that had not been built I do not think we would have seen the subsequent development in Canary Wharf. However, I do not want to be tempted too much away from the very detailed contextual part of my speech, which I have worked out.
Following on from that point, given that the Government have failed to meet their targets in reducing the structural deficit, more than 60% of the cuts wait for the next Parliament, and therefore there will be a real shortage of capital does the Secretary of State really think that even if this line is built to Birmingham, it will go beyond? Secondly, given the scarcity of capital, would not the north gain more from a major link between Liverpool and Hull, rather than worrying about coming into London?
There is a slight problem in giving way even to colleagues and Opposition Members whom I respect greatly, because they keep asking me about further parts of my speech. If I can make a little more progress, I will be coming on to that point, but I will just point out to the right hon. Gentleman that, as he well knows, at the moment there is a huge amount of investment going into places like the northern hub, which will have very significant benefits for Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester and Hull in getting better east-west connections across the country and not just between the north and south parts of the country.
I agree with the change of emphasis the Secretary of State has brought, from one of speed to one of addressing the capacity issue, which is clear and apparent to anybody who wants to see it, and I believe Coventry potentially will benefit from the proximity of the nearest non-London station, but can he ensure there is proper connectivity not just to Birmingham city centre, because the west midlands is far more than just Birmingham?
Indeed it is, and in fairness to the right hon. Gentleman, we might consider the words of the Secretary of State in launching this project when he was last a member of the Cabinet. It is fair to say that the noble Lord Adonis did say that
“over the next 20 to 30 years the UK will require a step-change in transport capacity”
and connectivity, both to promote and to respond to long-term economic growth. That was a statement made by the last Labour Secretary of State, so to say the scheme has always only ever been about speed is to misrepresent what the last Government intended and also what this Government intended.
I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State has mentioned the northern hub rail investment, because many people against this project ask “Why not spend the money elsewhere?” I hope he will be emphasising the fact that this investment is as well as, not either/or. We are getting electrification of the trans-Pennine route, and I have just this morning been through Wakefield Westgate, a new £9 million station. This is about spending money elsewhere as well as, not instead of, on this project.
If the hon. Lady will be patient, I shall deal with that point a little later in my speech.
I was telling the House that it is time to connect great cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds. It is time for better links between north and south and between east and west, and time to connect to world markets to make the most of their skills and talents. It is time for HS2; time for a new north-south railway line.
Today, we can get a high-speed train from London to Lille but not to Leeds, and from London to Brussels but not to Birmingham. That has to change, but of course our investment plans must also run much further. More than £38 billion is being invested in the existing rail network between 2014 and 2019, including about £16 billion of Government support as part of our plans to invest £73 billion in all forms of transport between 2015 and 2021. We are trebling the budget for our major road schemes to £15 billion between 2015 and 2021; we are investing £14 billion in local transport schemes between 2015 and 2020; and next year, the Davies commission will propose options on future airport capacity. We need to do all this because if we are to support our economy, we need our infrastructure to work. Two years after the Jubilee line reached Canary Wharf in 1999, 27,000 people were employed in that area. By 2012, the figure was over 100,000.
We begin, it is true, with the advantage of our Victorian inheritance, but others are catching up. At the start of 2007, China did not have a single high-speed railway line; today, it has more than 6,000 miles in service, and by 2015, that will be 11,000 miles. France and Germany have been reaping the benefits of a high-speed rail network for decades, while we have just 67 miles from London to Kent and the channel tunnel.
Of course we have a good existing network, but we need to improve it, and upgrading Britain’s rail infrastructure is a key part of this Government’s long-term economic plan. In the south and south-west of Britain, the great western line is receiving more investment over the next five years than any other route. This will bring huge benefits to people working in that region.
The Secretary of State has said that HS2 is not about speed but about capacity. Given that only 8% of the population regularly use trains, what percentage of the population does he think will actually use HS2 and who does he think will benefit from it?
I was happy to give way to my hon. Friend, but I am mindful of what he said about me yesterday on Radio 4, bits of which I agree with and bits of which I am slightly worried about. He said:
“Patrick McLoughlin is an excellent Cabinet Minister”—
I agree with him on that—
“and a former Chief Whip of the Conservative party. Indeed, if you had a difficult policy you wanted to push through Parliament, Patrick is your man. I would maintain that if the PM wanted the Herod Bill, Patrick would be the man to see that through Parliament.”
I am not quite sure whether to take that last bit as a compliment. When I talk about the need for capacity, I am talking about the need to free up capacity on other lines as well.
One of the great successes in the rail industry in this country is the massive growth in the railways, and I shall say more about that later. If we look at the tables, we see that 20 years ago, rail passenger numbers in this country were constant. Over the past 20 years, however, the numbers have risen from 750 million to 1.5 billion passenger journeys a year. The numbers continue to grow, and we need to address that fact. That is why we are right to do what we are doing with HS2.
All the northern councils and chambers of commerce back HS2 unequivocally as a source of growth and extra capacity. Is it not the case that all major infrastructure projects are objected to at the time of their creation, and that 50 years on, the objectors fully support what took place?
I understand and respect those people who object. If some new piece of infrastructure is going to have an impact on their lives, there will be a fear of what might come. As we saw with HS1, there was a fear of what might come, but once it had been built, people said that it represented a vast overall improvement to this country’s rail network.
Does the Secretary of State agree that those of us who object to HS2 are not flat earthers? We know that our rail infrastructure must be renewed and that there are real problems with capacity and much else, but this proposal is deeply flawed, and has never been scrutinised properly or planned properly. That is what we worry about, because so many of the independent inquiries find on the negative, not on the positive, about this HS2.
In the last Parliament, the hon. Gentleman was an absolute supporter of the Government of the day. Today, we hear him attack the scheme so violently, but he did not do that when he was sitting on the Government Benches behind that Government when they proposed it in the first instance. I am happy to accept the support he gave it in the first instance.
The right hon. Gentleman has said that we have only 67 miles of high-speed rail in England, linking to two independent countries, France and Belgium. Does that not add to the argument that if Scotland were independent, there would be a greater push for rail north, as two sovereign Governments would be working on this rather than one?
I was expecting an intervention from the Scottish National party, but I am not quite sure which sea the hon. Gentleman is thinking of going under, how long the tunnel would be and which continent he is thinking of connecting up to separately with an independent part of Scotland. What I say to him is that I believe high-speed rail is very important for the whole country—it will be important for Scotland, too—and Scotland, part of the United Kingdom, will be much better off.
May I offer the right hon. Gentleman, without any caveats, my full support and say to him that most colleagues representing constituencies in the north actively back this scheme, for the very reasons he has spelt out? Does he also accept that those who represent some home counties through which this route is going of course have legitimate constituency concerns but that, for example, the Chiltern railway line has benefited twice over from investment—from the last phase of investment by British Rail and from Evergreen—and that the M40 was far more disruptive to people living in the Chilterns but nobody would now suggest it should be abandoned or greened over?
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman and I completely agree with him. One of this morning’s papers, I believe it was The Daily Telegraph, said that this Bill will certainly have been scrutinised more than any major infrastructure project we have dealt with, across the whole piece.
I hope my right hon. Friend can assure me that he has not got anything in his folder about what I might have said yesterday. He spoke earlier about the importance of global trade and of HS2. Does he not accept that it is extraordinary that with this design, HS2, which I do not disagree with in principle, does not have a link with the channel ports, with HS1 or even with whichever airport will be chosen by his own Department to have the third runway?
As for notes on what my hon. Friend might have said yesterday, I do not think I have enough pages in the Department for what he might have tweeted out yesterday. I will address why I think this is the right scheme a little later, because I want also to talk about the links between—
Phase 2, which affects my constituents directly, will have compensation arrangements which will clearly be based on the proposals being put forward with regard to phase 1—London to Birmingham. Given that, and given the scale of this operation, does my right hon. Friend accept that the only proper and reasonable basis for properly compensating the people concerned is if they get full value in relation to the losses they incur and not just the kind of provision currently on offer?
I want to talk about the compensation package a little later and indeed about the fact that I announced a new compensation package before the House rose for Easter, but that matter is out for consultation.
Before I took those interventions, I was talking about the improvements in the great western main line. We will also see improvement in east-west links, with faster electric trains between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle and a reopened railway between Oxford and Bedford. In London, we will see the Crossrail and Thameslink upgrades, which between them will cost £21 billion—about the same amount that is being spent on the first phase of High Speed 2. It is the scale of spending on London that has brought about amazing transformations at places such as St Pancras and King’s Cross stations. In the 20 years that I have been using those stations, they have become places that people wish to visit, destinations in their own right and places of which we can be proud. However, that necessary investment in London should not come at the expense of the rest of the country. Demand for travel is growing everywhere.
Twice as many people travel by train every day as they did 20 years ago. More people drive and fly, too, and that is because our horizons broaden in a better-connected world. Digital links do not replace travel; they fuel it. Smartphones and broadband are not an alternative to things such as HS2; they are part of the same growing links between people and businesses, and that pressure is felt acutely on our north-south rail corridors.
I very much welcome the Secretary of State’s praise for the two brilliant stations in my constituency, one of which was started and finished under the Labour Government and the other of which was started under the Labour Government. Will he confirm that according to the documents of HS2 and his Department, Euston will be able to provide extra capacity only if there is investment in Crossrail 2, at a cost of an extra £15 billion to £20 billion?
The documents about Crossrail 2 have been put out by the Mayor of London. We shall see the completion of Crossrail 1 in 2018, which will make a massive difference to London overall. I know that the right hon. Gentleman feels very strongly about this matter and is proud of the stations in his constituency, but the truth is that when I first came to this House, we regarded Euston as the best station of the three. It is now way behind the other two stations. HS2 gives us a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a transformational change to Euston station, which will bring it into line with the other two stations.
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way while he is laying out his case. However, the case he is making for HS2 fails to recognise that there will still have to be an awful lot of work on our classic railway. It would be wrong if he did not tell people that the west coast main line is crumbling and will still need major investment and repairs, and that our classic railway will suffer. I hope that the money will be there for those railways, too.
I do not think that I have been misleading. I have been very open about the west coast main line. I do not think it is crumbling—as I have said, there has been £10 billion upgrade on the line north of Rugby. Between 2014 and 2019, we shall be spending £38 billion on the existing railway network, on things such as the electrification of the midland main line and a number of other schemes that I have already mentioned.
Even on moderate forecasts, services will be increasingly full by the mid-2020s. If we do not create extra capacity, people at stations such as Milton Keynes and Northampton will have to queue to get on a train to get to work. That is despite the £9 billion that we have spent on the west coast main line in recent years. More upgrades like that will not provide the extra capacity that we need. A new north-south railway line is the right answer. From day one, it will improve journey times and train services to Manchester and to the north-west and Scotland, because HS2 trains will continue on the existing network. It will free up more space for commuters and freight on existing routes, and places up and down the country will benefit from more services and seats. Although it is too early to talk about precise timetables, Milton Keynes, an area of particularly close interest for my Parliamentary Private Secretary, could get 11 trains an hour to London compared with six now, and places such as Rugby would get more non-stop journeys to London.
Today's debate is about phase 1, but when it is complete HS2 will be a wider network. We have consulted on phase 2, and I know that many Members have a strong interest in ensuring that we get the plans right. That should include serving cities on the eastern leg through the east midlands, Sheffield and Leeds as well as the north-west, and we will set out more details later this year.
Of course we must design HS2 well and build it carefully, which means making sure that our young people have the skills to get the engineering jobs it will create. We have therefore announced plans for the first new further education college in 20 years, backed by HS2. Soon we shall announce the winning location for the central facility and a network of outposts. I know that many places are keen to take part, such as Aylesbury college, Manchester and Birmingham.
One of the things that matters most about HS2 is the huge opportunity it offers to the next generation. There will be 2,000 apprenticeships—not just one-off jobs building the line, but careers. The numbers involved mean that we will take the skills base in this country to a new level, so the country will not only be better connected but better trained with the skills we need to compete not only in transport but across a range of industries. This is not just investment in steel and rolling stock; it is a huge investment in our people across the nation.
The Secretary of State mentions apprenticeships and training. With HS1, the building of Stratford and, up to a point, the Olympics, there was a clear commitment that local people should be used on those building projects and that training schemes would be put in place to ensure that they had those opportunities. Will that same commitment apply to HS2?
In response to an earlier intervention, the Secretary of State answered a question about Crossrail, which, of course, qualified for full Barnett consequentials. Today we are debating high-speed rail between London and the west midlands, which seems to me to be an England-only railway. Why are the UK Government not awarding Barnett consequentials in this case?
Because, as I said in earlier, the simple fact is that the trains will run on to Scotland. I think that Scotland will get the benefits from the first day that the new railway line is open. I have got used to people from Scotland and Wales talking to me about Barnett consequentials, and we will obviously follow any rules that require such consequentials, but my belief is that the benefits will go to both Wales and Scotland from the point at which HS2 first opens.
I am delighted that my right hon. Friend wants to give way to me. Given that some of us approve of the principle of the Bill but believe that the route could be improved, will he say a little more about whether the Select Committee will have some latitude, given the instruction that it should consider only the broad alignment of the current deposited plans? Will it be able to consider matters such as the route to Heathrow?
Scrutiny is one thing that the Bill has not been short of since it was published. The Select Committee will be given certain instructions, which will be debated tomorrow, and I am sure that my hon. Friend will have the opportunity to raise his point in that debate.
It is essential that we get this investment right. That is why I welcome Sir David Higgins’s recent report “HS2 Plus”, which took a hard look at the plans. He proposes better developments at Euston, getting services to the north sooner, integrating HS2 more effectively with the existing rail network, and working with local authorities and businesses across the midlands and the north to ensure that they get the right railway for their needs. The Government support him in all that.
It is also right that the project should be built to budget and that is an essential part of the task we have set. In his report, Sir David says that the current £21.4 billion budget for phase 1 is right, but he goes on to warn that time is money. He cannot reduce the contingency budget of around £6 billion at this stage while the legislation has not yet been passed. In short, he throws a responsibility to all of us in the House; yes, a responsibility to consider the Bill properly, but not to delay it needlessly.
Sometimes people ask why we are rushing HS2. Some people ask why on earth it is taking so long. The answer is that we are doing it properly and to the timetable set out by the last Government in 2010, so that the first services run in 2026. But the final choice lies with Parliament. Last year, we passed the paving Act, which prepared for a new high-speed route to the midlands and the north. With support from the Government and Opposition, the House voted for the Act by 350 to 34. The Bill before us today will provide the detailed authorisation. As Parliament considers the Bill for phase 1, we will prepare our proposals for phase 2, responding to the Higgins challenge to accelerate and improve it so that the most can be made of this investment—a commitment to get high-speed services to more towns and cities in the midlands and the north, and, crucially, to make sure that we get the most out of the economic opportunities it will bring.
I think I did so a short time ago, but the simple fact is that Coventry will have the potential to get much better train services than if we failed to build HS2. There will be a far greater chance for commuters from Coventry to Birmingham or Leeds to have seats as longer distance passengers transfer to HS2. Without HS2 it is likely that trains to Birmingham and London from Coventry will become increasingly congested, with there being little chance to book a seat. Coventry residents will also have the opportunity to use the nearby Birmingham Interchange station. I was on a train from Birmingham to London last Tuesday in the middle of the day, and by the time it reached Coventry it was very nearly full. There is a capacity problem.
I am following my right hon. Friend’s arguments closely. Can he put a date on bringing forward the route to the north, and can he put a figure on how much the north can be expected to benefit if we are not to have any connectivity? I believe that the economic development between Manchester, Leeds and York is being held back by the lack of investment in that route.
We are investing in the new intercity express programme, or IEP, trains, which is a massive upgrade of the railway network serving my hon. Friend’s constituency and region, and in this spending round we will be electrifying more than 800 miles of line throughout the country, which will benefit the northern hub, which I have just talked about.
I thank the Commercial Secretary for his work in leading the growth taskforce, developing proposals for maximising the benefits of HS2, alongside senior industrialists, senior trade union leaders and city leaders. That task matters because designing and planning work on the project is already under way and construction is set to begin in 2017, just three years away. Firms throughout the country are bidding for contracts, and places from Penzance to Edinburgh can benefit. Engineering students, currently sitting in classrooms in our towns and cities, will be the ones shaping and delivering the scheme, and pupils who are today in secondary school will be using it.
I come now to the content of the Bill. Put simply, Parliament is being asked to grant planning permission and the other powers needed for the first phase. A number of motions have been laid to facilitate the Bill’s passage, most of which will be debated tomorrow. Tonight the House is being asked to vote on the principle of the Bill: that there should be a high-speed railway between Euston and a junction with the west coast main line at Handsacre. The railway should include a spur to Birmingham Curzon Street and intermediate stations at Birmingham Interchange and Old Oak Common. If agreed tonight, this means it cannot be re-aligned or extended as part of the Bill. The proposed link to High Speed 1 will be removed from the Bill. It is not part of the principle of the Bill; instead, we are working on proposals to improve connections between the rail network and HS1.
Of course, projects of this size do not come without negative impacts. Rather than shy away from the challenges, however, we have been transparent. Parliament, as the decision maker, has a duty to ensure that the Government have met their legal obligations. We have carried out the largest environmental impact assessment of a major project ever undertaken in the UK. We have considered the alternatives, invited the views of the public and presented an environmental statement to Parliament alongside deposit of the Bill. We have observed all the European requirements, taking measures to protect species, to avoid harming special areas of conservation and to comply with the water framework directive. It is, however, not only about meeting our obligations, but about ensuring that we carefully balance the scheme’s progress with its impact. It is right that those directly affected by the scheme will have the opportunity to be heard by the Select Committee.
Nearly all those who support the scheme are pleased that the route in the Bill, which the Secretary of State has just outlined, has substantive support across the House. There is, however, one exception. Given that the London chamber of commerce and industry has said that it is unlikely that Heathrow will close in the foreseeable future, why can the Secretary of State not be clear about what link there will be to the airport?
I do not want to pre-empt the review of the Davies commission, which is doing excellent work, but there is no doubt that Old Oak Common will serve Heathrow as far as Crossrail is concerned.
Our proposals strike the right balance. More than half the route is in tunnels or cuttings and more than two thirds of the line’s surface sections will be insulated by cuttings and landscaping. No grade I listed building is affected and only some 100 homes will be demolished in the nearly 100 miles of the rural part of phase 1. The line is designed to be secure against flooding. Indeed, it is notable that while weather affected many rail lines this winter, the HS1 line in Kent ran as normal.
We have also consulted and changed. There will be a longer tunnel at Northolt, a new tunnel at Bromford and a bypass at Stoke Mandeville. We have worked hard on state-of-the-art noise mitigation, but if more can be done by spending the budget better, I will ensure that that happens.
I thank the Secretary of State for giving way. Is it not true that some 240,000 dwellings lie within a kilometre of the route, many of which are totally ineligible for any form of compensation under the current scheme, and that many people will go to their graves having been trapped in houses that they could not sell because of HS2?
My right hon. Friend’s written statement mentions the express purchase, which is
“being launched today and is for those people living closest to the line, in…the ‘surface safeguarded’ area.”—[Official Report, 9 April 2014; Vol. 579, c. 20WS.]
Will he clarify how far from the line that would be, as it is not clear from his written statement?
I am glad that the Secretary of State wants to keep an open mind about getting the final designs right. High Speed 2 will be of huge benefit to the city of Birmingham, but we must not leave east Birmingham behind. The current proposal to destroy a space the size of 105 football pitches, where we have plans to create 7,000 jobs in the worst unemployment hot spot in the whole United Kingdom, is not a good idea. Birmingham city council will oppose the proposal during the petitioning stage. Will the Secretary of State keep his mind open to the idea that there could be a better site for the rolling yard that would not destroy east Birmingham’s economic future?
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, and indeed Birmingham city council, is very supportive of the overall scheme. Of course we will want to make those presentations to the Select Committee during the passage of the Bill. That site was looked at very carefully when we considered those that were available, because a new railway line requires areas where trains can be serviced. A number of people can argue about whether we have the right sites or the wrong ones, and of course that will be taken into consideration.
Of course I understand the depth of concern that the line has caused in some places, which is why I have made it clear to my officials that there is no place in the Department or in HS2 for talk of luddites or nimbys. We must respect people and try to meet their concerns.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his comment about luddites and nimbys, terms that were used unhelpfully at the beginning of the process. As he will know, there is still a great deal of concern. Will he say a little more about what can still be done during the process?
I understand the particular concerns that have been put to me by many Members, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington) and my hon. Friend the Member for Kenilworth and Southam (Jeremy Wright)—they never cease to remind me of them. I certainly agree that we need to do what we can to help. Aylesbury is, after all, the largest settlement near the route between London and Birmingham, and there may be more that we can do. We will continue to talk to people in the Hawkslade part of Aylesbury, for example, and the National Trust about its idea for a land bridge near Hartwell house. I am sympathetic to the specific concerns in Wendover about any noise impact on St Mary’s church, which has become a really successful concert venue, thanks to local efforts. There are creative things that can be done along the route, such as planting tree screens to cut noise, which also makes ecological sense by creating green corridors. For places such as Fairford Leys, the line offers a chance to create new woodlands.
As I have said, I well understand that the people directly affected by the route are concerned about it. As Members have said in interventions, that is the case for all major infrastructure schemes. There is no doubt that major infrastructure schemes will inconvenience a number of people. That was certainly true when we rebuilt St Pancras and King’s Cross stations, and indeed with Crossrail, as we can see at Victoria station at the moment. Ultimately, however, we usually see a huge improvement for the general infrastructure of the nation as a result.
King’s Cross and St Pancras are both in my constituency. They had the support of the local council, the support of the local MP and the overwhelming support of local people, even those directly affected. That is not the case with the proposals for Euston.
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for acknowledging that some parts of the country will take all the pain of this project but get none of the gain, unlike with the M40, which benefited Buckinghamshire and contributed to its economy by enabling people to get on and off it. I hope he is not ruling out looking at further mitigation, particularly for the area of outstanding natural beauty, which concerns not only my constituency but that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington). If one is to have environmental credentials, it is important to protect our environment to the highest degree when implementing projects of this nature.
Of the 20.8 km of the route that passes through the Chilterns, only 3.3 km will be on the surface—at the moment the rest will be below ground level. I understand my right hon. Friend’s point, and that is something we need to bear in mind. She is right that her constituents benefited directly from the M40, and that was paid for by taxpayers across the whole country, rather than just by those in that area. I will give way to my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main), as she has not yet intervened.
My constituency is not directly affected but my constituents have concerns about this, which have not been helped by the fact that the Major Projects Authority’s report on the risk has been suppressed or vetoed. If we are going to have projects like this, greater transparency is needed in respect of them.
I cannot think of an infrastructure project that has had more reports on it than this one. I set out my reasons for withholding the MPA report: it is important for civil servants to be able to speak freely and in confidence to Ministers. I made a full statement on that particular matter at the time I took the decision.
I declare my interest as a commissioner of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The commission had serious concerns about the elements of deregulation in the Bill that remove protections for monuments and burial sites where Commonwealth war graves are sited in this country. Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that organisations like the Commonwealth War Graves Commission will be consulted as the Bill goes forward?
Yes. I give the hon. Gentleman that assurance on a matter that was raised with me privately by another member who served on the commission. We certainly will consult.
Of course, we must also get the property compensation right. I have announced an enhanced property compensation package and I wish to consult quickly on the further proposals. I want to do more, so we will introduce a need-to-sell scheme, which I want to be easy to understand and to work fairly. It is more than just a re-labelling of the previous exceptional hardship scheme. It will be more generous, too, but it does not stop there.
Let me outline the powers that the Government are seeking through this Bill. It provides the authority to undertake works required for the construction and maintenance of phase 1 of HS2: deemed planning permission for the railway; the power to purchase compulsorily the land required for the phase 1 route, as well as for business relocation and regeneration; modification of existing legislative controls that are not designed for a hybrid Bill—a process based on that used for HS1 and Crossrail; and the ability to nominate a person or organisation to deliver phase 1 on behalf of the Secretary of State.
I believe that the Bill before us today has the power to change our nation profoundly and for the better. Yes, HS2 is ambitious; yes, it will take a great deal of investment; yes, it will take time to complete—but so did the canals, the railways and motorways that previous generations left as their legacy. Our age can achieve something just as great. I am from the midlands—I was born in Staffordshire and I represent Derbyshire—and I know the potential of Britain. I know that, built right, on time and to budget, High Speed 2 can help our great cities thrive.
The choice comes down to this: do we invest in modern transport links to make sure that every part of Britain can compete for the best jobs, or are we really happy for London and the south-east to power ahead while the rest get second best? Put like that, the answer is clear to me. Yes, this project deserves careful scrutiny—the processes are in place to ensure that—but it also deserves to go ahead. Britain needs it to go ahead. Tonight, I hope that we will make good progress towards that end. I commend the Bill to the House.
I begin by congratulating the Secretary of State on bringing the Bill before us, and I would like to thank him for the patience and generosity with which he has treated us today and for the cross-party approach he has taken on this vital national issue.
Well, I do not share anything teensy-weensy or of any other size relating to the hon. Gentleman—[Laughter.] I think we will leave it at that. To give the hon. Gentleman a straight answer, I think that it is important to work co-operatively across the House on issues of national significance The debate that we have had has shown that the vision is important, but also that the concerns and the case for mitigation must be listened to. If we are elected next year, I hope that that will continue during the construction of the line.
High Speed 2 will cut congestion on the railways, better connect our cities and help to deliver a one nation economic recovery, which is why Labour will support the Bill tonight. Its 335 miles will be the longest and most ambitious piece of rail infrastructure to be built in this or the last century. Managed properly, HS2 has the power to transform the economic geography of our country. It will build up our great cities and bring them closer together; it will connect people to each other, to work and to leisure; and it will help to rebalance the economy, creating new skilled jobs and apprenticeships in every nation and region of our economy.
I certainly do. The full Y line will terminate 14 miles south of York so that the classic compatible network trains will be able to run from the north-east—directly from Newcastle—and join the high-speed line outside York, significantly cutting the journey time to Old Oak Common in London and to those intermediate cities of Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham and Birmingham. There will be significant benefits to the north-east.
Given the urge for more speed in the Higgins report, what comfort can my hon. Friend give to the people of north Staffordshire who, as HS2 stands, face the prospect of having only three direct services a day to London from Stoke-on-Trent station, instead of more than 30?
It is too early to write the railway timetable for 2026, but when phase 1 of the line is open people from my hon. Friend’s constituency will be able to get on a classic train at Stoke-on-Trent, go down the west coast main line and join the high-speed line at the Handsacre junction—
We will not be paying any tolls to go through Lichfield. Journey times to London will be significantly cut. One of the benefits that has perhaps been undersold is the connectivity that HS2 will bring even to those cities not directly connected. Given the anxieties in Stoke-on-Trent and the key decision to be made on Crewe, when will the Secretary of State bring forward his response to phase 2? It would be helpful to know his thinking.
David Higgins and Simon Kirby, the former Network Rail chief engineer, have been appointed to the project, and the Higgins review has shown where costs can be brought down. The key risk to the project costs is political delay. We have also looked at the strategic alternatives, as we did in government, and we believe that HS2 is the best way to move to the low-carbon transport infrastructure that our country needs if we are to meet our climate change emissions targets.
Does the hon. Lady accept that in addition to improving journey times for people living in Warwickshire, Buckinghamshire and Staffordshire, an even greater benefit will be the release of capacity on the west coast main line? That will mean that people travelling to London will be able to get seats and will have a better journey.
We will have to see what the Committee delivers as the Bill goes through the Committee process. There are clearly issues to do with the High Speed 1 and High Speed 2 link, which has now been taken out of the Bill. Some of the issues that the Committee will consider will be debated more fully tomorrow.
A Bill of this size and importance will be controversial, and we must debate it properly. A project of this size will affect very many individuals and communities, and the environment. We must minimise the negative impacts wherever possible and deal with the utmost sensitivity with the people whose homes are affected.
On the capacity crunch, HS2 will deal with some of these constraints on our railways. Already, thousands of commuters are standing on packed rush hour trains into Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Euston. Last week’s figures from the Office of Rail Regulation showed that the number of rail journeys has more than doubled since 1996. This number will continue to rise, and by 2026 peak demand will be two and a half times the capacity at Euston, twice the capacity at Birmingham New Street, and nearly twice the capacity at Manchester Piccadilly. There is already more demand for train services than there are train paths available on the west coast main line, and by 2024 it will be running at full capacity.
This congestion will have a significant impact on the freight industry and its customers. The west coast main line is the key artery in the Rugby, Daventry and Northampton golden triangle for freight. Over the next decade, passenger constraints will become more serious on the east coast main line and the midland main line. Network Rail’s £38 billion investment programme for the next five years will deliver signalling improvements, platform extensions and some additional services, but those incremental changes will not deal with the looming capacity problem.
Labour Members know from our time in government that major infrastructure takes years to plan and to construct. Many right hon. and hon. Members will remember the Crossrail Bill, which Labour introduced in 2005 and which received Royal Assent in 2008. That railway will open in 2018. Labour in government identified the need for more capacity on London’s railways by the end of this decade, and we acted to deliver it. We must do the same now to build the infrastructure we need to mitigate the looming capacity crunch on our railways.
Is the shadow Minister aware that we need 20 paths to take care of increased freight over the next 10 to 15 years, and that our current network cannot supply even one of those paths? Is not that a major reason for arguing for this Bill?
Yes, absolutely. Freight has been a Cinderella subject; the focus tends to be on passengers, and that is absolutely right. If we are to achieve the modal shift by getting HGVs off our roads and freight on to trains—that is key in the hon. Gentleman’s area—we have to make sure that freight is able to go on the west coast main line.
The hon. Lady said that we need to mitigate the worst effects of the railway. Does she accept that as regards ancient woodlands there is no way of mitigating those effects because we cannot replace ancient woodland? According to the Woodland Trust, the preferred route for phase 1 will see the loss of, or damage to, 83 irreplaceable woodlands.
I will come to the environmental part of my speech in a moment. I would say to the hon. Lady, as the sole representative of the Green party in Parliament, that her party is in an extraordinary position in voting against what will be the key plank in moving towards a low-carbon transport infrastructure.
Let me turn to reductions in travel times. High Speed 2 will not just increase capacity; it will use the latest high-speed technology to reduce travel times between Scotland, the north, the midlands and London. It will connect with existing railway lines so that from the end of phase 1 direct high-speed services can be operated from Glasgow, Wigan, Preston and Liverpool. [Interruption.] They will go through Lichfield, without a toll. The full scheme will cut journey times from London to Birmingham Curzon Street to 49 minutes, to Sheffield Meadowhall to 69 minutes, and to Leeds to 82 minutes. When both phases are complete, HS2 will link our northern cities, providing new express commuter services between them, as we have seen with High Speed 1 in Kent. That will drive jobs, regeneration and growth across the midlands, the north, Scotland and Wales.
The hon. Lady mentioned the journey time to Curzon Street, but I am sure she is aware that the journey time from London Euston to Birmingham international will go down to 31 minutes. That will result in an under-utilised runway becoming competitive with some of the London airport runways, which could help relieve congestion in the south-east.
That is a very important point. The impact on western Coventry and Birmingham international airport cannot be overstated. When I was 18, the journey time from Coventry to London was two hours, and the £9 billion upgrade has got that down considerably to an hour. To reduce it still further would be a phenomenal achievement in one’s own lifetime.
My hon. Friend and I have been parliamentary neighbours and friends for a long time, so I say in a very positive spirit that I started off, as the Secretary of State has said, supporting HS2 because I thought it would bring power, wealth, activity and jobs to the northern regions, but I have changed my mind because the research increasingly shows that it will suck more power into and give more strength to London and the south-east. Does my hon. Friend share my concerns? The Institute of Economic Affairs raised such questions this morning.
I missed that last bit about this morning, but the report we have had and the Treasury analysis show that the benefits will accrue to Yorkshire and west Yorkshire, including my city and my hon. Friend’s town of Huddersfield. One of the key points of the Higgins report is that full investment in east-west rail links across the Pennines is one of the great prizes that HS2 can bring to our area.
In view of the fact that the French, the Germans, the Japanese, the Italians and many other nations have a high-speed link, does my hon. Friend not think it is high time that this country had one? It is about not just those areas that will actually get the link, but interconnecting areas, so people in north Wales and mid-Wales will also benefit from the Crewe link. We have to look at the budget, but surely it is high time to get on with it. That is why people in Wales who do not back everything the Labour party says, such as Professor Stuart Cole, are backing it.
The benefits of increased connectivity for north Wales cannot be overstated, given the potential for new railway links to towns and cities that currently have no direct rail link to London, and I will now address that in greater detail.
HS2 frees up capacity on the existing network. The full route will provide up to 18 long-distance train services into London every hour, which is the equivalent of a new green motorway. It will separate long-distance trains from local commuter services and freight and free up capacity on the network. That free capacity will bring new commuter services into London from areas of significant housing growth, including Milton Keynes, Luton, Northampton, Peterborough and Corby. The free capacity could also provide more direct, long-distance services to London from places such as Blackpool, Shrewsbury and Bradford.
The Labour Government in Wales changed their position on calling for equivalent Barnett consequentials following a call from Jim Pickard in the Financial Times asking why they were not making the same case as Plaid Cymru. The financing decisions on HS2 will be made during the next comprehensive spending review, when I suppose the hon. Lady would hope to be making such decisions as Secretary of State for Transport. Will she therefore give a guarantee that, should the Labour party form the next UK Government, Wales will get a fair share?
I understand that the pressing issue in south Wales in particular at the moment is the electrification of the Cardiff valley lines. I would hope that that is at the top of everybody’s in-tray to try to sort that out, because there seems to have been some sort of miscommunication, to put it charitably.
That is a decision for the Government and they have taken it. Perhaps the hon. Lady should have put that question to the Secretary of State.
I want Sir David Higgins and his team to look carefully at how High Speed 2 integrates with our national strategic road network to minimise travel disruption during construction and operations. Network Rail’s future investment plans must be aligned to maximise benefits to the north. We need an integrated transport system for the UK.
As the Bill proceeds through Parliament, Labour will continue to hold the Government to account to keep costs down. Across the country, our constituents face a cost of living crisis. In this time of austerity, it was right for my right hon. Friend the shadow Chancellor to call the Government to account for their mismanagement of this project. We know that construction costs in the UK are higher than for comparable projects elsewhere in Europe. They must be rigorously controlled.
Let us look at how the project has been managed. The Government inherited a detailed plan for HS2 from the previous Labour Government, but Labour’s brainchild has been sadly neglected. Four years of delays and mismanagement have caused costs to rise. First, the Government split the project into two phases for financial reasons, which has delayed the benefits of the line to the midlands and the north. Secondly, their review of strategic alternatives took 18 months, and costs have continued to rise as time scales have slipped. Thirdly, their initial consultation on property compensation was a lesson in incompetence: the process had to be rerun after a High Court judge ruled that it was
“so unfair as to be unlawful”.
Fourthly, the Government did not launch the consultation on phase 2 of the route until July 2013; yet it was being worked on when we were in power three years previously, so what was the hold-up?
My hon. Friend rightly says that the Opposition will be looking at the costs. If they keep rising, at what stage would she, on behalf of the Labour party, say, “No, this has gone too high, and is sucking out too much money from the rest of the railway network”?
We have been very clear that there is not a blank cheque for this project. The Select Committee will obviously look at the parts of the Bill, as it goes through it and hears the petitioning process, but a very clear budget is set out for the project from now until 2020. There will be annual reports on the budget under our amendments to the paving Bill. We look forward to receiving the first report from the Government.
The Transport Secretary has admitted that the legislation will not be passed before the 2015 election, as was apparent to all Members, so his Government have missed their target on that. It is right that there is proper scrutiny and ample opportunity for the Select Committee to examine every complaint and comment thoroughly, but there must be no more Government delays.
I want the Secretary of State or the Minister who replies to the debate to tell us when we can expect the Secretary of State’s response on the phase 2 route to ensure that the north, the north-east, the north-west and Scotland reap the full benefits from HS2 quickly. What impact does the Secretary of State anticipate the construction of the line will have on the Great Western franchising process, which is due in 2016?
On workers memorial day, we remember all workers who have been killed at work, particularly in constructing our transport infrastructure across the decades. In particular, we remember the worker who was recently killed on the Crossrail project, and send our condolences to his family and friends. Our ambition, which I am sure is shared in all parts of the House, is that this railway is free from fatalities and serious injuries.
The right hon. Gentleman refers to a part of the report that does not immediately spring to mind—I have not perhaps digested it and kept it in mind as thoroughly as he has done—but there is broad consensus across the parties that the project is the right thing to do for the nation, and I hope that we can proceed on that basis.
As a Yorkshire MP who is now behind the project at full throttle, will the hon. Lady commit herself to selling it in Yorkshire—to her council and beyond—to ensure that we make the most of this project for our region and every city in it?
Absolutely. It is right for Wakefield council to represent the views of local residents. The costs of HS2 are significant, but I believe, as does the hon. Gentleman, that the benefits are great.
As I said earlier, we want a one nation economic recovery to rebalance the growth across sectors, nations and regions. A long-term high-speed rail investment programme presents huge opportunities for the UK’s design, engineering, construction and manufacturing sectors. It offers a secure future for the railway supply chain and will showcase the UK’s expertise in the global high-speed market. The Olympics, Thameslink and Crossrail have transformed travel in London. It is time for the wider UK economy and society to benefit from the transformational opportunities that a major infrastructure project brings. The first phase will bring more than 40,000 jobs: 9,000 jobs in construction, 1,500 permanent jobs in operation and maintenance, and 30,000 jobs at Old Oak Common, Euston and Birmingham.
I entirely support the case that my hon. Friend is making. Would she like to remind sceptics like the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood) that as much money is being spent on a single railway station that serves his constituents, namely Reading, as is being spent on the electrification of services across the north-west?
That was an excellent point, well made. My right hon. Friend has triggered my memory. There has been £6 billion for Reading, £6 billion for Thameslink and £18 billion for Crossrail—pretty soon there will be enough for a high-speed rail network. I have read about the debates over the disruption that Crossrail has caused. Tottenham Court Road station was closed for two years, yet the centre of our global capital was prepared to put up with that because it realised the benefits that it would bring through reduced journey times. The right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood) has the freight flyover at Reading station, as well as a couple of new platforms and re-signalling work. He will no doubt enjoy the faster journey times to London. I would like the same for my constituents and the constituents of the hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith).
I wonder when the Government will be able to report on the vocational training elements of phase 1, which were provided for by Labour’s amendment to the paving Bill. We want to see the annual report and to see what is happening. We welcome the new further education college that will train the next generation of young women and men to become rail engineers. Members on both sides of the House have been bidding to host the college. I look forward to hearing where and when it will open.
Sir David Higgins’s report called on the Government to be more ambitious in the development of Euston station. The iconic new developments at King’s Cross and St Pancras show how stations can transform and regenerate their local areas. I hope that that will also happen at Reading. Euston is potentially central London’s biggest regeneration site. Its redevelopment must provide new social housing to tackle the acute housing crisis in Camden, as well as retail and office space. It would be a disaster if it followed the housing developments in the city centre that are sold off-plan to foreign investors, creating ghost towns, rather than going to local people.
I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson) and Councillor Sarah Hayward, the leader of Camden council, will continue to battle to get the best deal for their community. It has been inspirational to talk to my right hon. Friend about the life sciences hub that he wants to see around the Francis Crick Institute, which is due to open near Euston in 2015. To have the tech hub at Old Street and a life sciences hub at Euston would be an enormous boost for young people and jobs in his constituency.
I welcome what my hon. Friend has said. Will she bear it in mind that the investment in the Francis Crick Institute, which is a biomedical research centre, is just over £300 million? I believe that it represents a bigger contribution to the future of this country than spending £50 billion on a railway.
Perhaps I will break the consensus now. My right hon. Friend’s constituents will benefit from the investment in Crossrail and Thameslink, which will improve London’s transportation system. I gently say to him that his might be a slightly London-centric view. I hope that HS2 will be of benefit to every nation, region and sector of our country’s economy.
We welcome the removal of the HS1-HS2 link from the Bill, which would have caused huge disruption to Camden. Removing it will save £700 million from the budget. We also welcome David Higgins’s proposals for a coherent transport plan for the north, which has been historically underfunded, and for proper east-west rail links between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Hull. Our cities must plan and are planning how to maximise the regeneration and growth opportunities around the stations.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Robert Flello) and I have formed the new all-party parliamentary group on integrated transport strategy. We are about to do a piece of work that will show that we can start building phase 2 in the north as well as phase 1. Does the hon. Lady have a view on the sequencing of the building?
Tempting though it is to offer up my words of complete ignorance on the best way to build a railway, I will leave the matter to Sir David Higgins, who has a bit more experience in the area than me. I would certainly welcome anything that brought the benefits to the midlands and the north quicker, but he is the expert on delivering such large-scale projects.
The transport authorities must prepare to ensure that regional towns and cities reap the benefits of HS2. Railway engineering and advanced construction skills should be a national priority. We want more UK businesses, large and small, to win the large contracts. I hope that in his conclusion the Minister will tell us how he will support cities and businesses to make the most of the scheme.
There will be more frequent train services, not just to London but to the major cities of the north, and there will potentially be better east-west rail links in the north for people who want to visit friends and family on the other side of the Pennines.
More capacity on the existing network means more space for rail freight. That will take lorries off the motorways, reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality. The full network should reduce the number of flights from Manchester and Scotland to London. HS2 will help us to move towards a sustainable, low-carbon transport system.
My hon. Friend spoke about flights from Manchester airport to London. At the moment, taking a train from my constituency, which contains Manchester airport, to London takes two hours and 24 minutes. When HS2 is completed, the time will be brought down to 59 minutes. Is that good for the regional economy and for Manchester?
I knew exactly how long that journey took, because I looked at train times during my hon. Friend’s by-election campaign and thought that it was a very slow journey. HS2 will be transformational, because it will bring Manchester and London very close together. It will also create a modal shift away from aeroplanes. For any journey that takes about three and a half hours, passengers will be taken out of aeroplanes and on to high-speed rail. That is obviously of benefit and will help us to meet our climate change emissions targets.
High-speed rail offers some of the lowest carbon emissions per passenger kilometre. The emissions are significantly lower than those from cars and planes. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a green spine that links our great cities and to open up wildlife corridors. I was inspired by the Wildlife Trusts’ vision for Low Speed 2, which is a green network of cycleways and footpaths along the line that would connect communities with nature and each other. We must learn from and build on the excellent biodiversity work that has been done by Crossrail. It has worked with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and others to create new habitats for bird life at Wallasea island, using spoil from Crossrail’s tunnelling that was carried down the Thames on barges.
The carbon benefits that the hon. Lady is talking about will happen only if HS2 is responsible for a modal shift away from high-carbon sources such as cars and aeroplanes. Only 11% of passengers are likely to make that modal shift. HS2 is therefore about new journeys, so it will not cause the carbon reductions that she claims.
As our country grows and as people travel more, there will be new journeys. One hundred and fifty years ago, people thought that going at 3 mph on a canal through the Standedge tunnel between Huddersfield and Manchester was a marvellously fast way of getting goods from the port of Hull to the port of Liverpool and vice versa, but today we expect a little more. We built the M62, the nation’s highest motorway, which provides a stunning drive from Leeds to Manchester and Liverpool. That is fantastic, but if we end up with transport links that cut down journey times and that get people out of their cars and on to trains, it will be of huge benefit.
Absolutely; people have a tendency to work it out all by themselves. Particularly in this era of the internet and smartphone apps, I am sure that people will be pretty cute about figuring out the best railway and greenest journey that they can make. I do not share the scepticism of the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) about whether people will shift. However, she also mentioned ancient woodland, and HS2 should set the gold standard in environmental mitigation and in promoting plant and animal life along the route. We will hold the Government and HS2 to account to reduce its environmental impact.
The Secretary of State mentioned climate resilience, and we saw in the devastation of the Great Western main line at Dawlish and the flooding near Maidenhead in February the direct impact of climate change on our transport networks, and on communities and businesses in the south-west and Wales.
I will support the Government tonight in the Lobby. The hon. Lady talks about the north and London and so on, but does she recognise that this whole debate has very little impact on the west country? [Interruption.] We have just had the most devastating effects through losing our railway line, and it is important that while we proceed we ensure that the west country is not forgotten in the whole story, so that we can deliver growth too.
Order. I hesitate to interrupt the hon. Lady, but there is a low level of conversation going on around the Chamber. This is an important debate. If Members wish to have conversations, by all means they can leave the Chamber to do so. If they are in the Chamber, they should allow the hon. Lady a fair crack of the whip.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Alison Seabeck) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) who have continued, along with the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile), to raise the need for resilient transport links in the south-west. I gently say to the hon. Gentleman that his Government previously promised his community £31 million of funding for rail resilience works, including at Cowley bridge outside Exeter—money that failed to appear in last year’s autumn statement and which was brought forward only after the devastation at Dawlish in February this year. However, he makes the important point that today’s vote is not about choosing between HS2 and other rail projects, and his great western main line will be electrified over the next five years. The Government have repeatedly raised expectations in the south-west and said that money will be found to make the transport infrastructure more resilient. Perhaps in his closing remarks the Minister will tell the House when we can expect some of those scenario planning options, which I know Network Rail is acting on—I think there are three scenarios at the moment.
I will conclude my remarks, because I know that other Members want to speak.
High-speed rail in Britain is nothing new. The great western line, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was the first high-speed line, taking travellers from London to Oxford in just over an hour in the 1850s—twice as fast as the competition. HS2 follows in Brunel’s great tradition of railway innovation, and we should learn from that ambition for our railways. HS2 is our opportunity to connect our cities, rebalance the economy, and deliver a railway fit for the 21st century. Let us continue to work across the House to realise that ambitious vision for our country.
I beg to move an amendment, to leave out from “That” to the end of the Question and add:
“this House, while accepting the need to increase overall railway capacity, declines to give a second reading to the Bill because there has been inadequate opportunity for Members and those affected by the Bill to consider and respond to the report of the Assessor appointed under Standing Order 224A, which was not published until shortly before the Easter recess; because assessments of the relative costs and benefits of works envisaged by the Bill have been repeatedly unconvincing and still fail to demonstrate a sound economic case for the proposed works, particularly in relation to other options; because the Secretary of State has declined to publish the Major Projects Authority report on High Speed 2, with the result that Members have been denied access to highly significant evidence on the viability of the project; because the case for starting further high-speed rail construction in this country with a line from London to the West Midlands rather than in the north of England has not been convincingly made out; because the Bill will cause widespread environmental disruption to many areas of the country including areas of outstanding natural beauty; and because the Bill should be preceded by proper consideration of and a strategy for integrating high-speed rail with other transport modes including the UK’s international airport hubs.”
This cross-party amendment commences by stating that we accept the need to increase overall railway capacity, and I make my remarks against that background. It is good to follow the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh), but I am afraid my speech will break the cosy consensus over this project between those on the two Front Benches, which will be no surprise to anybody in this Chamber.
It has been four years since Labour first announced HS2, and I want to thank the vast armies of people from all the conservation groups, including the Chiltern Countryside group and the Chilterns Conservation board, lobby groups such as HS2 Action Alliance, district and parish councils, individuals, and volunteer engineers and county councillors, who have contributed to trying to put this project under scrutiny. In Buckinghamshire I am most grateful for the support of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington), and to Mr Speaker himself. All our constituencies are affected by this project.
I believe that more than 50 Members have applied to speak about this project, and in the short time available I hope to register the risks associated with it and the pain and anguish that it continues to bring to so many people, and to ask the House whether this is really the top priority and the best way to spend £50 billion of taxpayers’ money. I started as a nimby, but over time I have come to look at this project and I do not believe it is the answer to the UK’s transport issues.
Let us consider some of those issues. Originally, the costs totalled about £20 billion, yet they have now doubled to £42.6 billion and we should not forget that that does not include the trains, which are budgeted at £7.5 billion. An apparent leak from the Treasury to the Financial Times estimated that the costs as they stand could run to £73 billion or more. In fact, such high risks are attached to the project, that the contingency is £14 billion. We are now on the fifth business case for phase 1 and the benefit-cost ratio is now 1.4, so for every £1 of taxpayers’ money spent, only £1.40 comes back. If we strip away the flawed assumptions and replace them with a more realistic value of time, the true benefit-cost ratio falls way below £1, and there would actually be a loss to the taxpayer.
I am sorry; I do not have enough time to give way.
Economists claim that the benefits of HS2 are also exaggerated. Some 79% of those benefits arose from the value allocated to time savings by businesses assuming no valuable work was done on trains and a huge increase in business travellers. If that is now not correct or has been overestimated, the benefits fall again considerably. Looking back, HS1 predicted 28 million passengers per annum—the reality is 9 million. Should we really trust the projections by the Department for Transport? The National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee have already raised significant concerns about the project and the passenger projections for HS2, but despite that the figures have not been revised.
I am awfully sorry, but if I give way to the right hon. Gentleman I will have to give way to others, and so many people want to speak that I will eat into the time allowed to them. The right hon. Gentleman can make his own speech.
The Secretary of State for Transport claims that HS2 is essential to deal with an impending capacity crisis on the west coast main line. However, the available figures show that intercity trains on the west coast main line coming into Euston are on average just 52% full in peak hours. There is severe commuter overcrowding on many commuter lines into all our major cities, and HS2 will do very little, or in many cases nothing at all, to relieve that. Is the commute into Euston really the priority over other areas?
The big picture is the claim that HS2 will heal the north-south divide. Even today the Institute of Economic Affairs has again questioned the promises of an economic transformation of the north. There is no academic peer-reviewed evidence to show that the presence of a high-speed rail line will lead to increased economic output at the levels suggested in what is now a questionable report from KPMG, commissioned by HS2. The report claims that HS2 would bring benefits of £15 billion per year. However, it assumes that rail connectivity is the only variable driving local economic growth. We know that that is simply not the case; if it were, Ebbsfleet in Kent would be a boom town.
However, London could be the winner. The majority of academic evidence available in other countries shows that where a high-speed rail line connects a dominant city to a less dominant town or city, it is the dominant city that gains. HS2 will suck skills and businesses to London rather than to our regions. If HS2 had a viable business case, it should have been built starting in the north, connecting the northern cities to each other and then eventually to London.
We are getting a project that has markedly changed since it was first proposed. HS2 was going to allow someone to jump on a train in Manchester and travel straight to Brussels, but that has now been ditched. The direct link to Heathrow has of course now been dropped, but in any event why are we not going for maximum connectivity to our airports in the south by finalising our high-speed rail policy after the result of the Howard Davies commission?
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield would also like assurances from the Government on the so-called Heathrow spur, on which he still has many questions. Even the much vaunted connections between the towns and cities are far from perfect. In fact, HS2 connects only four city centres. The proposals for Euston are not settled and Old Oak Common will require an enormous amount of work to connect it to the rest of London’s transport infrastructure. The HS2 station in Birmingham is a 15 minute walk through an underpass to Birmingham New Street, where the rest of the city’s trains come in. If we look to the plans for Sheffield Meadowhall, Toton and Derby, the HS2 stations will be miles outside city centres. The latest business case included £8.3 billion of cuts to existing rail services, affecting many towns and cities, and the KPMG report showed that many local economies away from the line of the route would suffer. The main objective to shorten journey times drastically has now been questioned by calls from the Environmental Audit Committee to decrease average speeds. That means that HS2 may not even achieve its original aims on either speed or connectivity.
Finally, HS2 is not really green. A meagre 1% of HS2 passengers are predicted to transfer from air, and just 4% from cars. The remaining 95% of passengers are predicted to be new journeys or transfers from less polluting modes of transport, and that is before we examine closely the vast amount of power needed to power the railway. If the project goes ahead, it is important that we protect the environment and the people who will be affected. People expect the project to be implemented to the highest standards, ensuring the best environmental protections and giving support to the communities and individuals who are severely affected.
The Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty is in my constituency, as everybody now knows. It is known as the lungs of London and is the last large expanse of protected unspoilt countryside in the south-east of England. There are more than 50 million visits annually, and many of the villages, hamlets, ancient woodlands and hedgerows remain largely unchanged since Norman times. The Chilterns is designated under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, and the Government have a legal duty to adhere to those protections: anything less would make a mockery of all the Government’s pledges to protect our natural environment.
The Environmental Audit Committee’s report of 7 April was highly critical of the project and said that the Government have “significant work to do” to prove that they are prioritising environmental protection. Some 40% of the route is yet to be examined. If the project does proceed, I now believe that the only way to mitigate properly the damage to the AONB is to fully tunnel the whole area. The demand for longer tunnelling through the AONB was the most frequently raised concern in the responses to the environmental statement, with more than 8,000 people raising it as an issue. The line will already have a devastating impact on the AONB, including destroying 10.2 hectares of irreplaceable ancient woodland, as well as communities such as South Heath and Wendover.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury and I have worked together on considering HS2 and the long tunnelling option. He has said to me that if he is not satisfied with the arrangements for mitigation of the AONB and compensation, particularly where Dunsmore, Wendover Dean and Wendover are concerned, he will join me in the Lobby and vote against the project on Report and Third Reading. As it stands, Buckinghamshire will take all the pain and have no gain. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield has constituents in Denham who remain entirely unpersuaded by the arguments put forward both in respect of the generality of the proposal for HS2 and of the detail. The impact of the Colne valley viaduct travelling through a site of special scientific interest, with no details on how the noise will impact on the local community, is a source of real anxiety. His constituents have argued for further tunnelling under the Colne. It is important to remember that the voices of our Buckinghamshire colleagues in Government are as equally important as the voices of Back Benchers, if not more so. I want allies inside the Government, as well as on the Back Benches, as we scrutinise this project.
On compensation, we have had no fewer than five consultations and still those people whose homes and livelihoods have been devastated by HS2 have had to wait for over four years for the final compensation scheme to be announced. The eventual compensation announcement on 9 April was not popular. I know that the concerns are shared by Mr Speaker. He believes that the fact there is no provision for homeowners whose properties are further than 300 metres from the line but who have seen their property fall in value as a result, is unacceptable and so do I.
I am sorry.
People blighted by HS2 will not only be negatively affected by the line itself, but by the construction, noise, traffic, impact on our blue light services, decrease in tourism, and the disruption to our waterways; I need not go on. The effect of these has not been explored fully to any adequate degree.
Lastly, what worries me most, and what is in my reasoned amendment, is this: if the project goes ahead, this House should be aware of the risks. Many people are concerned at what I consider to be the wholly deplorable position of the Government in not publishing the Major Projects Authority’s reports into the project. The Information Commissioner is now challenging the veto placed on it by the Government in the courts and maintains that the release of the documents is in the public interest, as do I. The reports rate the project as amber/red, meaning that successful delivery is “in doubt” because of major risks or issues in key areas. The Government expect the support of Members to carry the Bill, so they should be expected to produce this information and make it accessible to Members of this House. All projects carry risk. It is unacceptable that we should not be aware of the risks when we are spending such vast sums of taxpayers’ money.
I will be voting for my reasoned amendment to halt the project and I hope that colleagues will join me in the Lobby. I know that many colleagues will abstain, but I hope that the vote tonight—even though this is David and Goliath and for once Goliath is going to win—will ensure that, as the Bill passes through Committee, our colleagues who are scrutinising it will be able to support the maximum environmental protection and compensation for those communities and people who will be paying the highest price for this project with their homes, businesses and local countryside. They will be gaining none of the benefit. Whoever joins me tonight in the Lobby, I am grateful for their support. I do not expect that we will win the vote, but my goodness we are giving notice to the Government, and any future Government in charge of this project, that it will be scrutinised inch by inch.
I welcome the Bill to start the building of the high-speed line from London to the west midlands. High Speed 2 was first put forward in 2009 by Lord Adonis when he was Secretary of State for Transport. Since then there has been considerable and very necessary discussion and debate. The project has all-party backing; it is now time to fire the starting gun.
This must be just the first stage in building a high-speed network for the UK, with phase 2 expanding the network to the north. It must be built as a major addition to the national network, linked with investment in the existing classic line so that essential increased capacity and connectivity, together with the potential for regeneration, are realised. Increasing capacity for both passengers and freight is required on both the east coast main line and the west coast main line. The figures released last week by the Office of Rail Regulation showed a phenomenal doubling of rail passenger journeys in recent years, together with a vast increase in freight on rail. In the past decade, rail passenger journeys have increased on average by 5% per annum and freight has expanded. On some routes, the increase in passenger journeys has been more than 70% over that decade. That increase is expected to continue, and the demand for freight is increasing.
The growing demand for rail from both passengers and freight is already causing problems on the west coast main line, where there are insufficient rail paths available to meet the needs of the new services that are required, and delays are already occurring. The Transport Committee has addressed this issue on a number of occasions. In our first inquiry in 2011, we looked at alternatives to building a new high speed network. We looked specifically at upgrading the west coast main line as an alternative. The Committee was very clear that that will not provide the step change that is required. The £9 billion west coast main line investment of 2008 has brought essential improvements, but it has not created enough capacity for the future.
I was pleased to see that the recent reports from both Sir David Higgins and Lord Deighton took forward the very specific recommendations made by the Transport Committee to ensure that the best possible value is obtained from this necessary investment across the nation. Those recommendations include building a line, together with continuing investment in the classic line at the same time as the new capacity is built.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady. As over this weekend the marketing materials for the current railway said that one could travel to Birmingham for £7.50 and to Liverpool or Manchester for £12.50, is she worried that when this huge amount of capacity comes on stream, if it does, there will be even more intense price competition and huge disappointment in the fare revenue needed for the scheme?
One of my concerns is that if the new line is not built, the problems of capacity will lead to whatever Government are in power being tempted to increase rail fares to manage demand.
Further recommendations from the Select Committee taken up by Sir David Higgins and Lord Deighton include ensuring wider access to the new network—
I am sorry; I am limited in time to allow other hon. Members to participate.
Further recommendations include ensuring wider access to the new network and providing new services on the freed line—perhaps we should designate those as high speed Britain projects—together with promoting regional economic strategies with local enterprise partnerships and others, making sure that the potential for economic regeneration along the lines and beyond is recognised.
High Speed 2 will improve connectivity, but that improvement is not solely in relation to connecting the midlands and the north to London. It is also about improving the links between the major cities of the north and the midlands, between cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds and Liverpool. The potential benefits of High Speed 2 are immense. The current benefit-cost ratio estimate for the full network is 2.3. That means £2.30 in benefit generated for every £1 invested, but those figures do not take into account the very real potential for major economic regeneration. It is the major cities which recognise what that potential might be, and they are among the strongest advocates of the new line. Indeed, the research commissioned by the core cities themselves identifies around 400,000 new jobs that would come from the development of High Speed 2.
Little attention has been given to the major potential for employment across the country from building and operating HS2. According to the Government, this could provide over 3,000 jobs in running the railway, and more than 24,500 jobs in construction, together with 400,000 additional jobs through regeneration. It is essential that the Department for Transport produces a strategy for procurement to deliver maximum opportunities for British firms. The Department must be more active in doing that. The proposals for a new skills college will be extremely important in widening those opportunities.
Those who oppose High Speed 2 discuss the size of the investment required. Indeed, HS2 involves a major investment of around £50 billion over about 20 years. Costs must be controlled to secure value for money, but the benefits must be maximised. I understand that some hon. Members will have justifiable local concerns which should be addressed, but these do not outweigh the strategic case for HS2. Without HS2, the west coast main line will become increasingly overloaded. Commuters will suffer from overcrowding and there will be fewer passenger services on the line than the public require and the market could sustain. Future Governments will be tempted to use price to control demand. Growth in rail freight will be stifled, leading to more lorries on the roads. Perhaps more significantly, the chance to reshape the national economy and boost growth in the north and the midlands will have been lost. This is an opportunity to show vision and commitment through a bold investment decision. It must be grasped.
Order. The House will be aware that a very large number of colleagues wish to speak—over 50 Members have indicated that they wish to speak in the debate. I am therefore obliged to impose a time limit of five minutes for Back-Bench speeches. Members will be aware that the five minutes is increased if they take interventions. Of course Members need to take interventions, or we will not have a debate, but I ask them, if at all possible, to keep within the five-minute limit out of consideration for other Members of the House. I am certain that we will have an exemplary performance to begin with from Mr Simon Burns.
I support the Bill and high-speed rail. Having spent a considerable amount of time taking the earlier stages through this House, I fully appreciate that a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends and Opposition Members have terrible troubles with regard to their constituencies because of the line of route and the impact the railway might have. I respect them for the way in which they are carrying out their duties as assiduous constituency MPs to fight for the best deal for their constituents, but I believe passionately that it is crucial that there are major infrastructure projects in this country to make sure that we keep ahead of our competitors, and that we deal with issues of connectivity and rail and road transport in this country.
Too often, there is a tendency for people immediately to oppose a major infrastructure project. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, there was opposition to the M1 in the late 1950s. If we had listened to that opposition, we would never have had our motorway network and this country would have suffered considerably. The same is true of High Speed 1, which I remember when I first became a Member of this House. There were even great objections to the building of the original railways in this country in the 19th century, when those who were opposed to them said that they would terrify country folk, turn cows’ milk sour and stop hens laying, and that travelling at speeds of more than 25 miles per hour would cause engines to combust and passengers, amazingly, to disintegrate. That is an attitude that one has had to put up with.
To me, the overwhelming reason why High Speed 2 is needed, building on the success of High Speed 1, is capacity. Of course, greater journey speeds are a good thing, but the need is for capacity, capacity, capacity, as a former Prime Minister said in another field of policy, the reason being that the west coast main line will run out of capacity in the mid-2020s. We in this House would be negligent if we were not taking measures to deal with that prospective problem. We must also deal with current problems. In 2011, for people travelling by train to London, there was overcrowding of 4,000 passengers, and going into Birmingham, overcrowding of 5,000 passengers. That is before the west coast main line capacity is used up. The beauty of this scheme is that it will unleash capacity on the west coast main line by taking from it passengers who want to travel to London. Some people have said, as they have during this debate, “Well what is it going to do for Buckinghamshire, Warwickshire or Staffordshire, where there may not be a station?” What it will do is release and create capacity on the west coast main line, so that those who want to travel between towns and cities on that route or into London can get a seat and have a better journey experience. That is the crucial thing.
We also have to bear it in mind that our competitors are racing ahead with high-speed railways and that we cannot afford to stand still. I will make another plea. When the Secretary of State’s review is completed, I hope the commitment is given that High Speed 2 will form High Speed 3, into Glasgow and across to Edinburgh. I also see it as a spine, so that if there is a need for a high-speed railway in south Wales, north Wales or the south-west of England into the east of the country, we can have it. This is a building block.
Yes, we have to take environmental protections with the building of the railway, but I urge my hon. Friends not to lose sight of the big picture of what this country needs and demands to improve our infrastructure and ensure that we are streets ahead of our competitors, give a better journey time and capability for passengers, and get more and more freight off our congested roads and on to our railways. For those reasons, I will be wholeheartedly supporting the Government and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.
In the ridiculously short time available, I will have to confine my remarks to the impact on my constituency.
I should point out the ridiculous situation whereby the hybrid Bill before the House proposes major works in my constituency, none of which the Government now intend to carry out. The Bill also provides for a link from HS2 to HS1. That ridiculous proposal has been abandoned altogether. The Bill provides for the option 8 design of the station at Euston. That ridiculous proposal, we are told, is shortly to be abandoned, but the design, cost and construction timetable for the alternative to it have not yet been worked out, so there’s nowt to vote on.
The neighbourhoods to the east and west of Euston station and its railway approaches are densely populated with a variety of uses. Most of the streets are overwhelmingly residential. They are home to large numbers of residents living in high densities in settled and varied communities, with a wide range of incomes, housing tenures, jobs, ethnic origins and religions. Most of those residents want to continue to live there. They rightly resent patronising references to their neighbourhood by the much lauded chair of HS2 Ltd and have asked me to remind him and everyone else that where they live is not like the Olympic site. It is not a brownfield site, ripe for redevelopment.
The HS2 project as now proposed would wreak havoc on those neighbourhoods. It would expand Euston station by 75 metres to the west, demolish the homes of 500 people and subject 5,000 more to living for a decade next to the construction site or beside roads that will be made intolerable by the heavy goods vehicles servicing the main site and the 14 satellite construction compounds. No consideration has been given to the cumulative harm that all this would do to the quality of life of my constituents. The proposed working hours regime enables work to proceed at any hour of the day or night. Every little park and play space near the site is to be taken over. Small, locally owned and locally staffed businesses, especially cafes, shops and restaurants in Drummond street, face financial disaster. Between 40% and 70% of their business is passing trade from pedestrians going to and from Euston station, which, for the duration of the works—10 years—will be cut off by a solid, 3.6 metre-high security fence.
The people I represent believe that HS2 should not go ahead. Failing that, they believe that HS2 should terminate at Old Oak Common, at least temporarily, to test its capacity and permit the assessment of any capacity needed at Euston to be based on experience rather than the guesswork used so far.
No, I do not think I should.
If the Government insist on Euston, local people want the new station to be designed to fit within the curtilage of the existing station. HS2 has failed to properly appraise such alternatives, including the double-deck down design put forward by local professionals, who also want the bulk of the space created above the station to be devoted to housing that local people can afford or low-cost units available to spin-off companies developing and exploiting products of the biomedical research organisations in the area.
In December 2010, the right hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond), then Transport Secretary, told the House:
“it is right and proper that individuals who suffer serious financial loss in the national interest should be compensated.”—[Official Report, 20 December 2010; Vol. 520, c. 1207.]
That promise has not been kept. The arrangements for compensation in my constituency are infinitely worse than those in the rural areas. Right-to-buy leaseholders—Mrs Thatcher’s children—will get compensation, but not enough to buy an equivalent property in the area. People living next to the site—within 5 metres, not 500 metres—whose houses are not demolished will not be entitled to a penny of compensation. That is ridiculous. Neither financial nor practical mitigation measures are being offered to enable the diverse communities in Euston to survive 10 years of turmoil. They do not object to the railway; they object to 10 years of destruction.
Five years ago, I would have thought it incredible that I would probably be in the same Lobby as the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson), not united in some unholy alliance, but instead united in opposing my Government’s Bill. This, for me, is a first. Five years ago, the leader of the Conservative party, now the Prime Minister, supported HS2 in principle, and so did I. Five years ago, my right hon. Friend said that the Adonis route was profoundly wrong—that its implementation would be damaging to the environment, damaging to local areas that could otherwise enjoy peace and quiet, and damaging to the nation as a whole. Yet here we are, five years on, with the Government supporting the original Adonis plan. I find that quite extraordinary.
I totally agree with the arguments for HS2. There is a major capacity problem. Every day some 5,000 to 10,000 people arrive at Euston standing, because there are just not enough seats on the trains to let them sit. However, I agree with the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras and, indeed, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, when he argues that there is not enough capacity at present for those disembarking at Euston to travel across London. How on earth can that be sustained when, in addition, something like 30 trains an hour will be arriving from the midlands and the north when High Speed 2 is completed?
I believe that the implementation of HS2 is deeply flawed. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) has already pointed out, the promises of breakfast in Brum and lunch in Paris with a through route have all gone. There will be no connection between the midlands and the north and HS1 and the channel tunnel. Meanwhile, the Department for Transport, which is supposed to be an integrated, joined-up Department, has, quite rightly, commissioned the review by Sir Howard Davies of which airport is to be the main airport for London. We will not know its conclusions until after the next general election, yet HS2’s route is already fixed and we do not know which airport it will link to. Indeed, it probably will not link with any airport, like HS1. This is a deeply flawed system.
What about compensation, a topic that has been raised by colleagues? What about constituents in Lichfield who are facing spoil heaps for five or six years, as all the soil from the tunnels in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham is transported up to Lichfield to support giant viaducts that we are going to have built? Where will that be stored? In Lichfield. There will be no compensation because the spoil dumps are being regarded as temporary only. Believe me, for someone who is 70 or 80 years old and living next to a temporary mountain, with dumper trucks running by every day, five or seven years can be a lifetime. There should be compensation, and I hope that the hybrid Bill Committee will consider that. I have already talked about the problems of disembarking at Euston and homes being blighted, but what about the arbitrary distances? Beyond a certain distance, there will be no compensation. Absolutely no account has been taken of the local topography; whether someone will be affected by HS2 will depend on whether there are hills or the land is flat.
So it is that, with the greatest regret and for the first time in my membership of this House, I am going to support the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham and vote against my own party on such an important piece of legislation. I hope—I say this for the benefit of the Whip—that it will be the last time I do so.
I have three points to make on this important Bill: one about the economic analysis, one about the capacity, and one about the speed of delivery of the project.
We have heard a lot about the benefits, or lack of benefits, from the project. All sorts of different studies have been done, but the one thing we can almost guarantee is that when the project is brought to completion it will be found that none of those studies is accurate. They are studies that the Treasury demands before it agrees to expenditure. So what we need to do is look at the real world scenario and see what people who are running cities and people who have experience of projects like this one are saying.
Those people who do not think HS2 is worth doing and that it will not benefit cities in the north should produce evidence that there is a single leader or mayor of a major city in this country who wants slower connections to anywhere else in the country. The case being made by my hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent South (Robert Flello) and for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham) is not that the project is bad and will not bring economic benefits; it is that they would like their areas to have the economic benefits from the project—and there will be economic benefits in many areas.
It is a relative figure from a general uplift.
We should look at the experience of countries that have high-speed lines, such as France, Spain and Germany. The most direct comparator is the line between Lyon and Paris. When the Transport Committee went there in 2011, it found, and was told by the director-general of SNCF, that both cities had benefited from it. All the economic benefit had not been sucked out of Lyon and into Paris; both ends had benefited. The same is true of the lines between Frankfurt and Cologne and between Lille and other parts of France. That does not just happen because the line is built, however; it happens if there is a strategy of the Government and the city governments to make sure there is benefit from that high-speed route. It relies on active involvement from local and city government to make sure all the benefit of that investment is captured.
No, as I have given way once and many Members want to speak in this debate.
There are people with genuine and serious constituency interests in this debate, but some of the interests lined up against the project are vested interests. Referring back to what the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns) said, I wrote an article recently about HS2 in which I guessed that when the railways started, in the early and mid-19th century, they would have been opposed by the stagecoach owners and bargees at that time. The editor of the journal I wrote the article for found a cartoon of the 1830s depicting horses that were unemployed queuing up. So there are vested interests against this project, as well as constituency interests.
My second point is about capacity. The point has been well made that this project is driven by capacity issues and it will have economic benefits. The question that people who want to stop this project have to answer is this: are they really saying to our country that, by the middle of this century, we are going to be relying on railways that were built in the middle of the 19th century and motorways that were built in the middle of the 20th century for our transport infrastructure? There has been very little investment in any of our transport infrastructure—motorways, roads and airport runways—over the last 30 or 40 years. That would be a disgrace to the United Kingdom and it would mean that we fell further behind our competitors.
The final point I want to make has two aspects. I sympathise with the arguments made by those Members who have constituency interests and are opposing this Bill, and I hope the Secretary of State will listen carefully, because my experience of being involved in more than one major infrastructure project is that if we pay more and earlier in compensation, we save in the long term and the projects happen more quickly. A lot of the resistance comes from people who think they are being treated unfairly. So I hope the Secretary of State will listen.
The other side of the coin has already been referred to. The Higgins report calls for the project to be speeded up and I agree with that, but I think we can do still better. Building north to south as well as south to north and speeding up the project would bring more immediate benefits. Whatever we say about the cost-benefit analysis, all the analysis shows it is not the actual quantum of money—£25 billion, £30 billion or £40 billion—that counts; it is that we will get more economic benefit back than the money we put in. So the quicker we do it, the better.
It is a refreshing change to speak in a debate on a Bill that has overall cross-party support. My party was, I think, the first to commit to high-speed rail, before the heady days of Government ever came along. [Hon. Members: “Where are your party colleagues?”] I am their representative.
Several colleagues have already mentioned the economic benefits to the United Kingdom of high-speed rail. Nationally, it will create £50 billion-worth of economic benefits to the UK and 400,000 jobs, of which 70% will be created outside London, but I will focus my remarks on the benefits that I envisage for my own region, the west midlands.
My region will be the first to benefit from high-speed rail, and local councils tell me that it is a once in a century opportunity. By 2026, HS2 will reduce the journey time between London and Birmingham to 31 minutes. It will put 45 million people within two hours of Birmingham airport. With the new runway extension, this will create a synergy that will enhance and ensure investment, tourism and jobs.
The west coast main line is the biggest mixed-use railway in Europe. It has 12 operators and carries a quarter of the UK’s freight. Passenger journeys have increased by 50% in the last decade and now stand at 1.46 billion per year. From Birmingham to London at peak times, there are 162 passengers for every 100 seats. Declaration of interests notwithstanding, that is no fun. HS2 will help to ease that pressure, and by doing so it will help the environment.
Research by Greengauge 21 suggests that freeing up capacity on the west coast main line will improve the service that it can offer. This will encourage more people to shift from road to rail travel, which emits half as much carbon per passenger kilometre. HS2 is often described as carbon neutral, but this research suggests that that understates its benefits to the environment. The environmental statement consultation is now closed, and there will no doubt be more to say about that when the Government publish their response, but I would ask the Secretary of State to pay particular heed to the concerns of the National Trust in relation to Hartwell house, Coombe Hill, Claydon house and the Waddesdon estate.
The west midlands were hit particularly hard by the recession in 2009. Despite significant drops in unemployment, which are thanks to the tough economic decisions taken by the coalition Government, joblessness there is still above the national average. Birmingham council estimates that HS2 could bring 50,000 extra jobs to the region, raising economic output by £4 billion every year, but we are investing in the existing rail network, too. This Government are putting more money into our infrastructure than any Government since Victorian times, and electrifying 80 times more track than the last Labour Government did. I believe that infrastructure is absolutely key to the future economic prosperity of our country. In particular, it will help the building industry, ensuring more consistent growth instead of the boom and bust that we have seen in the race for short-term results by previous Governments.
Our rail network was mostly built in the mid-19th century, and we are already outgrowing our infrastructure while the rest of the world is overtaking us. Railway journey times in the UK are actually slower today than they were 15 years ago. Meanwhile, Japan has had the bullet train for 40 years. Turkey will soon have over 1,500 miles of high-speed rail track, compared with just 67 in the United Kingdom. HS2 is a long-term investment for our country’s future. If we do not invest in it now, the next generation will be forced to rely on a railway network that is 200 years old. We do not want to be another short-termist Government; we want to leave a legacy that will continue for generations and secure the prosperity of our country well into this century and beyond. For all these reasons, we believe that this project should and must go ahead.
I want to compare the relative wealth of the home counties, including Buckinghamshire—with Chesham and Amersham and many other constituencies—with that of the north-west, using figures provided to me by the House of Commons Library. Sixty years ago, the GDP per person in the home counties was just below that of Britain as a whole, and it was identical to that of the north-west. In the four and a half decades to 2001, a large gap opened up. By 2001, the home counties were on average nearly 20% better off than the average for mainland Great Britain, while the north-west had fallen back relatively to more than 10 percentage points below the average, 30 percentage points below the home counties. Similar data apply to the north of England as well.
Part of this widening gap is a consequence of factors that were, to a great extent, beyond the control of any Government—not least the fact that mass manufacturing migrated to the east of the globe. It was also due to factors within our control, however. I am not suggesting that, in the intervening period, the great cities of the north—Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle—have sat and wallowed in self-pity. When my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer) was leader of Manchester city council, for example, that city pulled itself up by its bootstraps. A big gap remains, however.
Among many others, there is one significant reason for that gap. Ironically, a clue is to be found in today’s report by the Institute of Economic Affairs that is otherwise noteworthy only for its internal incoherence. In the report, the institute comments on the regeneration of London’s docklands, which it says
“has been subsidised by taxpayers through large sums spent on government transport schemes and other projects”.
It lists some of those projects. They include
“the Jubilee Line Extension, Docklands Light Railway…the south-east leg of Crossrail”,
as well as many road schemes. This is the same engine of growth that has benefited Buckinghamshire and the home counties, and that has led to the widening gap.
I do not blame any Member for speaking up for their constituency. I have no direct constituency interest in this matter. In any configuration, the line will not go through Blackburn, but I believe that it will greatly benefit us. I part company with those who have spoken in defence of their constituencies, however, when they try to elevate their understandable constituency concerns into some overall economic case against the project; that is frankly disingenuous.
The amendment speaks of its acceptance of the need to increase overall railway capacity. Had I been able to make an intervention on the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) in her untimed speech, I would have asked her, given that she accepts that need for increased capacity, how she intended to achieve it in the absence of HS2. I have been in the Chamber since the moment the debate started, and everyone has accepted that the west coast main line is full to capacity—[Interruption.] I hear someone say no. They have obviously not been on that line.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that one of the biggest problems of capacity relates to the feed into London? That is our biggest capacity problem. A lot of people have said that we should start in the north, but although that is tempting, the biggest capacity problem is in the south.
I accept that. I came into the House a long time ago, when the line to Manchester and Liverpool was so slow that there was still a need for sleeper trains. They were very reliable, because they went slowly. I accept that for those travelling from the north-west and from the midlands, the main capacity constraints are those south of Rugby. The amendment proclaims a need for greater capacity, but it fails to provide further and better particulars on how to achieve it.
One reason that the west coast main line upgrade took so long and cost so much was that it had to be added on to the existing infrastructure. That was far more disruptive and costly than the provision of additional lines. I look forward to hearing alternative suggestions, but the only way I have heard of providing additional capacity for passengers and, critically, for freight is through the provision of additional two-track capacity. That would be far less disruptive than the construction of the M40 or any other motorway, and it would produce benefits to constituents in the home counties, as well as to those in the north and north-west, by relieving the present capacity constraints.
I am passionately in favour of the HS2 proposals—all the way: phase 1 and phase 2—but they can go ahead only on an all-party basis. I welcome the decisions of the Cabinet and the shadow Cabinet to back the Bill now and for whoever wins the election to back it, the other side of the election.
When the House last considered this matter, I abstained because there were too many unanswered questions about the proposals. There still are. The proposed route of HS2 in phase 2 beyond Crewe will come into the Eddisbury constituency, passing through the residential settlements of Stanthorne, Bostock and Whatcroft, and through many successful farms before turning sharply eastwards towards Manchester airport and Manchester itself, where the so-called high-speed trains will have to slow down, possibly to less than 100 mph. I have received extensive representations from many of the 140 constituents directly and adversely affected by these proposals, including those whose homes will be demolished and those who live close to the proposed route. The consultation on this section closed at the end of January and we have yet to hear the outcome of that process, which might involve a change of route. I hope it will, on engineering, build cost, train speed, performance and cost-efficiency grounds.
The evidence to support the claims for HS2 is in very thin supply, so we are forced to assess and represent constituents’ interests, set against something of a national punt. In Eddisbury, a significant number of people want HS2 stopped; some are broadly in favour, although not on the higher-speed grounds, as the saving in journey time from Crewe to London will be deeply underwhelming, and most people are able to work on the train; and others want assurances and indemnities from the Government, which the Government have not yet chosen to give, on engineering integrity, cost, environmental protections of habitat, ancient forestry, wildlife, watercourses, noise, safety and, not least, full as well as fair compensation. We already know that part of the compensation problem is that the definition of “severe hardship” is too narrow to reflect the reality of the plight of some of my constituents, who are already suffering. That applies not least in the case of an elderly couple who wish to move out to join their children but have found that they are unable to sell at anything near a fair price. Their dreams have been thrown into jeopardy and they are now stuck.
A key argument that remains unexamined about the proposals for Eddisbury is fundamentally one of engineering. The geography and geology of the land north of Crewe comprise the extraordinarily fertile and verdant Cheshire plain, much of which is salt marsh and its geological legacy. Our salt marshes are notoriously unstable and difficult to build over or through. On behalf of the constituents who have taken the lead in coming to see me about their HS2 concerns, I have been trying in recent weeks to secure a meeting with the chief engineers from the Department and HS2 Ltd, in order to make a presentation with my constituents, who have examined, in expert engineering terms, the evidence to back up their concerns. Until now, requests for such a meeting have been rebuffed, but over the weekend I received a guarantee from the Secretary of State that my constituents and I will now get a full and proper opportunity to meet the most senior engineers and thus to present our evidence. Do not get me wrong, it is not that salt marshes cannot be built over; they just cannot be built over at anything like the cost and risk currently envisaged. They are inherently unstable, so the price will be enormous and will threaten the maximum £45 billion figure. That is why it will be appropriate for me to abstain tonight in order to allow that process of engagement to be genuine, rather than to pre-judge the outcome. I very much hope the Government will listen with an open mind, rather than simply seek to persuade us of their preconceived notions.
Let me make it absolutely clear that I support the aspiration that Crewe—it is just outside my constituency but affects my constituents—should be an inter-modal transport hub, as part of our local aspirational strategic growth plan. Even the proponents of that do not make it conditional or dependent on HS2 coming through Crewe. We should support it in any event, although if HS2 were to come to Crewe it would help it.
My final point is simply that no serious assessment has been made by the Government, despite the many representations I have sought to make, in respect of increasing capacity on the west coast main line and making the comparison with other countries’ solutions to these problems. Of course, the double-decking of carriages is one such solution, but it is completely pooh-poohed by the Government because they do not want to hear that a technological solution is available. This is not about raising the bridges, as we had to do for the catenaries for electrification in the 1970s. The concrete technology—I know a little about it—is so sophisticated that lowering the line to create the space to have double-decker carriages which would be able to go along the current west coast main line, suitably maintained, will increase the capacity and deliver the results at a fraction of the cost of HS2. I very much hope that by engaging in a technical and engineering sense, the Government will have an open mind on the alternatives, so that we can assess whether HS2 truly provides value for money for the taxpayer. I say that because spending £50 billion on a new railway line is a very big risk to take when there may be genuine alternatives and when we are trying to increase our national competitiveness by providing a secure system of transport for the whole country.
I am a strong supporter of HS2. It is a great relief to me that this country has seemingly, at long last, moved on from the apparent belief that the only material we could use in this country was aspic. We have to begin to restructure our national economy, to narrow the economic divide between north and south, and to break the golden magnet that is London and the south-east. If I look at my constituency now, before one shovel has gone into the earth, I see that those people upon whom my constituents depend—for example, to police our streets, to teach our children and to nurse us in our hospitals—can no longer afford to live there or near to their place of employment because of ever-widening earning inequalities. That is why it is vital that this project has cross-party support.
Along with every MP in this Chamber who has spoken today, I will detail the concerns of my constituents. They, in common with the constituents of everyone else who has spoken, have concerns about compensation and congestion. My constituents are particularly concerned about the idea of vast lorries going around highly populated streets, both residential and those with businesses, carrying spoil up ever-narrower roads—Adelaide road and England’s lane are the two favourites, but they are the roads along which these lorries should never travel. My constituents there and elsewhere in the constituency put forward the reasonable question: why can the spoil not be removed by rail?
We have seen an encouraging regrouping in respect of community concerns, as a group known by the acronym “SHOUT” has been formed. It comprises the tenants and residents of the Alexandra and Ainsworth estate—Rowley way—the Langtry estate and the Belsize residents association. They share common concerns, not only about compensation and congestion, which I have touched on, but about noise, destruction and the effects on several schools and the sheltered housing in the area, quite apart from the hundreds and hundreds of flats in those areas and the road closures that will take place during the construction of this essential beam in restructuring our national economies. We will also lose a nature reserve—two thirds of a hectare of woodland in which bats breed, and there are wintering birds and invertebrates. We know—it has already been proven—that the more densely populated the city, the more vital its green spaces are.
Both those who have formed SHOUT and the Queen’s Park residents association are most exercised about air vents—about shafts. Constituents of mine who are highly trained and skilled engineers have been saying to me that these vents could be moved elsewhere. The vent proposed for Queen’s Park would absolutely stop a multi-million regeneration project for that part of my constituency that could transform lives, and not just of the people who live in my constituency. I have never regarded any constituency as being an island entire unto itself. People live in my constituency and people from other constituencies work there—I have already touched on the point that we are all dependent on the services of others who may not live next door to us.
So I sincerely hope that the Government will take very seriously all the issues that have been raised here tonight. I also hope that they will give even more detailed information to my constituents, who are only too eager to put forward petitions, on how they can raise their concerns when, as we hope it will, the hybrid Bill Committee is sitting. That would allow for a genuine, open and transparent exchange about what my constituents can do to ensure that their concerns are listened to; that the improvements to our environments can be taken seriously; that the great regeneration projects are not kicked to one side; and, more importantly, that this railway goes ahead. It can transform not only London, but the entire United Kingdom.
I rise to speak in support of this Bill. It is no secret that I support the Government on the issue of high-speed rail, because I believe it will be good for Redditch, good for the west midlands and good for Britain as a whole. HS2 will transform journey times and connectivity between Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and London. However, the fact that HS2 is also about capacity as well as speed is sometimes lost in the argument. In the past 20 years, the number of journeys made on Britain’s rail network has doubled and that has put pressure on all our existing major networks, and on the west coast main line in particular.
Capacity on the west coast main line will be nearly full by the early 2020s and, as a regular traveller on that line, I know how essential the service is for many commuters. High-speed rail will increase capacity across existing lines so that local commuter trains can run more frequently and with enough seats for passengers, allowing the wider west midlands area to fulfil its economic potential. Put simply, more track means more trains and therefore more space for commuters, long-distance travellers and freight.
The ever-increasing gap between infrastructure spending in the south and the rest of the country is widening the economic divide. In 2011-12, 45% of total public expenditure on transport in England was in London, with only 13% going to the midlands. Public sector spending on transport per head in the west midlands is among the lowest in England. Sixty-six of the top 100 FTSE companies are located in London and the south-east, with just four in the west midlands, one of which is GKN in my own constituency.
HS2 is also about rebalancing our economy. We talk about that a lot in this House, but we must prove that we are serious about it and enable other regions to grow alongside London and the south. When HS1 was under construction, it was predicted that it would create £500 million of investment, but an independent report later put the value of HS1 at almost 40 times that estimate. What happened was the regeneration effect, as HS1 directly helped to deliver more than 10,000 homes and almost 100,000 new jobs. There is no reason why HS2 cannot deliver the same results for the north and the midlands.
Investment in HS2 will deliver widespread connectivity improvements, grow markets and increase opportunities to trade. The west midlands has identified regional and local connectivity as an important feature of its growth strategies, with a need to better link up labour to jobs and skills; and businesses to other businesses and markets. Attracting greater investment in transport will be a critical factor for the continued success of our region. The introduction of HS2 can be the catalyst for connectivity and growth.
It is estimated that HS2 will generate between £214 million and £375 million every year in my own Worcestershire economy. The London to Birmingham route alone is expected to boost Birmingham’s economy by £1.2 billion, and towns and cities in surrounding counties by £2.5 billion. At this point, I would like to put in a plug for the apprentice academy to come to Birmingham when the decision is finally made.
In addition, the initial phase of HS2 could support the creation of 8,000 jobs surrounding the proposed HS2 stations in the west midlands area, as well as leading to wider growth in the region, including in towns in Worcestershire such as those in my constituency.
HS2 could also affect our wider transport capabilities, particularly our airports. I am a big champion of Birmingham international airport which is near my constituency. To be able to access it from Euston in just over 30 minutes will make a huge difference to the people of north London as well as to the midlands economy. It will mean a choice between Birmingham, Gatwick and Heathrow. Those Members who have travelled from Birmingham international airport know how excellent it is, and those who have not should try it, and they will not regret it. I still support the idea that HS2 could be a solution to runway capacity problems in the south, although admittedly the initial recommendations of Sir Howard Davies have made that look somewhat unlikely, but that is a point for another day.
The Bill will bring great benefit to my constituents and our region as well as to our wider economy, and that is why I will be supporting it tonight.
I draw the House’s attention to my interests in freight transport issues.
A number of questions remain unanswered by these proposals, and it is pitiful that we have only five minutes to elaborate on them. Constituents and others have asked me whether there is a better way to spend £50 billion to £100 billion to ease capacity, which is a problem that is recognised across the House—by those in favour of HS2 as well as by those against it. Better connectivity between existing airports has been suggested as a better way to address the matter. Constituents have talked about improving signalling so that we can increase capacity on the west coast main line. Interestingly, someone mentioned the idea of reducing the number of first class coaches on some of the west coast main line trains. Indeed, we have also heard about the double-decking of trains, which is used extensively on the continent and would certainly boost capacity.
Dr Beeching’s name has not been heard in this Chamber today. Constituents have talked about rolling back some of the Beeching cuts and opening up some of the lines to increase connectivity. There has also been talk of having dedicated freight lines, and improving HS1, and removing this nonsense of having to travel all the way around London to get through the tunnel and into mainland Europe rather than the better idea of having a freight terminal north of London.
There is also this matter of a slight identity crisis. This proposal was always about developing a high-speed line—or, more accurately, a very high-speed line—but now it has morphed itself into a capacity issue, or possibly both. What has been missed time and again is that if we are to have a new high-speed line and are to free up capacity, we will have to cut services on the existing west coast main line. That brings me to the issue that has been raised by my hon. Friends. At the moment, a passenger can get on the train at Stoke-on-Trent and in one hour and 23 minutes, they can be in Euston. If we move to HS2, a passenger will have to travel for an hour to Birmingham and then get on a 40 or 50 minute train to Euston. How can one hour 50 minutes be better than one hour and 23 minutes? That will be the case. It is not an issue of timetabling. As the Government have said time and again, this is all about freeing up capacity on the west coast main line, and that means cutting existing services on that line.
In the moments I have left, I want to go back to this issue of the very high-speed line. The line we are talking about has gentler curves and lower gradients because it is being built to a much higher specification than the trains that will run on it, so that is an area in which savings can be found.
To jump ahead now, there are also issues relating to east-west connectivity and the KPMG report, which I raised in an intervention. The report said that the only city actively to lose out on these proposals would be Stoke-on-Trent. That brings me to the Stoke-on-Trent proposals, which are a very good response by the city council to the HS2 phase 2 consultation. I hope that Ministers have read them, because they were making lots of uncosted announcements about Crewe while the consultation was still going on. I am delighted to see that the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mr Timpson) is sitting so close to his Front-Bench colleagues from the Transport Department.
Understandably, colleagues in Manchester want faster journey times, but the Stoke-on-Trent proposal would allow a faster service seven years earlier than the consultation proposals by using a combination of high-speed lines, as far as Stoke-on-Trent, and then classic compatibility on the existing lines into Manchester. Manchester would benefit seven years earlier than it would with the consultation proposals. Again, the proposals from Stoke-on-Trent would not require the expensive remodelling of the west coast main line junction point, which would be the case with the Crewe proposals. Indeed the Stoke-on-Trent proposals are costed, whereas the Crewe ones, which would require a new station two miles or so further south than Crewe, are not costed at all.
With just seconds left, let me say that there is great detail here about why the Stoke-on-Trent proposals would make so much more sense. We are talking about connecting in millions more people than the Crewe proposals. I am not convinced that they are the best way to spend the money—
Although I do not agree with those who believe that HS2 will provide the benefits claimed, I accept that they are sincere in their belief that it will. I ask them to accept that those of us who do not support HS2 are not mindless nimbys. We sincerely believe that this project is wrong, because it will not provide the benefits that are claimed. The financial cost and the impact on ordinary people’s lives up and down the country outweigh the limited and unbalanced benefits that HS2 might bring.
My constituency of North Warwickshire is particularly badly affected. We have the delta junction into Birmingham and the Y junction and we are affected by both phase 1 and phase 2. The property market is completely frozen along the route, trapping many people in houses that they wish to sell for all sorts of legitimate reasons that do not qualify as “exceptional hardship”. The village of Gilson will be obliterated and communities in Coleshill, Water Orton, Curdworth and Middleton will be badly affected. We will have a colossal 31 track railhead close to Lea Marston and Kingsbury but, because it is deemed a temporary structure, nearby residents will not qualify for compensation. That temporary structure will be there for more than 15 years and, because of a sleight of hand that moved it at the last minute from phase 2 to phase 1, it has never properly been consulted on. The line will demolish houses, destroy sports clubs and cut through two country parks and a local primary school.
For four years now, I have been working closely with the five action groups I helped to establish across my constituency and I have chaired all the phase 1 community forum meetings in North Warwickshire. I have also worked closely with some of my fellow Warwickshire MPs, and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Kenilworth and Southam (Jeremy Wright) has been making strong representations about HS2 within the Government.
In my constituency, we have sought to play a constructive role in the debate from the start. We have not simply stood in the corner shouting no. Yes, we have campaigned against HS2 in principle, but alongside that our action groups have engaged constructively with HS2 Ltd at every stage from the very beginning, attending community forums and bilateral meetings with HS2 staff and engineers and working hard to produce local mitigation proposals to minimise the impact on our communities.
More than three years ago, I brought representatives from two of our action groups to London to meet the HS2 chief engineer, Professor McNaughton, and to lay out some early ideas for mitigation and route changes in North Warwickshire. Despite that, we strongly feel that HS2 Ltd has let us down. We believed back then that we were embarking on the start of a dialogue with HS2 Ltd that would involve a two-way discussion over a number of years. For more than three years, we have been trying to get HS2 Ltd to engage in a constructive dialogue, but we have consistently been pushed back because, by its own admission, of inadequate resources in our area. Eventually, after all the time had gone, the excuse became that we were now too close to the hybrid Bill procedure for detailed discussion to take place and we were told simply to petition with our suggestions.
Many in our area see the three years of dither and delay as a conspiracy deliberately to waste time. I am inclined to believe that HS2 Ltd simply did not have the resources to consider our area properly. It is the most complex area outside London, and mine is the worst affected constituency outside London, so resources should have been put in place from the start. Regardless of why it happened, however, the results are the same. We lost three years that could have been used for meaningful dialogue but were not.
My constituents now feel that they have had no true voice in this process and we must now pin our hopes on the good sense of the hybrid Bill Committee instead of the hoped-for meaningful discussions with HS2 Ltd. That is why I shall support the reasoned amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan), to which I have put my name, and why I shall vote against Second Reading this evening.
I fully expect the Bill to receive its Second Reading, however, so I urge the Secretary of State to do all he can throughout the planning of the project to put the ordinary people and communities whose lives have already been turned upside down first and foremost, because if we cannot afford to put in place proper mitigation and proper compensation for the people affected, we cannot afford the project.
First, I, too, welcome the way in which the Secretary of State has handled the issue by not accusing anybody who is not in favour of the Bill or who has signed the reasoned amendment of being a nimby. When an issue is contentious, it is crucial that there is respect on all sides. I wish we had a second day for this debate, because five-minute limits mean no real debate and this issue should be debated.
My constituency is not directly affected in the way that that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson) is affected, but when the Eurostar terminal was built at Waterloo we put up with years of terrible disruption, only to find that once it was built and was being used there was a switch and it went off to St Pancras. We had all the terrible problems, but ended up with no direct link to Paris.
When I talk to my constituents about HS2, they overwhelmingly ask whether it is the right way to spend £50 billion. Many of my constituents, who will never have a decent home to live in, who will never get out of overcrowding and who live in very difficult circumstances, are asking whether the money would not be better spent on providing decent homes for everyone in this country. These people live just a mile away from the House of Commons, yet they cannot have money spent on improving the railways within Lambeth. There is no longer a direct train at peak time from Clapham High Street to Victoria, because the platforms at Wandsworth Road need to be extended. Just small amounts of money would make such a difference to commuters around London.
That is exactly what people are asking all over the country: why is £50 billion going on this particular method of improving capacity and speed? I am very lucky, as I can walk to my constituency in five minutes and drive in four, so I do not travel on trains much, but when I do so, I do not find them crowded. Many carriages are empty and I discover that they are first class—there is nobody in them. All sorts of things could be done to increase capacity.
We should also be clear that once we start this project there is no guarantee that the costs will not spiral. I am worried that once we start the project and the costs start to go up, more and more money will be taken away, and not just from other parts of the transport network. The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile) is unlikely to have extra money spent on railways in his area if we go ahead with this project, as everything will be geared towards the super-project. Everyone will say that that is what we must spend the money on. We are being very short-sighted. This sounds like a sexy project, it sounds like we are being modern and trying to compete with the rest of Europe, but there is not a lot wrong with our railways that could not be dealt with if we had spent money over many years, if we had invested properly and if we now invested across the country rather than in one particular vanity project.
The compensation must be much stronger and greater. It is all very well saying that people can be compensated, but if someone has built up and worked hard on a business or home in the country only to see it blighted or destroyed, compensation might help but it does not take away the pain. It will not do so for the many people who will suffer if the project goes ahead.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh South West (Mr Darling) said some time ago, the scheme risks draining much-needed investment away from other railway infrastructure projects for the next 30 years. I want to know why, if the former Chancellor of the Exchequer said that, my party has suddenly changed its mind on the project.
The case for HS2 is flimsy. No amount of spin or the Front Benches being nice to each other will change the basic truth that this is potentially a huge white elephant that will not heal the north-south divide. If we wanted to heal that divide, we would be starting in the north, not the south. Money will be sucked away from all the other desperately needed upgrading schemes all over the country once the project starts. The money that goes in will have no long-term benefit for vast numbers of people in the United Kingdom. I hope that if there is a Labour Government after the next election, our Chancellor of the Exchequer will reconsider the issue and not be tied into saying that whatever happens we will go ahead with the project. The project could be doomed and we want to ensure that this Parliament has a say in whether the money is spent or not.
My constituency gets both the pain and the gain, because in having the first station outside London, we will undoubtedly benefit from some of the 30,000 permanent jobs that it has been estimated will come. But I cannot stress enough the greater importance of the need for extra freight capacity. I invite hon. Members when travelling on our motorways to look at the number of car transporters that are being forced to take these valuable export goods to our ports by road because of the lack of freight capacity.
Given that my constituency is under such pressure for development, as most of it is in the green belt, I have a No. 1 ask of the Secretary of State: for a tunnel under Balsall Common, so that the parish of Berkswell should not be severed in two by a 40-foot flyover where High Speed 2 has to cross over the west coast main line. The impact on that community will be severe. Primary school pupils will not be able to get directly to the secondary school and a village with only one shop will effectively be cut off from other local services.
High Speed 2 runs through the Blythe river valley, through Arden pasture land in my constituency, and is therefore prone to flooding, so viaducts are needed. In common with other hon. Members who have low-lying land where viaducts are needed, I urge the Secretary of State to heed the requests of the communities in the design of those viaducts, so that the view in those river valleys is not completely obliterated by bunds or unnecessarily dense structures.
Many of the roads in Arden pasture land are twisty and small, and quite unsuitable for construction traffic. I urge the Secretary of State in particular to prevent Water Orton road from being used to haul spoil to protect the village of Castle Bromwich, and to close small lanes such as Diddington lane, which would otherwise become potential rat runs. In response to a point made by the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Glenda Jackson), perhaps the Department would consider the use of the canal network, which after all goes very close to Euston and goes right through my constituency, as an environmentally friendly means of removing spoil from those areas.
I welcome the revised compensation package, particularly the announcement of a taper on the distance at which properties are eligible for compensation, in response to amendments that I tabled to the paving Bill. However, there is one glaring omission that will affect all on the line of route: there is no compensation for properties affected by construction works. Given that my constituency will have the first station, we are likely to see five and half years of construction work, and the homes affected by that will be every bit as blighted as properties right next to the tracks. I urge a rethink in that area.
Originally, a High Speed 2-High Speed 1 link was proposed. I understand why that proposal has been scrapped, but the regions were led to believe that there would be through trains. I ask the Department to look again at how that might be achieved with a twin-bore tunnel to Stratford, so that an international passenger can land at Birmingham airport, clear immigration and get a through train to the continent.
I support the view of my local authority, Solihull council, that a community fund, like that for Birmingham airport, would allow local administration of mitigation measures, which would give a sense of local empowerment. I have put my name to an instruction of the Environmental Audit Committee, of which I am a member, to look again at the environmental impacts. I particularly want to point out that, when I was Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, our aspiration, as set out in the “Natural Environment” White Paper, was a net positive outcome from biodiversity offsetting. I am disappointed to see a less ambitious objective for High Speed 2 of no net loss, and I ask the Government to look again at that.
I have had to balance conflicting views in my constituency, but I heeded the warning by Lord Adonis when he visited the west midlands and said that if it was not clear that Birmingham and Solihull and the west midlands wanted a stop along the line, the west midlands could be bypassed and the line could go straight to Manchester. That is why I have sought to get the best mitigation and compensation possible for my constituents.
I want to add my voice to those here tonight who support High Speed 2. I was a strong supporter of the proposal when it came to the last Labour Cabinet, and I am a strong supporter of the position taken by Labour Front Benchers. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) got it right when he said that it is welcome that those on both Front Benches have united in their agreement to support the proposal, whatever the outcome of the next election, when no doubt Labour will be returned to government.
I am a supporter because I see the chance for High Speed 2 to add real booster rockets to a city that is now back on the move. Since the new Labour council took office in May 2012, we have had a city that is growing once more. The year of infrastructure, which imaginatively brings together major projects in the middle of our city, is creating real momentum behind the delivery of Grand Central, the metrolink that is now going through the middle of our city, and the new New Street station, which I was so proud to help secure when I was the regional Minister. We are now the start-up capital of the country outside London. More new businesses opened their doors in Birmingham than anywhere else outside London last year, and we are now at the heart of the region that boasts the biggest export surplus anywhere in the country to the fast-growing market of China.
If we are to restore ourselves to our rightful place as the workshop of the world, we need new infrastructure, and that is why High Speed 2 is so welcome. It is welcome because it cuts our journey time to London, but it also cuts our journey time to Canary Wharf to 65 minutes. That is very important to a financial and legal services community as big as Birmingham’s. It is important because it puts our airport within reach of the airports of the south, and it is important because it could create 50,000 to 60,000 jobs in our city and the region beyond.
Those are the prizes on offer, and they need to stay within reach, not just to some but to everybody in our great city. That is why it is so important that in the debates that follow in the House and elsewhere we remove the crazy, idiotic, nonsensical idea of destroying one third of the available industrial land in Birmingham to lock up as a scrap yard for High Speed 2 between now and 2026, and then to minimise as a marshalling yard for the period of the railway’s operation over the subsequent years.
The Secretary of State said that getting the path of the track right is difficult and important. Of course it is. I am glad that he started his story in 1832 when the railways were first proposed, because when it was first proposed that the railways would come to Birmingham, they had to take an interesting bend to avoid Aston hall, which was then in the hands of the descendants of the inventor of the steam engine, James Watt. I propose a slight modification of this track, not to save a view but to save the prospects of east Birmingham. The proposal for a marshalling yard in the middle of the inner city takes out a space that is the size of 106 football pitches. It is a site, currently in the hands of three owners, that has come together like a great jigsaw puzzle for the first time in a century. It is a site on which we could put 7,000 jobs, not at some remote point in the future, but now, during the next four or five years.
We have already turned away proposals for a million square feet of industrial use which could have brought hundreds of jobs to the inner city. There is nowhere more in need of these jobs than inner-city Birmingham. This site is at the junction of three of the most unemployed constituencies in the country; 17,773 people are unemployed in the constituencies of Hodge Hill, Ladywood and Erdington. That is nearly one half of all the people who are out of work in the city of Birmingham. Yet we are turning away businesses that want to create jobs on this site in the middle of this community today because of the High Speed 2 proposal. The Secretary of State says quite rightly that the marshalling yard has to go somewhere, and it should: it should go much closer to the airport or up in Crewe—or even, if my hon. Friends who represent Stoke get their way, closer to Stoke. Let us not put it in a place where we need the jobs.
Birmingham city council is perfectly prepared to petition against this proposal during the months to come. It would be better all round if it did not need to do that, but so far the guarantees that are needed from High Speed 2 for early release of land, minimisation of the land-take and maximising the number of jobs have not been seen. I want those proposals on the table, otherwise we are in for an almighty fight over the months to come.
I am not against high-speed rail. In fact, I have been a strong advocate, in particular with regard to taking domestic air travel away from Heathrow airport, so I was in favour of it. There is no doubt that our railways have been going through a renaissance, but they suffer from a chronic capacity problem. If we had been told at the outset that we needed to add lines, rather like how we must sometimes widen motorways to accommodate more traffic, the argument would have been easier to understand. Instead, rather mistakenly from a marketing point of view, we were told that it was all about speed. Although speed is important, it is not the be all and end all.
I was disappointed when the Government decided to adopt the route proposed by the previous Labour Government, because it could have been designed specifically to cause maximum opposition and the greatest environmental damage. My constituents in Uxbridge and South Ruislip and I are grateful, however, that the route will now be tunnelled throughout my constituency. Of course, that is not the end of the matter because, as the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Glenda Jackson) said, we will suffer, like she will in her area, huge disruption during the construction period due to air vents and many other such things that will be a great concern.
I want to mention one of the little anomalies that I am sure there will be masses of in my constituency and throughout the route. My constituents Mr and Mrs Jones of Almond Close, Ruislip, live in a semi-detached house. The one semi-detached is safeguarded, but theirs is not. One side of the house will be safeguarded from the vibrations of construction and tunnelling and will be sorted out, but their side will not. That is something that the Committee will have to consider.
Elsewhere in the London borough of Hillingdon, we have even bigger problems. My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (Mr Hurd) has been working with me to try to get the tunnel extended by a few hundred yards, which is perfectly feasible. The only problem is that the Government do not want to do that because of the Heathrow spur. I think we can pretty well agree that the Heathrow spur is dead and should be scrapped now. We could then get the tunnel extended, and those few precious yards would sort out a few more constituents.
The other major problem for us in Hillingdon is the fate of the Hillingdon outdoor activities centre, which I have mentioned before in the House. It is a much-valued and much-used facility that is enjoyed by many people, but it would be lost under current plans as HS2 will go straight through it. Something must be done very soon, because the lease will soon be up. I am grateful that the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill), has accepted the invitation of my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner to visit the site. I am sure that we will be able to persuade him that it must be saved and we have some ideas about what can be done.
If I had more time, I would like to talk about the environmental damage that will be done all along the line. It may seem small, but I want briefly to mention something that I was reminded of at the weekend. A small relict population of corn buntings will be destroyed, which I mention because the population has decreased by 90% from 1970 levels and by 34% since 1995 and will now almost certainly be wiped out. We must look after that population. We know that ancient woodlands will be badly affected and we cannot just create ancient woodlands, so we must be careful.
When I first entered the House, I was told that we should put our country first, our constituency second and our party third, and I agree with that. I am not putting my constituency first; I am putting my country first. The plan is currently unsuitable for our country, because it will ruin too much of it. I think we are getting along the right lines with it, but we must do something. I have voted against my party only once before and that was over Iraq. It is as important to me that we get this right. I will vote against tonight with a heavy, but resolute, heart.
High-speed rail is of course supported by the Scottish Government and the SNP supports it in this House. Our criticism, as with many things here, is about the Government’s management. Having already linked up with a partner European state, the highly productive French—and, by extension, the Belgians—in a good example of cross-border progress, the UK Government seem incapable of progressing similarly in what is currently their own territory. Perhaps it is the absence of the efficient French or merely dealing with an independent country that is the difference here but, whatever it is, there is a lack of ambition on a key infrastructure issue on the largest of these isles.
Having already lost its shipping advantage to Rotterdam, the UK is currently losing its aviation advantage. The third error seems to be to putting rail progress into the sidings. The pace of the project, placing the first point of construction in the south and poor planning by not linking to airports or providing bypasses around London are holding us back and taking away from what should be a good project. It seems that the only major spend that can go unchecked in the UK is the £120 billion towards weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde, which are controlled by the Americans anyway and not particularly needed.
Where are we? High-speed rail may not reach Birmingham until 2032, by which time most here may be long retired. Meanwhile, understanding its value, China will have built many thousands of kilometres by then. We heard from the Secretary of State earlier that it has built 11,500 km from a standing start of 0 km in 2007. Back in the UK, the north-to-south advantages would be more pronounced by building in the north first and having the slowest rail replaced the fastest. The idea that everything has to radiate from London is folly and will delay our European partners who want to come to Scotland for business, affecting aggregate European GDP and therefore, by extension, all of us. Building in the north could also be cheaper per mile as it is less densely populated and has fewer buildings, making negotiations to acquire land more straightforward, quicker and better value for the public purse.
In Scotland, we are not following that template and are linking on a pattern of need. We are not radiating from Edinburgh. We have schemes to improve journey times on the northern corridor between Inverness and Aberdeen, as well as post-independence hopes to create greater economic links between the great city of Carlisle and Dumfries and Galloway, as well as building high-speed rail between Glasgow and Edinburgh within the decade. When in Carlisle recently, the First Minister of Scotland pointed out that the benefits of high-speed rail to Manchester or Leeds will also bring some £3 billion of benefit to Scotland, again showing the aggregate gain to the wider European economy from infrastructure improvements not necessarily in the territory. However, such benefits would increase eight times—some £24 billion —with a full high-speed rail link between Scotland’s big cities. The majority of that benefit would of course be in the central belt, but it would help the country as a whole. In addition, there would be a major shift from air to rail, saving fuel, making journeys cheaper and helping the environment. As we heard earlier from the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins), we know now that most journeys between Paris and London are made by rail rather than air.
Following independence, when we will have two sovereign governments working on the project, as we have seen from the links to the continent, we may find ourselves reminded of the fact that the first rail link between Scotland and England did not start with a link to London, but rather between Carstairs and Carlisle. Independence should give hope not just to Scotland, but to the north of England, as the First Minister laid out in his St George’s day speech in Carlisle.
The arguments for high-speed rail are well researched and I hope they have been well rehearsed in this debate, but it is instructive to look at what the university of Southern Denmark found by analysing the link from Frankfurt to Cologne. It was found that it was difficult to untangle the benefits of high-speed rail as it tends to be built between two successful places. However, political horse-trading meant that the line stopped in two places, Montabaur and Limburg, where university researchers found an extra 2.7% GDP in those places for four years that then continued at a higher plateau.
We hope that high-speed rail will materialise and in the north as well. I mentioned the spending on weapons of mass destruction, but this would be spending on ploughshares that would plant the seeds of future economic growth. The railways that the Victorians planted many years ago are still bearing fruit not only in the UK, but also in Ireland. We should ensure that we help the economy of the future and if the project goes ahead, until we see something tangible in Scotland, there should be Barnett consequentials, as there should be for Wales.
I have absolute respect for colleagues across the House who have come here today to stand up and defend the interests of their constituents. I know that many of those who will vote against the Government tonight will do so with a heavy heart, but they believe, correctly, that they have been sent here to represent the interests of their constituents in relation to the Bill.
I intend to support the Bill on Second Reading tonight. I do not really have a constituency interest in it, because neither phase 1 nor phase 2 will affect it directly. My real interest is as someone who was born and brought up in the north-west of England and who has spent his entire business life working there, because I know that it will have a huge impact on our local economy. In my constituency, which is a local manufacturing hub, the relief on our roads, by taking 1.6 million lorry journeys off them, will enable us to get our world-class products to market.
I know that the House is divided on the issue and that the Bill has its opponents, but I hope that it will tackle the north-south divide, which so many Governments have sought but failed to narrow. Building a high-speed rail link between the north and the south offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the north to mirror the growth that London is seeing. London is undeniably the economic powerhouse of our recovering economy, and I think that the Bill will give the north the opportunity to take part in that growth.
If we look back at the debates in the House about the introduction of the motorway network in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, we see that many of the arguments about local disruption that Members have made this evening on behalf of their constituents were also made then. We would probably look back with incredulity today at the thought that we could have had no major north-south motorways, such as the M1, M6 and M40. I hope that in 20 or 30 years’ time we will look back at this debate and know of the huge benefit it has brought to our economy, to the north and, in my case, to the north-west and say what a success it has been.
If we get that new north-south connectivity, as an east Lancashire Member, I would like to see a more integrated rail system overall. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) is no longer in his place, because over the past four years he and I have worked together to get improvements on the Manchester to Clitheroe line. For my constituents in Darwen who want to hook into the HS2 link to London, getting those vital improvements, which will start on 23 May next year, will make a massive difference to our local economy.
I have also long campaigned for the reintroduction of the Rossendale to Manchester commuter link. That is supported by all our major businesses and the influential Rossendale Rail Action Group. When the HS2 line arrives in Manchester, it is vital for everyone in east Lancashire, including all our local businesses, that the onward routes, such as the Manchester to Clitheroe line and the Rossendale to Manchester line, are available.
I have one slight concern about the Bill that I hope the Minister can offer some reassurance on when he responds. It took 186 years to agree to start building the channel tunnel. I hope that once phase 1 is completed we will move quickly to phase 2. I think that many of my constituents, along with many people in the north of England, would be satisfied if we started building in the north and in the south at the same time, meeting in the middle around Birmingham, rather than just building from London to Birmingham, even though that is the most congested part of the route.
The Bill represents a real opportunity for all of us who live and work in and feel passionately about the north of England. I will be supporting the Government this evening.
I share the concern that some Members have expressed about the lack of time. For those who would like more time for detailed discussion of the environmental aspects, hopefully there will be an opportunity tomorrow when we consider the instructions and the report produced by the Environmental Audit Committee. However, if tonight we are to commit to spending £50 billion, Parliament should ensure that it will be spent in the right way, both for the next phase of transport policy and for the future generations who will live with, pay for and count the opportunity costs of what we vote for today and tomorrow.
I do not doubt the Secretary of State’s commitment to transport policy, or the determination of the shadow Transport and Treasury teams to go for all-out investment and growth, but my head tells me spending £50 billion without a strategic environmental assessment will not necessarily ensure integrated transport policies for all parts of the UK, its cities and localities. Indeed, it might actually undermine many of the gains from increased rail travel that we have built up.
Putting on my constituency hat for a moment to speak for Stoke-on-Trent North, I know that there are many grandees in some of the big Labour authorities that want the Bill in its current form, but the route bypasses Stoke altogether, despite it being the seventh largest urban conurbation in the UK. We already have perfectly excellent train services—two an hour—that go straight to London Euston in one hour and 24 minutes. What will happen to those services when phase 2 of HS2 is running? The likelihood is that business passengers from Manchester will not be spending their money on the west coast Pendolino services; they will opt for an HS2 that is not easily accessible to us, leaving us without the business case for our existing services, which will have a huge knock-on effect.
Like Newcastle borough council, I feel that if HS2 is to go ahead there is a great deal of merit in Stoke-on-Trent city council’s case for a hub station for the city, subject to all kinds of detailed assurances, for example on the capacity of HS2 through the Harecastle tunnel and its compatibility with the classic system of local services, especially the slower services between London and the midlands. I look forward to detailed discussions with the Secretary of State later this week.
As for the Bill’s other shortcomings, I think that it is important to note that, despite the Government’s business case and the aim of making HS2 support their objective of reducing carbon emissions by shifting passengers from air and road travel to rail, that was not integral to the Bill’s planning stages. The greatest concern to me, as covered in the course of the unsuccessful legal challenge to HS2, and as touched on in the Environmental Audit Committee’s debate, is the way the Government went about the environmental appraisal for sustainability for phase 1. As we know, in February 2011, the Government consulted on the whole strategy for HS2, phases 1 and 2. The Supreme Court said that, had the strategic environmental appraisal directive applied, then what was done would not have met the requirements. Why is that important? It is important because anyone commenting in 2011 had complete information only on phase 1, not phase 2. Then move the clock forward to Sir David Higgins’s report, “HS2 Plus”. Because he recommended earlier completion of phase 2 to Crewe, without any due process for strategic appraisal, there are all kinds of questions unanswered about what that means for the timing and the route from north of Lichfield to Manchester.
Effectively, the Supreme Court has ruled that the strategic environmental assessment directive does not apply because Parliament is now, through the hybrid Bill process, the decision-making body. The Government might claim that their version of strategic environmental assessment addresses those issues at the strategic level, but in reality Parliament, the decision-making authority, has had no role. Parliament is in a very confused situation, which is made worse by having to vote tonight on Second Reading without knowledge of what instructions will be voted on tomorrow to guide its Select Committee in its work.
I expect that the Bill will be given a Second Reading tonight, but that does not justify the iniquity of taking forward infrastructure investment of this magnitude without a strategic environmental assessment. I very much hope that the amendment in my name to be debated tomorrow will be taken on board, but that deals only with detailed—
I have been an MP for four years, and this is the fourth debate on HS2 in which I have participated. I have spoken in support of the project in all of them and I will do so again tonight, although it would be fair to say that if we were debating the current phase 2 route, which is out to consultation—I have high hopes of changes, particularly to the part north of Manchester, for which there is no business case—I would have difficulty supporting it, but I do support the Bill before us today.
Before I set out the reasons for my support, however, I will state four reasons why we should not go ahead with the project. We should not go ahead with it simply because it has been 120 years since we built a railway line north of Manchester. That, in itself, is a silly reason. We should not proceed with it simply because our infrastructure investment over the past two or three decades has been massively skewed towards London. I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), who talked about the diversion of resources away from other projects that HS2 could cause—an anxiety that did not appear to apply for Crossrail 1 or Crossrail 2, which together would cost about the same as HS2. In any event, we should not go ahead with the wrong project just because we previously spent too much in London. Nor should we do it because other countries done it more than we have: Turkey might have 1,500 miles, but perhaps the Turks and everyone else is wrong and perhaps our way is the right way.
We should proceed if and only if three things apply. The first is that the business case must be robust and solid.
I have a sense of déjà vu. My hon. Friend the Member for North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen) and I have had this dialogue before. The cost-benefit ratio is 2.4, higher than it was for the Jubilee line when that project started and higher than it currently is for Crossrail. We should go ahead only if the cash flow can be afforded without diverting resources away from other activities. Roughly speaking, the cash flow for HS2 is £2 billion a year, and it kicks in as Crossrail comes to an end and HS2 picks it up. That is reasonable. There is no evidence that HS2 is starving other projects and activities of investment. I believe that HS2 involves something in the order of 20% of total rail investment over the next two decades.
The third condition is that there must be transformational benefits from the project. We do not have time to go into them in detail, but there is a great deal of evidence, from the councils and the chambers of commerce of the north, that the regions will be transformed. Whether we are talking about the Greengauge 21 report or the Peat Marwick report, 40,000 jobs at a minimum will be generated in the north-west, and my constituents will get many of them.
All in all, whether HS2 goes ahead boils down to whether we believe that there is a capacity crunch. If we do not think that there will be one because we will all miraculously be using video conferencing over the next 10, 20, 30 or 40 years, it would probably be wrong to go ahead with the project. The fact is, however, that over the last 15 years, the requirement for long-distance train journeys in the UK has increased by roughly 5% a year. The HS2 business case assumes that that will decrease to 1.6% a year—a conservative estimate in many ways. I believe that the capacity crunch is the main reason for proceeding. My right hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Mr O'Brien), who is not in his place, made a perfectly reasonable point about double-decker trains. My understanding is that the changes to the west coast main line to make that happen would be so restrictive as well as expensive that the line would not work in the meantime. We know how difficult it was during the last upgrade from Rugby to the north.
I want the Minister to give some thought to the reservation about phase 2 that I expressed earlier, which would have made it difficult—in fact, impossible—for me to support the Bill. I refer to the absurdity of building 40 miles of track north of Manchester apparently for no other reason than to get to a depot in Wigan. The cost is £1 billion without contingency, and I could find not one benefit in the business case that would contribute to that cost. I hope that people from HS2 are listening to me. There is a phrase, “value engineering”, which means that one engineers and designs where the value will come from. It has manifestly not occurred in respect of the Wigan link. I hope, believe and trust that that will be looked at.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Warrington South (David Mowat), and my speech will echo much of his. Like him, I support High Speed 2 and not just because I am a Greater Manchester MP, although we will benefit from it substantially. I support it not just because our railways need the capacity, although they do. I support it not just out of a parochial desire to see more transport investment in the north, although I do not think being a parochial northerner is necessarily a bad thing. Much more than all of that, I support it because it is genuinely wonderful that, for once, we are choosing to solve a transport problem that we know is going to happen but has not happened yet. By that, I mean the looming capacity crunch on our railways. It is the polar opposite of how we usually approach transport issues. Secondly, I very much welcome the cross-party agreement on delivering a fundamental piece of infrastructure when, frankly, there are a great many reasons why a Conservative Government might not want to do that.
We simply have to acknowledge that the changes in how and where people live and work has driven a huge demand for regular and reliable train travel. Thirty years ago, there would have been enough jobs for almost everyone who lives in my constituency to work in my constituency, but as our economy has moved more towards services and the creative industries, those jobs are clustered more in the cities, so many more people need to commute—and these are jobs that are much more geographically mobile. Before the last election, I worked as a solicitor in Manchester city centre. I would travel into Manchester every day from what is now my constituency, but it was relatively common at some point in the day to receive a message saying that I needed to go to Birmingham, London, Leeds or elsewhere to attend a meeting or a completion or something else.
Those economic changes are what lies behind the doubling of passenger numbers on the railways in the last decade. Looking at the numbers is genuinely startling: over the past 16 years, passenger journeys on inter-city trains have doubled to 128 million a year, and the number of all rail journeys has doubled, from 750 million a year to 1.5 billion. Of course, the UK’s population is predicted to grow by a further 11 million by 2035. I do not believe that it is the less-than-impressive performance of rail privatisation that has driven that growth. For once it seems we might be trying to provide the capacity we require in our transport network before the problem hits us. If only the Parliaments of the 1970s and ’80s had done the same with our airport capacity.
Some people are concerned that HS2 will actually suck prosperity out of the regions towards London, but that is illogical. If that were true, the best way to achieve regional prosperity would be to tear up our existing railways and motorways and promote some sort of regional autarky. That would be just as foolish and ill-conceived at regional level as it would be at national level.
I recognise that it is in the nature of a high-speed train line that some parts of the country take the burden of hosting it, while others, such as in my area, receive the benefits. I absolutely agree that there should be adequate compensation, particularly in London around Euston station, and there should be proper mitigation of the route where possible. I understand colleagues who need to represent the needs of their areas where local opinion is opposed to HS2. I do not think it credible, however, to argue for increased mitigation such as expensive tunnelling and then complain that the cost of the project has gone up; clearly, there is a balance between the two. I would say that the development of the British economy in a way that spreads prosperity, growth and opportunity more evenly around the United Kingdom, rather than focusing on the south-east is genuinely in everybody’s interests.
The price tag appears large, but Government investment in capital projects is about £50 billion each year, and the costs of HS2 will be spread over 20 years. Crucially, this is wealth-creating infrastructure. We should recognise, too, that there is a cost to not proceeding with it. There will be a cost to not creating the capacity we require on our railways. Imagine, Madam Deputy Speaker, if we had not regenerated London’s docklands. Think of all the private investment that followed it, which would not have occurred without it. There are many other examples—the original M1 motorway has already been mentioned in the debate.
Some hon. Members have claimed that investment will be diverted from other schemes towards HS2. Let me say that the only time we know that that has ever happened was when we tried to patch and mend the west coast main line. It cost billions and drained investment from every other project certainly in the north-west, but across the whole country, too. The destruction was, frankly, untenable.
For once, we have a far-sighted proposal with cross-party agreement and the political will to deliver it. We would all like to see our favoured amendments implemented. I would like construction to begin in the north. This Bill certainly deserves its Second Reading today, which I warmly—