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Volume 580: debated on Monday 12 May 2014


Monday 12 May 2014



HS2 Proposals for High Speed Rail

The Petition of residents of the UK,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that the HS2 rail plan for high-speed rail will bring little benefit to the UK and will cost upwards of £33 billion to begin with; further that the Petitioners believe that the plans are badly thought through and will reap permanent untold damage, have no environmental benefits, are little use to this country and are an unaffordable luxury at this time; and further that the Petitioners believe that there are many more beneficial, viable, economically and environmentally sound proposals which should be prioritised ahead of HS2.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons reject the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Natascha Engel, Official Report, 30 April 2014; Vol. 579, c. 962.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Transport:

HS2 is the most important infrastructure investment in the UK for a generation. It will provide a network of new high-speed lines across Britain connecting our biggest cities quickly and reliably. The Government’s decision to proceed with HS2 will help to promote economic growth and drive regional regeneration by bringing our major cities closer together and supporting job creation. HS2 will also deliver high value for money and will generate more than £2 for every £1 invested, with a significant chance that returns could be considerably higher than this.

It is not possible to construct such a significant piece of infrastructure without some environmental impacts. However, HS2 Ltd has worked hard to reduce the local environmental impacts of the project as far as reasonably practicable. HS2 Ltd has consulted extensively on the project and its environmental impacts, which have led to a number of changes to reduce environmental impacts. Overall more than half the line of route is in tunnels or cuttings. In addition, HS2 Ltd has the aim to seek no net loss in biodiversity as a result of the railway. This means that, from a biodiversity perspective, it would be as though 144 miles of railway were not there.

The Department is fully aware of the importance of protecting the countryside. For instance, we are working with environmental groups to landscape the line carefully. We will plant 2 million trees along Phase One and 4 million in total along the whole route. We will build tunnels, protect footpaths, and limit noise.

None of the proposed alternatives to high-speed rail provide the long-term increase in capacity that we require. Even the best alternative proposed would lead to decades of disruption on the existing rail network, lead to unreliable and overcrowded services and more freight on our roads. The alternatives also require tradeoffs between providing sufficient capacity for commuters versus long-distance passengers. Increasing capacity for one can lead to reductions for the other.

HS2 is not diverting a single pound of funding away from other transport investment. It represents only a quarter of the Government’s £70 billion commitment to infrastructure over the next Parliament. It sits hand in hand with the Department’s £37.5 billion five-year settlement with Network Rail for continued investment in rail services, and £24 billion of Highways Agency funding for major road schemes—a tripling of the national roads budget.

The Government’s decision to proceed with the first phase of HS2 has now been approved by the House of Commons. By voting in favour of the hybrid Bill at its Second Reading, Parliament has made a clear commitment to a key part of the Government’s long-term economic plan.