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Volume 633: debated on Monday 18 December 2017


Monday 18 December 2017


Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Superfast Broadband for Wellpond Green and Westland Green in Hertfordshire

The petition of residents of Wellpond Green and Westland Green in Hertfordshire,

Declares that the villages were added to the Connected Counties/BTOpenreach programme for superfast broadband for implementation by March 2017; further that many residents discontinued negotiations with an alternative supplier offering the same timetable; and further that Connected Counties then re-modelled the programme so that residents would not be connected until 2019 causing great inconvenience.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons to urge the Government and BDUK to facilitate immediate connection of superfast broadband.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Sir Oliver Heald, Official Report, 18 October 2017; Vol. 629, c. 959.]


Observations from The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Karen Bradley):

Broadband delivery in Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire is managed by the Connected Counties project team, with support provided by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) within the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Connected Counties are managing their contracts with BT to deliver the maximum superfast coverage with the available funding as quickly as possible. They have therefore aimed to avoid prioritising particular communities over others. BDUK supports this approach.

We are petitioned that the communities of Wellpond Green and Westland Green had been advised of indicative timescales of March 2017 for the delivery of a broadband structure near to the villages. However, we are told that technical difficulties were experienced that led to this not being deployed at that time. The structure is now scheduled to be completed during this financial year.

As a result of good contract management by Connected Counties, efficiency savings of £2.4 million have been realised from their first contract with BT. Connected Counties agreed a contract extension with BT in May 2017 to use this funding to deliver additional coverage across Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. This is expected to include provision of superfast broadband coverage to the entire communities within Wellpond Green and Westland Green by deploying additional structures closer to the communities. The deployment will be programmed within the overall contract delivery schedule which will continue through to 2019. Connected Counties and BT believe this is the most efficient deployment schedule for the project as a whole, and this is supported by BDUK.

Superfast broadband coverage is on track to reach 95% of UK premises by the end of the year and will continue to go further beyond that. For premises not covered by superfast broadband the Government will ensure universal broadband of at least 10Mbps.


HS2 viaduct through Trowell

The petition of residents of Trowell,

Declares that they are opposed to the proposed viaduct through Trowell which is part of the HS2 Phase 2 project and will be 60 feet high in some places to cross over the M1 motorway, the A609 and an existing railway viaduct. The proposals will cause significant disruption to Trowell’s residents during construction and the resulting viaduct would dominate over homes in the village, as well as being taller than the church spire.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges HS2 Ltd. to dispense with proposals to build a viaduct in Trowell and come up with alternative solutions that will have less impact on residents.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Anna Soubry, Official Report, 28 November 2017; Vol. 632, c. 295.]


Observations the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Paul Maynard):

HS2 will drive economic growth outside of London, creating opportunities for skills and employment across the East Midlands region and acting as a catalyst for regeneration in our city and town centres.

I recognise, however, that the construction and operation of HS2 will impact communities alongside the route. I would therefore welcome views from local stakeholders about the route alignment past Trowell. HS2 Ltd will work with the community to reduce the impacts of the line, and where needed, identify appropriate mitigation measures.

I also draw the community’s attention to the 2018 consultation on the working draft environmental statement (WDES), which will contain further detail on construction and mitigation around Trowell. I would strongly encourage the community to engage with this, and with HS2 Ltd representatives as the project progresses.

Ruabon Station

The petition of residents of the village of Ruabon in the constituency of Clwyd South,

Declares that Ruabon railway station is currently inaccessible to a number of potential users as the only method of using platform 2 is by crossing a footbridge which is difficult for passengers with mobility issues or luggage to carry, and impossible for wheelchair users.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons call on the Government to speed up plans to improve access to the Ruabon railway station either by replacing the existing bridge with one that allows easy access for all users, or to add a wheelchair accessible entrance to platform 2.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Andrew Jones, Official Report, 05 December 2017; Vol. 632, c. 1003.]


Observations the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Paul Maynard):

We are committed to improving station accessibility and have therefore continued with the Access for All programme, first launched in 2006, which installs accessible routes at selected stations.

Ruabon has never been nominated for the programme, but we will be making further funding available for station accessibility in the next Rail Control Period (2019-24) and will be announcing further details as soon as possible.

For Ruabon to be considered for inclusion in the programme it would need strong support from the industry and the Welsh Assembly Government. It would also benefit from an element of third party funding to help weight the business case.

In the meantime if any passenger is unable to use the station the operator will provide alternative transport, such as an accessible taxi to Chirk or Wrexham, both of which have been made accessible under Access for All. This is at no additional cost to the passenger.

Stop HS2 Phase Two in Trowell

The petition of residents of Trowell,

Declares that they are opposed to the HS2 project in its entirety. They believe that HS2 Phase Two will provide no benefits to Trowell and the financial cost of the project would be better spent elsewhere, including improving existing railway routes and other transport networks.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons ask HS2 Ltd. to stop plans to build HS2 Phase Two and look at more reasonable alternatives.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Anna Soubry, Official Report, 28 November 2017; Vol. 632, c. 139.]


Observations from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Paul Maynard):

High Speed Two (HS2) is a new high speed rail network for the UK, connecting London with major cities in the Midlands and the north of England. It is a Y-shaped network that will be delivered in several stages. Trains will also run beyond the Y network to serve places such as Liverpool, Preston, the East Midlands, Newcastle and Scotland.

By providing direct intercity services on dedicated high speed lines, there will be extra space for more trains on the existing heavily congested West Coast Mainline (WCML), Midlands Main Line (MML) and East Coast Main Line (ECML). This presents a once in a generation opportunity to improve services on these routes, including passenger services to locations not directly served by HS2, and freight services. This will improve passenger experience by reducing overcrowding on peak time trains and also allow train operators to run more varied and frequent services.

The Government have considered the impacts of HS2 in great detail as the scheme has progressed. We have produced and published several updated versions of the business case for HS2 to support major programme milestones and decisions. These business cases specifically examined reasonable alternatives to HS2.The 2013 Business Case supported the introduction of the Phase 1 Bill (now an Act). It set out three core objectives for the scheme:

Provide sufficient capacity to meet long-term rail demand and to improve resilience and reliability on the network;

Improve connectivity by delivering better journey times and making travel easier;

And therefore boost economic growth across the UK.

My Department also welcomes the ambitious HS2 growth strategy put forward by the East Midland (EM) leaders. They aim to capitalise on the economic benefits of HS2 through the development of an innovation hub, garden settlement and better local transport connections at Toton, less than 4 miles away from Trowell. Government is now working with the EM councils on their proposals as we move towards the deposit of a hybrid Bill in 2019.

In July 2017 the Government published its most recent update to the Business Case to support the introduction of the Phase 2a Bill to parliament and the Secretary of State’s decision on the route for the rest of Phase 2 to Leeds and Manchester.

The 2017 Economic Case estimates HS2 (the full Y) will bring over £92 billion of benefits—£75 billion to transport users and £18 billion of wider economic benefits - delivering more than £2 of benefits (£2.30) for every £1 of investment. We are confident that the scheme represents good value for money and is in line with other major rail schemes.