[Relevant document: Tenth Report of the Public Accounts Committee, High Speed 2 Annual Report and Accounts, HC 454.]
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
It is four years since my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire Dales (Sir Patrick McLoughlin), stood at this Dispatch Box to seek powers for a new railway line between London and the north, the first new major railway line north of London for 120 years. At that time, it was simply a concept—an important one but one that seemed a long way off. We have come a long way since. In February 2017, Parliament granted powers to construct phase 1 of the scheme, from London to the west midlands, and works on part of this route have now begun. This project is now a developing reality. We came a step closer to an operating railway when we announced the shortlist of companies that will bid for the west coast partnership and design, launch and operate the early passenger services on HS2.
This vital new rail capacity project, under construction from London to Birmingham, is only the first part of the project. We need to deliver capacity to our northern cities and bring our country closer together. I am pleased to stand here today, therefore, to start the next phase of this vital project. Phase 2a extends HS2 from the west midlands to Crewe. The first stage of the new line, which will take the midlands engine through to the northern powerhouse, connecting the two together, will accelerate construction of the first section of phase 2 by six years and bring us a step closer to delivering a complete brand-new high-speed line all the way to Manchester. That is the importance of today’s debate. It is this link that will take the railway line towards Manchester—finally to one of our great cities and industrial centres of the north-west.
As the Secretary of State will be aware, the statement of funding policy that accompanied the last comprehensive spending review awarded to Wales a 0% Barnett consequential rating for HS2, whereas Scotland and Northern Ireland both had 100%. Unless he can assure the House that Wales will get a 100% rating in the next CSR, my colleagues and I will have no option but to vote against the Bill this evening.
If the House does not support the Bill, the Crewe hub and the links to north Wales that it will provide will be simply an illusion, so the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues would be doing down Wales, which would be surprising—though, of course, it is typically Conservative Members who are the real champions of Wales. We will continue to ensure we provide the right connections to Wales.
I thank the Secretary of State for giving way so early in his speech, and I ask him to forgive me as I may not be able to be here for its entirety because I have other duties outside the Chamber, but I hope to return. He says he is very proud of this new railway the Government are building, but can he explain why he is building a railway with old technology? Back in 2015, the Japanese beat all their records with a Maglev train, whereas we appear to be building something from the last century, not something for the future.
It is interesting. I have travelled on the Maglev line in development in Japan. It is a project that has a role to play in the Japanese transport system, but, having studied it at first hand, I do not believe it is the right project for this country, and nor do I believe it could deliver the level of capacity that HS2 will. HS2, of course, is a capacity project that brings with it speed, not the other way around, and that is what our transport system needs more than anything else. It is crucial, too, to the development of the north of England, which has a population of more than 15 million and over 1 million businesses, and which has exports worth upwards of £50 billion. The north of England makes a huge contribution to the success and prosperity of this country, but it needs strong and effective new transport links, and this project will be an important part of that, which is why it is so important to the whole UK.
The Secretary of State says this is now about capacity, but please can he not change history? When this was first proposed, including the route through my constituency, it was all about speed; otherwise it would not have been allowed to travel on a route that will cause so much environmental damage.
My right hon. Friend will know that I have been consistent all the way through in talking about this as a capacity project. I know that she and I are on different sides of the argument, but, from the time I was shadow Transport Secretary a decade ago, I have always talked about this improvement in terms of capacity, and I will continue to do so, because that is the most important part of it. We can debate the rights and wrongs, but I believe it is a capacity project—the speed is a bonus. I do not believe in building something with old technology—we should have a state-of-the-art railway—but the big difference this will make will be to capacity.
I welcome the Bill, but I note that the Minister referred to connecting the west midlands to HS2. What about the northern powerhouse and Liverpool’s connection to the new high-speed line?
I did mention the northern powerhouse. In terms of Liverpool, which, as the hon. Lady knows, is a city I have great affection for, as we move beyond the Bill and develop northern powerhouse rail and integrate what needs to be done in the north with the north-south routes and HS2, I believe that all the great cities of the north—Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, York, Hull—will benefit, as indeed will places further north, such as Carlisle and Scotland. I will come back to Scotland in a moment.
As I have said many times in the House, we are delivering a process of modernisation on the midland main line that will transform journey times and deliver much improved rolling stock and brand-new trains much sooner. Our proposed model will deliver the improvements people want in the early 2020s, which is sooner than any other project would have done.
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way; he is being very generous so early in his speech. I agree with him: it is about capacity. We cannot have an effective, modern society unless we have capacity, and we have to have good infrastructure, which means connectivity. Would he therefore consider advancing the Government’s excellent plans for HS2 by bringing on the other piece of the Y to Leeds? I believe that people throughout the whole of the east midlands support HS2, and we want it as soon as possible, please, especially at Toton in Broxtowe.
I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend. Toton is going to be a fantastic centre in the east midlands for commercial development—transport and residential—whose benefits will ripple out across the area and have a hugely positive effect on the whole of the east midlands. I understand her point. We are working as fast as we can to bring before the House the powers we need for the east midlands and Yorkshire leg. I want to get it right—there are sensitivities on the route, as she will know—and I have travelled much of the route myself and looked at the issues as and when they arrive. We will do everything we can to minimise the impact on residents—I understand that such major projects have a negative effect on some people—but I assure her that we will bring the measure for the rest of the route before the House as soon as we can.
I have talked a bit about the north. Let me now talk about Scotland, because I want it to benefit from HS2 on the day it opens. When the full Y network opens in 2033, HS2 trains will run seamlessly on to the west and east coast main lines from the network that is then built. My Department and Transport Scotland are working closely with Network Rail in looking at options that will go beyond HS2. We want to identify options for strong business cases that can improve journey times, capacity, resilience and reliability. Our ultimate ambition is for three-hour rail journeys between London and Scotland’s central belt—a further strengthening of the Union that we all hold so dear. That, I think, is the point: HS2 will be a transformative project for the entire United Kingdom, including the parts that it does not serve directly. The benefits in terms of job creation, business opportunity and technological development will be enormous for the whole country.
I strongly support the Bill, and agree with my right hon. Friend’s comments about capacity in our rail network and the positive impact that HS2 will have on our northern economy. Can he tell us a little more about the impact on job creation in the north and elsewhere outside London?
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work that he has done on this project. He has been a very distinguished Transport Minister. He has not only made a major contribution to its development, but has been immensely sensitive in dealing with residents. He should take great credit for that.
The point about jobs is crucial. Our industrial strategy sets out a vision of a Britain that is confident and competitive, a global trading nation that is in charge of its own destiny, and HS2 can play a big part in that. Last year we announced which train builders were vying for the £2.75 billion to deliver Britain’s state-of-the-art high-speed trains. That investment alone will create many opportunities in this country.
I have said previously that during the procurement process, as we pick the organisations that will build these trains, it must be clear that they will have to leave a substantial skills and technology footprint in this country. We will not countenance trains being built in another part of the world, put on a ship and delivered to the UK, with no benefit at all to the UK itself. This project will have a lasting impact. Indeed, the whole construction of this railway will create jobs, careers, technologies and expertise that will last a new generation of engineers for a lifetime. That is another reason why it is so crucial.
Siemens in my constituency has been shortlisted to provide the signalling for HS2, and Chippenham hopes to benefit from the fact that 70% of the new jobs will be outside London. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this project has the potential to benefit the south-west as well?
My hon. Friend is right, and I am delighted that Siemens has been shortlisted for that work. I want as much of the work as possible to be done in the United Kingdom, so that we can develop that skills footprint, developing those young apprentices and developing the engineering skills that we need for the future. That must happen throughout the United Kingdom: south-west, north-east, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, south-east, midlands, the north and East Anglia. I want to see jobs and opportunities for British businesses, and businesses based in Britain.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that we have Crossrail as a model? It is being finalised this year, and will be operating next year. That project was built on the use of suppliers in the United Kingdom, and the spread of its supply network throughout the UK. Although it was a London project, many parts of the country have benefited from it. What HS2 is doing is the natural follow-through from what Crossrail did.
Absolutely. Crossrail may be a project for transport in London, but it is also a project for engineering and industry in the United Kingdom as a whole. It brings benefits to all parts of the United Kingdom, and HS2 will bring benefits to all parts of the United Kingdom. Northern Powerhouse Rail, when it is built, will bring benefits in southern as well as northern England, and, indeed, throughout the United Kingdom. The more that we invest in these projects, the more economic benefits we will deliver across the UK.
May I ask my right hon. Friend not to take his eye off a distant ball, which is the future of the west coast main line after HS2 is constructed? More than 44 stations on that line will not be served by HS2. It is very important for passenger traffic to be maintained on the west coast main line, and to ensure that it is not used just for freight traffic.
My hon. Friend is right. As one who has sailed through his local station many times, on Pendolino trains, I believe that we can and should do better at such intermediate stations. We should provide better commuter links to Birmingham and to towns such as Northampton and Milton Keynes, and we should provide better links within the Trent valley—from Nuneaton to Lichfield, and up to Stafford. We will be able to do all those things to a greater degree in the future. Yes, there will be a freight benefit. We all want a freight benefit, because we want fewer trucks on the M6 and the M1, but the fact is that we can do both. Creating that extra capacity on HS2, or via HS2, is, to my mind, its great benefit. It will of course be a fast, state-of-the-art railway, but first and foremost it is about giving our transport system the capacity that it will need to enable us to grow in the future.
I know that there are people for whom this project is bad news. There are people who are affected by the routes, many of whom are in my hon. Friend’s constituency. I genuinely wish it were possible—I am sure that Members in all parts of the House wish it were possible—to deliver infrastructure improvements like this without human consequences, but it is not possible. What we must do is try to treat those people decently.
HS2 has not always got it right, and we will not always get it right, but I give the House today an assurance that I have given it before: when an injustice is being done, we will do everything we can as a ministerial team to sort it out. Members need only come to us and say, “This is unfair”, and we will look at it. Indeed, I have already done so in places up and down the route, and I will continue to do so, particularly in respect of this part of the project. A number of constituencies on the route from the Trent valley up to Crewe are affected. As the two Ministers responsible, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Ms Ghani), and I will happily talk to colleagues during this process. There will, of course, be many opportunities for them to make representations about the impacts to the Committee, assuming that the Bill is given a Second Reading today.
I appreciate what my right hon. Friend is saying today. We have also had many conversations about the ways in which some of my constituents are affected. That has been going on since 2013. We may get there in the end with compensation and agreements, but the problem is that it takes so long—far too long for some people. Some of my constituents are very elderly, and some are quite ill. Can my right hon. Friend reassure me, and my constituents, that we can improve the process?
I absolutely give my hon. Friend that assurance. There are processes that we must rightly follow to protect public money, but there are exceptions that always step outside what is planned. Part of the job that we have, as Ministers, is to ensure that when those exceptions arise—and I know that there are two in my hon. Friend’s constituency, which she and I have been talking about—we must resolve them before we reach a point at which those people are suffering in their lives. We are a little bit of time away from the phase 2 Bill and the process involved in phase 2b. As I have said to my hon. Friend and to other Members, we will try to sort out those exceptions so that people do not suffer inappropriately. I will continue to work with my hon. Friend to try to resolve the situation.
While the Secretary of State is handing out assurances, may I, on behalf of the people of Stoke-on-Trent, ask for an assurance that the existing direct and frequent services from Stoke-on-Trent to London, Birmingham and Manchester on the west coast main line will in no way be diminished or reduced as a result of HS2 taking up some of the capacity through the classic compatible services?
As the hon. Gentleman will know—and I have given this assurance to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton)— I am acutely aware of the issues in Stoke-on-Trent. I want to ensure not only that the high-quality service that it deserves is protected, but that HS2 trains run through it, which is also what it deserves. I have given that clear commitment to the people of Stoke. I want them to have a first-rate rail service, and HS2 will make it possible for them to have an even better rail service than they have at present.
Let me say more about the affected communities. Last week we announced an additional £5 million for communities and businesses that are disrupted by the construction of phase 2a, which can be spent on public projects, community centres and so forth. That will add to what we have already committed in terms of the mitigation and compensation in place, and we will carry on looking at ways in which we can minimise the impact on local people and the areas affected.
I am totally in favour of the project, as train travel is environmentally friendly because it gets people out of their cars and on to trains. But will the Secretary of State reflect on the potential loss of ancient woodland because of HS2, and whether consideration might be given, where possible, to using tunnels so that we keep these wonderful, magnificent trees? We have only 2% of them left in the whole country. Will we consider doing this? If not, and if there is unavoidable loss, could we consider 30% amelioration, as recommended by Natural England, rather than the figures bandied about today?
I am very well aware of the potential impact on ancient woodland. We have already made changes to the design of the project to try to mitigate that impact, and there is an absolute commitment to look to plant afresh and to develop environmental measures to compensate for any loss of woodland. Also, there are some exciting potential projects on the route that can enhance the natural environment at the same time as we are having to make changes elsewhere. I assure my hon. Friend that we are very sensitive to the issue she mentions, and we will do our best to make this project in as environmentally friendly a way as possible. We cannot build something new like this across the whole country without having some impacts, but we can try to mitigate them and put money into positive alternatives. That is what we are committed to, and that is what we will do.
This is a step on the way towards creating a 21st century new rail network: phase 1 to Birmingham, phase 2a to Crewe, eventually phase 2b to Manchester and Leeds, and then across the top with Northern Powerhouse Rail, and then, through that, the connections to the north-east, which the shadow Secretary of State will hold dear, to Scotland—colleagues on both sides of the House representing Scottish constituencies are keen to see that connection put in place—and into north Wales through the Crewe hub that we are working on at the moment.
This project will provide the capacity our transport system needs in the 21st century. It will deliver better journey times and, particularly importantly, much better connections between our northern cities—Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds—where there are poor connections at the moment; this will make a huge difference to them. But above all this is about making sure this country has a 21st century transport system. I hope the project commands support across the House. I know that some Members have issues both about the principles of the project and constituency impacts. To those with constituency impacts I simply say again that we will do our best to minimise those and to work as closely as possible with them to make sure that people who are affected are treated as decently as possible.
This Bill is enormously important to this House, to the future of this country, to our nation, to strengthening our Union, and to delivering economic growth across the whole country, and I very much hope that this House will give it its support today.
I am pleased to stand here today to support a project which was instigated by the last Labour Government. National infrastructure investment is too important to be left to the vagaries of the election cycle. It is to the Government’s credit that they have continued to back both HS2 and Crossrail since 2010. Labour has always maintained that HS2 must be built as a network rather than a standalone piece of infrastructure. It is this approach which will deliver the maximum economic benefits. Both main parties can agree that HS2 is about more than transport. High-speed rail is about unlocking the economic potential of the north and the midlands. It will drive a rebalancing of the UK economy by improving connectivity between the north and south.
The hon. Gentleman talked about HS2 being an integrated network, but one of my criticisms of HS2 is that it is far from integrated. The original plan was for it to go direct down through the channel tunnel and into continental Europe and I can give other examples—I will probably will do so in my speech—but this is far from integrated: it is stand-alone, meets at Crewe and does not actually go into Birmingham New Street. Why is this?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, and it is key that HS2 integrates. We have just heard words from the Secretary of State about the need to ensure that it does connect with our northern cities, but we are yet to see those plans unfurl. We have heard about Transport for the North’s aspirations, but this cannot be a stand-alone project; it is essential that it links into our great towns and cities throughout the nation.
Linking the great cities of the north and midlands is equally important and will bring much-needed economic benefits to those regions. Labour supports the nearly 30,000 jobs the construction of HS2 will deliver and the huge uplift it will give to apprenticeships and training, particularly outside London. It is not too early to consider how we will retain and develop those skills in the future in other infrastructure projects both at home and abroad. I would be interested in any comments the Secretary of State has on this point, particularly with regard to Northern Powerhouse Rail and Crossrail.
I also make a plea that we must not repeat the catastrophe of the Carillion experience with apprentices. Apprentices in my constituency are being left flapping in the wind, not knowing whether they are going to be paid. We hear today that their employment will come to an end at the end of this month. It is a disgrace that £6.5 million of public money has gone into an apprenticeship programme that leaves our apprentices short of their qualifications and without employment. The Government should intervene now to guarantee that those apprentices will receive that assurance from this Government today.
I am grateful to the shadow Secretary of State for giving way, and he and I share that view. I can assure him that, on the HS2 project, the apprentices who were employed by Carillion are migrating to work for Kier and those employed by Carillion have been moved on to the project with the other two partners. So not only should there be no hiatus in the work taking place, but, more importantly, the people on those projects are moving to different companies involved in them. There are obviously some very difficult circumstances elsewhere as a consequence of the collapse of Carillion, but I have been very keen with this project to make sure we have the seamless transition we contracted for last summer, and I am delighted to see the apprentices move on in a way that enables them to carry on with their apprenticeships.
I am grateful for that reassurance in the context of these projects, but I am particularly concerned about these apprentices in the here-and-now; there are 100 out of the 1,400 who have been prejudiced in my community and we want to see this Government respond by coming to the table and making sure those young people have a future. It is difficult enough to encourage people into these industries in the first instance without leaving them high and dry, as has happened on this occasion.
I welcome the commitments contained in HS2’s environmental principles. It is imperative that environmental standards and air quality are at the forefront of the project. Many of the arguments about why we need HS2, and why we do not, have been well rehearsed in this House over many years: passenger rail numbers have doubled since 1995; rail freight has grown by two thirds over the same period; and the existing network has been operating at full capacity for years. No amount of timetable-tinkering can change this; I trust that all Members are in agreement about that.
Although it is important to maintain our vital road network, there is an urgent need to secure modal shift across transport: we cannot build our way out of congestion on our roads, and we must be watchful about the sustainability of domestic air travel. In addition, we face the prospect of the population of Britain reaching 70 million by the end of the decade. So the question is: how are we going to move our people around our nation? It is no exaggeration to say that the very economic and social livelihood of this country is at stake. Our capacity to move people by rail and bus is therefore crucial.
I am grateful to the former Minister for his intervention. If he will be patient for just a few more minutes, I will happily address that point in full detail.
I was proud that Labour forced the Government to introduce much tougher reporting on HS2 spending through an amendment to the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Act 2013 before the previous Bill came to the House in 2014. I pay tribute to my predecessors, my hon. Friends the Members for Wakefield (Mary Creagh) and for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood), in that respect. We also amended that Bill to improve integration with existing transport networks and the specific reporting of the jobs and skills created by the project.
I do not want to digress too much, but this is all relevant. We only need an incident on the west coast main line for everything to stop, and that certainly needs to be looked at. Also, I have constituents who will not qualify for compensation as a result of this project.
One of the main points about this project is that it will allow us to build resilience into the network. That is not an either/or; this is not simply about building HS2. My hon. Friend is right say that we need to build greater resilience into our network. On the point about compensation arrangements, it has been noted on both sides of the House that we need to ensure that proper compensation is paid. These are really sensitive issues, and people should not be left wondering whether compensation arrangements will come forward. My hon. Friend is right about that as well.
I am keen to hear the Minister’s views on striking the right balance between HS2 services and freight on the parts of the network where high-speed trains will run on conventional tracks. HS2, the Department for Transport and Network Rail need to resolve the important concerns that are being expressed by freight operators. Elsewhere, there are significant questions to be answered about how the new high-speed railway will integrate with the existing rail network. During the Second Reading debate in 2014, the previous Secretary of State for Transport boasted that
“upgrading Britain’s rail infrastructure is a key part of this Government’s long-term economic plan”.—[Official Report, 28 April 2014; Vol. 579, c. 567.]
He also said:
“we will be electrifying more than 800 miles of line throughout the country”.—[Official Report, 28 April 2014; Vol. 579, c. 561.]
It is quite clear that the Government have broken those promises over the past four years. They made commitments on rail ahead of the 2015 general election, only to break them days later. The reality is that the last two Transport Secretaries have cut upgrades to rail infrastructure and cancelled the electrification of rail lines. Of course, HS2 is but one piece of the jigsaw. I am therefore concerned that if the other pieces are not right, the whole thing will not fit together properly.
The current Secretary of State for Transport came to the House in November to announce his strategic vision for rail. The problem was that his plan was neither strategic nor visionary. It was a smokescreen to cover up a blatant multibillion pound bail-out of the east coast main line franchise. It is clear to passengers and taxpayers that this Government are defending a broken franchising system. Under this Government, protecting private companies comes before the public interest. Giving Carillion a contract for HS2 last July while that company was imploding was an appalling decision, and the Minister’s legal justifications for that decision were risible. His bail-out of Stagecoach-Virgin on the east coast was yet another serious misjudgement in which his dogma won out over pragmatism and common sense.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman will find out what HS2 has to do with the east coast and west coast main lines if he can be patient just a little longer.
The Secretary of State’s promised east coast partnership between track and train by 2020 is unworkable and undeliverable. No one in the rail industry believes that it is actually going to happen. Another of his pet projects is the west coast project—perhaps the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Seely) will want to pay attention to this—which is going to be awarded later this year. The winner of that contract will run services on the west coast main line and oversee the introduction of HS2 services. The Government have a track record of accepting bids from the private sector that are either too high or too low, and the Department for Transport has proved unable to manage such projects. Given that the Secretary of State has been found wanting so often, what makes him think that his west coast partnership will work any better than his east coast partnership?
High Speed 2 will be the jewel in the crown of Britain’s rail network when it begins operations in the next decade. It will be a shining example of Britain’s capability and talent, and it will encapsulate our technological and engineering prowess. However, I can tell the Secretary of State that there will be uproar across the land, should this piece of the family silver be handed over to Virgin Trains, Stagecoach or others of their ilk. I can tell the House today that there will be no gift of HS2 to Richard Branson or Brian Souter under the next Labour Government. HS2 will be built with public money and it will stay in public ownership.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on bringing forward this Bill. I also congratulate all those people in the Department for Transport and in HS2 who are working to finalise these proposals. It is a pleasure to follow the shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Andy McDonald), although I think he slightly spoiled his speech by going off piste and talking about electrification. We will take no lessons from Labour on electrification, given its record between 1997 and 2010, during which time it electrified 10 miles of railway. I would like to say that that was a snail’s pace, but I think that a snail would have travelled further in 13 years than Labour did with its electrification.
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I will make some progress.
It is right to say that we have seen a renaissance on our railways since privatisation, and that renaissance continued under the last Labour Government. Indeed, in their 13 years in government, they did not seek to change the franchising at all. They felt that that was the best way to operate the railways. We had the private sector and the public sector involved, and we saw our railways improve tremendously. If we get to a situation—I hope we do not—of the railways going back to a fully nationalised body, what happened in the ’60s and ’70s will happen again. Rail was always at the back of the queue for investment. Hospitals and education took priority; the railways were left without any priority whatsoever. There is no doubt in my mind that privatisation has led to the rejuvenation of the rail industry, and so much so that passenger numbers have increased from something like 700 million to some 1.6 billion, which speaks for itself.
I am pleased that the Bill has been introduced. David Higgins recommended that we should try to bring the investment and benefits of HS2 more quickly to the north. Should this Bill get its Second Reading today, it is worth remembering that we will see high-speed services to Crewe by 2027. In infrastructure terms, and given the necessary planning, that is not that far away, so I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on bringing the Bill forward.
I know that the Government are well aware of this, but I want to talk about the importance of continuing to develop skills in engineering. The National College for High Speed Rail, which is based in Doncaster and Birmingham, will enable people to get the engineering skills that are so important. All that follows on from the remarkable Crossrail project, which will start to open to the public later this year. We saw such skills in the television programmes covering its development across London.
This important Bill is about capacity. There are those who say that the Department for Transport and its Secretaries of State have changed their mind and that they talk about capacity more than speed, but the very first HS2 document that was published referred to capacity, too. The west coast main line is one of the busiest lines in Europe, if not the busiest. We need a massive injection of infrastructure, and this Bill is the answer
The right hon. Gentleman is quite right that we want to speed things up and that the west coast main line is very busy, but to go back to the point that I made to my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Andy McDonald), what are we going to do about the bottlenecks? There were cancellations yesterday, and there only has to be one incident for everything to stop. That affects freight as much as anything else.
I completely accept that, but the simple fact is that that is one of the reasons for the new line. We want resilience, alternatives and something that is much more modern. We have spent a fortune on upgrading the west coast main line from Birmingham up to Manchester, although I understand that we did not carry out any upgrade south of Rugby. The upgrade was essential, and if the then Government had been a bit more forward thinking, they could have built a new high-speed line then rather than doing an upgrade.
An upgrade has been undertaken, however, and it is very visible near Lichfield, for example, where the bridge has been changed as the line goes through Armitage to accommodate four tracks instead of two. There has been a huge amount of investment in the west coast main line, and that answers the question asked by the hon. Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham) with regard to the need for greater capacity, more alternatives, and the modern engineering that we will get from HS2. I cannot remember the exact year, but there was a time a few years ago when every single railway line in the country had problems because of weather disruption apart from HS1, which was built to a high specification with modern engineering.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way and for his excellent speech. Does he agree that capacity and speed are not mutually exclusive? Not only will we get a world-class new line to deliver new capacity, but we are improving our existing lines. With that in mind, will he confirm how much is about to be invested in the new signalling programme in Derby, a place he knows very well?
More than £200 million is being spent in Derby on re-signalling and a new platform to ensure that London trains no longer have to cross the lines going to other parts of the country, thereby enabling those trains to go straight through on the main line. That is the kind of investment that is already happening in our railways up and down the country. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been successful in securing extra investment not just for HS2, but for all the other railway lines that so badly need the kind of upgrades that we will see in Derby. We will no doubt complain when the station has to be closed for a period over the summer, but such a thing is inevitable if we are to achieve such overall benefit. We saw something similar just a few years ago at Nottingham station.
My right hon. Friend speaks eloquently about busyness, capacity and bottlenecks on the west coast main line. Does he have anything to say about the south and south-west rail routes into London? Those routes are busier and have more capacity problems than many northern routes, but they will be unaffected by HS2 and might have their funding skewed because of it.
I do not think that that is the case, but there is nobody better than the Secretary of State to answer those points. The tremendous investment at Reading station has improved the whole network to the south-west. The investment at that station alone was in the region of £800 million or £900 million. Extra flyovers were put in to improve capacity down to the south-west.
The improvement in overall capacity is brilliant for the people we represent in towns such as Redditch that are outside the major conurbations. The improved capacity will create an opportunity for more services from Redditch to Birmingham for commuting and jobs.
I thank the former Secretary of State for giving way. What does he think will be the extra capacity for commuter services around Staffordshire? There are no additional plans for commuter services under the proposals. There is no additional infrastructure, other than the HS2 route itself, so there is no immediate benefit.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman wants us to have a detailed timetable for 10 years’ time, but extra capacity will become available for new services. I believe that Stoke-on-Trent will benefit greatly from HS2 because of its link, its service and its closeness to Crewe. We then have to improve some of the road structures in and around Stoke-on-Trent so that people can receive the benefit. That will represent far more investment than Stoke-on-Trent saw in any year under a Labour Government, so we can be rightly proud of what we are doing.
I fully accept—my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State addressed this—that any big infrastructure project will always lead to certain people being inconvenienced. If there were a way of ensuring that people would not be inconvenienced, we would all move for it. I am afraid that inconvenience is inevitable. It is worth remembering that the first time a railway was proposed between Birmingham and London, the idea was defeated in the House of Commons because everybody said that the canals were perfectly adequate. That was part of the problem with the west coast main line, and it is why certain diversions were built into it.
The line from the west midlands to Crewe will be of significant benefit to transport infrastructure in this country, the United Kingdom as a whole and our cities outside London by creating connectivity not just between London and our cities, but between those cities. The line is important, and it is moving in the right direction. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on this proposal.
As we look at the current Secretary of State for Transport and his predecessors around him on the Conservative Benches, it is like old times.
The Scottish National party supports the development of the HS2 project, which we have discussed on a number of occasions. Even the Secretary of State would concede that the Scottish Government have worked very positively to advance the project, but that does not mean we are not critical of quite a number of aspects of it.
For HS2 to establish the benefits that have been suggested, it needs to be expanded much further and much faster—and, as we have heard, not just to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, but to Scotland, and with some haste. If this project was to be truly inclusive—the Secretary of State talked about the parity in this family of nations that we are supposed to have—there is a strong argument that HS2 should have started in Scotland and made its way down through the north of England, arriving eventually at London. The economic benefits would have been dramatic had that choice been made, and it was indeed a choice. Had the Government been serious about including the nations of the UK, that could have been done. While we are talking about being serious about being inclusive, let me say that if journey times are to be improved, perhaps one thing that would help to reduce delays dramatically, as this is one key reason for delays in Scotland, would be the devolution of Network Rail. Even at this late stage, the UK Government can make a difference if they choose to do so by committing to extending the service to Scotland without hesitation.
The hon. Gentleman talks about starting the project in Scotland, but that is not a sensible idea at all. The whole point about capacity is that every morning we have 5,000 people standing on trains into London Euston and 3,000 standing into Birmingham New Street. If the project started in Scotland, that would just mean more Scottish people standing on trains as they tried to get into the capital.
The hon. Gentleman knows that I have enjoyed debating with him and that I respect him greatly, but we always end up highlighting the fact that none of that was even looked at. No research was conducted on it. Unless he is willing to intervene to tell me about research that was conducted—[Interruption.] That tells us everything about how—
It is patently obvious from all the traffic flows and the passenger numbers that as one gets closer to the capital, the congestion due to passenger numbers builds. As I say, we have 5,000 people standing every morning into London Euston, and there would be more Scottish people standing if we did not start in London and work our way up. It is, however, great that the time saving is going to benefit people in Scotland from day one.
I wish to remain consensual throughout this debate, but I must point out, once again, that all the hon. Gentleman has done is to confirm that no work had been done to look at the economic benefits for Scotland and the north of England.
The Secretary of State’s argument that Scotland will already be on the HS2 line is weak. I agree that journey times to and from Scotland will be faster, by virtue of the increased speed in the south of England, but given that Scotland and its people are paying for a proportion of the new infrastructure, it would be wholly wrong for the new infrastructure not to come also to Scotland.
We support HS2 because of the benefits it could and should bring, but those benefits could be greater if the missing investment were made. Clarity is also required, and with some urgency, on the Barnett consequentials. The question of the Barnett consequentials has been raised again in this House today, yet the Government have failed time and again to answer it, despite being asked to do so on many occasions.
Although this will not be well received by Conservative Members, I agree with the shadow Minister that questions need to be asked about the governance and management of HS2, given the absolute shambles the Government have got themselves into with the contract—and, of course, the honours system as well. We are talking about £2 billion-worth of contracts awarded after profit warnings were issued. Why did the Government want Carillion to continue after a 70% drop in the share price and the issuing of profit warnings? Ministers need to give answers about that, and they should take the opportunity to provide them now. There are clear examples to show that the Government knew there were more than just superficial problems at Carillion, yet the contracts just continued. Why was that?
I said earlier that the Scottish Government are committed to working in a continuing partnership to reduce rail journey times—we are working closely with the Minister to hit the three-hour target—but the Government still have not recommended a route to Scotland. Is it going to be on the east or the west coast? They must now start to work on the best options for Scotland, consider the benefits and different business cases, albeit belatedly, and deliver so that people in Scotland get some value.
If the Government share the ambition of delivering sub-three-hour journey times, we will support that, but the project should not be about only times or the physical build. As the right hon. Member for Derbyshire Dales (Sir Patrick McLoughlin) said, we must consider skills and opportunities. He mentioned Crewe and other locations, but unfortunately he did not mention Scotland. This project can and should build skills, expertise, capability and jobs for a generation, but it also needs to be inclusive in terms of its opportunities and STEM objectives. We should be alive to the chance to provide opportunities to young people, especially girls and young women, who do not get mentioned enough in this context. Scotland has successfully delivered major infrastructure projects, with the Borders rail link a prime example among many others, and is already positioning itself as a hub for rail expertise. The Heriot-Watt high-speed rail centre of excellence has put Scotland firmly on the map as a place for specialist high-speed rail knowledge.
Let us expand the network to Scotland with some hitherto unseen urgency. Let us hear the answers on the Barnett consequentials. Let us have guarantees from the Government on the future governance of the project. If a true partnership is desired, as the Secretary of State has stated, let us see some ambition on the preferred route, a commitment to utilising the expertise and talent of the men and women of Scotland, and investment in our centre of excellence.
I beg to move an amendment, to leave out from “That” to the end of the Question and add:
“this House, while recognising the increasing need for additional north-south rail line capacity to relieve congestion on the West Coast Main Line south of the Midlands and to improve connectivity between major cities and with London, declines to give the High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill a Second Reading because (1) there are better ways to address any rail capacity issues north of the Midlands, (2) the line set out in the Bill is routed through unspoiled countryside unnecessarily damaging the environment including wildlife habitats, ancient woodlands and waterways, fails to connect via HS2 Phase 1 with HS1, the Channel Tunnel and the European continent, fails to connect directly through HS2 Phase 1 with potential airport hubs for London and the south-east of England, and fails to connect directly to existing major mainline stations and the existing rail network, (3) the Bill provides inadequate compensation to those blighted by the route and those whose property is subject to compulsory purchase orders, (4) the Bill fails to provide for sufficient public transport to disperse HS2 passengers disembarking at London Euston, and (5) the Bill does not implement a more environmentally sympathetic, better integrated, and more cost-effective route, such as the route originally proposed by Arup which would have used existing transport corridors minimising environmental damage and reducing costs by around £10 billion, and which would have connected directly with HS1 and the continent, London Heathrow Airport, Birmingham International Airport, and major conurbations.”
First, may I say how much I welcomed the Secretary of State’s answer to my question about Lichfield? Many of my constituents will be reassured by what he said. If he is half as good as his predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire Dales (Sir Patrick McLoughlin), he will be very good indeed.
Having said that, I am afraid that I must now destroy the cosy consensus that seems to be prevailing on the Opposition and Government Benches. I shall explain why. When HS2 was first envisioned, people spoke about people in Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham being able to get on to a high-speed train and end up in Paris, Lille and, indeed, even Berlin, with Deutsche Bahn. But that is not to be. We heard from the shadow Minister that HS2 is an integrated railway, but it is not. It is nothing like that at all.
Let me present a hypothetical situation. One of my constituents from Lichfield, together with his wife, two children and all their luggage, decide that they are going to give up travelling by dirty aircraft and will instead travel by clean rail down to Paris. What is the reality going to be? Imagine my constituent, the wife, the children and the baggage. They get on the train at Lichfield City station—although this applies to stations up and down the country—and end up at Birmingham New Street. Then what happens? They have to leave Birmingham New Street with the two children and all their bags and walk for 22 minutes. At this point, I wish to praise Councillor Tony Thompson in Lichfield who has done the walk and timed it. Without the children and all the bags, it took him 22 minutes to tramp across Birmingham to get to Curzon Street to the proposed HS2 station.
After all that, can the family then relax, knowing that they will end up in Paris? No, they cannot—because, instead, the train arrives at Euston. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, when he was Mayor of London, pointed out, quite rightly, that Euston has a capacity problem—not with trains arriving, because Euston is to be extended, but with getting people away from Euston, because there is not the public transport. Even if there was sufficient capacity, the family then have to tramp, yet again, either down a series of escalators and back up again, with children and with all the bags, or they walk across London to get to St Pancras.
For 15 months, I was a member of the HS2 Bill Committee, and I did that very walk myself. I did not get a friendly councillor to do it for me; I did it myself. It took about six to eight minutes top whack. I know that, in future, the route will be better than it was then because an awful lot of construction work was going on around New Street at the time. It was six to eight minutes top whack.
May I take my hon. Friend slightly closer to home, not perhaps in his own constituency, but alongside? Those people who seek to commute from Rugby, Coventry, Birmingham International and intermediate stations into Birmingham find that their daily journey is delayed by the fact that this line, which is two-track only and which can only be two-track, has express trains, local trains, intermediate trains to Northampton and even some freight trains on it. It is chaotic and jammed all the time. HS2 takes off the express trains and gives those people a better commute into Birmingham. Is that not something that the west midlands should champion?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right about that. I do not think that there is any argument about the capacity problem. It was he, or perhaps it was my right hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire Dales, who said that the west coast main line is operating at 100% capacity and that it is the busiest line in Europe. In fact, it is a triumph in that people have moved on to those trains in their millions since the time when a Labour Government were in power, and certainly since the time of nationalisation—and we all remember those curling sandwiches. Of course there are advantages, too, but it could have been done in a much better way. It is not a connected service. What do we have now? The genesis of it all was Lord Adonis who, in 2007, came up with the idea of the route. I can tell Members that he was astonished when the Conservative Government accepted that route. Again, let me say very clearly that I am arguing not against HS2 itself, but against the way in which it is being executed. That is what I am criticising. Lord Adonis wanted an ultra-high-speed line. As a consequence, he got rulers on maps, drew straight lines, crashing through countryside, which had previously not been damaged, destroying ancient woodlands, and generally messing up the entire area.
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. I do not agree with the overall drift of where his speech is leading us to, but he makes a very good point, which is about the importance of connectivity. There is no point in spending billions of pounds on a brilliant new service unless the connectivity is there. Does he agree that, when we look at other projects, we know that the ones that work—wherever they are in the world—are ones where a person can get off one line, and move swiftly and easily, in comfort, to another line, or another piece of transport.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. And that, really, is my main criticism of HS2—that it is not integrated. We cannot get on in Birmingham and end up in France and it does not connect with HS1. The sadness is that Arup originally came up with a proposal that would have done just that. The original Arup proposal would have been more on the surface, using existing transport corridors, so it would have been £10 billion to £12 billion cheaper. At the same time, it would have been less environmentally damaging, and that would have made sense. Under Arup’s plan, we would have been able to get on a train at Birmingham New Street and, as a consequence, end up in France. But no—because we were at that point obsessed with running at ultra-high speed, we decided that we would do this project with straight lines going through virgin countryside.
Thank goodness that there will now be kinks and loops—thanks, in part, to my right hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire Dales—so that HS2 does not go smashing through the middle of Lichfield cathedral or, indeed, so that it does not damage Tatton. I remember that my former right hon. Friend, George Osborne, managed to get a few kinks in the line as well. But do you know what the irony is, Madam Deputy Speaker? The irony is that, because of all the kinks and loops, HS2 trains cannot now travel at ultra-high speed. Quite frankly, with the benefit of hindsight, we could have had a more connected train service that was less environmentally damaging and £12 billion cheaper than the present one. At the same time , it could have been something that people would cherish in years to come. Yes, they may cherish the route from Coventry to Birmingham, but I think that young people wanting to travel seamlessly to the continent by train will be sorely disappointed.
Now, I mentioned how phase 2a would affect Lichfield. By the way, Lichfield has had a double whammy because we were affected by phase 1 and are now being affected by phase 2a. Phase 2a will cause the loss or damage of 18 ancient woodlands—just on that short route—and the loss of 27 veteran trees between Lichfield and Crewe.
Twenty-seven, yes. Do not knock that, though. We are talking about ancient trees and woodlands, which cannot be repeated. We cannot dig them up and then replant them because—hey!—they are not ancient anymore. The definition of an ancient woodland is that it has to be 400 years old with a soil structure that can only be generated when it is 400 years old. As the Secretary of State said, all large infrastructure projects will cause damage, and of course I accept that. But if we had gone with the original Arup route, which Lord Adonis thought would be far too slow—it would only run at high speed, not ultra-high speed—we would not have had so much damage.
I am very pleased to see my hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Sir Robert Syms) in the Chamber. He ought to be a right hon. Member because he chaired the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill Select Committee for phase 1. I praise all the Members who served on that Committee, because at least I can offer my constituents the hope that, if the Committee that will be set up if this Bill goes through Parliament is half as good as his Committee, there will be improvements. If people petition and petition well, there will be changes to the route.
Finally, I re-emphasise the point I made earlier in a question to the Secretary of State. It is important that we do not lose sight of the west coast main line and continued passenger services. I believe that 44 railway stations on the west coast main line will not be directly affected or served by HS2. We still need our Virgin trains and our slower trains including the excellent service that is now being provided by London Northwestern Railway, which succeeded London Midland, which, incidentally, started off badly but improved a lot during its franchise period.
There will come a time when the Pendolinos will become unusable because they have reached their age limit. It is hugely important that the Department for Transport begins to start thinking about a replacement for that high-speed service, because Lichfield commuters do not just commute into Birmingham, Stafford and places like that—they are commuting down to London daily. One very senior guy at the BBC said to me, “Michael, I don’t have to send my kids to a private school”—this is the BBC for you, but we know about their salaries—“because the schools are so good in Lichfield, and I can afford to live in a large house with lots of land around me, which of course I could never do in London.” That is thanks to the Pendolino service.
With regard to broadcasters and where they could be located for their jobs, does my hon. Friend not think that HS2 is a great argument for Channel 4 to be relocated to the west midlands, because the Channel 4 executives could commute from London, or wherever they like to live? They could be based in Lichfield and make their programmes there.
They could be based in Lichfield, yes, or in Birmingham. I hope that Channel 4 will indeed move out of London. I know that this is completely out of order, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I am now putting in our bid for the west midlands on that.
I have explained why I cannot support this Bill. I will not press my amendment to a vote, but if, as I expect, there is going to be a Division on the substantive motion, I am afraid that I will have to vote against the Government on this occasion.
It is a shame, as my right hon. Friend says. I very rarely vote against my own Government, because we are so successful in what we do, but there is this blindness about the design of HS2—and it has permeated across to the Labour Front Bench as well. I could not believe it when the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Andy McDonald) said that it is an integrated railway line, when it very clearly is not. I will vote against this Bill, and I hope that other colleagues in the House will join me.
I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant). I am not sure if my speech will be quite as colourful, I must say.
The significance of this Bill for my constituents cannot be overstated. Crewe is a proud railway town. In fact, it is believed that Crewe was named after the railway station, rather than the other way around. The current station was completed in 1837 and has been recognised as one of the most historically significant railway stations in the world. Crewe was chosen after the nearby town of Winsford rejected an earlier proposal, as had landowners in Nantwich, which is also in my constituency. Nowadays, there are 23 trains passing through the station every hour, with additional, less frequent, services. The railway has shaped our history, our heritage and our culture in my constituency. It still plays a part in our local industry at Crewe Works, which has been owned by Bombardier since 2001. At its height, Crewe Works employed more than 20,000 people, but that dropped to fewer than 1,000 just over a decade ago. That gives a feel of just how much my constituency has changed.
Many of my constituents see HS2 as an opportunity for Crewe to regenerate economically and reconnect with its identity as a key player in the country’s national transport strategy. Today, I will set out the reasons why I support the Bill and the case for HS2—a project that was, indeed, proposed by a Labour Government. In doing so, I hasten to add that my support for the project is not unconditional.
One reason why HS2 has had support in my constituency is that it is not simply another project designed for the benefit of the south-east, but would benefit regions across the country. However, there are concerns in Crewe and Nantwich that as the project increasingly comes under budgetary strain, the Treasury might lack the appetite for the level of spending needed to deliver the greatest return on investment.
I am particularly concerned by comments made previously by the Secretary of State for Transport that decisions regarding the future of my constituency will be subject to affordability. We cannot afford not to get this right. As such, I ask the Secretary of State to clarify today when we will hear the outcome of the Crewe hub consultation and the Government’s plans.
If all that HS2 achieves is a fast track between London, Birmingham and Manchester, there is a very real possibility that it will reduce my constituency to little more than a bedsit on a commuter belt, where the next generation are priced out of living in the towns that they grew up in.
I apologise that I could not be here for the beginning of the debate. I fully support my hon. Friend on the need for a proper, integrated hub at Crewe, not least because that makes the spur that was proposed through Warrington absolutely redundant. A proper hub would enable many more towns in the north-west to benefit from HS2.
I agree, and I will come on to connectivity shortly.
Such short-sightedness would be a huge strategic miscalculation and a missed opportunity to future-proof towns such as those in my constituency from the troubling economic trends that we face. This cannot be about helping to expand the cities at the expense of squeezing out growth in the communities that I represent.
Limiting the service to two stops per hour at Crewe is simply a nonsensical proposal that will not only hold back my constituency for generations but will have consequences for areas beyond the north of Crewe and north Wales. For Government to overlook the clear business case for seven stops per hour at Crewe, or to act as a barrier to the strong local and regional ambitions, would be unforgivable.
Regional inequality is a major threat to the UK economy. Despite talk of a northern powerhouse, we are being presented with further evidence that the north-south divide remains as deep as it has ever been. Many living in left-behind towns look to the past with nostalgia and to the future with cynicism—and who can blame them? Their communities have suffered all the worst consequences of aggressive globalisation, and for very little reward. In Crewe and Nantwich, there are almost 4,000 children living in poverty, and wages are below the UK average. In fact, 28% of workers are paid less than the living wage, which is worse than the average for the north-west. Young people struggle to see a future filled with opportunities, and work no longer provides an escape route from poverty for struggling families.
In many ways, it is getting worse. A report this month by IPPR North suggests that the attainment gap between the north and the rest of England has widened to 5% at NVQ4 level, setting the north up to be the worst affected by an adult skills crisis. Another report this month by the Centre for Cities predicts that the rise of robots will deepen the economic divide if current trends continue, with almost a third of jobs in the north and the midlands vulnerable to automation and globalisation. Another report by IPPR North this month indicates that planned transport investment in London is two and a half times higher per person than in the north of England.
Many northern towns and cities are still struggling to recover from the industrial decline of the 1970s and 1980s, and this north-south divide threatens to hold back our national productivity. Some businesses choose to pay almost four times as much per square foot for their premises in London and the south because of poor connectivity in the north. Decades of inaction by successive Governments have left the north at the mercy of the markets.
There is no greater example of the need for Government intervention and strategic economic planning than the unsustainable situation we find ourselves in. The market has failed to provide any answers for the north, and HS2 provides one way in which the Government can begin to address this problem as part of a wider strategy. If delivered properly, this project will place my constituency at the heart of the UK’s most vibrant economic area, providing a successful and sustainable future for the next generation. Britain’s future in the world is surely as a knowledge-based economy, excelling in areas such as high-tech manufacturing. Such an economy will require a national transport strategy that prioritises high levels of connectivity. This requires increasing capacity and reliability, not just decreasing journey times.
Crewe is already a gateway station for the north-west, with regional and long-distance connections to the wider north-west, the east midlands and Wales. The phase 2a link will help to provide much-needed additional capacity for freight and will improve reliability for commuter services. It should be welcomed that the Government have brought forward the opening of the phase 2a link to 2027 as that will provide benefits to the north-west and beyond. Making the most out of connecting HS2, classic rail and the motorway network at Crewe could create 120,000 jobs across seven major local authority areas. Work undertaken by the Constellation Partnership indicates that 20,000 jobs would be created at the Crewe hub campus alone, with 17,000 additional jobs in the wider area.
My vision for HS2 is not as an end in itself, benefiting only businesses and commuters, but as a catalyst for the radical rebalancing of our economy, redistributing wealth from London to places such as Crewe and Nantwich and the rest of the UK. I must stress that this is not about asking London to lose out to the north; it is simply about achieving sustainability for London while allowing the north to achieve its full potential, which will benefit our entire country.
I want everybody in my constituency to feel the benefits of HS2, even if they never ride a train in their lives. Rail lines from Crewe reach out across to the smaller towns of Cheshire, to Warrington and the Wirral, to Manchester and Liverpool, to Lancashire, Shrewsbury, Derby and Stoke, and even to Scotland and Wales. A proper regional hub at Crewe, with a new northern junction to allow for maximum onward connectivity, will provide unrivalled opportunities for the whole of Cheshire, north Staffordshire and beyond. It is imperative that Crewe has direct high-speed services to key destinations, including London, Old Oak Common, Birmingham, Manchester airport, Manchester Piccadilly, Preston, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
As such, I support not only this Bill, but expanding the scope of the current HS2 programme to enable the interventions needed to deliver the services I have described. Although the services that run on our high-speed network will not be determined by statute, our legislative framework will determine what we are capable of achieving. It is vital that this Bill is supported today, and that future Bills do not limit our options. A proper regional hub could take advantage of existing connectivity and extend the benefits of HS2 to millions of people in the north, including those in our often forgotten towns beyond the major cities.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Laura Smith). May I welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Ms Ghani) to her new role and wish her all the best? It is very good to see her on the Front Bench.
I welcome the Government’s very considerable investment in our rail system—it is very good to see—and I support their ambitious railway agenda. There are lots of good things happening in our railway system. However, I find it hard to believe that the £52 billion being spent on HS2 could not have been better spent more broadly across the system.
I am not opposing or voting against the Bill, because I think there is little point: HS2 is going to happen. However, I think it would have been significantly better for our economy to have prioritised HS3, which is a good idea and clearly important for the north of this country, and then, if HS2 was to be built, to have started in the north and worked south, rather than the other way around.
What seems to be clear is that HS2 is extraordinarily expensive. There are poor returns, and by the Government’s own admission, a 1:2.3 ratio of return is extremely poor. HS2 harms the environment. It seems to be a bit of a muddle. Once we had straight lines and we were going superfast. Then we had bends and we could not go superfast. Then the stations did not quite integrate, and there does seem to be a problem with that integration up and down the network, which other Members have rightly spoken about.
However, my main concern is the cost to the other parts of the rail network. Again, Members have spoken eloquently about the need for greater capacity. HS2 does nothing for capacity for southern rail or for south-west rail. The south-west rail network is crying out for investment. We need rail flyovers at Woking and at Basingstoke to get more services on that line. We need to update the signalling system between Waterloo and Woking, and eventually elsewhere on the line, to improve speeds and services. We need infrastructure on the Portsmouth line, to increase capacity. Getting from London to Portsmouth, you travel at an average speed of around 45 miles an hour, and the idea that we are spending billions building a rail network to go superfast up north when we are still travelling at branch-line speeds on mainline routes in the south of England is very galling to very many constituents in constituencies across southern England.
We need also, probably, to double the track between Southampton and Basingstoke. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State talked about a bright new future for the railways. We do not see that on southern, and we do not see it on south-west rail main lines. If I remember correctly, my right hon. Friend, whose agenda I very strongly support and for whom I have a high regard personally, has assured me that south-west rail projects are not affected by the HS2 project. So can he—or can she—put on record a confirmation that HS2 has not delayed, or has not affected the funding and supply of, south-west rail mainline improvements, or of Crossrail 2, which will benefit the users of south-west rail, if they use Clapham?
I agree, and I want to see benefits to connectivity in my constituency, including a new station in Corsham. But will my hon. Friend accept that HS2 does benefit the UK as a whole, in the form of jobs, as I said, or because we all have a wealth of SMEs in our constituencies whose supply chains and customers are based throughout the UK, and they can only benefit from this extra connectivity?
In principle, my hon. Friend makes a very good point and I thank her for her intervention. The problem is this. I return to the profit ratio—or the cost-benefit ratio. If any of us were to go to a Minister or Government Department and say, “This is a fantastic project and it has a ratio of 1:2.3,”—which are the Government’s own figures for HS2—we would get laughed at. To get a project off the ground, according to Green Book assessments, a ratio of 1:5 upwards is needed, and preferably 1:7. So 1:2.3 is a very poor return for Government money by the Government’s own figures. Anything that helps, within reason, expenditure and our economy is to be welcomed, but by the Government’s own figures this cost-benefit is dubious. I thank my hon. Friend for the intervention.
If HS2 will cause no delay to south-west rail projects, will my right hon. Friend commit to prioritising the necessary work on the south-west rail route that could speed up journey times between London and south coast destinations such as Portsmouth, Southampton, Bournemouth and, yes, the Isle of Wight—my constituency? I know that my right hon. Friend is a user of south-west rail and feels the pain of the half a million people who travel in to Waterloo every day. Will he—or will she— consider setting Network Rail and the new franchise a speed target of a 60-minute service to Southampton and Portsmouth? You can get two trains an hour down the main line to Southampton. They take about one hour 17 at the moment. If we are interested in high-speed rail, can we set a new target of getting people to Southampton and Portsmouth within the hour?
In addition, I will write to my right hon. Friend tomorrow in connection with the Island. He has been kind enough to sound positive about the needs of my constituents for better public transport, especially since we get precious little infrastructure money. In my letter, I will ask about the programme of reopening branch lines and investing in the Island line. Earlier this month, Isle of Wight Council voted to support a feasibility study on extending the branch line in possibly two directions and, working with our wonderful heritage line, the Havenstreet steam railway, to get people into Ryde, which would be very important.
My letter will cover support for investment, support for a feasibility study, and, dependent on the results of that study, support for the branch line and capital work on Ryde Pier Head to ensure that the railway line there stays feasible, continues and has a future. I am supportive of my right hon. Friend on his agenda, which is excellent, but will you assure me, considering that you are spending £52 billion on one line, that the Department will not tell me that you cannot afford a feasibility study?
Order. If the hon. Gentleman is referring to the Minister, he must say the Minister, not you. I apologise for interrupting him, but this is becoming a widespread habit of Members all around the House and it must not go on. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is the person who is hearing this, and I am sure that other people will now be rather more careful. He is not a consistent offender; he is normally very proper in his behaviour.
Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker. I do apologise; I had noticed that I had written a few yous, and I scrubbed them out and put hes and shes. If my notes still contained a few yous, I apologise. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is not here, I was trying to work out whether I should be using he or she, or whether we have reached a post-gender age for Ministers as well as for the rest of us.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. On that point, I will wind up.
I am very supportive of the Minister’s agenda, whichever one we are talking about, but given that we are spending a great deal of money, will the Minister assure me that the Department will not be telling me that a feasibility study is not possible because of cost? Will the Minister assure me that if a feasibility study recommends extension of our lines, that will be supported, given that the costs involved, £10 million to £30 million, are margins of error in Government accounting in the Department of Transport? Will the Minister assure me that there will be support for infrastructure projects both for the South Western Railway network and the Island line, notwithstanding the considerable amounts of money that are been spent elsewhere?
What a pleasure it is to follow the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Seely). If he will forgive me, I might disagree with him on one point. In my view—the figures are overwhelming—the investment in infrastructure in London and the south-east, although it perhaps does not extend entirely down to his patch, is around nine or 10 times as much as that in my area in the north-west and the north of England. Plenty of people will look at the HS2 expenditure and say it is about time that the north-west of England got some expenditure.
In principle, I am very much in favour of HS2—and HS3, HS4 and HS5. Infrastructure spending is good for the economy; it generates growth, it drives growth and connectivity, and it is a good thing for the whole country. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Laura Smith), however, I share the concern that what we might get is, to coin a railway phrase, the wrong type of HS2, on the basis that all we will have is a fast line linking London, Birmingham and Manchester, and no benefits will accrue to the surrounding areas. In terms of growth in this country, the cities are already overheating, whereas towns and counties—
I will welcome it when it is built and when we actually have something going. HS3, or Northern Powerhouse Rail, is a slogan rather than a railway, and I look forward to its being a railway rather than a slogan. There is a real danger that the benefits that accrue will not do so for the whole country. This is a national project and the benefits that derive from it should be national, too.
In particular, I want to discuss the Crewe hub, which I was pleased to hear the Secretary of State refer to several times. We get lots of positive, warm words—if that praise is not too derogatory—about the importance that Ministers at the Department for Transport attach to the Crewe hub. However, time and again, after two years of pressing, we still have had no firm details about what format it will take or how it will integrate into the rest of the network.
I was pleased to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Andy McDonald), the shadow Secretary of State, talking about the need for HS2 to be integrated into the rest of the network. The hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) might have misunderstood, but that was very much my understanding, and that is exactly where the Crewe hub would come in. With the greatest respect to my good friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Laura Smith), Crewe does not have a large enough population to justify an HS2 station, but the lines and connectivity radiating from it as a central hub in that part of the north-west and the north midlands would provide the services and the weight of gravity to make the Crewe hub essential to HS2.
What the hon. Gentleman says about Crewe is absolutely right, but does he understand my disappointment that there will be two separate stations in Birmingham and two separate stations in London, instead of it being integrated there as well? While the north is important, so are the midlands and the south.
I do understand the hon. Gentleman’s disappointment. Actually, I share some of it, and if he bears with me I will come on to that in a moment.
The lines that would radiate from Crewe would include the existing west coast main line, which my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington North (Helen Jones) talked about, so Warrington, Wigan and south Lancashire would benefit, as would my constituency and hopefully, the north Wales line. Again, I say to Ministers that for the real benefits to accrue, the Chester and north Wales line would need to be electrified; I have not given up on that, even if they have.
The Crewe hub would mesh nicely with the Growth Track 360 proposals that leaders in Cheshire West and Chester and across the border in north Wales have put together to really try to mesh our railway offerings. I know that Ministers have seen those. My hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State was extremely helpful when I talked to him about my concerns. He took them to HS2 Ltd, which was asked about the benefits that somebody from Chester might gain. This is where I come back to the hon. Member for Lichfield. Apparently, under the current HS2 proposals, those benefits would include HS2 freeing up capacity on the west coast main line, so that more trains would be able to go through, between Chester and Lichfield, on that line. He talked about the potential, over time, for the west coast main line to wither on the vine, and I share that concern. Those of us who are not in London, Birmingham or Manchester may not get the full benefits, because we will be asked to take the benefits of the west coast main line instead. Much as those are benefits, that is not the high-speed line on offer.
I detect a certain disconnect—I ask Ministers to look carefully at this—between HS2 Ltd and its proposals and the plans from Network Rail and the Department for Transport for the development of the railways. HS2 Ltd has been tasked with building the HS2 line and some amorphous idea of a Crewe hub, but we are still not sure what or exactly where it is in Crewe or of the layout of Crewe station. The plans do not fit in with the broader sub-regional plans for the growth of the railways. All HS2 Ltd seems concerned with is the delivery of the new high-speed line. I urge Ministers to look carefully at ensuring that the proposals for HS2 and others, such as Growth Track 360, mesh together in the connected way that my hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State talked about; otherwise we will not accrue the full benefits.
I welcome the Minister to her place, and I make this plea to her: I ask that she think carefully about how the Crewe hub can be given a reality that benefits not just the big cities but north Shropshire, south Lancashire, all of Cheshire, all the railway lines radiating from Crewe, and particularly—as far as I am concerned—the Chester and north Wales line. It has to mesh together. At some point, we have to stop kicking this particular can down the road and come out with firm and deliverable proposals for a Crewe hub that will share the benefits of HS2 that will not otherwise accrue.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) and to contribute to this debate. I too welcome the new Minister to her place. I am sure we will be having many conversations over the coming months and years.
I would like to speak specifically to the reasoned amendment in the name of my hon. Friends. Although I cannot support it, I have some sympathy with it, specifically on the issue of property compensation. The compensation packages agreed under the Bill will have a significant impact and influence in the future when similar measures are agreed for phase 2b, which affects my constituency. It is extremely important, therefore, that we get it right now for those affected by phase 2a and phase 2b.
I am sure that my residents are not unique in their frustration with the process, but what are unique are the specifics around the property market in Long Eaton. The plus 10% on offer through the express purchase scheme for residents in the safeguarded area is not enough for many of my homeowners to buy a new home just two streets away. This is not acceptable. These residents, some of whom have lived in the same home for many years—often 40 years and more—are losing their homes, and for them their home is their castle. There must be an alternative for my constituents, and I hope that a way forward can be found.
I am sure that my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State and the Prime Minster agree, as they have both said in this place, that no one should lose out as a result of HS2. On 17 July last year, the Secretary of State said:
“I am clear that I do not want people to lose out as a result of this”—[Official Report, 17 July 2017; Vol. 627, c. 674.]
On 11 October, in a response to a question of mine, the Prime Minister said:
“my hon. Friend the Rail Minister is determined to see that fair and comprehensive compensation for those directly affected by the route is paid, and it will be paid as if HS2 did not exist, plus the 10% and reasonable moving costs.”—[Official Report, 11 October 2017; Vol. 629, c. 328.]
I would suggest that Long Eaton is the town most affected by HS2 across the whole of the country along any part of the line. It may not have a long stretch of the rail line—indeed, it is estimated to be only 3.3 miles—but those 3.3 miles will be directly through the town on a 16-metre high viaduct. That is why it is so important to get it right for residents who are losing their homes and those left behind, and why I ask the Minister to take another look at the compensation packages, not just for my constituents but for those affected along the whole line. For residents in relatively low-cost housing areas, such as New Tythe Street and Bonsall Street in Long Eaton, I would like to suggest a scheme that encompasses an equity share option. We should also recognise, however, that it is not just about money; it is about keeping communities together, and I believe an equity share scheme would do just that.
HS2 Ltd has a specific question to answer about why it is pursuing and progressing with special measures for the Shimmer estate in Mexborough but not applying the same principles to Long Eaton. I am also concerned by the way it is interpreting current guidelines and so often appears to be working against residents rather than with them.
It is also important to consider the impact that HS2 will have on businesses that are blighted by the project. For my local businesses, the uncertainty has existed since early January 2013. It has been over five years, with no end in sight yet. It is imperative for HS2 Ltd to improve on its poor record of engagement by engaging in early and meaningful interaction with businesses on which compulsory purchase orders have been served.
It was certainly my experience with phase 1 that the constant changes of personnel within HS2 Ltd caused problems. There was not just disengagement between HS2 and our constituents, but, apparently, disengagement between HS2 personnel themselves, with one hand not knowing what the other was doing.
Not just people but processes seem to change, and HS2 Ltd is not passing the information on to the chartered surveyors who are working on its behalf or to those who are working on behalf of the residents.
The Country Land and Business Association has reported that rural business owners who go through the compulsory purchase process find it difficult to secure funding to develop their businesses, or have existing finance agreements reviewed. Whether it is rural or urban, the problem is the same, as some of my local businesses in Long Eaton have discovered.
The Country Land and Business Association has also told me that the Government have committed themselves to enacting legislation to provide for advance payments, and I ask the Minister to comment on that today. Business cannot continue to be successful with such uncertainties hanging over them. As many Members know, all successful businesses have short, medium and long-term business plans but they cannot operate, given the current air of uncertainty.
Let me issue one final plea. At present, many of the areas affected by the line of route have only a very narrow safeguarded area on either side of the line. I ask the Minister to urge HS2 Ltd to be realistic about the amount of land take required, and take action now to safeguard the true area needed so that residents can get on with their lives.
I do not know whether my hon. Friend agrees with me that, so far, HS2 Ltd’s approach has been to limit the amount of compensation that it pays, and reduce it. Although it has, I believe, acknowledged that it may need to pay more to finalise claims, it is the interruption to lives, businesses and landowners that is causing so much aggravation. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government should immediately enact the legislation to provide for advance payments, and that that really must happen soon?
I completely agree with my right hon. Friend. We need to get these things moving. I know residents whose properties, under the need-to-sell scheme, were being valued at over £200,000, but under the express purchase scheme, they were offered £140,000 for the same properties. Many of these people are elderly, and they are often quite ill. It is really distressing to see what they are going through.
In 2015, the then Secretary of State—my right hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire Dales (Sir Patrick McLoughlin), who is no longer in the Chamber—said that the Government were committed to going above and beyond what was required by law, including discretionary measures to help more people. That is what we are talking about today—going “above and beyond”.
The HS2 residents charter aims to ensure that residents are treated in a fair, clear, competent and reasonable manner. I hope that, as we debate this hybrid Bill today and when, in the future, we debate the hybrid Bill providing for phase 2b, the charter will feature front and centre in the treatment of constituents along the whole HS2 route. They deserve that: it is the least we can do for them when we are taking their homes away.
May I begin by making my apologies, Madam Deputy Speaker? I was present for the opening of the debate, but I had to leave afterwards because I had a meeting with Mr Speaker. May I also welcome the Minister to the Front Bench?
I supported HS2 for many years. I truly believed that it would help to bridge the divide between the north and London in the south. I even defended the astonishing cost to my constituents, as I thought that it would benefit people in my constituency. However, I now believe that the case has become flaky at best, owing to a number of factors.
A Public Accounts Committee report raised a number of serious issues. It said there was a
“serious risk of fraud, corruption and error”
due to a combination of poor financial controls and other systems. It highlighted the fact that HS2 was set up eight years ago with substantial Government backing yet still shows a lack of organisational maturity. Given the huge budget that HS2 has been provided with, this is truly concerning.
The Government currently say HS2 will cost £55.7 billion to build. The costs originally started at £32.7 billion in 2010 and were last updated in 2015. Yet the National Audit Office stated in 2016 that HS2 was running £7 billion over-budget, which is not contested by HS2. This should put the official cost at £63 billion. I believe we can do so much more with this money, in particular on the electrification that this Government scrapped.
Most business leaders believe that if the north is to thrive the links between northern cities need to be improved, not just by having another route to London. Another Public Accounts Committee report says that HS2 made £1.6 million of unauthorised payments to staff during 2016-17; that is not a massive amount of money, but it is a shocking waste of taxpayers’ money. The report states that the unauthorised schemes proceeded due to weak internal processes and that there is no means for these sums to be recovered. It should concern us all that we have an organisation spending public money in such a way and that those sums cannot be recovered.
Both the Department and HS2 need to address these issues as a matter of urgency, and I believe that the relationship between the Department for Transport and HS2 was an unhealthy one and the necessary checks and balances were not in place. I do not think they are now either, but I will not raise issues that concern me at a local level because we are discussing a different part of the plan.
With all this in mind, I no longer believe that HS2 is likely to fulfil the aims it was designed to achieve. I will therefore vote for the amendment declining to give the Bill a Second Reading. I no longer have confidence in HS2 Ltd or the Government’s ability to oversee it.
I want to make clear straight away, on behalf of my constituents and in the light of my personal views on this Bill, my vehement objection to the proposals before us. I will vote against the Bill if there is a Division, which I rather think there will be. I have discussed my objections on various occasions both before the House and locally; they derive from the vast impact on my constituents in Baldwin’s Gate, Bar Hill, Whitmore and Madeley and the surrounding area, and Yarnfield and Stone and surrounding areas, as well as from my scepticism about the Government claims on the benefits of the HS2 scheme in general.
The Government in their 2012 national planning policy framework set out the three pillars of economic, social and environmental factors that all new plans must satisfy. I find it incomprehensible that the Government can so ignore their own framework on a national scale in relation to the HS2 scheme.
First, I shall comment on the lack of benefits in the proposed phase 2 scheme. Its cost is £3.48 billion, a figure that is bound to rise as the project proceeds. This has not been enough to stop it being characterised by the Country Land and Business Association as full of
“delays, secrecy, broken promises, and poor management.”
This has directly damaged already-strained relationships with those most affected by HS2 and is preventing the complaints of those involved from being heard effectively.
Moreover, the actual overall costs, which are escalating all the time, are incredibly badly accounted for. As the right hon. Member for Rother Valley (Sir Kevin Barron) indicated, we have seen report after report, including economic reports and independent assessments, from the Public Accounts Committee and all kinds of other committees, and it is inconceivable that the amount of money that is currently expected to provide for all this will be adequate.
There is also the problem of providing proper compensation for those affected, including advance payments, as was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Dame Cheryl Gillan). I also understand the concerns being expressed by some of my constituents, who are deeply worried about the possibility of terrorist threats to the service. Associated with those threats is the inevitable delay that will be built in to the security needed to avoid them. That will increase the amount of time it takes people to get on to the trains. HS2 might go very fast, and it might increase capacity, but there is no doubt that there will also be an enormous amount of delay, because its security arrangements will have to be similar to those used for other methods of travel such as air.
Phase 2 of HS2 will also have an immensely destructive effect on the environment. The Woodland Trust has noted that, unbelievably, given the impact on the environment that phase 1 will have, phase 2a will be more destructive per kilometre. The whole scheme will damage or destroy 98 ancient woods, with 18 alone coming from phase 2a. Over 10.5 hectares of irreplaceable ancient woodland will be lost in phase 2a, as well as at least 27 ancient and veteran trees. That loss is completely unacceptable.
The environmental impact does not end there. The National Trust has stated that phase 2a of HS2 will
“impact adversely on the conservation of the special places”
that it is charged with conserving, operating and managing,
“affecting both the experience of our visitors and the lives and livelihoods of our agricultural and residential tenants.”
The preservation of our natural heritage will be jeopardised by this project.
I am listening to my hon. Friend with considerable interest. Does he not agree that the saddest thing of all is that Arup came up with an alternative proposal that would not have damaged all those ancient woodlands because it would have used existing transport corridors? We could have done this so much better.
I absolutely agree, but unfortunately that advice has not been taken.
Secondly, I have no confidence whatever in the Government’s stated outcomes for HS2 phase 2 in building costs or in social and environmental impacts. This comes from the dismal experience of their failures over their own reports on phase 1. The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee cast doubt on phase 1 from the beginning of the process, arguing that the evidence used to calculate the magnitude of benefit was out of date and unconvincing. The Library briefing shows how the benefit to cost ratio of phase 1 has fallen consistently over time. Nothing has been done to address these flaws in the economic modelling.
Progress on the delivery of phase 1 is similarly criticised by the National Audit Office in its 2016 review, which stated that the Department for Transport had
“set HS2 Ltd a schedule for achieving delivery readiness that was too ambitious”,
“There is a risk that the combined impact of cost and schedule pressures result in reduced programme scope and lower the benefit cost ratio.”
It also stated that:
“Effective integration of High Speed 2 with the wider UK rail system is challenging and poses risks to value for money”.
The NAO attacks the cost estimates for phase 2, which it says are
“at a much earlier stage of development than phase 1”,
with some elements currently unfunded. For the past four years, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority has put HS2 just one step above appearing what it defines as
“unachievable unless significant, urgent and often substantial action is taken.”
I ask the Minister what evidence there is that this will be done.
Cost overruns and delays have long been associated with public construction, but HS2 dwarfs the problems of the past. Think about the amount that could be made available to the public services if these billions and billions of pounds went towards something other than this white elephant in the making. We are doomed to exist in a perpetual cycle of departmental over-promising and under-delivering. In the light of concerns about the phase 1 Bill, it is impossible to trust the Government’s assertions as to the benefits of phase 2.
Thirdly, I must cast doubt over the ability of HS2 Ltd. The Public Accounts Committee accuses HS2 Ltd of having a culture
“of failing to provide full and accurate information to those responsible for holding it to account”
and states that it
“does not have in place the basic controls needed to protect public money.”
There cannot be a bigger condemnation than that. Those basic failures underline the incompetence with which the project has been conducted. Most damningly, the PAC accuses both HS2 Ltd and the Department of not appearing
“to understand the risks to the successful delivery of the programme”.
This is a Second Reading debate, and I am saying that all the reports indicate that we can have no trust in how the principal objectives of the project are being conducted. That is evident in the employment of Carillion as a key contractor on the project. A clear lack of oversight and due diligence has jeopardised public money. Those arguments mean that the Bill fails to meet the standards required of this House.
Moving to the local issues that affect my constituents, I am thoroughly dismayed with the entire project. Not only does the proposal carve through my entire constituency from top to bottom, without any immediate benefit to my constituents in terms of communication or railway stops, but many will acknowledge that the current west coast main line provides a good service and short journey times. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham has indicated, this HS2 project will be overtaken by new technologies, such as the possibility of a maglev system or a hyperloop system, and the technology used in the HS2 project is increasingly out of date. Within the timespan for the completion of the project, the money would be better spent on other programmes and public services.
Does my hon. Friend agree that if the project involved running autonomous passenger and freight vehicles or other vehicles of the future up and down the line, it would probably be slightly more popular? The trouble is that the technology and the whole approach involved will produce something that is from the last century.
That is completely right. It is also perhaps true that travel times were quicker in those days than they are now. This project is about not simply capacity but efficiency, and I do not believe that its objectives will be achieved.
Turning to my local objections, a railhead will be established at Yarnfield during the construction period and will later be turned into a permanent maintenance facility. The relocation of the planned facility away from the original destination in Crewe has caused massive consternation to all my constituents in Stone and Eccleshall, and in all villages around the area, particularly Yarnfield. On 24 November 2016, I secured a half-hour Adjournment debate on the matter, and I have spoken in a variety of meetings both locally and in the House since then. Most recently, I had a meeting with the Stone Railhead Crisis Group on Friday 19 January. I will be offering help with petitions to anybody who wants it. I have invited the Clerk of Private Bills to meet the group, and I hope that that meeting will take place soon.
I reiterate that the way in which alternatives to the final proposition were considered was appalling. The original proposal for the railhead to be at Crewe was not selected. I believe that there has been serial misdirection and misinformation about employment and environmental issues. Crewe would have been far better, but now HS2 has decided to go for Yarnfield and the vicinity thereof, which will do appalling damage to my constituents, and their traffic and schools. Every single aspect of the development will have the most serious and deleterious effect on my constituents.
The disruption due to works at Norton Bridge has already started, and the HS2 works at Stone and Swynnerton belie the notion that disruption will be minimised—it is liable only to get worse. The HS2 phase 2 environmental statement draws attention to lighting being visible along Yarnfield Lane and on the north eastern edge of Yarnfield itself. That is on top of the significant and noticeable noise that the facility will generate, the destruction of woodland, the destruction of visual landscape and the substantial noise from construction traffic.
I am also deeply concerned about the impact on the elderly, and it is shameful that retired people who seek a peaceful rural life will find their area violated. I am also concerned about the communities that are being directly destroyed, such as two properties in Shelton under Harley. There will be noise from construction on Pirehill Lane. There are also problems for several grade II listed buildings, including Blakelow farm, the water tower on Stab Lane and the Swynnerton Heath farmhouse, in addition to non-listed heritage sites such as Darlaston pool, the milestone near Cash’s pit and areas of the Shelton under Harley farm. That is yet another example of the damage that will be done.
In an update statement on 17 July 2017, the Secretary of State for Transport assured me that Yarnfield Lane will remain open. I am afraid to say that that assurance is useless without any consideration of the impact of heavy goods vehicles travelling along that narrow road, rendering it impassable during peak hours as if it were fully closed. That is bound to have a very bad effect on my constituents’ health and welfare. The proposal to use Eccleshall Road as an access and supply route will block the whole area, which is already oversubscribed.
Cold Norton is a cluster of 40 dwellings within 500 metres of the M6, but it does not appear to be included in the documents. If the works lead to the closure of the B5026 and Yarnfield Lane, my constituents in Cold Norton, Norton Bridge, Chebsey, Yarnfield, Swynnerton and Eccleshall will not have access to their main travel route into Stone. There will also be an impact on Great Bridgeford and many other areas in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy).
Trains will go straight down my entire constituency, from top to bottom. Baldwin’s Gate, Bar Hill, Whitmore and Madeley are in a rural area of outstanding natural beauty. The proposed scheme will cut straight through it, with two viaducts at the River Lea valley and Meece brook valley, and two tunnels along the way. There will be an enormous amount of construction work in a delicate area.
I will meet the Whitmore2Madeley action group on Friday 2 February to examine the proposed Whitmore construction site. I met the group in July 2017, and I have organised a meeting so that the group can meet the Clerk of Private Bills.
The environmental impact assessments show there will be significant quality-of-life problems at the Stone railhead. The views from Rectory Lane, Manor Road, Madeley cemetery, Madeley Park, Bar Hill Road and Wrinehill wood will all be negatively affected, and there will be traffic problems, too.
Then we have the A51 London Road and A53 Newcastle Road to consider. At least five footpaths will be closed in the process of construction. Communities and cultural heritage in the area will also suffer. Viaducts at Lea valley and Meece brook will prove to be eyesores. Nine properties will be permanently affected, including Rose Cottage and Wood Croft. Construction will cause impossible chaos for 29 residential properties in Whitmore and Whitmore Heath, 20 on Manor Road, 43 on Bar Hill Road and Mallard Close, and five at Moor Hall and Bower End farms. Furthermore, Hey House, a grade II listed house, will have its setting permanently degraded.
I now turn to the environmental cost in the area. Most prominent is the destruction of at least part of two woods—Whitmore wood and Barhill wood. The Woodland Trust points out the possible cost of this damage, noting that the
“Stone constituency will suffer loss or damage to 11 ancient woodlands, totalling 8.9 ha of loss. Whitmore Wood will suffer the greatest single loss of ancient woodland on the entire HS2 route. Tunnelling must be considered to avoid this loss.”
That is an attack on our woodland environment.
An additional 0.2 hectares will be lost at Barhill wood to allow for the Madeley tunnel portal. This forms just a small part of the argument for a longer, deeper tunnel to limit the environmental damage of the scheme, which I know that the Minister is examining. Such a tunnel would not completely remove the damaging local impact of this proposal, but it would nevertheless prevent the inefficient upheaval generated by involving multiple sites. There is an argument about this tunnel and I have been given certain assurances, but I am deeply concerned about whether the money will be made available in any case—we have no certainty about that at this stage. More specifically, the proposal for a tunnel from Whitmore to Madeley would, it is argued, avoid the destruction by HS2 works of 33% of Whitmore wood, the viaduct and embankments in the Lea valley, and the disruptive work on Manor Road. This has to be pursued vigorously so that we get to the bottom of exactly what will be involved. I understand the assurances that have been given, but there are also complications due to the relationship between the northern part and the southern part of my constituency, which will doubtless be the subject of petitions from the two groups in question.
In conclusion, I will be voting against the Bill, as I did on the previous Bill for phase 1. My constituents will be petitioning against the Bill and will appear in front of the Select Committee. I urge the Government and that Committee to do all they can to pay the most careful attention to these petitions if this Bill goes through today, and to provide my constituents with every opportunity to be heard. This is a very, very big thing for them—it is massive. Hon. Members should think what it would be like if this were to happen to any other constituency on the scale it is happening to mine, which is similar to the situation in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham. She has done a fantastic job and we will try to do the same in our area. At the moment, I am deeply disappointed with these proposals and I shall be voting against them.
I, too, welcome the Minister to her place. I support the Bill because it brings the potential benefits of HS2 to parts of the north earlier than was envisaged—2027 is a lot better than 2033. HS2 is visionary, but that vision will be realised only if the high-speed network is linked to the existing classic network and if regeneration takes place not just at high-speed rail stations, but in areas around those stations and beyond, in supporting transport links and investing in businesses. Local enterprise partnerships, perhaps working together and looking across regions, need to put together regional strategies to ensure that transport investment leads to more opportunities for business, employment and skills.
We have said a great deal about the importance of high-speed rail, and HS2 specifically, in bringing new capacity on to our rail line. That is, in essence, what this is all about. But in ensuring that that increased capacity is maximised, we have to look at how we can develop services on the classic line once the high-speed line has been built. We also have to remember the importance of developing freight links, as freight routes are essential. In areas such as Liverpool, among others, where port trade is developing, it is crucial that new freight lines are made available. One of the strong reasons for HS2 is that the existing lines running passenger services on the west coast main line are virtually full and there is simply no space for freight. As we develop HS2, it is essential that thought is given to freight.
Let me turn to some specific issues that affect the north in general and Liverpool in particular. I emphasise the importance of Northern Powerhouse Rail, which has already been mentioned, for people throughout the north. I certainly welcome Transport for the North’s having been put on a statutory footing in the past couple of weeks. Nevertheless, when will the transformational changes promised by Northern Powerhouse Rail and Transport for the North actually be realised? It is important that those changes happen so that places such as Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle and Hull have much better lines of communication between them as part of the development of their economies.
I welcome the setting up of Northern Powerhouse Rail because it goes beyond the parochial and shows that we are looking at things on a regional and cross-regional basis. That is the only way we are going to bring real economic changes to our communities, but those changes have to take place in a reasonable timescale. They must not remain simply promises for the future that do not actually happen. It is important to restate that although Northern Powerhouse Rail is extremely important for Liverpool and for the north, it is not an alternative to HS2. It is foolish for people to suggest that.
I, too, welcome HS2 for the very same reasons. There needs to be investment in the north. What with the £70 billion of investment in Northern Powerhouse Rail over the next 30 years, we have an opportunity to get the vision off the ground and really make a difference in the north of England.
I agree with the hon. Lady. It would be a grave mistake to have a new high-speed line from London to Birmingham that stopped there and left the rest of the country to deal with lesser investment that will bring fewer economic development returns. We need both.
The case has long been argued that Liverpool needs a direct link to the new high-speed line. I recognise that the existing plans will bring benefit to Liverpool in terms of increased capacity and quicker journeys between Liverpool and London and between Liverpool and other cities. Nevertheless, for Liverpool to benefit in a way that is comparable to other major cities, there needs to be a direct link. Proposals have been developed for a new line so that Liverpool can have a direct link to both Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2. However, the exact status of those proposals is unclear to me. They have been worked up in considerable detail and put into various potential plans, but will the Minister tell me exactly what their current status is?
I asked the Secretary of State about this at the start of the debate. I welcomed his comments about his support for Liverpool—indeed, he said that he was very fond of Liverpool and reiterated that it would benefit from HS2—but he was not specific about how anything was going to happen. What progress has been made on linking Liverpool directly with both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail? Liverpool is increasingly successful, partly because of its transport links, but for its potential to be realised fully, we must improve this even more, which means having a proper connection to high-speed rail, along with investment in the classic rail system and in Northern Powerhouse Rail.
Liverpool’s new deep-water container port is extremely important. It is important to have freight links to the northern ports. We are developing as an increasingly important logistics centre and as a visitor destination, and the growing cruise line sector is extremely exciting, which means that Liverpool needs to maximise its transport links. I hope that I will get a proper answer from the Minister on those issues.
I will just refer, too, to some concerns about how the Crewe hub is intended to develop based on the information that is available now. There are proposals to do with splitting trains at Crewe, which could adversely impact on current plans for high-speed Liverpool to London journeys. I query whether improvements will be made on Liverpool to Birmingham journeys in the way that they were first envisaged. I ask for that to be looked at again during the further discussions that will inevitably take place.
In summary, I welcome this Bill. It is a great step forward. I support high-speed rail; I think it is visionary, but for that vision to be realised, there must be continued investment in the classic line, new lines where they are required and business regeneration connected with that transport development to develop new regional economic strategies that will help to transform the north.
I rise to oppose the Second Reading today for reasons very similar to those given by my hon. Friends the Members for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) and for Stone (Sir William Cash). I echo the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield—I am not at all opposed to additional rail capacity, or indeed to relatively high-speed rail capacity. The problem with the Bill before us now is that it is capable of pretty much no amendment. Yes, there can be very small adjustments made, but none of them would do anything for my constituents who are hugely affected by this development.
First, I want to talk about why the Bill, and indeed the whole project, is wrong in principle; secondly, about the specific problems that we face in the Stafford constituency; and thirdly about some suggestions for how those problems might be ameliorated. We do not need a 400 km an hour line in the United Kingdom, with the little connectivity that these proposals give us. As my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield has said, the line is forced to go so straight that it does not take the most appropriate and sensitive route. A line of 250 km to 300 km an hour would have been easily adequate. In fact, it is very unlikely that the trains will ever reach anything more than that.
In my constituency, the line seems to head straight for the villages, and not for the open countryside. It affects four villages directly, and it is adjacent to a fifth. I would welcome any hon. Member who wants to come for a visit to note the impact on this part of the world—in Staffordshire and in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone. Lots of alternatives have been put forward. We have already heard about the Arup alternative. There is also the High Speed UK alternative, which provides much better connectivity between 32 prominent cities of the UK. I have looked at it in some detail. I am sure that holes can be picked in it, but those holes will be considerably smaller than the ones that can be picked in the proposals that are before us now. This is the wrong solution to a problem that we undoubtedly have.
Just before people say that this is simply a nimby attitude, I point out that both my hon. Friend the Member for Stone and I have supported an extremely large rail project in our constituencies, which came at some inconvenience to our constituents, but nevertheless we saw the benefit of it. That was the Norton Bridge junction, which has increased speeds on that line, and increased capacity on the west coast main line. Indeed, before I was elected, I supported the proposal of the previous Government on the Stafford bypass, which also had an impact on my constituency.
I was in Committee upstairs, and came down particularly to hear the hon. Gentleman’s speech. He knows that I passionately oppose HS2. I applaud his opposition, and would love to make the visit to his constituency to see the degradation, because £100 billion of expenditure should go not on this, but on a decent railway service across the north of England.
I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He is welcome to visit my constituency; we will make an arrangement. He will see the beautiful countryside of the upper Trent Valley, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Stone would also show him across Swynnerton Park and up towards Madeley, so that he can see the effect of the line on those areas.
The business case is another reason I believe this is the wrong project. We have heard from other hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Seely), that the business case is not particularly compelling. In fact, our former colleague and former Chair of the Treasury Committee, Andrew Tyrie, said that HS2
“has the weakest economic case of all projects”
within the infrastructure programme. As has been mentioned, there is a hole in the business case. That is, there is no business case that I can see for the continuation of the existing west coast main line without the revenue from the high-speed services that currently use it and generate most of its revenue. How will that line be maintained? Will it be maintained purely with the revenue from local and regional services, on which prices can be extremely low? Will that generate enough revenue? Alternatively, will it be maintained using revenue from freight services? I do not know, but there is not a business case. I have asked for it and it has not been provided. I urge the Government—particularly if they are about to put out to tender for the package of HS2 and the west coast main line—to insist that we have a proper business case for the entire package, not simply for HS2.
Well, I am not sure that it is a vanity project because, if constructed, it certainly will bring benefits to the country, although probably at much more expense than it should and at a huge cost to our constituents. When I challenged a very senior person who has been involved in this project in the past, they said, “Well, actually, it’s gone too far. We wouldn’t have started it here but we have gone too far.” The west coast main line was started, I think, in the 1850s—possibly even earlier—so this project will last for 200 years. What is a few years to get this right and to put it in the right place? I shall return to that point.
On the problems, let me start with the problems for people because people are the most important. I get pretty frustrated when HS2 staff come around to count bats. Yes, bats have importance, but my constituents are more important. HS2 is prepared to spend an awful lot of time and money counting bats and various other things, but not talking to my constituents. I have constituents who have waited for a visit for a year. These constituents have dairy farms, and HS2 wants to take 100 acres away from their farm, which would make a dairy farm unviable. Only last week, a constituent of mine suddenly received a letter from HS2 indicating that his entire property was needed, when it had previously only needed a very small part. I have a strong objection to the uncertainty and inefficiency with which my constituents have been handled. That is not to criticise every single employee of HS2. I have met some extremely good ones. There have been some who I would praise for their work, but there have been others who, I am afraid, have fallen short.
I do not entirely agree with my hon. Friend that bats have no importance whatever, but I do agree with him that people are important. He may actually experience what I experienced in my constituency, whereby HS2 implied and said that it was going to take a property and then decided that it was not going to take it, which can also have severe implications for businesses affected in that fashion.
I entirely agree. I apologise if I gave the impression that I do not care about bats at all, but I care about my constituents a little bit more. There are also the issues of the slow process, the lack of engagement, totally unnecessary arguments over valuations and a lack of knowledge. For example, one constituent of mine was not aware of what was going on. He sold the property after the line was announced and made a huge loss, but was then unable to claim for that loss because he was told that he should have gone through the process. This elderly gentleman was basically robbed of tens of thousands of pounds simply because he did not quite understand the system. Will the Minister see whether there is some way that we can get compensation for my constituent, who deserves it? I have constituents, an elderly couple, whose property is going to be boxed in by the works on HS2—literally boxed in. Yet, as things stand, they are not going to be allowed to sell their house to HS2, for reasons I fail to understand.
Then there is the impact on communities and the environment. The line runs adjacent to Great Haywood. It goes through Ingestre, Hopton, Marston and Yarlet. These are mainly old and ancient villages with strong communities. Hopton has lost a lot of its population already because people have moved out. There is not the community there that there was, because HS2, although it is renting out to people some of the properties that have been sold to it, is not doing so quickly. Naturally, the people who are coming in, perhaps for the short term, are not able to join in the community as much as others would.
I do indeed. The line goes pretty much straight through Yarlet School, and not only that but through Yarlet wood, which is one of our ancient woodlands. I think it is even noted in the Domesday Book, so it is the best part of 1,000 years old.
Another very important part of Staffordshire life that the line goes straight through, or almost straight through, is Staffordshire showground, which hosts not just the county show but hundreds of other events every year, with probably the best part of 300,000 or 400,000 people attending. It is a very important employer and economic entity within my constituency.
The line goes very close to Shugborough. The irony of this is that when the west coast main line was put through Shugborough in the 19th century, the Earl of Lichfield persuaded the railway company to build a cut-and-cover tunnel through Shugborough, which one still sees when going on the main line up to Liverpool. We have been unable to persuade HS2 to provide such tunnelling for my constituents. Clearly, where the railways would listen to the Earl of Lichfield 150 years ago and more, they do not listen to the ordinary people today who would like to have some protection from this line. The line also goes pretty much straight through the beautiful Ingestre and Tixall parklands and landscapes.
The next issue is transport infrastructure. The line cuts straight across several major roads, including the A51, the A518, the A34 and the M6, and goes over the west coast main line. As far as I can see, HS2 and Highways England do not seem to have a plan on how to manage the inevitable disruption to local, regional, and indeed national transport that is going to be caused. I hope they do have one, because the M6 must be, if not the busiest motorway in Europe, then one of the busiest, and the A34 is a kind of relief road for the M6. If both of those are going to be disrupted, particularly if it happens at the same time, the consequences for the regional and national economy, right up to Scotland, will be quite substantial.
Another problem is connectivity after HS2. Clearly, connectivity from Stafford will be better. There will be a faster journey from Stafford to London than at present. It is already an extremely good and fast journey—nobody has complained to me about it in the past—and it will, I admit, be a few minutes faster. Northbound, we are really concerned about connectivity, because we understand that the trains through Stafford and Stoke will end at Macclesfield. I have nothing against Macclesfield; in fact, it is a wonderful town. However, most of the time my constituents tend to prefer to go further to Manchester and Liverpool rather than to stop at Macclesfield. As I say, I have nothing against Macclesfield.
The next problem is the impact on businesses. Last week, I heard from a business that received, out of the blue, a letter saying, “We want all your land.” This business employs a large number of people in a rural area; it is possibly the biggest employer in that area. Yet suddenly, with literally no notice, we are suddenly told that HS2 needs the entire plot that it is working from, without any alternative.
I rarely agree with the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), but I do in this case, about this being a vanity project. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that this is not really about connectivity or helping local industry? As he says, it will damage local industry. The French experience already shows that it does not liberate and rejuvenate the provincial cities and towns. It actually drains even more power and influence down to London and the metropolitan area around the south-east.
I largely agree with the hon. Gentleman. I fear that that will be the case unless, as speakers both in favour and against have said, connectivity is taken much more seriously. I urge Ministers to look at the proposals of High Speed UK, even if they do not like those proposals, because it has some extremely important points to make about connectivity for other major cities in the UK.
If the line goes ahead—it seems there is a majority in the House at the moment for it, but that may change— I would like to make some proposals. First, for my constituents and my colleagues’ constituents, we must employ full-time sympathetic and responsive liaison officers who work together with businesses and constituents to ensure that problems are dealt with quickly, efficiently and compassionately. We must also give additional support to local health services. Quite a large number of my constituents have found this a very difficult time and have needed additional support, particularly with their mental health, and local surgeries have not necessarily had the resources to provide that.
It is very important that local people see that there are local jobs in this, and that people are not just brought in. Obviously we need the right skills, but as far as possible, local businesses and local people must be employed.
On the issue of mitigation, I urge the Minister, who I welcome to her position and congratulate on her appointment, to look at more tunnelling, particularly in the area of the Staffordshire showground, Hopton, Marston and Yarlet. I think it is possible. A green tunnel was proposed for Hopton, but it was removed on spurious grounds, or at least grounds that could have been overcome.
I ask the Minister to ensure that we have full planning well in advance for local, regional and national transport, including additional roads. I suggest a link between the A34 and junction 13, just as we have a link between the A34 and junctions 14 and 15. The very long viaduct at Great Haywood must be of outstanding design and faced with traditional stone or brick. I also suggest that the bridge constructed over the M6 for the railway or at least the supports for it should be put in place when the M6 is widened between junctions 13 and 15, rather than having to close the motorway for two separate civil works.
In conclusion, I would rather the Government paused, rethought and built for the whole country, with much better connectivity than this proposal gives us. If this goes ahead, at least for the time being, I ask that all the mitigations that my colleagues and I have put forward be taken seriously, because to date, they have not been.
Order. I remind Members that, as they can see for themselves, seven hon. Members are still seeking to contribute to the debate, therefore there is a premium on reasonable brevity. If each contributes for no more than 10 minutes, all should have the chance to do so before the winding-up speeches begin.
You will be glad to hear, Mr Speaker, that I intend to speak only briefly, to raise one particular concern that I believe needs urgent consideration by the Government as the HS2 process continues.
HS2 has the ability to rejuvenate the northern economy, bringing with it the much-needed investment, jobs and social transformation that the north deserves. However, to me, HS2 is not just about connecting businesses and bolstering economies. It represents a crucial mechanism to connect people with the skills, education and employment opportunities that could improve life chances.
As I have been clear since my election to this House, connectivity into HS2 stations must be addressed by the Government, because unless connectivity is adequately addressed, HS2 is at risk of becoming a token flagship project that will fail to produce the important benefits we are promised in the north. Such connectivity means connecting our towns and outer cities seamlessly into our HS2 stations, creating a united and interconnected northern economy.
As my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) so rightly pointed out, the Government need “to stop kicking this…can down the road”. At the Tory party conference, the Transport Secretary announced that £300 million would be allocated to HS2 connectivity in the north. However, inspection of the detail of the announcement showed that this money was already allocated to just six city hotspots across the north, totally neglecting the economies and opportunities of our northern towns.
Furthermore, the new Minister suggested two weeks ago that my constituents could access HS2 from Manchester airport, but Manchester airport is a one hour 30 minute bus trip away. How can the Government ever claim to be committed to our town economies when they believe that that is acceptable and that, despite HS2 cutting through the middle of my constituency, it will take longer for my constituents to connect to HS2 at Manchester airport than to travel onwards to London?
The connectivity plans as they currently stand are completely unacceptable to our region, but it is for the young people in Leigh that I wanted to speak in this debate. They are growing up in the context of an evolving economic landscape that they will not easily be able to participate in. In the words of the former Conservative Education Secretary, the right hon. Member for Putney (Justine Greening), the
“bottom line is that while talent is spread evenly in our country, opportunity isn’t”.
Until the Government either invest in our northern towns or provide our transport bodies with the funding to do so, these enormous infrastructure projects will benefit only those growing up in our inner cities. The divide between our towns and our cities is growing ever larger under this Government. This will restrict the life chances of an entire generation who are being held back solely because of their postcode. I therefore urge the Government to review their connectivity plans and seek to widen the opportunities that HS2 could provide to our young people.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Leigh (Jo Platt). I share her pain, because HS2 phase 1 goes right through the middle of my constituency and brings no benefits, just burdens. I think there are many such seats, as we have heard from other hon. Members on other occasions, as well as today. I agree with her about the north. My father was in steel in the north of England, and we have always known that to assist in increasing the prosperity of the north of England, the cross-Pennine links should have been prioritised a long time ago. It is a pleasure to follow her short but elegant speech.
May I welcome the Minister to the Front Bench? My hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Ms Ghani) is an extremely capable person, although I have to say that I do not envy her her task. She follows in the footsteps of no less than—let me see—one, two, three, four, five Secretaries of State and one, two, three, four, five, six junior Ministers. Since 2010, it appears that no Minister has managed more than two years in this position in charge of HS2. I would not have wished HS2 on her, but I hope her ministerial career will last a great deal longer than that. I wish, however, that her colleagues would listen and that we could have a Minister dedicated to HS2 on its own, because this project is such a gargantuan one that it really deserves to have ministerial attention focused on it completely. If we look at the project’s history since its inception, with the catalogue of failures and problems it has thrown up, we can see that a Minister dedicated to it is much needed and would be very welcome.
Mr Speaker, I feel like saying, “Here we are again, and yes, I am on my feet.” I think we probably do divide into sheep and goats on the Floor of this House as far as HS2 is concerned. Whether I am a sheep or a goat I do not know. I am probably an old goat, but I am happy to stand up here with some other old goats, like my hon. Friends the Members for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), for Stone (Sir William Cash) and for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy), and even the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman)—most of whom happen to be in the Chamber at the moment. I have been really heartened by the support that I have had over the years as I have tried to fight this project, and then tried to have it altered and modified so that it did less harm than was envisaged.
In passing, I congratulate the right hon. Lady on becoming a dame. Is it not a fact that she and I have campaigned against this project for a very long time, on the grounds that it will not deliver, it will never deliver, by 2033, and it will be superseded by different forms of transportation by 2033, and also on the grounds that £100 billion of national treasure that could have flowed—I say this as a Labour MP—into the national health service and transport across the north will have been wasted?
I am loth to agree with the hon. Gentleman entirely, but I find myself tempted to do so, because the first point I want to mention is cost.
The cost of this project will go up exponentially. When it was first announced in 2013, the cost of the whole project was about £16 billion, and by 2015 those costs were updated to £55.7 billion. The National Audit Office published a report on HS2’s progress and preparations, and it highlighted the fact that the £55.7 billion funding package does not even cover the funding for the activity needed to deliver the promised growth and regeneration benefits that the hon. Member for Leigh so desperately wants for her young constituents. I think that still continues to be a problem, and I would ask the Minister to have a look at when she can update the costs of this project, and ask her to lay out clearly for the House what extra funding will be required from the Treasury to deliver those growth and regeneration benefits that have been so much boasted of.
I think HS2 will turn out to be, as Michael Byng said, the most expensive railway on earth, at £403 million a mile. In fact, Michael Byng, who created the method used by Network Rail to cost its projects, made the estimates for the DFT and said the line would cost double the official figure, and 15 times more than the cost per mile of the TGV in France. We need to be very careful about how those costs are escalating.
I want to mention the environment. I have had some notable gains in Buckinghamshire—our own county—to save the Chilterns from even greater damage than was first anticipated. I am grateful for the tunnelling. It saves some 9.2 hectares of ancient woodland in three separate woods, but the Woodland Trust has estimated that on phase 2a and 2b it is losing 24 irreplaceable woods, and we shall still lose 63 ancient woods on phase 1 to start off with. I say to the House: once they have gone, they are lost forever. You cannot replace ancient woodland, however much planting you do in other areas of the country.
I want to mention the process. I think the hybrid Bill process for phase 1 was a travesty of our procedures, and I pay tribute to the Chairman of Ways and Means and the House authorities who looked at the Standing Orders and changed some of the aspects of a hybrid Bill to improve the petitioner experience. I want to place it on the record that I think our Clerk who is no longer with us, Neil Caulfield, who was so excellent, would have been pleased to see adjustments to these procedures. Although it is still an arcane process, I think it was important that we fed back the agonies of going through the hybrid Bill process, and that the House responded. I think the positive changes that have been made, particularly the changes to the language, which will increase accessibility to the petitioners, will make a difference and protect the rights for petitioners to be heard. I also think that submitting petitions electronically is a way forward. I still think that the fee of £20 to fight for one’s house, business, land or property is insulting, and I see no reason why petitioners must pay £20 to have their case heard when the state is trying to take their property.
I also feel that corridor deals need to be stamped out. Corridor deals conducted by silks and barristers acting on behalf of the Government are completely opaque and have no enforceability. There is intimidation and pressure from the QCs and the legal teams, hustling up to people in the corridor right before their petition is heard. I hope that the Government will listen and ensure that corridor deals are stamped out completely in this next legislative phase.
I want to refer to engagement by HS2 and the attitude towards the people affected. My colleagues have spoken eloquently already about the ways in which HS2 and its staff and personnel still fail to engage with the people who are most affected by this project. I am still hearing of poor engagement up and down the line, and the Country Land and Business Association reports delays, secrecy, broken promises and poor management.
We are still waiting for answers on various matters, such as the incident that took place in the Colne Valley the other day. I asked for the outcome of the investigation, because I thought that was quite a serious incident. I have still not had any response outlining exactly what happened and why people behaved in such a fashion to people crossing land that would be affected by HS2.
I would also very much like to find out what is happening in my own constituency, in Buckinghamshire. The other day, the Secretary of State promised that I and other MPs would be informed where works were taking place and that has not yet happened. The Secretary of State gave a categorical undertaking at that Dispatch Box, but messages I have had none.
Only today, despite a clear, agreed contract with HS2, a constituent has found that the payment they were due to receive within 21 days is still outstanding three months later. I will give details to the Secretary of State because it came in just today, but that just proves to me that HS2 still cannot keep its commitments or treat the people who are being affected by the project in a rational, decent and respectful manner. It is a gross miscarriage of justice for people to be treated in such a way by the Government and by HS2 Ltd.
Like me, my right hon. Friend has gone through the phase 1 experience—I am, of course, affected by phase 2a as well. Does she not think that HS2 as an organisation is dysfunctional? One official does not speak to another, the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing; surely that does not augur well for the construction of a railway line.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. A project of this nature needs to be run in the most professional fashion possible. It needs good governance. It does not need its top executives to be paid 10 times what an MP is paid. It has been criticised up hill and down dale. We have seen it handing out £1.7 million of unauthorised redundancy payments. We have seen the conflicts of interest that have caused major companies to pull out of the bidding process and the contractual process, the failure to carry out due diligence, a turnover of staff, and an attitude towards the people they deal with that can only be described as arrogant.
I still hope that this project can be pulled back into shape. That is why I encourage my colleagues to think about dedicating the Minister’s career over at least the next two years solely to looking after HS2. I thought long and hard, and I have the freedom of the Back Benches, which is a great pleasure, and it is with a heavy heart that once again I have to say that although I know that my hon. Friends will not press their amendment to a vote, if anyone does call a vote on Second Reading, I will again be forced to walk through the Lobby against it.
It is an honour to follow the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Dame Cheryl Gillan). I too welcome the Minister to her post and wish her very well.
In the UK, we are rightly proud of our status as the birthplace of the railways. However, our rail infrastructure —much of it from the Victorian era—requires significant investment if it is to continue to serve the people of Britain in the 21st century. In our 2017 manifesto, Labour promised to create a national transformation fund to invest some £250 billion over 10 years, and we remain firmly committed to investing in our nation’s infrastructure.
HS2 represents one of the largest infrastructure projects in Europe. The scheme will provide much needed capacity to support future demand for rail services, and it aims to deliver wider economic benefits to the regions that it serves and beyond. Although very few would argue against those goals, it is crucial that the project is conducted in the right way: by providing jobs and opportunities to our young people, minimising the disruption caused to our communities and protecting our precious environment.
Although I support the HS2 project in principle, I think it is important to focus on a number of issues. London’s economic output is more than double the rest of the UK average. For the country as a whole to prosper, the balance needs to be redressed, not to the detriment of Londoners but for the benefit of all. According to Government figures, when HS2 is fully completed, it will deliver a benefit-cost ratio of 2.3 when wider economic impacts are included. I want to make sure that those benefits are shared by as wide a group as possible, and especially the areas that are directly affected by the construction of the line. Billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is being spent on this project; that money must benefit more than just the shareholders of a handful of large companies.
Both the Birmingham chamber of commerce in my constituency and the Greater Birmingham and Solihull local enterprise partnership support HS2, recognising the economic benefits that better connectivity will bring. I want Birmingham’s economic output to continue to grow, its people to find well paid, secure and skilled jobs, and the city’s potential to be further recognised as a result of the project. I want to see the construction of HS2 ignite greater interest in engineering among our young people, and apprenticeships to be made available to all young people in our communities, whatever their background.
I completely agree with the hon. Lady about the benefits and how they should be spread across Birmingham and the region. Does she also agree that this is a great opportunity to capture the talents of women, particularly in engineering, in this Year of Engineering?
I absolutely agree; we need to see more women coming into engineering.
However, one of my concerns is that the recent fiasco surrounding the east coast main line franchise, combined with the demonstrable success achieved after the last private sector rail bail-out by Directly Operated Railways, serves only to highlight the need for public ownership of our railways. At a time when living standards are squeezed, wage rises are not keeping pace with the cost of living, and rail passengers have just had to endure the largest fare rises in five years, it is not acceptable for private companies to table inflated offers for these vital services, extract the profits, and then simply walk without honouring their commitments.
Finally, this project should not come at the expense of our environment either. In future, when our children are using HS2, I want them to benefit from the cleaner air that the increased use of rail will bring, but I do not want the construction of the tracks that they are travelling on to have caused untold damage to the environment. Organisations such as the Wildlife Trusts have raised concerns about the loss of ancient woodland, sights of special scientific interest and nature reserves. The construction of HS2 should serve as an example of how large-scale infrastructure projects can be conducted in an environmentally friendly way—changing the environment, yes, but not destroying it. This is an opportunity to achieve a net gain for nature.
The sums of money involved are too great and the potential impact on communities too large to get this project wrong. That is why the Government need to ensure that the process is as transparent, cost-effective and environmentally friendly as possible, so that HS2 delivers for the many, not the few.
As an enthusiastic supporter of improvements to our rail network, I welcome the principle behind the Bill—establishing a high-speed railway beyond Birmingham—but I have some concerns, so I welcome this opportunity to set out how I think the Bill could be improved, particularly for the ambitious and growing city of Stoke-on-Trent.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, as a recent and welcome visitor to my constituency, will know exactly how ambitious we are. The scale of the local rail improvements we are seeking and planning for are, like HS2 itself, unmatched since the Victorian era. We are keen to embrace the many opportunities arising from HS2. HS2 is going to happen—that is no longer the debate; phase 1 preparations are already under way, and the actual building of phase 1 begins next year. Time is marching on. The section we are debating in the Bill, phase 2a, is due to open to passengers by 2027—the end of the next Parliament. We must get on with the Bill, or it will not be long before we are living with the consequences of getting it wrong.
The principle of a high-speed railway line from the west midlands conurbation to Crewe is sound—releasing capacity for passengers and freight services on the existing network, while cutting the fast times to Crewe from London to under an hour—and in principle I welcome it, but for the social and economic benefits of HS2 to be maximised in practice, there needs to be much better integration, as many hon. Members have mentioned. Improvements to infrastructure on the existing network around Stoke-on-Trent, as well as local rail improvements for connecting trains from Crewe, including the Crewe to Derby line, which serves Longton in my constituency, are vital.
The Secretary of State joined me on that service earlier this month and has seen at first hand the improvements needed on it. I welcome the much-needed investment in our local transport infrastructure that he proposed when he visited, but there is much left to be resolved around how the benefits of HS2 will be delivered in and for Stoke-on-Trent. As the briefing note that the public affairs department of HS2 Ltd kindly sent to MPs for this debate puts it:
“Detailed work and consultation is currently being undertaken on options for the development of the HS2 Crewe Hub, with the potential for a HS2 service at Stoke.”
That is a tantalising, and potentially a very lucrative, assurance for the city.
There is clearly a need for Stoke-on-Trent to be connected—it is fundamental to HS2 being of maximum benefit to my constituency. We are told by HS2 Ltd that the Bill “could” mean better commuter services and the potential for extra freight trains, and we are assured by the Rail Delivery Group that it “will” add much-needed space for more and faster trains. I say that it “must” deliver these benefits. To do that, the Government need to be clear that a viable option for the Stoke connector, as promoted by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, is firmly on the table, to ensure that the infrastructure around Stoke-on-Trent receives the vital upgrades it needs.
This would mean getting, in addition to the proposed Handsacre link, which is appropriate for Stafford, a low-impact five-mile line designed to take classic compatible HS2 trains from the main HS2 line through the very significant Stoke-on-Trent catchment and on to the rest of east Cheshire, Macclesfield and Stockport. Such a dedicated Stoke connector would provide the necessary link to improve connectivity and boost capacity. It would do so by getting around the bottleneck that will otherwise remain on the west coast main line to the south of Stoke-on-Trent. That is the way to maximise the full opportunities for more housing and jobs, and I will continue to pursue this matter as the Bill progresses.
It is also imperative that Stoke-on-Trent continue to enjoy regular fast train services to and from London—at least one service every half hour or more frequently. HS2 compatibility should offer my constituents improved journey times as well as helping us to maximise both housing and commercial development in the city, fully seizing the economic opportunities that Stoke-on-Trent offers.
It is essential to address the lack of fast, direct services between Stoke-on-Trent and Birmingham, to match the good quality of the services currently offered between Stoke-on-Trent and Manchester. Through the Bill, HS2 has the potential to address the severe overcrowding and poor connectivity that are currently experienced between Stoke-on-Trent and Birmingham. There is also the potential to improve connectivity further by providing the direct intercity services that are currently lacking between locations such as Stoke-on-Trent and Liverpool. That would fully exploit the potential for economic growth from the midlands engine and northern powerhouse initiatives, with Stoke-on-Trent as the gateway to the north.
As well as improving services, it is essential to do more to improve both the capacity and the offer at Stoke-on-Trent railway station. Although it is the main station serving the potteries conurbation, which consists of more than half a million people, it currently has limited platform and concourse capacity, as well as poor-quality retail facilities. Again, Stoke-on-Trent City Council has stepped forward with detailed proposals. The Stoke-on-Trent HS2 master plan sets out the ambition to transform the station, vastly improving capacity and facilities, and leveraging significant redevelopment in the wider area on the back of those improvements. It is important for those proposals to be realised if we are to ensure that the station is HS2-ready and playing a full part in the city’s regeneration.
I fully support the principle of the Bill, and it will receive my support tonight. I am a positive and enthusiastic supporter of improvements in our rail industry, and I am keen for us to finally emerge from the legacy of the disastrous erosion of Stoke-on-Trent’s rail network that we saw under nationalisation. I know that the Secretary of State is equally committed to large-scale improvements, and I thank him for the commitment to invest in our local transport infrastructure that he gave during his recent visit to my constituency; it was hugely welcome. However, I take very seriously the need to improve infrastructure interconnectivity, and further work needs to be done on that. I also take very seriously the opportunities promised by the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd, which have said that detailed proposals will continue to be refined for HS2 as the Bill progresses. I look forward to playing my part in that process to the full.
It is a pleasure to follow my constituency neighbour, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton), in this important debate. I disagree with him about the support that should be offered to the Bill this evening. The principle behind a high-speed rail network is absolutely fine, but the Bill should actually be entitled the devastation of Staffordshire Bill. It will lay an iron scar across our county, and it will bring very little in the way of economic benefits. All that it does is seek to take all the potential benefits and, through a bottleneck, funnel them down to London and the south-east, where there will be no benefit for my constituents or those of the hon. Gentleman.
I find myself in what some might describe as the invidious, or perhaps I should say unusual, position of agreeing with the hon. Members for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), for Stone (Sir William Cash) and for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy)—the holy triumvirate of Staffordshire Members when it comes to matters of logistics—who have drawn attention to the fallacies in the Bill. Like the hon. Member for Stafford, I have no problem in principle with high-speed rail. I have no problem with the idea of providing additional capacity for the west coast main line and an opportunity for new rail networks to come through Staffordshire and service his constituency and mine. What the Bill does not do, however, is match that aspiration with reality.
The hon. Gentleman has already pointed out that the services that will be coming north from London through our constituencies will terminate at Macclesfield. If we were serious about how we could provide better economic benefits for Staffordshire, the line would go all the way to Manchester. Crucially, that would also offer a new opportunity for a direct service from Stoke-on-Trent to Manchester airport. That would provide a huge growth opportunity for business and tourism, and it is supported by Staffordshire chambers of commerce, which has done so much to promote the venture. It would not necessarily involve a high-speed link, but it would involve the wider issue of funding the regeneration of rail networks out of Stoke-on-Trent. We must not focus purely on high-speed rail enabling us to get to and from London quicker than we currently can. The purpose here is interconnectivity of the regions going north as well, and what we are being offered in this Bill does not provide any sort of hope for that.
I want to look at what I consider to be a mismatch in Government policy. The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy highlights the potential benefit of a ceramic deal in Stoke-on-Trent, and the fact that Stafford is a growth point in our county and that we could have new jobs and regeneration and place-based economic growth through a potential ceramic park bordering my constituency and in the constituency of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South. Yet although we are told that a place-based industrial strategy is important, we are also told that Stoke-on-Trent station, which has 2.8 million rail users a year, is not worthy of anything other than a single one-hour service that will only go north to Macclesfield and will terminate in London, when the journey time of the current service to London is adequate and capacity on the Virgin line is not too much of a problem.
The bigger capacity issue in Stoke-on-Trent and north Staffordshire involves the line run by CrossCountry that services Stafford, Wolverhampton and Birmingham and Birmingham International, where it is often standing-room only in some of the most unpleasant circumstances we can imagine. Yet while we are talking about trying to bring Government policy on regeneration strategy together, there is no economic benefit not to having a greater presence in Stoke-on-Trent.
There is the issue of where the services coming north go to. The hon. Member for Lichfield rightly pointed out that there are potential benefits in using existing railheads, and I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South endorse the work done by Councillors Mohammed Pervez and Andy Platt on the Stoke option, which sought to use the existing rail infrastructure in Staffordshire to take high-speed trains north. The estimate done by the city council at that time suggested that that system could be delivered seven years quicker than the previous timescale and at £5 billion less.
We have here a system that does not necessarily deliver economic benefits for the people of Staffordshire, and it certainly does not help address the ecological issues raised by the hon. Members for Stafford, for Stone and for Lichfield, nor does it provide any great comfort that the northern powerhouse and the midlands engine will be properly connected.
The hon. Member for Lichfield stole most of the things I wanted to say, and he made the point that this is meant to be about connectivity but it really is not. Connectivity does not mean having to traipse across London to make a change, and it does not mean having to change stations outside Birmingham—and Birmingham Curzon Street to Birmingham New Street is quite a long walk for those carrying a bag or if there are a lot of people in the town centre that day.
The system does not address the east-west connectivity of Stoke-on-Trent, which is a greater issue. It does not look at the route that goes from north Wales all the way through to Derby. It does not seek to change the single-carriage railway we currently have that is often over-subscribed. It does not seek to deal with the fact that parts of the M6 are still not in the managed motorways system, so we drive north on the M6 and hit junction 13 and all of a sudden we drop down to three lanes and the traffic is a bit gnarly and not particularly flowing well, and then we reach junction 17 and all is fine again. That is part of the connectivity that we need.
The system certainly does not recognise the fact that junction 15 of the M6 is one of the worst junctions to navigate of all time. I have sometimes had to wait longer there to get on to the M6 than it has taken me to get to Birmingham once on the M6, simply because of the way that junction works. So if we are talking about connectivity and there being a need for greater integration of transport provision, we must look at that as well as looking at high-speed rail.
The Secretary of State is not in his place at present, but the new Minister is and I welcome her to her role. Can we get some clear and categorical commitments that the existing Virgin service that we have from Stoke-on-Trent will not be diminished? Every time we ask that question, we get a slightly different answer; we get some sort of, “Yes, but, maybe, if,” but those terms do not fill us with confidence that any options that come out of the Crewe hub will not lead to a reduction overall in rail service from Stoke-on-Trent. If we include journeys from the constituency of the hon. Member for Stafford, we find that 5 million rail journeys are conducted out of Staffordshire every year. That is a large number of people, and they deserve to know what the future of their rail service will look like.
I would be grateful to the Minister if she gave greater consideration to ensuring that trains going north go past Macclesfield. There is a genuine economic boom to be harnessed in north Staffordshire and south Cheshire if we can have a proper high-speed rail link to Manchester and Manchester airport. That is a proposal that the local chambers of commerce have been putting together. I would welcome any words from her or her colleagues in the Department for Transport about the managed motorways system on the M6. We need to take a holistic approach if we are to make north Staffordshire and south Cheshire a good place to do business, deliver economic regeneration and, most importantly for my constituents, provide the rail service that they need. I support the principle of the Bill, but I cannot support its content, and if there is a Division on it, I am afraid that I will not offer my support to the Government this evening.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this important debate, and I commit my support for the Bill’s Second Reading. I have listened with interest to the entire debate, and I want to thank all those Members who have talked about the changes that need to be made. As a former resident of Birmingham, and someone who now lives close to it, I endorse what colleagues have said about connectivity across that city. I very much hope that the issues can be addressed in the final plans. We have heard arguments about how long it takes to walk between Birmingham New Street and Birmingham Curzon Street. My hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) is obviously a very speedy walker; other Members walk more slowly. If that route could be joined up, it would be beneficial for everyone who passes through what is one of our nation’s great cities.
I want to touch on the question of productivity, which is a key theme in the debate and links closely with what we are trying to achieve with transport infrastructure in this country. This is the main reason why I am supporting the Bill tonight. The Government brought forward many measures in the industrial strategy to boost productivity across the country. That is really important to all of us who live outside London and the south-east. We all acknowledge that wealth, jobs and productivity are not spread evenly across our country, and one of the major things that we can do to address that is to build a decent high-speed train service that will enable our constituents, wherever they live, to travel up and down the country to access jobs and opportunities. The Government are making a fantastic commitment to this project, which underpins their mission to spread wealth and growth across the country.
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, because she reminds me of the significant amount—about £100 billion, I think—that Governments, including the previous Labour Government, have put forward. We have not built any new railways in this country since Victorian times, so it is really important that we are committing this funding now and in the future to build our railways. The project will be important to our constituents’ quest to travel not only from London to the midlands, but from the midlands up to the north. It will also help our quest to take pressure off the overheated south.
My hon. Friend makes a very good argument. Does she agree that this is not just about freeing up the lines to the south, because there will be help for lines to some of the smaller stations where services do not stop at the moment? This is not just about people who want to travel from city to city; it is also about travel between towns.
I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention. I am sure that many of her constituents, like mine, have to travel to the nearest big city or town to get to work or leisure destinations. The project will help to free up capacity on those secondary lines.
The project will make an important contribution to our global competitiveness as a nation. Thanks to the Government’s economic programme and their management of the economy, the UK is seen as a highly attractive destination for business investment. I want to see that continue. When foreign investors look at our country, they consider the transport links, because they want to invest in places from where it is easy to get around the country so that people will find their businesses attractive and want to work for them.
HS2 will benefit not only my constituents in Redditch, but the country as a whole. Although we will not benefit directly from HS2, we live only a short distance away from Birmingham, which will be a major stop on the line. Many of my constituents work, play and socialise in Birmingham, and the economic prospects of a place such as Redditch are intertwined with those of Birmingham and the larger west midlands conurbation. When the project is completed, we will see benefits for business and residents, and transport routes up and down the country will be opened up.
Does my hon. Friend share my passion for the National College for High Speed Rail? It will not only help to fill the skills gap for high-speed rail, but train people so that we deal with the long-term skills gap in the engineering, design, technology and construction sectors.
My hon. Friend is a great champion of engineering and I have been inspired by what she has done in her constituency. HS2 will definitely provide a boost for engineering careers. The hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry) rightly said that we do not mention careers for women in engineering enough, and I want to go at least some way towards rectifying that. I hope that the National College for High Speed Rail will have a mission to bring more women into engineering so that this project provides a boost to help to address the dire lack of women in engineering and construction, particularly given that it is the Year of Engineering and also 100 years since women got the vote. There are many reasons to focus on that issue and ensure that we get things right.
We need engineers to construct the line, but we need them in the supply chain, too. Bombardier’s base is close to my constituency, and I have met the female apprentice engineers who build the underground trains that we travel on every day. That is just one example of how much more we can do to spread the word that engineering is for men and women.
My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. We can all encourage employers to be role models and women to speak out. Businesses that value such careers should pay people decent salaries so that they do not all go off to work in the City. That is what this country needs. We need a dynamic economy that works for everyone.
I was until recently the Minister for the Year of Engineering, and I looked at the possibility of establishing an advisory group to examine exactly the issue my hon. Friend describes: how groups that are under-represented in engineering can get a foothold and, beyond that, a greater share of the opportunities. I wonder whether the current Minister will take that up and perhaps establish such a group, which would be in the spirit of what my hon. Friend suggests.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his work. He is a champion of women not only in engineering, but in all other spheres, and I hope that the Minister will take up that suggestion.
Redditch’s small businesses are hoping to take advantage of some of the contracts that are being awarded through HS2, both now and in the future. For example, Arrowvale Electronics makes world-leading equipment and hopes to benefit from the boost that an HS2 contract would provide. I know how hard it is for small businesses to tender for large-scale Government contracts, so I urge the Minister to say what she is doing to ensure that they can get a slice of the pie and benefit the diverse economy that we all want.
The hon. Lady makes the apt and correct argument that there ought to be opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises to get government contracts. What I fail to see is the logic behind her support for both this Bill and that argument, because if there were other projects to deal with regional rail inequalities and road upgrades—other large infrastructure projects that were not HS2—such opportunities would still exist.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I confess that I am not sure that I entirely followed its logic, but I think I get the point he is trying to make. There will be opportunities for small businesses, even if not directly—I am thinking of first contractors and even the supply chain further down, because many of these contracts involve a multitude of contractors. It is important that the Government look at this area, as I am sure that the Minister will. There will be a benefit for people and businesses in my constituency, and we hope there will be a particular benefit for women. Although the HS2 college is located in Birmingham, I hope that it will see what it can do to spread its opportunities for training beyond Birmingham city centre.
I have mentioned the process of contracting already, but I wish to touch on it again briefly. I am a member of the Select Committee on Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and just this morning we held our joint inquiry with the Select Committee on Work and Pensions on the collapse of Carillion. We have questioned the regulators and we will shortly be questioning the Carillion directors. Clearly, there are many lessons to learn from this collapse, which has affected many businesses and people, including those with pensions. I very much hope that when the Government award contracts for HS2, they will learn those lessons quickly so that we do not see the sorts of decisions that enabled companies such as Carillion to continue operating in a way that put pensions and small businesses at risk. I very much hope that the Minister will address those concerns, which I am sure we all have.
If this project is done right, we have an opportunity to do contracting right, and to boost not only small businesses but larger businesses up and down the country, providing opportunities for people to gain new skills. I am talking about apprenticeships, and getting more women in engineering and new sectors such as the rail industry. Such sectors might not have been traditionally attractive for people to consider, so let us make careers in them something to which young people aspire, so that we are going forward with the jobs of the future.
Does my hon. Friend agree that one area that has been neglected in today’s debate is the social and wellbeing aspect that the project can bring to people? We talk often in this place about loneliness and boosting tourism around the country, and improving our connectivity in the UK is an example of how we can achieve that.
My hon. Friend makes an extremely perceptive point and I completely agree with it. My hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Seely) was talking about the investment figures, and sometimes there are intangible benefits that are not always captured in an economic forecast. I hope that the Government are looking at that and looking at how we can maximise what my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Michelle Donelan) describes. Loneliness is a real scourge and when people who live in London can get on a train and go to Birmingham, or vice-versa, and people can to go from Birmingham to the north, they can explore new parts of our beautiful country. We can also reduce the carbon footprint that would come from their getting on an airplane. Let us have more staycations. Let us explore our country, because we are blessed in our island nation with some of the most beautiful landscapes. Sometimes that tourism benefit is lacking from our debate. How much better it would be if we could encourage holidays at home and boost the tourism—
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I apologise for deviating a tiny bit off the track.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire Dales (Sir Patrick McLoughlin) said in his extremely eloquent speech, it is impossible to build a major infra- structure project in any country without it having some impact on people, but we have to make sure that it is managed sensitively, that people are treated well and that their voices and concerns are heard. I hope that the Government reassure us that that will be done properly.
Infrastructure underpins our productivity. There is a strong push in our country towards devolution, and investment in high-speed rail is critical to that. Will the Minister say how this project will link to the devolved combined authorities agenda? I am close to the West Midlands combined authority—Redditch is a constituent member—where the Mayor holds powers over transport. It is important that HS2 links to transport in the mayors’ regions so that we have an integrated solution to local transport issues. I have campaigned vigorously for better links between Birmingham and my town of Redditch, and I shall continue to do so. I hope that we see a push on that as capacity is freed up when the express trains leave the lines, thereby freeing up more scope for faster and better express services from secondary hubs into the main cities.
We in the west midlands are leading on jobs and growth. We have a booming economy. We are creating more jobs and more businesses are starting in our area than in any other part of the country. Redditch is on the edge of that, but we benefit from it and we want to harness it. We want our region to take control of our own destiny, as do, I am sure, colleagues from across the country. This high-speed rail project and other infrastructure projects will enable us to take charge of our own destiny and live our own lives and will encourage prosperity for all our constituents.
I rise to speak in support of the Bill. It is positive that we are debating it and I very much enjoyed playing a role in its development.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire Dales (Sir Patrick McLoughlin) said, passenger numbers on our railways have grown from just over 700 million to nearly 1.6 billion. That is a fantastic turnaround for an industry that had seen decades of decline. The industry now faces the challenge of how to cater for the growth it is experiencing. It is a completely different mindset, so it is positive that we are seeking finally to bite the bullet and construct some new capacity in the UK rail network. We have deferred this decision for far too long. Things such as small upgrades to reduce pinch points and thereby increase capacity have only deferred the big decisions. If we consider the fact that we have not built a new railway line in England north of London since the reign of Queen Victoria, we realise just how overdue HS2 is.
My hon. Friend makes an insightful point. We had decades of decline when the rail industry was in public hands. The turnaround post-privatisation has been dramatic. Opposition Members take that for granted and suggest that nationalisation is a way forward, but they have forgotten the complete change we saw, with the focus on customers and growth, and how that has delivered and been a key part of the UK’s economic growth.
We do not want to spend too much time on this issue, but the simple fact is that in the past, when the nationalised railway had to rely solely on the Government, the Government cut off its funding. With privatisation, it has attracted funding. The truth of the matter is that that has seen growth in the rail industry that has made something like HS2 absolutely necessary.
My right hon. Friend is as wise as ever. Not only do we have public money going into our railways, but we are seeing private investment attracted into our railways and therefore more investment in aggregate. We have this urgent need for capacity within our network to cater for the growth both in passengers and in freight.
After years of decline, this decision has been taken to go for growth. The next question that successive Governments have faced is what form that should take. Should it be investment in the classic rail network, or should we be embracing new technology? Well, we should of course be embracing new technology. Perhaps it is again worth remembering that that has not always been the case under nationalised industries. The UK built its last steam engine in 1960, and it was only in 1964 that the Japanese introduced the bullet train. The Government are buying investment not in phone boxes, but in fibre broadband. Technology should of course be at the heart of our investment decisions.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way; he is being generous. I do not disagree with his arguments about the need for infrastructure investment or the need for additional capacity, but this Bill in particular is about the route between the west midlands and Crewe. The route that has been chosen is the most expensive that it could be, delivering the least economic benefits for Staffordshire and causing the most ecological damage. That is what we should be discussing this evening.
That has been part of the discussion throughout the day. I have to say that I missed some of the speeches. I am sorry to hear what the hon. Gentleman had to say, but I simply do not agree with his basic premise. I have travelled the route, met local communities along the route and met local government leaders and local businesses along the route. I simply do not agree with his premise.
The issues raised by colleagues along the line of the route are of course entirely fair and legitimate, and they are right to speak up for their constituents. It is difficult delivering infrastructure—whether it is transport, digital or housing infrastructure—without causing some environmental impact. It is clearly right for the Minister to listen to the concerns raised by Members and to respond appropriately. I know that when I was part of the Transport team, we did nothing but listen and try to address those issues. I know that the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Ms Ghani), will be in the same grain.
Despite all the sensitivities that have been raised, it is very encouraging that we have a Government who are seeking to deliver HS2 as fast as possible and have brought forward HS2 phase 2a. Views have been well articulated today. The reasons why I am so supportive of the development are that it will deliver key strategic benefits for the UK in terms of economic growth and the skills legacy. I have visited the two HS2 colleges in Doncaster and in Birmingham—only during their construction phase; not since they have progressed further —and I was incredibly impressed by what I saw. They offer great facilities for skills development for people taking apprenticeships. They will learn all the skills that we will need not just for this project, but for future high-speed rail projects.
I hope the House will forgive me for raising this issue again, but because he has visited the college and I have not done so, will he tell me what progress he saw on the initiative for getting more women into the train and engineering industry while he was there?
My hon. Friend makes a very interesting point. It was reasonably hard to see that from the project in development, but the teams I met working in the colleges were absolutely clear that they will be drawing on as much talent as possible, which will obviously mean bringing more women into engineering. We have a huge shortfall in the number of engineers in the UK. Historically, we have failed to draw on as wide a talent base as possible. The more we talk about the matter in this place, the more we follow it through within communities, and the more we offer a series of careers that can deliver high-quality jobs that solve community problems, the more women we will attract into the industry.
Cutting-edge strategic decisions always bring with them a certain degree of contention, which is why Governments in democratic polities too rarely make such decisions. They also bring with them opportunity. One thinks of Crossrail. At the beginning, there were doubters, but Crossrail has, without doubt, led to the development of skills of the kind my hon. Friend described, the creation of opportunities, and the seeding of jobs, which have led to us being world beating. The same thing can happen in respect of HS2.
My right hon. Friend makes an interesting point. I entirely agree with him. For those who have not yet had the opportunity to go to see Crossrail, the opportunity may well occur again as Crossrail has been taking people down to have a look at its sites. What Crossrail has achieved is fantastic. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch will shortly be able to visit one of the HS2 colleges, where she will see just the difference that the project has made.
I would just say in response to the previous intervention that there would have been far fewer problems had the tunnel gone the entire way under the Chilterns. It would have been advisable to do that. Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a real danger that we will not have the engineering capacity to complete these projects on budget and on time, and that, as we currently lack so many skills in engineering, it will be hard to make up that deficit?
My right hon. Friend makes two points. We have previously discussed the issue of tunnelling in the Chilterns. I feel more optimistic about the project as a whole. I do not feel that the current skills gap will hinder the delivery of the project, and I am clear that that will not happen because of the actions taken to bring more people into the sector. The fact that we have to deliver skills via building colleges suggests that the Government have been taking seriously the issue of skills in the railways.
The key reason that phase 2a is such a positive project is that more people will benefit from HS2. Crewe is a rail hub. More passengers will be able to access the benefits that the HS2 network will deliver. I want us to go forward to further develop high-speed rail in other parts of the UK. I am particularly thinking about Northern Powerhouse Rail across the Pennines. I look forward very much to seeing the progress of the Bill and the rail line that will come from it, and how the Government will work with local communities and local government to maximise the opportunities that this line presents.
The HS2 argument has changed from whether we should have it, to how we can maximise the opportunities when it arrives. Those opportunities will be commercial, environmental and in skills. I see huge opportunity throughout the project, which is why I will support the Bill should we divide on it this evening.
I have listened carefully to today’s debate and thank all hon. Members for their contributions. I have heard the concerns and opportunities that the second phase of HS2 will bring. The high-speed rail journey began under the last Labour Government, who recognised the need for greater capacity and better connectivity.
The Victorian rail network has served us well, but nearly 200 years on it is overstretched. If we are to see a significant modal shift in the future—as Labour encourages—and if we want to see rail as the vehicle of choice for distance travel, we cannot stand back and do nothing, nor should we. It was from the Victorian age that our nation witnessed the foresight of a new generation of engineers to radically advance our country and the world. Yet today our trains are slow, crowded, and depend on outdated technology and infrastructure. It is therefore vital that, as a nation, we put ourselves in the driving seat again, strive to be world leaders and propagate the next generation of engineers, with both women and men taking on new careers in the sector.
We could spend a long time talking about the shenanigans that also took place in this House over the creation of the Victorian railways.
Future capacity is vital. Although longer trains, digital signalling and infrastructure upgrades connecting with new rolling stock may get us through the current period, we will need more lines if we are to look further ahead. If we are to develop more lines, it is right that we seriously consider where they go.
HS2 gives us a real opportunity to think about the future of our country and how we connect it to address the unacceptable levels of inequality across Britain. HS2 is not just about the route itself but about freeing up capacity on the west coast main line and on our roads. This will bring benefit to current road and rail users, as well as creating new opportunities for further development of passenger and, importantly, freight paths on the west coast, as my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs Ellman) highlighted and my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Gareth Snell) asked for.
Of course, Labour would, as always, be looking at the bigger picture, embedding HS2 at the heart of a wider rail and transport strategy. It would be absolutely nonsensical to make such significant investment in a new rail line if we were not properly upgrading the north-west to north-east routes—the HS3 routes. The Secretary of State is not in his place at the moment, but I hope that he will take heed of this. It is not too late to reverse his decision to de-electrify the plans and put power back into the northern powerhouse. The cities in the north demand it. We believe that HS2, integrated with a new, dynamic rail plan, must bring economic investment to the midlands and the north, creating good jobs for a secure future, not least with the new skills required in designing and constructing HS2 through the 30,000 jobs it will create.
My hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Laura Smith) eloquently set out a strong economic case for proper connectivity through a regional rail hub at Crewe, this being at the centre of a network to feed Cheshire and the wider counties, and north Wales. That is vital for the future economy of Crewe. I can think of no better politician than my hon. Friend to speak up for her town and to make that case.
We must remember that HS2 is not an entirety in itself but a bridge to enable economic growth and industrial investment. My hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) made a similar point, again focusing on how to build the economies of the north-west by ensuring connectivity. It is vital that HS2 talks to the region, and we must dissect this in Committee to ensure that it does. I note his calling for the line to north Wales through Chester. We should not dismiss this opportunity for some of the communities in the UK who most need this infrastructure stimulus. My hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Jo Platt) also stressed the need to focus on connectivity. A clear call for integration has been made—one that Labour will support.
Phase 2a is set to deliver nearly £4 billion of benefits over the 60-year appraisal period, with a cost-benefit ratio of 1:9 and wider economic impacts. This indicates upper-end medium value for money, but accelerating this phase will represent very high value for money. Around Crewe, we will see 40,000 new jobs and 7,000 homes, opening up the life chances that have not been seen in the area before and starting to address the complete economic imbalance that we have in our country. Extending this to the Constellation Partnership will deliver 100,000 new homes and 120,000 jobs—20,000 in the Cheshire science corridor alone, putting the UK on the international stage in terms of science and technology.
I assure the House that Labour will never stand in the way of providing such opportunities to communities that have been crying out for investment—a point powerfully made by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Preet Kaur Gill).
I take the point that the hon. Lady is making. However, the KPMG report that looked into the impact of HS2 on various economies across the British state indicated that south Wales would be absolutely hammered. Is the Labour party not at all concerned about the economy of south Wales?
Of course we are deeply concerned about the economy of south Wales. That is why we electrified the line to south Wales that helped to boost the economy in that region, and also ensured that HS2 fed into north Wales, helping the whole of the Welsh economy to grow.
We have some concerns, and it is absolutely right that there is tight scrutiny of every part of the project, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Sir Kevin Barron) highlighted. At a time when the economy continues to fail, not least in the north, Labour understands why people are questioning the economic benefit of spending £55.7 billion on a rail route. This 36-mile section will cost £3.5 billion. At a time when our public services are crying out for investment, it is right that critical questions are asked about the project. However, the benefits are also clear, and it cannot be an either/or. This is about getting the Government’s economic strategy right. We will make sure that every decision brings maximum inward investment, as the economic opportunity is already estimated to be £92 billion across HS2.
We hear the concerns about the environment. It is vital that real consideration is given in Committee to the impact of construction and of the final network on the environment. That cannot just be about mitigation elsewhere, and I will push for us to maximise this opportunity. I will also want to ensure in Committee that modern, advanced engineering is able to find answers to the many questions raised about the environment and how the habitats directive, no matter which side of Brexit we are on, is seen in its fullest sense.
The hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy), who spoke particularly well on behalf of his constituents, highlighted how important it is to ensure that his constituents’ concerns are picked up. I assure him that in Committee, we will listen carefully to the points he has to make. The right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Dame Cheryl Gillan) spoke of her vast experience in dealing with HS2. It is really important that lessons are learned and that there is good communication, and we must certainly end corridor deals.
I thank the hon. Gentleman, but I do understand the process. Petitions will be brought forward, and we will listen carefully to them.
Labour will want to ensure that all opportunities for cyclists and walkers are harnessed from the HS2 route. Not much has been said about that to date. Labour is committed to cleaning up our air and our environment by cleaning up on the actions of Government when it comes to transport. Labour believes that investment in public and, I must add, publicly owned transport—we are not going back to the past, but moving forward to the future—is the way forward to deliver a rail system fit for the 21st century.
It is with great pleasure that I close the Second Reading debate. This is my first Bill, so there is no pressure; I will try to do it some justice.
HS2 presents a huge opportunity for the country as a whole. It is a major undertaking but an essential one. Throughout history, improving connectivity has led to innovation, economic advancement and increased productivity. HS2 is no different. This project is a significant long-term capital investment in the country’s infrastructure. It will deliver substantial economic growth and returns, creating the wealth we need to spend on all our priorities, whether those are health or education programmes.
We are ambitious for our country. My hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean) spoke about productivity, being ambitious and ensuring that we train engineers for the future. We are ambitious for all of our country and determined to leave no one behind. HS2 is what the Government are all about, as it will enable future generations to thrive.
HS2 is a significant investment, but it is also a necessary one, and it is important that we get it right. With that in mind, I would like to thank all right hon. and hon. Members for their contributions. There were 21 contributions in all, and I will do my best to respond to all of them.
HS2 has the potential to transform our rail network. As a brand-new line, it is the best option for creating more space on our busy railways. By freeing up space on the west coast main line between the west midlands and Crewe, phase 2a has the potential to deliver much-needed additional capacity on a constrained part of our network—reducing overcrowding and making journeys more reliable, creating the opportunity for more varied and frequent services across the region, and benefiting Nuneaton, Tamworth, Lichfield and Rugeley.
The benefits will spread well beyond the railway itself. Faster and easier travel will put more opportunities within reach of millions of people. HS2 will connect people to jobs, and businesses to suppliers. It will bring new investment, employment and regeneration to towns and cities up and down the country. HS2 has the potential to support hundreds of thousands of jobs, including 2,000 apprentices. Most importantly—this was mentioned by many Members—70% of jobs created by HS2 will be outside London. It will help to train a new generation of skilled workers, including through the National College for High Speed Rail.
Many Members—such as the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs Ellman), my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Preet Kaur Gill)—spoke about investment in the north. The north of England, in particular, stands to benefit from HS2. This part of the route, between Birmingham and Crewe, has been brought forward by six years so that we can deliver more of the benefits of HS2 more quickly.
We want to transform journeys for passengers and create the capacity the north needs to flourish, and delivering HS2 is an essential part of that. We are already carrying out the biggest investment in the north of England for a generation, spending £13 billion on northern transport, which is the largest such amount in Government history. This is not about the north against the south. Investing in our rail network is a key part of the Government’s plan for a connected Britain, and we are committed to improving journeys for passengers throughout the country.
HS2 will bring benefits to cities across the north before the construction of phase 2. Phase 1 will reduce journey times towards, for example, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow, and will release capacity between Birmingham and London. By shifting long-distance services on to the brand-new railway, HS2 will release capacity on existing routes and provide options for new or additional local, cross-country, commuter and freight services in many areas.
Phase 2a, between the west midlands and Crewe, will further improve journey times and bring more benefits to the north. HS2 is a key component in the delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail, our vision for significantly improving journey times and service frequency between major cities in the north of England. This is why we have announced £300 million of funding to future-proof HS2 to accommodate future junctions. With Transport for the North and Midlands Connect, we are developing a clear set of proposals for connections that would allow Northern Powerhouse Rail and Midland Connect services to use HS2.
Several Members have spoken about Crewe and Stoke, and I hope to be able to respond to some of their questions. The HS2 business case has always included a plan to run high-speed train services to Crewe, but I know there is a strong ambition to achieve even more. I visited Crewe just last week, and I was impressed by the enthusiasm and commitment of Cheshire East Council and the Constellation Partnership to make the most of the opportunities that HS2 will bring, including jobs and homes.
I agree with the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Laura Smith) that a Crewe hub would generate significant opportunities not only for Crewe itself, but for the surrounding region. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) spoke very clearly in support of Stoke being served by HS2. As the Secretary of State set out in his opening speech, we are very clear about the important economic role that Stoke-on-Trent plays in the wider region, and we want it to be served by HS2.
We are a long way from the timetables, but if the hon. Gentleman will let me continue for a moment, I will talk about how and when we will respond to the consultation undertaken on this very section.
We are looking at what would be needed for phase 2a to support a future Crewe hub, but as the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich is aware, Crewe is a strategically important location on the rail network and the existing infrastructure is very complex. In our plans for HS2, we must ensure that we get things right. That is why last year we launched a consultation to look at whether we can provide an even better service to Crewe—one that could serve more destinations and allow more trains to stop. We are considering the responses, and will respond shortly. Realising the full vision would need the local council to work with us on funding, and my Department is working closely with Cheshire East on this. Some elements could be taken forward by Network Rail, under its existing permitted development rights, and we understand the whole-hub vision would require a junction north of Crewe back on to HS2, but that has to be a decision for phase 2b, as we will not build the relevant part of the HS2 line north of Crewe in phase 2a.
We are working through the details. We will try and do it as quickly as we can, but it will be shortly—this year. I am sorry; I cannot provide more details now, but I will write to the hon. Member and let her know. This is very complicated and cannot be rushed. We need to make the decisions for the right reasons.
I welcome the passion with which the Minister is approaching her brief, but may I bring her back down to reality? The constituent I mentioned in my speech, who has been so badly affected by HS2 phase 1 and so badly let down by HS2 Ltd, which is not paying the bills it promised, and is contracted, to pay, is now on antidepressants and fears that this sort of thing is happening to many other people up and down the line. Could the Minister put some of her passion for the project into protecting the people who are so badly affected by the project?
My right hon. Friend has raised many issues about HS2 Ltd, its relationship with our constituents and its poor performance in communication previously, with the Secretary of State and with Ministers who have held my current position. I will indeed endeavour to hold HS2 Ltd to account. I am more than happy to take on board any cases that my right hon. Friend wishes to present to me, and I am grateful for her words in opening her speech. I will do my best to outlive previous Ministers in this position.
To turn to the hon. Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson), the consultation on the Crewe hub that we published last year included service pattern options that will reap benefits for Chester, north and south Wales, Shrewsbury and the wider region. As I mentioned, we expect to respond to that consultation shortly.
I think I can say this on behalf of all those who are liable to petition in Staffordshire, thus representing several constituencies here: will the Minister do everything possible to help those petitioners to present their case, and show maximum understanding of what is affecting them, right the way through from one end of Staffordshire to the other?
My hon. Friend has been a great champion for his constituents and has made his concerns known to me, the Secretary of State and previous Ministers. The Committee is the best place for him to represent his constituents and encourage them to petition the Committee.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Dame Cheryl Gillan) raised an incident in Colne Valley. I expect HS2 Ltd and any contractors to treat everyone with respect. The reported behaviour that she mentioned is completely unacceptable and falls well below the standard that I would expect. I am happy to take up the case on her behalf.
The My hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) gave a very passionate speech, which I believe is now trending on YouTube, with his walk back and forth in the Chamber. I am not quite convinced about his journey times within Birmingham, and as a proud Brummie I would not mind spending eight or 22 minutes walking around Birmingham as I think it is a great place to be, but HS2 is connected to existing rail stations up and down the network, including Euston, Manchester, Crewe, Leeds and Sheffield.
My hon. Friend the Member for Erewash (Maggie Throup) raised a number of concerns. I know that she has spoken repeatedly to me, my predecessor and the Secretary of State, and that too she is a strong champion for her constituents. On Long Eaton, HS2 Ltd has had meetings with my hon. Friend, valuation agents and residents to try to progress this issue. HS2 Ltd is mindful that there are elderly and vulnerable residents involved, and these cases are getting very senior attention within HS2 Ltd to try to find a resolution. I do not doubt that my hon. Friend will continue to work with me to ensure that her constituents are satisfied with the responses that they get from HS2 Ltd.
Let me turn to the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and others about ancient woodland. Of course, ancient woodland is irreplaceable, and although we cannot fully compensate for all impacts, we have committed to use best practice measures, such as enhancing links between woodland, reusing ancient woodland soils and creating new mixed deciduous woodland. More than 75 hectares of new woodland will be planted along the phase 2a scheme to partially compensate for the loss of 10.5 hectares of ancient woodland. It is unfortunate, but we are doing our very best to compensate for the woodland that is being taken.
I am unable to respond to many other Members’ comments, and I will endeavour to write to them all, but I want quickly to move on to the question of engagement. Many Members mentioned that HS2 Ltd has fallen short of expectations as to how it should communicate with Members as well as their constituents. I expect HS2 Ltd to reach extremely high standards in all its engagement activities, and I say to the House that I am sorry if in any of these cases the level of engagement has fallen short. I encourage any Members with particular concerns to meet me to discuss them. I will listen, and I will endeavour to hold HS2 Ltd to account. As a project, we will continue to learn and improve.
There have been a number of conversations about the cost of the project. To clarify, the 2015 spending review reconfirmed the Government’s commitment to HS2 and set a long-term funding envelope of £55.7 billion. The Government are determined, and are on course, to deliver HS2 within this. HS2 is a major investment but a necessary one. For every £1 of investment, it will deliver more than £2 of benefits. That is more than £92 billion of benefits to this country before we even talk about the 100,000 jobs, 70% of which are outside London.
I fear that I have run out of time, so I must come to a close. We have made the case for HS2 and we now need to get on and build it. This country invented the railways, and we should be proud of our Victorian pioneers, but we cannot continue to rely on the network that they built. Around the world, our global competitors are already investing heavily in high-speed rail. We are now catching up, and I do not want us to be part of a generation that sits back while others move forward. I was touched by what my right hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire Dales (Sir Patrick McLoughlin) said: when trains were first offered from Birmingham to London, people said that canals were adequate. Let us not be that generation.
Let us make no mistake: this country can deliver major infrastructure projects, and we should have confidence that we can deliver HS2. We have already delivered the 2012 Olympics and Crossrail—two examples of what we can achieve when we are ambitious, believe in our ability as a nation to get big infrastructure projects done, and commit to investing in our country and in our future. This Government have a vision for a stronger, fairer country within an economy that works for everyone. Infrastructure is at the heart of our industrial strategy and that for the north—for a modern country with a modern transport infrastructure to match. HS2 will play a vital role in this. I therefore commend this Bill, my first Bill, to the House.