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HS2 and East West Rail: Construction Traffic

Volume 700: debated on Thursday 9 September 2021

9. What assessment he has made of the impact on roads along the routes of (a) HS2 and (b) East West Rail of traffic connected to the construction of those railway lines. (903268)

Assessments of the impact of HS2 construction traffic on roads were included within the environmental assessments submitted during the passage of the High Speed Rail (London–West Midlands) Act 2017 and the High Speed Rail (West Midlands-Crewe) Act 2021. For East West Rail the impact of construction on roads is monitored in compliance with the Transport and Works Act orders.

I thank my hon. Friend, and the rail Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris), for visiting my constituency during the summer recess to see for themselves the many issues that the construction of HS2 and East West Rail are causing for my constituents, one of which is the perilous state of the roads following a number of HGV movements. Will my hon. Friend reassure me that there will be urgent and rapid action to make safe those roads affected by the construction of those two projects?

Both the HS2 and East West Rail projects undertook full surveys of road conditions for the designated lorry routes prior to the construction works commencing. HS2 Ltd and East West Rail Company must ensure that all road damage as a result of construction works is repaired to the standard reported in those surveys. My hon. Friend continues to be a vocal champion for his constituents, and I look forward to continuing to work with him on this and other issues.

Earlier this year, the Prime Minister told this House that the Government were

“going to develop the eastern leg as well as the whole of the HS2.”—[Official Report, 10 February 2021; Vol. 689, c. 325.]

Last year, he told the House that plans for HS2’s eastern leg remained “absolutely unchanged”. So when reports surfaced over the summer that Ministers planned to mothball the eastern leg, I was absolutely shocked. A U-turn, Mr Speaker? Another broken promise from this Government? Surely not.

Being the helpful person that I am, I want to help the Government put this scandalous rumour to bed once and for all. Can the Minister, rather than giving the evasive answer that he gave me last year about waiting for some sort of integrated rail plan, confirm that the eastern leg of HS2 will be built in full, on time and on budget?

I think the shadow Minister knows my answer. As the Prime Minister announced, we are working on the integrated rail plan, which is progressing well. It is only right that Ministers take time to fully consider all the evidence from all the stakeholders, regional leaders, the National Infrastructure Commission and the Government’s own analysis before making a decision. This is a cross-Government decision, but we intend to publish the integrated rail plan soon.

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the problems with the HS2 phase 2b eastern leg is that local authorities seem constantly to be adding to the cost? Leeds City Council told HS2 that it could not shut any bridges or roads in the construction, meaning that the line has to be on a viaduct, which has increased the cost massively.

We are very keen to ensure that the benefits of HS2 are delivered as affordably as possible, recognising the importance of valuing every single penny of taxpayers’ money. Leeds and the regional stakeholders have brought forward ambitious plans for regeneration around a new Leeds station. That is one of the many aspects that is being considered across Government by Ministers not just in this Department but in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Treasury ahead of making decisions on the integrated rail plan.

Local residents neighbouring the brand-new Old Oak Common station, which has so far cost £6.98 billion and rising, showed me last week how their east-west journeys by bus, buggy—you name it—have become impossible because they are living in a barbed wire-festooned dust bowl of a building site. Can we have an urgent visit from the HS2 Minister? It should not just be Conservative Members who get visits. I have been waiting for a long time; the last time I was promised one was when the Secretary of State’s name rhymed with “failing”.

I would be delighted to visit Old Oak Common again. It is the largest ever railway station built in a single stage. It is a 32-acre site, and it will offer the hon. Lady’s constituents unrivalled connectivity when it is open. I have visited in the past, and I will be keen to visit again and meet the hon. Lady.