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Railways: High-speed Rail

Volume 734: debated on Tuesday 10 January 2012


My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now repeat a Statement made in the House of Commons by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport. The Statement is as follows:

“Mr Speaker, this morning I made a Written Statement to this House announcing my decision to give the go-ahead to High Speed 2—a national high-speed rail network. With the exception of High Speed 1, it will be the first major national railway line to be built in Britain since the grand central line in 1899. I would like to provide Members with further detail of the substance and rationale for my decisions.

I weighed up the evidence after one of the largest public consultations in our history. We wrote to more than 172,000 people living or working near the proposed line from London to the West Midlands, visited communities along the 140-mile route and held 41 days of road shows attended by almost 30,000 people over the five-month consultation period. Almost 55,000 responses were received from individuals, businesses and organisations across the country, representing a wide spectrum of views, many of which were strongly expressed both in favour of and against high-speed rail, views I carefully considered in making my decisions.

Since becoming Secretary of State for Transport, I have examined all the available evidence, including the work undertaken by my right honourable friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge and the previous Labour Administration in developing the consultation proposals, the evidence submitted during consultation and the further work undertaken by my department and HS2 Ltd. My decision had to take in the full environmental impact of HS2, but also the benefits of HS2 to our economy, to jobs and to competitiveness, not just today, but decades into the future. I also had to be clear about the implications of not investing in high speed, how that would affect our leading cities and how that would affect the road network and aviation.

Generating growth and helping people back to work, supporting Britain’s companies and wealth creators so they can compete and win in the global marketplace—these are at the top of this Government’s priority list. From day one in office, the coalition has had a laser focus on investing in and modernising this country’s transport infrastructure. Now, when it came to HS2, I could have made the easy choice, gone for the short-term option, rely on a patch-and-mend approach and leave our rail networks overstretched, overburdened and less resilient.

Well, let us be clear: the price for that would have been paid in lost business, lower growth, fewer jobs and more misery for passengers. We would have failed future generations who are depending on us to create the prosperous country they will want to live in. Good government is about acting in the long-term national interest. It is about taking decisions, however difficult, to improve people’s quality of life and the country’s economic prospects not just for the next four or five years but for the next four or five decades.

Our Victorian predecessors would have had immense pride to see their railways providing massive benefit today, over 100 years later, but as a result of today’s announcement the railway revolution they started is happening once again. We are ready for a new chapter in Britain’s transport history, one that is designed to boost our economy and our country just as the first coming of the railways or the motorways did for previous generations. That is precisely why I have given the green light to HS2.

In spite of the challenges of rising demand, our railways have been a huge success since privatisation. Passenger demand is growing year on year, particularly in the inter-city market, but I also recognise that further rounds of upgrades to our major north-south lines, even if they offer apparently good value for money, can provide only a short-term fix, one that is incapable of meeting the long-term challenge. In truth, they could add only limited further capacity. They could not offer the step change in performance that passengers wish to see. Moreover, upgrades would consign rail passengers and the vitally important rail freight industry to years, if not decades, of future engineering disruption, delay and unreliability—something users of the west coast main line will remember only too well.

Therefore, the question is not, “Do we build new lines?”; it is, “What type of new line should we build?”. When you weigh up the economic and social rewards, there is only one answer: high-speed rail. A high-speed line will deliver £6.2 billion more of benefits to the country than a line running at conventional speeds—at an extra cost of only £1.4 billion. By slashing journey times, as well as providing the step change in rail capacity that we need to keep the country moving, it will give a return on the additional investment of more than four to one. A modern, reliable and fast service between our major cities and international gateways, befitting the 21st century, will transform the way we travel and promote Britain’s economic and social prosperity.

HS2 will be built in two phases to ensure delivery of its benefits at the earliest possible opportunity. Phase 1 will link London to the West Midlands, plus a direct connection to the continent through the Channel Tunnel via High Speed 1. Even in the first phase, cities and towns off the HS2 network such as Stockport, Warrington, Liverpool, Preston and Glasgow will be served by trains able to use both HS2 and existing intercity lines, saving over half an hour on journeys to London. Phase 2 will provide onward legs to Manchester and Leeds, with intermediate stations in the East Midlands and South Yorkshire, plus a direct connection to our international hub, Heathrow Airport.

HS2 will mean very substantial time savings between Britain’s cities, reducing the journey from Birmingham to Leeds from two hours to just 57 minutes, and Manchester to London from two hours eight minutes to only one hour eight minutes. Edinburgh and Glasgow will benefit from a three and a half-hour journey time from London, encouraging modal shift from short-haul flights to high-speed rail.

In delivering HS2, I look forward to working with the Scottish Government and others to identify and evaluate options for developing the high-speed network and further reducing journey times. However, I emphasise to the House that in making my decisions I have been particularly mindful of our responsibility to safeguard the countryside and its wildlife, and to protect local communities as far as possible. I have worked hard to look at more tunnelling, to lower the route into cutting to reduce visibility and to move the route away from homes wherever viable. I have looked at how we can better protect our landscape, wildlife and heritage. My engineers have carefully re-examined the route in light of all the evidence, and I can therefore announce a package of alterations that significantly reduce the railway’s impacts.

The improvements include a longer, continuous tunnel under the Chilterns from Little Missenden to the M25, and a new 2.75-mile bored tunnel along the Northolt corridor to avoid major works to the Chiltern line and impacts on local communities in the Ruislip area. Of the 13 miles through the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty, fewer than two miles will be at or above the surface; the rest will be in deep cutting or tunnel. There will also be a longer green tunnel past Chipping Warden and Aston le Walls, another longer green tunnel to reduce impacts around Wendover, and an extension to the green tunnel at South Heath. There will also be a green tunnel past Greatworth. These are just a few of the suite of improvements, which are detailed in full in the Command Paper I presented to the House this morning.

The changes will bring significant benefits to communities and the environment. Compared to the consultation route, there will be a more than 50 per cent increase in tunnel or green tunnel, totalling around 22.5 miles. In addition, around 56.5 miles will be partially or totally hidden in cutting, a key way of helping to reduce noise in neighbouring communities. There will be 10 miles fewer of viaduct or embankment. In all, this means that around 79 miles—more than half the route—will be mitigated by tunnel or cutting. The revised tunnel alignment through the Chilterns will avoid an important aquifer, significantly reducing impacts on water resources. There will also be a reduction in the impacts on ancient woodlands and heritage sites.

Communities affected will benefit from the changes, with a near 50 per cent reduction in the number of dwellings at risk of land-take, and the number experiencing noticeably increased noise levels reducing by a third to just over 3,000 properties. I have always been very clear in my mind that, whatever the mitigation measures, there can be little comfort in knowing that the country will benefit enormously from HS2 when it is your house or business that has to be knocked down to make way for it.

The meeting I had with MPs last year allowed many of those representing communities along the proposed route to communicate to me directly the views of their constituents. To help people, we will bring in a package of compensation measures over and above what affected homeowners are already entitled to under law. These include: a streamlined purchase scheme to simplify the statutory blight process for property owners; a sale and rent-back scheme to give homeowners within the safeguarded area more flexibility; a streamlined small claims scheme for any construction damage; and a package of measures to reinforce confidence in properties above tunnels.

Homeowners will be offered before and after surveys, a thorough assessment of the impact of similar tunnels, an explanation of the measures that will be taken to prevent perceptible vibration impacts, financial compensation for the compulsory purchase of subsoil, and a legally binding promise that HS2 will be permanently responsible for resolving any related settlement or subsidence issues. There will also be a refreshed hardship-based property purchase scheme. Finally, we will work constructively and in a structured way with local authorities along the line of route to minimise the negative consequences of HS2 and maximise the benefits.

Having made the decision to press on with HS2, my intention is to drive it forward as fast as is practicable so that we can gain from its benefits as early as possible, and to end unwelcome uncertainty for those affected. A key part of this will be to engage fully and actively with organisations, communities and individuals along the whole Y network. People presented legitimate concerns in the consultation and, even though we have made significant improvements, I am keen to work hard with local communities so that as many concerns as possible are properly addressed.

I have instructed HS2 Ltd to undertake a range of activities to prepare for and to deliver both phases of the network. It is my intention to introduce a hybrid Bill by the end of 2013, including a detailed environmental impact assessment, to provide the necessary powers to construct and operate the line from London to Birmingham. I have instructed HS2 Ltd to deliver this project at pace but within milestones that will stand the test of time and with regular reporting to me on progress. The Major Projects Authority, which this Government launched last March to improve the performance of major government projects in delivering on time and in budget, will provide critical support and oversight.

This spring we will consult on the draft directions for safeguarding the proposed route from London to the West Midlands, as well as separately consulting on detailed compensation proposals. I aim to bring final safeguarding directions and an agreed compensation policy into effect later in the year. In March this year HS2 will advise me on route and station options to Manchester and Leeds, and in autumn 2012 we will start an engagement programme on a preferred route to discuss local views. I warmly welcome the political consensus on HS2 on the basis that it will help in the planning and construction of this transformational scheme as it is carried through to completion.

HS2 matters to the long-term success and prosperity of the whole of Britain. It will help to create jobs, support growth and regenerate our regions. It will better connect communities and improve people’s opportunities. With its potential to attract people and freight on to trains and away from long-distance road journeys and short-haul flying, combined with the increasing decarbonisation of the grid, HS2 is an important part of transport’s low-carbon future

Britain has faced such challenges before. The Victorian railway pioneers had the vision to build a rail network that has promoted growth and created jobs for more than a century. Those innovators transformed this country’s fortunes. Our industries flourished, our exports multiplied and our economy grew wealthy. Half a century later, another generation had the vision to start building the motorway network. Post-war planners developed the motorway network, connecting major cities and transforming the capacity of our road network.

Half a century on again, we now need to do for our Victorian railway what previous generations did for our road network. The time has come again to seize the moment, to be ambitious and to show the world that this is a can-do country. The lesson from history, and the lessons from our global competitors, is that no matter how hard times are, we cannot stop planning for the future, or investing in our infrastructure, if we want Britain to flourish.

HS2 will be the backbone of a new transport system for the 21st century, offering the vital capacity that we need to compete and grow as a country. It will transform the economic shape and balance of our country, linking our major cities to a level that previous generations could only dream of. By backing HS2, this Government are backing Britain, and I commend the Statement to the House”.

That concludes the Statement.

My Lords, the House is grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement made earlier today in the other place. He made reference to the fact that the Government welcome the political consensus that revolved around this project. That consensus is secure as far as this party is concerned, which is why the Minister can anticipate a gentle inquisition from me at the Dispatch Box this evening, with perhaps one proviso.

The noble Earl will know how much we have invested in this project in terms of the origins being the significant work done by the last Labour Government, particularly by a Secretary of State who served in this House, my noble friend Lord Adonis. Recently, he went before the Transport Select Committee of the other place and reasserted the most cardinal of points with regard to the progress of this project. He said that he had always intended and had hoped that the committee would see the value of the legislation covering the whole of the route—not just London to Birmingham but to Manchester and Leeds as well in one Bill.

The Minister needs to address that very important question. I hope that this evening, from the Dispatch Box, at the very least he will indicate that the Government will continue to think about this. After all, he has just mentioned the fact that the Victorians had the courage to build a railway system in this country. The courage of the Victorians was to engage the other place and this House in constant legislation to ensure that the railways could be built. If it had not been for that commitment to railway legislation, we would never have had the network that we eventually came to enjoy.

I say to this Government that, in the 21st century, they have to address the issue of legislation as well, which means that they have to think about the fact that the Bill—I recognise the hybrid nature of the Bill—should cover the whole of the routes. That would give the real earnest of intention as regards the north of England and it is how we would engage the whole of our economy with confidence for the future in terms of this investment. I hope therefore that the noble Earl will be positive in his thoughts on these matters. If he is not able to be too assertive at the Dispatch Box today—I recognise that the Statement has been drafted and delivered elsewhere—I hope that he will join the lobby for the necessity of this legislation.

I know that that will mean some delay in the introduction of the Bill beyond the date indicated by the noble Earl. It would certainly require carry-over provision for the Bill to be successful. But that is exactly what we did with Crossrail and have recently done with the most important investment project in terms of rail in southern England in recent years. I am merely asking the Government to take this very important point on board.

I also ask the Government to look at costs with regard to this line. We appreciate their solicitous concern about the environment and the countryside, especially when that concern is addressed to them almost daily by those Members of Parliament who represent those particular areas and happen to be of the Government’s persuasion, particularly if one of them happens to be a Secretary of State in the Cabinet. We should welcome support for the environment from wherever it comes, particularly when it is effective.

However, this choice of route does not have the advantage of the route advocated by my party, which would have greatly reduced the impact on the Chilterns and, therefore, cost considerably less. I know that the noble Earl emphasises the costs of the alternative route, but this route requires extensive tunnelling at very significant cost. It requires a spur to Heathrow. Quite frankly, we do not have a chance of getting any European money unless this high-speed link has a relationship to Heathrow. It must have an international European dimension of benefit to it for us to qualify for European money. But the Government did not follow our argument and have chosen this one, which has much less security as regards the position of the link with Heathrow.

I should also like to ask the Minister whether the Government have begun discussions with the Scottish Government for the development of the network to Scotland, which is of enormous importance to the United Kingdom economy and is not unimportant to the future of the United Kingdom in a more general sense. I hope that they are giving due weight to the necessity of discussions on the long-term future with regard to that.

I hope also that the Government have taken into consideration the long-term costs of their proposals for this line. Do they think that any other significant transport development is going to take place in this country, whether that be for road or rail? Do they think that anyone is going to fail to build on the lobbying that has emphasised the essential environmental costs involved and the expenditure necessary to protect the environment? Do they think that other parts of the country are not going to be similarly concerned about the beauties of their own areas, too? I hope that the Government recognise the long-term costs of the strategy that they are pursuing.

I have two fairly brief questions, which the noble Earl might care to develop later. First, reference has been made to the work done on the number of flights that may be saved by the high-speed train. I would be grateful if he could give some indication of the department’s calculations on this. Secondly, while we recognise that this line is all about passenger transport, one crucial rationale for it is the extent to which it will free up capacity for the exploitation of our existing railway network. Almost as a throwaway comment, a passing reference was made to freight—that is what it was, a passing reference consisting of one sentence. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us a little more on how he thinks that aspect is to be considered.

Finally, of course we support the development of this project. We strongly support the building of HS2. However, a great deal of work needs to be done before the concept of today becomes the reality of tomorrow.

My Lords, I am grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham. I have no hesitation in paying tribute to the work of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. The noble Lord asked about legislation that would cover the whole of the Y network. We are absolutely committed to the whole Y network, but noble Lords will be aware how difficult and detailed the necessary legislation will be just to cover the portion from London to Birmingham. Noble Lords should remember that this route alone is roughly twice as long as HS1 and that that legislation took some time to take through Parliament. I think that the sensible course of action is to get a hybrid Bill through for phase one. Noble Lords should remember that northern cities will benefit straightaway from the saving of half an hour in travel time from Birmingham to London. Noble Lords will also appreciate the need to schedule properly such large construction work for industry. We want to avoid the problem of feast and famine.

The noble Lord touched on the issue of the route through the Chilterns. I am advised that any alternative route would be considerably more expensive. On the issue of Heathrow, the spur will not be viable to service Heathrow until the full Y network is in place. That is why the spur will be constructed as part of the completion of the Y network connecting Manchester and Leeds. It will then become viable because of the increased traffic going to Heathrow.

The noble Lord also asked about the Y network. The Government are committed to the delivery of the full Y network. There would be little sense in stopping the network at Birmingham. The Secretary of State is actively exploring options for the inclusion of a purpose clause in the first hybrid Bill in order to demonstrate the Government’s commitment to the full Y network. I hope that that gives some comfort to the noble Lord.

My Lords, as a founder member of the All-Party Parliamentary Rail Group in the other place and its first chairman, I congratulate the Minister on the Statement that he has repeated today. I further congratulate the Government on having the courage to go ahead with this project, which they have inherited from their predecessors, in the face of some pretty virulent opposition from people who could perhaps be regarded as traditional supporters of the noble Earl’s political party. I also support my noble friend on the Front Bench in his plea that the Government should look again at the question of the first hybrid Bill. The Minister will be aware that these Bills take many months, if not years, to get through both Houses, and the thought of two or three of these Bills is not going to speed up the project in the way that he might like.

Finally, how much is the new tunnel through the Chilterns going to cost? Some estimates suggest that it will be around £500 million. Does he agree that that is a pretty steep price to pay in order to keep the Welsh Secretary in the Cabinet? Is it not just as well that she is the only member of the Cabinet who has threatened resignation over this project, otherwise the total bill could well have been doubled?

My Lords, the noble Lord asked about the cost of the extra tunnelling. I do not have the full details, but they will be set out in the accompanying literature. A CD of the large bundle of documents that I have is available and I will ensure that all noble Lords who take part in these debates are given a copy of it. I am advised that the extra tunnelling through the Chilterns is cost neutral.

My Lords, I join those noble Lords who have congratulated the Government on this decision and on the fact that it is a cross-party decision. I was in office as the Secretary of State for Transport when the HS1 hybrid Bill was launched and I should tell my noble friend that it is a long, complicated and difficult process. For that reason, I encourage him to think again about whether it is really necessary to have two hybrid Bills or if it might not be more sensible to invite colleagues to gird their loins and do it once. It is not an easy or pleasant process, but it is absolutely vital and it would offer reassurance to those in the north of England. In that context, as my noble friend will know, when the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, was in office, he asked me to do the work on the High Speed 2 link to Heathrow, which this Government have accepted. I am pleased to see that they are going to put the spur into Heathrow during the second phase. He is right to say that it would not be financially viable before that. But that links back to the fact that aviation in this country would be more reassured if there was one hybrid Bill which included the Heathrow spur. Otherwise, it will only be in the second Bill, which could foster uncertainty about the aviation future of this country for too long.

My Lords, my noble friend is right to say that the hybrid Bill process is long and complicated. He suggests that we should do this in one Bill. I should point out that a difficulty with that is that, while we could secure political co-operation to deal with the Bill as expeditiously as possible, my noble friend will be aware that outside organisations can petition against a Bill as long as they have a locus, and there is nothing that we can do in Parliament to stop that—and I am not sure that we would want to either. My noble friend talked about including provisions for the spur in the initial hybrid Bill. I make no promises whatever, but I will mention his suggestion to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State.

I very much welcome the Statement. It would be helpful if the Minister, through his colleagues in the Commons, could encourage as many Members of Parliament as possible along the route—they may have strongly opposed the project—to look at their constituents’ best interests now and say, “Right, we’ll work with this and get the best mitigating measures possible”. That is what happened with the Channel Tunnel, which I worked on, and High Speed 1. Members of Parliament, led by the noble Lord, Lord Howard, did extremely well in looking after their constituents’ interests rather than opposing the principle.

I have one question for the Minister on the connection between HS2 and HS1. I welcome the fact that there will be a railway connection, which is mentioned in the document, but I am very concerned that it will run for about half a mile along the North London line, which is not only at its most congested there—most people would say that it is full already—but will not be capable of taking any international train of the current design. I do not know whether that is another reason for the scheme not getting any European money, which my noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham referred to; but to make the system work, there has to be a through connection built to the new gauge. I understand from Network Rail that it is technically quite possible to do so, and it would probably be cheaper too.

My Lords, I am pleased to say that opposition to the scheme is waning in the light of the work done by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and her predecessor, and I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, might have done a little bit of work on the side as well. We must not forget that the duty of MPs is to represent their constituents.

The noble Lord asked about the important question of connectivity between HS2 and HS1. The North London line, to which he referred, will support at least three trains per hour in each direction while also maintaining the current service levels. Some gauge clearance will be necessary to accommodate the wider and taller HS2 trains on the North London line. We are confident that this can be achieved with minimal impacts on the local community and rail services.

My Lords, I very much welcome the Statement and, more importantly, the commitment to go ahead with the project. Does the Minister agree that if we are going to spend this amount of public money in these difficult times, it is very important that the public should have a general sense that this is a good thing; and that rather than the argument being entirely hijacked by questions of shaving minutes off journey times between London and Birmingham, we need to keep referring to the line in the context of a very important scheme to link the whole country together and then on to Europe? I am sure the Minister would agree that had Brunel started the Great Western line by saying that he was building the Maidenhead link, nobody would have been very inspired.

I agree with my noble friend. It is a capacity problem that we are trying to address. If we do not do something, we will run out of capacity on the west coast main line.

My Lords, I, too, welcome the Minister’s Statement. I have a couple of questions. How soon, and by what date, does the Minister expect to see some employment effects from this scheme? Does he agree with me that, given the massive spare capacity in the construction industry, it is important to start at least preliminary work as quickly as possible? Reference has been made to the Victorians. The Victorians built their much larger railway system far quicker than the leisurely pace envisaged by the HS2 scheme, and with inferior technology.

My Lords, the noble Lord referred to the benefits of these construction projects for employment. He needs to remember that the Crossrail project is already running and providing considerable employment. He spoke also about the achievements of the Victorians. We have a slightly more developed democratic process than they had, so we cannot get the legislation through quite as fast as they were able to.

I am sure that the Minister will be heartened by the so far universal expressions of support for the Government’s decision. I should like to add to them; I think that this is a very significant day for Britain’s railways and represents a real step change in our approach to transport policy. When I was working at the railways board in the late 1980s and 1990s, an official from the Department of Transport joined the board as a non-executive member, looked around the table at his first meeting and said, “You must understand that my job is to preside over the orderly decline of the railway”. That was only 20 years ago, so this decision and the fact that the government document that goes with it contains statements such as,

“the Government does not consider that there is a case for major new motorways”,


“It does not … support a new runway at Heathrow and wants to see modal shift away from domestic routes where possible”,

with the emphasis in future to be on the railway, are very significant.

Can the Minister confirm that the package of compensation proposed in the Statement is significantly more generous than that accorded to householders who are affected by road-building programmes?

My Lords, I am grateful for the general support from the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner. On his specific question, we have improved the compensation arrangements for people affected, but I cannot say whether it is better than the arrangements for those affected by road construction projects. Inspiration has now come from the Box—but sometimes inspiration is not quite as complete as one would hope. My note says that compensation will be more generous than the law requires, but that does not necessarily mean that it is more generous than that for a road-building project. It might be possible—for instance, if someone was building a DBFO motorway or road project—to offer greater compensation, but I simply do not know. However, I do know that good compensation arrangements were announced today.

My Lords, I hope that I can expect an equally quick answer to the question that I will now ask as one who still has real concerns and misgivings about the environmental impact of this scheme in a tightly populated country where beauty is extremely fragile and where one of the loveliest areas of rural England is under threat. Is the National Trust, which advanced some extremely well constructed and moderate opposition to this proposal, now tolerably satisfied with the mitigation that my noble friend talked about?

My Lords, I convened a meeting six months ago between all the local authorities and villages affected by HS1, which had been through all this process with the Channel Tunnel link, and the local authorities and campaigners involved with HS2. What surprised some of the people in the line of HS2 was the degree of political satisfaction obtained by all the villages along the line of HS1, so that they can now say that there is nobody in Kent who will say that it was the disaster predicted. Nobody at that meeting said it, and I think that it was a penny that dropped. Although some of the changes to this route might seem disproportionate—for example, the proposal on page 98 to avoid Kenilworth Golf Club—they should be paid for, because at the end of the day, in 10 or 15 years’ time, I suspect that public opinion will generally see the benefits substantially outweighing the costs, including the benefits for the people along the West Midlands line and the Y extending to the north. Will the Minister comment on that?

The noble Lord makes an important point. I referred earlier to the work that both Houses did on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act. Local people were able to petition if the developers had not privately met their needs. The effort expended during that planning process has clearly given us long-term benefits. However, it is important not to short circuit the approval process of this project, otherwise we could face serious problems when we try to start the construction phase. That would be much more expensive than doing it properly in the first place.

Will the Minister consider the methods of appraisal that are likely to be used in producing the economic case? We now use economic measures that were developed in the 1960s and used on the Victoria line and on motorways. These put excessive emphasis on values of time and mean that the discounted cash flows which apply almost run out in 20 years. If we are building a line that will last 120 years, which I think it will, perhaps the noble Earl could ask his right honourable friend the Minister whether there should not be a reappraisal of how we look at these schemes, and to bring forward a different scheme from the one that is used now—which employs lots of people but produces nonsense results. I can assure him that that is the case.

My Lords, the noble Lord has made this point more than once. I suspect that it has some validity, and at a suitable opportunity I will discuss it with ministerial colleagues.

My Lords, my noble friend mentioned the Y network. I believe that the base of the split of the Y will be at Lichfield. The Statement refers to the east arm of the Y, with intermediate stations in the East Midlands and South Yorkshire. The West Midlands route to the north-west is also of crucial importance. Our Victorian pioneers obviously knew what they were doing when they placed the gateway to the north-west at Crewe, as this opens up Liverpool, Derbyshire, Lancashire and Cumbria, as well as Wales, both north and mid-Wales. This Trent Valley route will build on the existing mix of the north-west, link to the airports and, as I understand it, the new deep port plans for Wales. It is also important that there are east-west links which, through Crewe, could link back to Manchester and the east side. Can the Minister tell the House the Government’s plans for this west north-west route and assure us that these phasing plans through legislation do not get interpreted as just focusing HS2 on the south?

My Lords, the noble Lord has asked me a detailed question about route strategy, and I shall be delighted to write to him.

My Lords, given the huge success of the port of Felixstowe in the 25 years since it was bought, developed and now operated by Mr Li Ka-Shing using Hong Kong Chinese capital, will the Government consider encouraging China, which has much resource to invest overseas in infrastructure, to finance, build and, if possible, operate the new line?

My Lords, I declare an interest as a resident of the Chilterns, and indeed of the village of Little Missenden, which the Minister kindly mentioned a few minutes ago. I am afraid that I cannot join the general celebration of the announcement today. That is not because I feel that the Chilterns are being badly treated—although I think that they are—but because I share some of the points made earlier about the way in which the business case has been made. I shall return to that at some other time. A key concern of many of the residents in this area, and of many others looking at this matter, is the environmental case. Can the Minister explain why that has been delayed and why we have so far not seen anything on it? Can he say when it will be published?

My Lords, I have to declare a slight interest—not only am I the Earl Attlee; I am also Viscount Prestwood, because my grandfather lived in the village of Prestwood. The noble Lord asked about the environmental impact assessment. As he points out, that will be produced later on. However, it is a very detailed document. There has been some sustainability assessment of the proposed route, but the environmental impact assessment will be very detailed and look at how we will deal with every adverse impact. That will come along with the hybrid Bill.