To be absolutely clear, the Government are firmly committed to HS2, which will become the backbone of our national rail network and help us to build an economy that works for everyone. I have spent a lot of time this summer looking at the full extent of the route, so I fully understand all the issues around it.
In Liverpool, there are many concerns that we will not be properly connected to HS2, which will be challenging not only for passengers, but for transporting the freight that comes into the new super-port; that will throw into question the notion of a genuine northern powerhouse. Will the Secretary of State please confirm that the provision of a junction allowing a future line to Liverpool from the Golborne link of HS2 will be announced in the autumn statement?
I cannot pre-announce the autumn statement, but I can say this: the hon. Lady knows that I am a regular visitor to Liverpool—I was there during the summer—and I am well aware of the transport challenges around the city. I am also proud that we are spending something like £350 million today on rail improvements. We need to make sure that Liverpool is well served in future.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the biggest disadvantage of the HS2 route is that it does not go to Cleethorpes? As he knows, we are urgently in need of a direct service to King’s Cross. Will he continue to work with me to try to deliver a direct service to Cleethorpes?
I am always delighted to work with my hon. Friend on improving the rail service and transport system in Cleethorpes. I fear that I probably will not be able to deliver on getting HS2 to go there.
HS2 is intended to be a jewel in the crown of British infrastructure, but as was revealed in the Public Accounts Committee’s report, it is losing some of its lustre. To be at this stage and still not know how much HS2 will cost, what the route will be and when it will open is unacceptable. The Government are quite clearly losing their grip on the project. Will the Secretary of State take this opportunity to say why his Department has failed to set a workable, realistic timetable for HS2 Ltd, and will he give a guarantee to deliver an entire high-speed railway?
I do not want to start my relationship with the hon. Gentleman on a bad note, but I have to say that that is a lot of nonsense. We have a proposal for an innovative railway line that is completing its journey as a hybrid Bill through the Lords, and we will start work next year. We aim to deliver the first stage, as planned, in the middle of the next decade, and later this autumn, we will set out the remaining route in detail. I am proud to do that for this important project for our nation.