|Tue 30th January 2018||
High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill
2nd reading: House of Commons
Allocation of time motion: House of Commons
Carry-over motion: House of Commons
Money resolution: House of Commons
|17 interactions (1,332 words)|
High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Bob SeelyMain Page: Bob Seely (Conservative) - Isle of Wight)
Department Debates - View all Bob Seely's debates with the Department for Transport
Legislation Debates - View all Bob Seely's contributions to the High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill 2017-19 to 2019-21
(2 years, 6 months ago)Commons Chamber
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.
Break in Debate
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.
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.
Break in Debate
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.
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?
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.
Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman and the House. The word “Minister” is very useful, because it covers just about everything and anyone, no matter which gender they might be on that particular day.
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—