There have been 23 exchanges involving Geoffrey Clifton-Brown and the Department for Transport
|Mon 2nd March 2020||High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill: Revival||15 interactions (572 words)|
|Wed 22nd January 2020||North Cotswold Line (Westminster Hall)||13 interactions (1,530 words)|
|Thu 18th July 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||6 interactions (93 words)|
|Tue 8th January 2019||A40 in West Oxfordshire: Congestion||5 interactions (122 words)|
|Thu 5th July 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||4 interactions (93 words)|
|Mon 25th June 2018||National Policy Statement: Airports||7 interactions (420 words)|
|Thu 24th May 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (60 words)|
|Thu 30th November 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||5 interactions (64 words)|
|Tue 25th October 2016||Airport Capacity||3 interactions (70 words)|
|Wed 23rd March 2016||Points of Order||7 interactions (161 words)|
|Wed 23rd March 2016||High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill||11 interactions (289 words)|
|Wed 1st July 2015||Davies Commission Report||3 interactions (59 words)|
|Mon 8th December 2014||Infrastructure Bill [Lords]||3 interactions (67 words)|
|Mon 1st December 2014||Road Investment Strategy||3 interactions (84 words)|
|Thu 23rd October 2014||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (60 words)|
|Thu 10th July 2014||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (75 words)|
|Mon 28th April 2014||High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill||15 interactions (1,170 words)|
|Thu 19th December 2013||Oral Answers to Questions||7 interactions (156 words)|
|Wed 26th June 2013||High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill||13 interactions (827 words)|
|Tue 17th July 2012||High Speed 2 (Heathrow) (Westminster Hall)||33 interactions (3,499 words)|
|Tue 10th January 2012||High-speed Rail||3 interactions (47 words)|
|Thu 23rd June 2011||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (32 words)|
|Thu 10th March 2011||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (60 words)|
In a nutshell, I am seeking an assurance from the Minister, which I hope I will be able to get before the end of these proceedings, that phase 2a should be reviewed by Sir John Armitt at the same time as phase 2b, for which he has already been given terms of reference. Basically, it boils down to this: it is being suggested that the construction of phase 2a should follow quickly after phase 1—this view has been reinforced by the Oakervee review, which concluded that the Government should consider merging the construction of phase 2a with phase 1—but this is not only an unnecessary but an undesirable idea, and furthermore it is unrealistic.
I refer now to the actual motion before the House, which says that the Bill
“if…presented to this House in this session in the same terms as those in which the High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill stood at the last stage of its proceedings…the Bill…shall be deemed to have passed through all its stages in this House, and…the Standing Orders”
adjusted accordingly. Given this motion and the arguments I am presenting, that means that we are bound to have regard to what the Bill says, and the extent to which it will be dealt with under the procedures that follow these novel and unique changes to the Standing Orders.
As we heard from the Minister, phase 1 of HS2 received Royal Assent in February 2017. It has not progressed because the main works civil contractors have been unable to come up with a design that can be delivered for the budget available. Phase 2a has not yet received Royal Assent, so we are at least a couple of years away from all this happening. Given the proposed changes to the Standing Orders, and the manner in which it is deemed that the Bill is being carried forward, is important to note that phase 2a is required only if phase 2b west is constructed according to current proposals. Crucially, those proposals could be changed by the Armitt review, and all that phase 2a would effectively achieve would be to connect HS2 to the west coast main line approximately 58 km further north—at Blakenhall, south of Crewe—rather than at the Handsacre link. With the estimated cost of phase 2a now rising to £6.6 billion, it is not wise—this is the crucial point—to commit to phase 2a without knowing what Sir John Armitt might conclude regarding phase 2b.
This project will cause immense damage to my constituents, although I will not expand on that at this juncture as that point is related to ground conditions and matters that I could go into in more detail only if I had more time. In a nutshell it comes to this: HS2 Ltd produced a report in 2019, and it is clear that it faces a shortfall of fill along the entire length of phase 2a. Such fundamental questions can be taken into account under the proposed changes to the Standing Orders now being discussed only if realism prevails.
Will the Minister use this opportunity to give an assurance on the Floor of the House that phase 2a will be treated, in some shape or form, in the context of what Sir John Armitt will consider with regard to phase 2b? The two things are interlinked, and as this is a railway that goes from north to south, it is essential that it all fits together. If phase 2b is to be reviewed by Sir John Armitt, for the reasons I have already given it is essential that phase 2a is also considered in the review by Sir John Armitt. Otherwise—I say this with a great generosity of heart—the Minister may find that if he does not do what I am suggesting, they will get to phase 2b and find that phase 2a does not work. If that does not work, we will end up with a railway that is not be capable of being constructed.
In light of the changes to the Standing Orders, I am offering a realistic appraisal that will make possible a proper review not only of phase 2b, but of phase 2a, which is what the Bill is about. I do not need to expand on that any more. I am concerned about compensation for my constituents, and about a range of other matters that lie outside the motion before us. In a nutshell, it is essential that phase 2a and phase 2b are somehow brought within the framework of the terms of reference issued by the Government for Sir John Armitt to consider. If we get that, we will at least be able to have a proper consultation, and on that I rest my case.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak, because this matter is hugely important to my constituency. I welcome the revival of the Bill, and hopefully its imminent passage, as evidence of the Government backing Crewe and backing the north. If you will allow me, Madam Deputy Speaker, I want to explain why I support the revival of the Bill.
I was glad to have had the opportunity to host the Minister at Crewe station just last week, where he got to hear first-hand about what is already happening locally: businesses opening up in Crewe and the plans Cheshire East Council has to create a new economic hub around the station. The revival of the Bill will accelerate the positive changes we see locally.
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I am pleased that the Government have finally made a decision on HS2, and I welcome the fact that the uncertainty over the project is now at an end. Many of my constituents who are directly affected disagree with the project but have told me over the last few weeks that the overwhelming feeling now is that if we are going to do it, we should get on with it but do it properly. However, throughout my constituency, compensation claims remain unresolved, house purchases have entered another year of limbo, and farms and local businesses have been left wondering whether they can prevent themselves from becoming insolvent before HS2 will agree to a settlement.
Let me give some specific examples. Mr and Mrs Tabernor have told me that their farmhouse may be demolished, and they have been told by HS2 Ltd that they cannot retire and move to their farm cottage, allowing their son to live in the farmhouse, because that would invalidate their blight notice. They have already been waiting for years for a resolution, and that, in my view, is simply unacceptable. After five years or more of negotiation, Ingestre Park Golf Club is also still waiting for HS2 to come to the table and finally thrash out a reasonable agreement, and that too is not acceptable.
Residents of Hopton, Marston and Yarlet, whose house sales remain in limbo, have told me that they cannot make an offer for a new home because some Stafford estate agents now refuse to deal with anyone selling to HS2. It concerns me that they view HS2 as either too unresponsive or too difficult to deal with: that hardly gives confidence to me or my constituents.
I agree with my hon. Friend, and I shall be doing that.
On a general note, when it comes to negotiating, let me make something clear. When people from HS2 visit the homes of my constituents, say that they are there to listen to their concerns, sit there having a cup of and a biscuit, and then tell them that they are being over-optimistic to expect to be paid the price at which their house or business has been valued and give them the silent treatment when they do not agree, that is not a negotiation; it is a bullying tactic. I was pleased when the Prime Minister, responding to my recent question to him in the Chamber, acknowledged that compensation needed to be paid, and I agree with him that we need an overhaul of HS2 Ltd, which, in my opinion, has managed the project poorly.
I was devastated to learn from so many of my constituents that they had agreed to sell their homes—in some cases, their long-standing family homes, where they had raised their children—for less than the market value, and that their mental health could not cope with the pressure that they felt they were being put under by HS2. If I sound angry, it is because I am. Let me provide some context for that
My very first piece of constituency casework on HS2 involved a member of my team who was counselling, and helping to secure mental health support for, one of my constituents who had told me that he could no longer cope with the pressure he was under. He said that everything was going to the wall because HS2 had refused to finalise negotiations. After lengthy and protracted work in an attempt to reach an agreement to move his family business, he was told by HS2 that it would prefer to “extinguish” the business. If a private company were operating in that way, it would be featured on the BBC’s “Watchdog” programme. HS2 must be held to account for its actions.
Let me be very clear. If my constituents are forced to take the strain of this project, they should also reap the rewards. I am pleased that the Government have finally committed themselves to the Handsacre link, which is vital now that the project is going ahead in Staffordshire.
Break in Debate
I appreciate that my right hon. Friend has been a long-term opponent of the scheme, but I would say that the motion before the House tonight is very limited. There will be many future occasions to debate the issue, I am sure.
There are about six minutes left, so, Mr Speaker, if you will allow me, I must make some progress in responding to some of the comments made by right hon. and hon. Members. The Prime Minister has made a firm commitment that we will get hold of this project and have a firm grip on it. It goes alongside a programme of wider transport investment. The Prime Minister outlined a vision for a revolution in local transport to ensure that our towns and cities in every region have the modern joined-up network needed to fire up economic growth.
Let me turn to the points raised in the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) has been a vocal opponent of HS2 for many years, speaking frequently and eloquently on behalf of his constituents, and I understand the concerns he has expressed tonight. He asks whether I would consider not providing phase 2a until the phase 2b review has been completed, so that phase 2a can be looked at again in the light of the integrated rail plan. What I would say to him is that in giving his go-ahead to HS2 in this House on 11 February, the Prime Minister committed the Government to getting on with building phase 2a immediately and this has been reflected in the terms of reference set out for the integrated rail plan. However, I appreciate my hon. Friend’s concerns, and although I cannot change the terms of that review I am keen to work with him to ensure that the views of his constituents are heard throughout this process. I am therefore happy to commit to working with him and facilitating meetings with HS2 Ltd to address the deep concerns that I know he still holds as the Bill completes its passage.
I am sorry, but we are perilously close to running out of time. My hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds (Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) spoke eloquently in support of the motion. He is right on capacity and he is right in what he said on carbon. I want to reassure him that the Government are taking decisive action to restore discipline to the programme and I welcome the oversight that will be brought by the Public Accounts Committee to that project.
I thank the hon. Lady for her support and, through her, thank Oxfordshire County Council for the support it has given this taskforce. I believe that option 5 allows a significant improvement to services around the Oxford area. I will come on to some of the environmental benefits of the scheme. She may well want to call a similar debate at some point in the future on the proposals she is making.
I do not know the details of the proposals the hon. Lady is making, but I do know that the benefit to cost ratio of this scheme is well over 4:1. That is with a cost estimate of just under £200 million for the whole option 5 scheme, including an optimism bias in the cost estimates. The five counties supporting the taskforce, including Oxfordshire, are home to more than 2.5 million people, and their economic gross value added is greater than that of the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. Moreover, they are only asking for half the budget from the Department for Transport.
As I mentioned, there are clear environmental benefits. As train travel increases, it will take cars off the road. Currently, my West Worcestershire constituents travel miles along the congested motorway network just to get to Warwick Parkway and Birmingham International stations so that they can use the Chiltern line and the west coast main line. The strategic outline business case goes into detail on the benefits to the road system, and estimates that 5 million miles of highway driving would be avoided. Indeed, the delivery of the Worcestershire Parkway station—it is due to open any day, and I invite my hon. Friend the Minister to come and officiate at its opening—will strengthen the case for more travellers across south Worcestershire to use the North Cotswold line.
There will be huge tourism benefits, as the line goes through some of the loveliest countryside in the world. It passes the cathedral city of Oxford and goes on to the cathedral cities of Worcester and Hereford. It goes through the heart of the beautiful Cotswolds, near Blenheim Palace and, of course, through the glorious Malvern hills. There will also be huge housing benefits. The scheme will increase the affordability of housing for those working in Oxford, by giving them the opportunity to commute by rail from less expensive areas. In short, it will unleash the potential of the midlands engine and link it to the Oxford-Cambridge arc corridor, connecting it all more reliably, more frequently and more quickly to London, the Crossrail network and Heathrow.
My only ask of the Minister today is that he agree to pay half of the develop stage costs and allow the proposed scheme into the industry’s rail network enhancements pipeline. With that funding, an outline business case and a structural survey can be prepared for 2022. A commitment from his Department of only £1.5 million of the £3 million cost—taskforce members will pay the other half—will enable that progress.
I am sure my hon. Friend the Minister sees how compelling option 5 is in terms of value for money, the environmental benefit and the country’s productivity. The proposals are sensible, modest but impactful, and achievable in the tangible future. When he makes his case to the Chancellor, he will be making it to a friendly Worcestershire colleague, and he will know just how many other colleagues will be pleased by approving further progress on this wonderful train line.
I did not originally intend to speak in this debate. One notable thing about this place is that quite often Members of Parliament stand up to speak because although everything has already been said, not everyone has already said it; so I will try to avoid repeating the incredibly excellent points made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire (Harriett Baldwin)—my own MP—who initiated the debate, which is a really important one for the local economy, and by my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds (Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown). Both have interests in this matter, because the track runs through their constituencies, and they are working extraordinarily hard to champion this scheme. However, the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire about it affecting other constituencies is incredibly important. Although Wyre Forest is in the northern part of Worcestershire, it will benefit very significantly from the opportunity created by the doubling of the track.
I want to make just a couple of points. I raised in an intervention on my hon. Friend the interest of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull local enterprise partnership. I did not want to catch her unawares with that, but it struck me that the more people we get behind this scheme, the better it is in terms of making the business case for what is not actually a very big ask from the group involved. Because the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP also covers the northern part of Worcestershire—Wyre Forest, Redditch and Bromsgrove—it takes in two of the stations that will benefit, Droitwich Spa and Kidderminster, which will benefit from being able to feed into this line through Worcester. Therefore there is an economic interest for that LEP and I will certainly make representations to it in order that it throws its weight behind the scheme.
My other point is on the benefit to local economies. If people look at the economies along this track and to the north, going towards the Black Country, they will see that we suffer from a number of different things, one of which is lower than average regional wages, particularly in Wyre Forest; that is something I have been particularly aware of. One thing that we are trying to do in the whole of Worcestershire, through the Worcestershire LEP, is to attract more businesses into the area and therefore bring up training, productivity, wages and general wealth and wellbeing for the county. It is well known that the best way to do that is to create infrastructure links. People will not be attracted to come to a county if they cannot get their workers in and the training in and their products in and out, and rail is certainly an incredibly important part of that. And if we free up the road networks by having more people travelling by rail, that benefits the economy as well as the environment. It is incredibly important that we all throw our weight behind this scheme, for so many different reasons, and it is incredibly important that we are having this debate now.
I shall ask just one question. There is obviously the rather peculiar debate going on at the moment about the £105 billion that is being put into HS2. That is not without controversy, and I do not particularly want to make a controversial speech, but I remember that when I was on the Treasury Committee a few years ago, we did an investigation into the value of spending what was then £52 billion, if I remember rightly—I think it was actually lower than that, but let us say that it was £52 billion—on HS2. Were we actually going to get value for money out of it? There was a very strong argument for it, and Andy Street, the Mayor of Birmingham, is arguing very vehemently in favour of that part of HS2 going up to Birmingham—I would agree with him on that.
However, the interesting question now is this. If we were to start the argument from the other end and say that we had £105 billion to spend on the rail network, would we build HS2 or would we spend that money on exactly this type of project and, indeed, other projects whereby we could extend reach down to places such as the far west or to East Anglia and other parts of the country that will not benefit from HS2? I think it is worth using this debate to highlight that point. Although HS2 is a very exciting project, it is not necessarily what we would have spent £105 billion on if we had started with the offer of the money. We may well have started by spending it on this type of project in order to get more—
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I am not suggesting that we should scrap HS2 to pay for this scheme. He is absolutely right: we need to do an awful lot of different things. I was just trying to give a slightly different viewpoint on the whole HS2 argument. Actually, I think interregional connectivity is the most important point.
I will not take up any more of the House’s time; as I said, this is a really important debate. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire for initiating the debate. The scheme is really important. It will make a big difference to a lot of constituencies that are not on the track but will benefit. My hon. Friend and everyone who represents a constituency along the track can 100% rely on my support for the scheme and my support in trying to get the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP to come in behind it as well.
Break in Debate
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for mentioning Crossrail, because it is important that we think about the integration between London stopping services and the wider countryside beyond London and beyond major towns and cities.
The taskforce made a convincing case for track doubling on parts of the line, as we have heard. Currently, the single-track line on parts of the route does have an impact on the quality of services. What is proposed would come at a cost, but, as we have heard, with a very high benefit to cost ratio. It is worth noting—certainly we have noted—the very high benefit to cost ratio, at 4.46:1. That is unusually high, so the hon. Lady and other colleagues have made a very good point on that, and I hope the Minister considers the relative strength of the case.
The enhancements would also allow an increase in the speed and frequency of services along the line, as we have heard. The taskforce’s business case pointed out that the benefits would be felt by not only passengers, but the local economy. I think it quantified that at about £33 million annually for the economy and the area, and there would also be the creation of about 750 new jobs, which is quite a substantial benefit. We need to consider what this scheme means in real terms to the area, as well as to the wider network and the country as a whole.
It is obviously now up to the Department to look at the scheme—I urge it to do so seriously—and to decide whether to include it in its pipeline of enhancements and to commence the development stage, which, as we have heard from hon. Members, is the next step. Moving the scheme on to that phase will require an additional £3 million initially.
This scheme exemplifies how investments in public transport can bring massive benefit to communities across the country, but that should not be the preserve of just some areas. There should be a system-wide examination of the benefits of this type of scheme for all the UK. Investment in rail should stretch across all nations and regions of the UK. We hope, as hon. Members have described, that that will support other local economies, in counties, groups of towns and cities around Britain, and deal with the problem of rising inequality.
[Graham Stringer in the Chair]
Increased investment in rail is required to tackle air pollution and the climate crisis, as the hon. Member for The Cotswolds (Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) mentioned. According to the Government’s climate change advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change, the Government are not on track to meet their emissions targets, which themselves are insufficiently ambitious to meet the objectives we all have set ourselves.
Transport, as was rightly mentioned, is the most emitting and worst-performing sector of the economy. It is an obvious target for us. There is a potential benefit economically and environmentally, and the hon. Gentleman made that point eloquently. Despite improving technology, transport emissions are rising. There is a serious risk of over-emphasising road transport—with the road schemes in the pipeline currently highlighted by the Government—rather than rail, which is a low-emitting sector.
If the Government are serious about cutting emissions, they must put their money where their mouth is. Unfortunately, Government policy in the last decade has taken us in the wrong direction. Regulated rail fares have risen by over 40% since 2010—more than 2.5 times the rate of increase in median wages. At the same time, overcrowding has increased, and reliability has declined. Rail travel is becoming unaffordable for many people, who are priced off the railway. Those who do travel by rail have to spend more of their income in real terms.
The policies Labour presented at the general election would address many of these issues. That complements my point about investment in particular parts of the country. Bringing the railway back into public ownership would improve services and deal with the timetabling chaos suffered by communities in the north of England last year. We would also have cut regulated rail fares by 33% from January 2020 and delivered a simple London-style ticketing system, which I am sure residents in the north Cotswolds would much appreciate as they travel in and out of the south-east or across their region.
Other countries are already tackling these issues. In Germany, where the railway is under public ownership, the Government recently made a substantial cut in rail fares, specifically as a climate protection measure. That complements expanding rail provision in under-served parts of the country. I would like the Minister to consider that approach. I hope he will take note of my points today in the same way I am sure he will take note of the specific regional issues in the north Cotswolds.
I hope the Minister will consider other policies where I believe we have the wrong balance between rail and other modes of transport. For example, the Government have repeatedly frozen fuel duty for private vehicles and, effectively, air passenger duty, at the same time as allowing rail fares to rise and cutting subsidies for buses. As the hon. Member for The Cotswolds hinted, there is a wider issue of connectivity to other public transport services, both into London and within shires, including better bus services. What steps will the Minister take to reduce the cost of rail travel, and reconsider the balance between rail and other modes of transport?
The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point about connectivity to bicycle hire. Cycling can be supported by sensible policies that promote it and link it to rail travel and bus use. As I am standing in as shadow Minister for local transport, I refer him to the recent Labour manifesto on those matters. At least as a fellow cyclist, it is worth considering the need for greater investment in cycling.
I understand the Minister is interested in reversing some of the Beeching cuts. There is some merit in exploring that, but it must be matched by funding. Conservative Members and my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford East have articulated the need for funding. I urge the Minister to look at the broader funding envelope for the Department and the relative weighting of spending on rail as opposed to road. He may want to shed some light on various aspects of that, particularly his plans to reopen branch lines in addition to dualing existing railway lines.
If the Government are serious about boosting rail connectivity, the Minister must look at the pot of money the Government have available for road enhancements, which is taken from hypothecated money from vehicle excise duty. There is an argument for spending some of that on public transport. We have already suggested that a proportion of it be spent on subsidising bus use, which has recently declined, but there might also be a good case for some of that funding to be hypothecated for rail, considering the obvious points that have been made, as rail can often provide an excellent alternative for rural residents who wish to make long journeys and avoid our congested motorway network. Sadly, at the moment, we are not following the right approach, and we need to look at that balance again.
I commend Conservative Members for highlighting the needs within the north Cotswold area. They have made an excellent point about their railway line. I urge the Minister to consider the weighting of Government spending. I hope he will address such points and the wider package of support for branch lines and other smaller rail routes. I urge him to reconsider, to make a commitment to boost investment in the railway significantly and to cut fares to make rail travel more attractive.
Break in Debate
I shall have to remove a number of pages from my speech, Mr Stringer. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship—I shall obviously obey your indication from the Chair and ensure that my hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire (Harriett Baldwin) has plenty of time to answer the debate.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. I shall now call her the vice-president of the Cotswold Line Promotion Group—“vice-president” is a proper title, even though it is unpaid. She is certainly showing that she is unbelievable value for money, as I am sure the cost-benefit reports she detailed in her speech show for this particular scheme. I congratulate her on the point she made, and I will go into some detail in my speech. My answer will get somewhere along the line towards where she wants to be.
A lot of Members have taken part in the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds (Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) was instrumental in earlier improvements to the line we are discussing. I am sure that more than a bench on a station will be named after him for his contribution and his work in the area. He reminded us that the ultimate goal is to have journeys between Worcester—I see that the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr Walker), is in Westminster Hall this afternoon—and London coming in at under two hours, which is what everybody should expect of a modern-day railway.
My hon. Friend talked wisely about the environment and how trains are a way of reducing car journeys. Actually, I think he would be proud at how much greener our rolling stock is becoming by the day. We have a huge amount of new rolling stock—I think it is about a thousand carriages—coming on to our network this year, so there will be a much greener network at the end of the year.
Yes, indeed. I am pleased to hear they have noted the difference, because, at the end of the day, these are relatively expensive vehicles, so it is nice to know that they are worth what we pay for them and provide good value for money for the taxpayer.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest (Mark Garnier) is no longer in his place; he apologised for leaving, but he had to go to another meeting. He wisely made the point that the Department for Transport needs as much stakeholder involvement in these schemes as possible. It would therefore be good if he could prod the local enterprise partnership for Greater Birmingham and Solihull to provide support, because the scheme would benefit this whole geographical area. My hon. Friend also made some points about High Speed 2, but that is not part of my brief, and it is a bit controversial, so I will duck that one completely.
There were other contributions, including interventions. Brief contributions were made by the hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds). It is very kind of her to come along and support her “hon. Friends” on the Government side, and there are a lot of hon. Friends on the Government side, including the Parliamentary Private Secretary for the Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Robert Courts), who has been itching to speak in the debate, but who has not been allowed to. However, it is fair to say that there is a voice close to the Department that is very positive about the benefits that can flow from this debate and indeed from the improvements to this line.
Then there is the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Reading East (Matt Rodda). We have never really tangled in debate before, so I welcome him to his position—I believe he has been elevated or, at the very least, that his brief now encompasses more things. Everything that I have heard about him leads me to believe he is an honourable and decent man who actually wants to improve our railways and has some sensible suggestions to do that. I look forward to engaging with him on this issue.
The shadow Minister obviously knows a lot about our railways, so I am sure he has seen that there is a huge amount of investment in them. As my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds said, £48 billion will be invested in this five-year control period. That is a huge amount to improve our existing railways, quite apart from the huge schemes on the cards to build new capacity around the country.
The shadow Minister also made a point about fares. I have seen what has been going on in Germany, but I remind him that, in this country, 98p of every pound spent in fares is reinvested back into transport and specifically into the railways. So someone’s fare—any fare—is almost an investment in the railways themselves. However, there is a debate to be had about this issue. I welcome that debate, and I look forward to debating this issue with him.
The shadow Minister made a number of points about the road networks and other things that are way beyond my brief. Just as with one of the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest, I will duck those issues in today’s debate and stick to the issue we are here to discuss.
Having said that, there was a point about cycling, which is in my brief, even if it is not part of this debate. I just wanted to back up the point my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds made about how we can connect cycling to the railways so much more than we do currently. Last week, I was privileged to go to the Cycle Rail Awards. Yes, there is such an event; it is a proper, red-carpet event—nothing but the best for the Rail Minister. It was really encouraging to see all the cycling schemes now being delivered up and down our railways, increasing capacity so that people can cycle to the railway and park their bicycle. There are also schemes whereby people can rent cycles. People can come out of a city and rent a cycle to enjoy the countryside, before returning the bike at the end of the day—please. There is a lot of investment in this area as well, so it was good to hear it being highlighted in the debate.
However, I guess I should actually talk about the meat of this debate. My hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire presented a typically eloquent and persuasive argument for investment in the railway line between Oxford and Worcester. Although the debate is about the transformation of the North Cotswold line, it would be remiss of me not to begin by remarking on the renaissance the route has experienced over the last 10 years—my hon. Friend alluded to it in her speech, and it is quite spectacular.
At one stage in the 1970s, there was just one through train to London from Worcester each day, which meant the line lived up to its nickname of “Old, Worse and Worse”. From that low point, the route and the services on it have all seen slow—quite slow—but steady improvement. Now, thanks to the sterling efforts of the Cotswold Line Promotion Group and the North Cotswold Line Taskforce, it is going from strength to strength.
The real catalyst for the revival of the route was the Government’s investment in 2012, which reinstated sections of double-track railway that had previously been cut back—my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds was vociferous in campaigning for that to happen. The increase in capacity was made to improve performance on the route. However, it also enabled Great Western Railway to gradually introduce progressive enhancement of train services.
Fast forward to 2019 and we have seen more investment from the Government in the North Cotswold route and across the whole Great Western Railway network. We are investing over £5 billion to deliver better services and new trains, with thousands more seats, improving over 100 million rail journeys each year and stimulating—as all my hon. Friends have alluded to—economic growth from London through the Thames valley to the Cotswolds, as well as to the west country and south Wales. Our investment has provided 4,900 extra seats into London in the peak hour, which is a 40% increase in capacity.
I have taken a personal interest in this project, which I regard as an important part of our infrastructure that needs to be addressed, and my hon. Friend will be pleased to know that it is moving forward. Highways England announced its preferred route for the scheme in March, and it is now preparing for the next stage of the planning process, statutory consultation, followed by a development consent order process.
No, no—[Interruption.] Order. Resume your seat. We are talking about Government policy. If the Secretary of State wants to say something about Government policy, he can, but he cannot ruminate or pontificate on Opposition policy. That is not a matter for the Secretary of State.
That is an excellent point. One point overrides all others—if there are to be new homes, the infrastructure must come with them. I will dwell on that a little more later, but my hon. Friend makes her point excellently.
The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) referred obliquely to Brize Norton. That is terribly important. The people who work at that Royal Air Force base come not necessarily from Carterton but from further afield—sometimes 50 or 100 miles away—because of the nature of service life. This issue affects the Royal Air Force’s functioning and efficiency, too, and we must address that.
There is no silver bullet for A40 congestion. We will require a combination of schemes from a variety of funding streams to tackle it. I will briefly cover some of the options and funding avenues, and ask for the Minister’s help in securing the funding we need.
First, the park and ride scheme, for which a public consultation has just closed, is Oxfordshire County Council’s most immediate project for A40 improvement. The intended funding stream for that is the Department for Transport’s local growth fund. There are plans to build a park and ride at Eynsham, together with an eastbound bus lane between Eynsham and the Duke’s Cut canal bridge near Wolvercote. Those proposals probably represent the biggest step forward on A40 congestion in a generation. They would bring real change and progress on an issue that affects the day-to-day lives of us all. We would see essential widening of the road and long-needed upgrades to public transport along the route. It would be a significant step—although perhaps not a conclusive one—in the right direction, and I will ask for the Minister’s help in securing funding. However, it may be that those proposals on their own do not offer a final fix and that no aspect of this scheme can be seen in isolation. Work may need to continue—
Absolutely—I could not agree more. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. There are two ways of addressing road congestion: increasing the flow of the road—the furred artery, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) referred to it—and taking cars off the road wherever possible. My hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds (Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) refers to redoubling the Cotswold line so we can have faster, more reliable and more frequent trains and take as many people off the A40 as possible. I feel particularly strongly about that—it is one of my pet projects—and I will refer to it again a little later.
The second aspect I would like to talk about is the Government’s housing infrastructure fund. One of the biggest causes for optimism at the moment is Oxfordshire County Council’s plan for road upgrades and the strong case it is making for a part of that £5 billion fund. I am delighted that it is making the most of that opportunity with a very strong bid for A40 upgrades, which it will submit later this year and no doubt will be highly competitive. I look forward to continuing to work with Oxfordshire County Council and neighbouring councils, and with the Government, to progress that bid.
The bid will seek to achieve upgrades for four strategic and interdependent road sections, including general roadway widening along critical sections of the A40 to complete the dualling from Witney to Eynsham, new bus lanes, additional cycle path links and—this is another thing I have campaigned for since being elected—a walking path to promote active travel between Eynsham and Oxford. The B4044 community path in particular is something I have campaigned for consistently since being elected. I want to take this opportunity to praise the hard work of campaigners and put on the record my full support for enabling people to cycle as much as possible—to get out of cars and to cycle from Eynsham into the centre of Oxford, as I was lucky enough to be able to do along the excellent A44 path from Bladon to Oxford when I worked in the centre of Oxford, and I am delighted that the B4044 community path is included in Oxfordshire County Council’s plan.
The bid is connected to delivery of the Oxfordshire-Cotswolds garden village, which will see 2,200 new homes built on the A40 corridor. This, along with further developments west of Eynsham and Witney, will put increased demand on the A40, and so the road’s capacity must be enhanced if we are to cope. I look to the Minister for his help in achieving this funding. I have always been clear that transport upgrades—improvements to bus, road and rail—need to happen before, not after, new homes are occupied to ensure that new development does not place an unacceptable burden on existing residents.
These schemes will also assist our area in delivering improved housing choice, affordability for residents and reasonable commuting time to their place of employment. They will attract high-value knowledge businesses to go alongside the leading businesses in West Oxfordshire I have already referred to, further enhancing the dynamism of our area. West Oxfordshire is an economically successful region, but this comes at a price, and that price is increased pressure on our existing infrastructure, less reliable connections and less resilience. The deficiencies in our current transport network must be addressed before we start to think about additional growth.
I fully support Oxford County Council’s efforts. I have no doubt it will submit a compelling bid that I sincerely and passionately hope will be successful, and I urge the Government to accept and support the bid. I am sure the Minister will offer his advice and advocacy to that very end.
In my last two or three points, I will refer to the major road network scheme, which, looking further into the future, I believe offers more promise of further A40 funding. I have campaigned for such a programme to ensure central Government funding for local major roads that fall outside the strategic road network, and I welcome the broad outline of the scheme. Considering the existing strategic road network together with major local authority roads is a welcome step, and providing a dedicated funding stream for the major road network will enable growth and development to be more effectively planned.
I well remember discussing this matter with the Transport Secretary—I am grateful to him for visiting—as we stood near Eynsham. He saw the congestion on the A40 for himself, and this scheme grew out of that visit. I explained how the A40 had been de-trunked in 2002 by the Labour Government and how that resulted in the road falling between the cracks, not receiving the significant central Government investment required to tackle the severe congestion on the road. The major road network proposals offer the potential of local authority-controlled roads being able to access central Government funding while not losing the important local democratic control provided by locally elected councillors.
I have submitted a consultation response on the MRN and was pleased to read the Government’s response published just before Christmas. I am greatly encouraged by it, and the MRN shows great promise, but we now need to see the rhetoric transformed into decisive action, such that we begin to tackle the congestion issues on roads such as the A40.
I ought briefly to mention the Oxford to Cambridge expressway project. I appreciate that it will be some time yet before construction starts, but it demonstrates how much the Government value Oxfordshire and its growth. It is a key area for business growth, and housing growth is expected as well, but if we are to accept, as the Government have done, that Oxfordshire is a key growth area for the UK, of paramount strategic and economic significance, there is no excuse for neglecting our infrastructure needs. It is all well and good building a new expressway but, if we are to deliver the economic growth envisaged, we must address our current infrastructure deficiencies, such as on the A40, which affects Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, with urgency.
Either the Oxford-Cambridgeshire corridor is a national priority for economic growth, or it is not, and if it is, this must be reflected in the Government’s investment decisions, and those must help and benefit communities throughout the whole of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire and beyond.
That is absolutely true. The focus tends to be on the Witney area, because that is where the A40 approaches the A44 and then joins the strategic network, but let us not forget the serious impact on communities further afield, such as the rural areas mentioned by the hon. Member for Strangford. I am thinking of the rest of Oxfordshire, of Cheltenham, and of rural communities elsewhere in Gloucestershire. This is a narrowing road that happens to reach a pinch point in my constituency, but affects the far wider areas represented by Members who have come to contribute to tonight’s debate.
The Department is considering evidence about the strategic road network gathered by Highways England and stakeholders over the past two years, alongside responses to the consultation that took place over the winter. The Department will be announcing the decisions about which new enhancements will be included in the second road investment strategy in 2019.
This road is both dangerous and highly congested. Highways England has been carrying out a consultation on improving the missing link near the Air Balloon pub, as my hon. Friend will know, and I have recently met him and colleagues. Once the responses have been analysed there will be further consultation ahead of the preferred route announcement. We certainly hope there will be a PRA early in 2019.
That is simply not the case. Heathrow itself has set out a long list of airports that it expects to benefit and where it will make provision for those links to happen. I believe that setting aside that 15% will result in links being provided to airports all around the United Kingdom. We will use the PSO mechanism to make sure that the expansion delivers improved links to all around the United Kingdom.
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I thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to speak in today’s debate. Heathrow plays an essential role in our national economy. My constituency is located on the gateway from Heathrow to London, with Heathrow being a powerful global symbol of our internationalism and our diversity.
I have been sceptical in the past about expansion, and indeed campaigned against the last proposed third runway. Today, on balance, based on jobs for the next generation and on what we need for our economy, I will not be voting against the motion, but let me be clear that much more reassurance is needed from Heathrow and the Government to ensure that any application does not fall to a legal challenge and that they can deliver for the country and local communities.
A majority in my constituency is in favour of expansion —every poll in recent years has shown that, and it is generally in the ballpark of 2:1. Tens of thousands of my constituents work, or have worked, at the airport. London’s first airport was in my constituency, in what is now Hanworth Air Park.
For many of my constituents, Heathrow is more than just a global hub for transport and shipping. It is the place where they go to work every day—not only flying the planes, running the air traffic control and policing the UK border, but driving the trains and buses, cooking the meals for passengers and, in logistics, delivering British goods to destinations all over the country and the world. They have developed a diverse set of skills to serve the needs of the aviation industry. Heathrow depends on them and they depend on Heathrow. But residents are conflicted because they want Heathrow to grow, but they also want a fair deal. It is vital that they have a fair deal.
Families have told me that they support expansion but that they have felt neglected when it comes to noise compensation. Residents wake up before 5 am if planes come in to land too early and they are unable to open their windows in the summer for the noise, including noise from hangars behind their homes. They also face traffic congestion to and from Heathrow, pollution from cars stuck in traffic and night flights. Respite and other protections are critical for their quality of life.
I campaigned alongside Hounslow councillors for Heathrow to reach out and do much better with regard to these issues, regardless of a third runway. But in my discussions with residents in recent weeks, they have cited reasons for supporting the expansion, including jobs, apprenticeships, more opportunities, a fair deal for small businesses and improved local transport. Local unions have also come out in support and residents highlight international competitiveness.
Today it is a disgrace that we are unfortunately being asked to vote before we have all the information, including sight of new flight paths and analysis of how people will be affected. If the Government get support for the NPS tonight, it will be for them to hold true to their word that the development consent will not be given unless detailed proposals show how environmental impacts will be mitigated in line with legal obligations, and all other commitments adhered to.
I fear that the hon. Lady is under a misapprehension as to the nature of the TfL contractual arrangements on that line, but she will be pleased to know that we are transferring services to TfL, including those from Paddington to Hayes and Harlington, and Heathrow Connect.
As the hon. Gentleman implies, we do have such a strategy. He is also right that cyclists need the same kind of attention that I mentioned in my previous answer. They can be put into hazardous circumstances by a range of different obstacles that they encounter as they go about their business. The Government are strongly committed to cycling, as I think he knows, but he is right that we must look closely at the hazards cyclists face, and that will be included in the strategy.
My hon. Friend knows well the interest I have taken in this project. Highways England is currently conducting a final review of the route options for the A417 missing link. It is on track to launch a public consultation early in the new year.
It is not just about that; we also know that this is a highly dangerous piece of road, where, tragically, there has been a further accident with loss of life in the past few weeks. So it is not just about creating the right economic links; it is also about creating a safer road network. For both those reasons I have been very clear with Highways England that I want to get on with this project.
Order. I am grateful to the Doorkeeper, who was beetling around the Chamber looking for the wallet of some hapless fellow, poor chap. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.
Both the western and the southern rail links are part of the schedule for Network Rail’s future projects. Heathrow airport is due to pay part of the cost of those links, since they involve broader issues than this project alone, but as a result of today’s decision their construction will need to be accelerated. Links between airports are not currently being considered, but if the economy of the south-east continues to grow and develop, they may well be considered in the future.
I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for her point of order, to which my response is twofold. First, as I am sure she will be aware—this will not satisfy her, but I say it as a matter of fact—the report to which she has referred is tagged to the Third Reading debate on the Bill. That is to say, it is highly germane to that debate.
Secondly, the right hon. Lady asked me whether she could call for, or seek by one means or another, a separate debate on the report. The answer is that most certainly she can seek such a debate, and she may well be successful in obtaining such a debate—I do not, at this point, know—but that, of course, will not assist her in terms of the business scheduled for today. The matters that are up for debate in the House today will naturally proceed, and must, in terms of good order, do so. Nevertheless, the right hon. Lady, who is a wily operator, has made her point in her own way, and it is clearly on the record. That seems to bring—
—a warm smile to the visage of the hon. Member for The Cotswolds, from whom we shall now hear.
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Whose birthday, allegedly, it is. It is always useful to have a bit of information. I wish the hon. Member for The Cotswolds a happy birthday, and I look forward to hearing his point of order.
First, let me acknowledge and pay tribute to the extremely unselfish and conscientious work that the hon. Gentleman and others did on the Committee, under the distinguished and stoical chairmanship of the hon. Member for Poole (Mr Syms). Secondly, I would say to the hon. Gentleman that if the Government Chief Whip was here, he would have heard the hon. Gentleman’s point of order, but he is not, so he has not. That said, I feel sure that the thrust of it will be conveyed to the Chief Whip ere long.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker; I shall be brief.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs Ellman). I am mindful of the fact that, in promoting this scheme, the Government can make a powerful and perfectly rational case. Indeed, the hon. Lady highlighted some of the points that have been raised. The difficulty that I have, as a constituency MP directly affected by the scheme, is that throughout the whole process of engagement between HS2 and my constituents, HS2’s behaviour towards my constituents has consistently been wanting, both in sensitivity and in its levels of engagement. I have to say that the way in which HS2’s management has dealt with perfectly reasonable objections from people who are very anxious about the future of their communities has led me to be deeply anxious about how this will actually work out in practice.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan), in presenting this batch of amendments, has highlighted some key areas where the Government, by providing some greater reassurance, could go a considerable way towards not satisfying everybody—inevitably some people will remain dissatisfied with the proposals—but providing them with reassurance that some of their worst fears about how this will pan out in practice are misplaced. For example, there has been considerable concern about the way in which compensation is calculated. There have been arguments about failure to take account of local features.
I am so grateful to my hon. Friend. Yes, these are precisely the areas where Government intervention would be valuable. I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench, even at this late hour, to give this careful consideration.
There is a similar story on the relationship with local authorities. Most of our local authorities, like all local authorities in this country, given the difficult conditions resulting from the continuing economic problems besetting our planet, are short of money to carry out important local projects. Therefore, the prospect of having their infrastructure ripped up during the construction process is inevitably a subject of legitimate concern to them. There is no proper reason why they and the local council tax payer should have to bear the end cost, of any description, on this project going ahead. Here again is an opportunity for my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench to beef this up and provide the necessary tools to ensure that HS2 honours these commitments.
I am no position to speak to HS2, and I do not understand why it has been so deficient in its approach to dealing with local communities, but that is the reality. I note from the Public Administration Committee’s most recent report that HS2 says that it has learnt its lessons and will do things differently in future. I very much hope that is the case, but until I actually see it with my own eyes and witness it from the comments of my constituents, I have reason to continue to doubt that that will in fact happen. That is all the more reason why these amendments, which are straightforward and should not add to HS2’s costs, or indeed to the burden of carrying out the project, ought to be accepted.
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That point has been raised several times. The intention, as expressed in the documents, is to have a pedestrian connection between them.
An overarching approach to an integrated station would not only take account of all the anticipated works but achieve the objectives of securing the best possible outcomes for the residents of Camden and minimising the enormous disruption they will undoubtedly suffer. Many properties will be demolished and other properties will be in extremely close proximity to the works; public open spaces will be lost; there will be fleets of heavy goods vehicles and commercial vehicles; and noise pollution will undoubtedly disrupt the peaceable enjoyment of many properties, including in places such as Cobourg Street, which is a tranquil community with a quiet courtyard at its heart, notwithstanding its close proximity to busy traffic and the railway station. Businesses in streets like Drummond Street will also be disturbed.
We are asking the good people of Camden to put up with a great deal and to make huge sacrifices for the benefit of the nation, and Labour has tried to do all it can, in new clause 22 and in Committee, to mitigate the impact on the quality of life for residents. We acknowledge the sincerity of the Minister and his colleagues in working to that objective, but we take the view that this is so important that the assurances given ought to be in the Bill and have the full force of law.
We seek to minimise the amount of excavated material and construction materials transported into and around the site by road and to have as much as possible moved by rail. Camden Council has developed a Euston area plan, and we propose that any designs for the enlarged Euston station take full cognisance of that plan and other such framework documents and relevant guidance. The assurances talk of various boards, including the Euston strategic board, the Euston station strategic redevelopment board and the Euston integrated programme board, which bring together a number of prescribed partners. We seek to ensure that the nominated undertaker—the relevant body carrying out the HS2 works—is obliged to participate in those boards, as the assurances given by HS2 so describe.
I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman’s intervention. That is the thrust of our new clause, which I trust he will support. It stipulates that the redevelopment board will advise the Secretary of State on the delivery of an “integrated and comprehensive design” for the enlarged Euston station, and it is for the integrated programme board to make sure that the designs and construction plans for Euston fit with proposals for other Euston schemes.
Access is a real issue, so while the construction is under way, which it will be for many years, we want to ensure that pedestrians and cyclists have continuous access through the site, east to west and north to south, insofar as it is “reasonably practicable” to do so. A design panel will work to ensure that the relevant partners can agree an appropriate design. Whoever is appointed for these purposes by HS2 will be obliged to work with that panel to ensure full buy-in to the design. Indeed, there will be an obligation on the nominated undertaker to take proper notice of the recommendations made by the design panel, and if for some reason the nominated undertaker does not follow those recommendations, our new clause states that it will be required to explain why that is so. The new clause makes sure that the community is properly engaged throughout the construction works at Euston so that its concerns will be recognised and its voice heard.
The provision is even more important, given today’s publication of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s report on a complaint about HS2. It effectively concludes that there are fundamental problems with the way HS2 Ltd communicates with the residents affected by their plans and the way it handles complaints.
The report dealt with specific complaints, but it is worrying that the Chairman of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has said:
“There is still a culture of defensive communication and misinformation within this public body and that is not acceptable. Unless those responsible for delivering HS2 understand that first and foremost they serve the public, they will continue to be criticised for having complete disregard for the people, some of them vulnerable, who are impacted by this large-scale infrastructure project.”
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I rise to support the Bill and to commend both Front Benches for the cross-party support on this issue. It would have been easy for the Labour party to play this for short-term political advantage in the last Parliament or this one; that we have not done so is to our credit, especially that of my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood).
I am a former shadow Rail Minister and was a member of the Bill Committee, so I feel confident in saying that I am familiar with this issue. I say this: this country needs HS2. The key issue is capacity—it has always been about capacity. So often the conversation has been bogged down in arguments about journey times, but that misses the point. Of course, if it takes me less time to get from the House of Commons to Stalybridge station’s world-famous buffet bar, that is welcome, but it is more important that I can do so on a train with enough seats for everyone. With the west coast main line expected to be full by the middle of the next decade, it is vital that we act now. In fact, this is the one time I can think of when this country has acted on a major infrastructure problem before it has become acute. If only our predecessors had done the same with aviation capacity!
The railways are filling up and are crying out for this investment. The statistics speak for themselves. Each day, 3,000 passengers arrive at Euston or Birmingham standing up on trains, having been unable to get a seat. The benefit of HS2 will be to address that looming capacity crunch. More powerful than the statistics, however, are the experiences of passengers—especially those who have the unpleasant experience of being on a packed train leaving or coming into London. I can still vividly remember my wife phoning me after a particularly hellish journey from London to Manchester. Eight months pregnant, she was forced to spend the two-hour journey on the floor outside the toilet entertaining a two-year-old. That should not happen on a 21st-century railway network.
The common arguments against HS2 do not stack up. Spending the money on upgrading the existing line will cost more and give us less. Building a new line that is not high speed will cost nearly as much but give us a fraction of the capacity. Saying we should spend the money on local services rather than north-south improvements fails to understand that the way to improve local services is to free up that existing infrastructure by building a new line. As for the argument that this will be a railway only for the wealthy, we simply have to apply the laws of supply and demand. The guaranteed way to price people off the railway would be to do nothing, because if demand is rising and supply does not increase, prices will go up.
I have great ambitions for what HS2 can deliver for the north, and particularly Greater Manchester—jobs, growth, connectivity, better wages, better career paths and, of course, the opportunity for hard-pressed Londoners more easily to spend time in the UK’s real first city: Manchester. I commend the Bill to the House.
I support the principle of high-speed rail and this project, not least because it allows the regeneration of the Old Oak area in my constituency—by some distance the largest development area in the country, bringing more than 24,000 homes and 50,000 new jobs to an area of severe deprivation. I support the project with reservations, and I have been happy to work with those on both sides who will be voting against the Bill tonight, because the local implications for residents, businesses and the environment have not been properly considered through this process. I say that with all due respect to the Committee, which has done an excellent job and worked incredibly hard.
In the minute left available to me, let me mention three things. First, if the issue is about capacity and not so much about speed, why are there not more stations, which would make it more beneficial to areas between London and Birmingham? Secondly, why are there not better links with HS1? I accept why the Camden link had to go, but it is ridiculous not to have those better links.
Thirdly, why can we not have a proper integrated centre at Old Oak, which would bring the Great Western line, the overground, the underground and Crossrail together? It is a huge wasted opportunity not to use that land properly. It is a real waste of public money and opportunity in that area. I urge the Government to look at that again and to work with the new Mayor, who I hope will be my right hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan), to ensure that we have proper regeneration on that site.
The hon. Lady points out that this issue is important not just for London but for the whole United Kingdom. We need to reflect that in our deliberations on the subject.
I can give a cast-iron guarantee that, during the remaining three or four months of the coalition Government, there is absolutely no chance whatever of the company being privatised. As for what happens in the next Parliament, I am sure the hon. Lady is as aware as I am that no Parliament can bind another, so it will come down to the parties’ manifesto commitments.
The national road network is vital. Even though it represents only 2% of the road length, it carries 30% of all traffic and 60% of all freight and business traffic, and 90% of our constituents will use it every year. My hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher) mentioned the M42 and quoted from G. K. Chesterton. I am sure the Minister of State will enjoy reading it in Hansard tomorrow.
Various questions were raised about the local road network, including by the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden). A duty will be placed on the new company to co-operate, including with local authorities, and the road investment strategy will provide long-term certainty of investment and clear performance and delivery expectations. This will give local authorities greater clarity on the implications for the local road network, allowing them to prioritise their investments better. The governance and performance structure will ensure that the strategic highways company forges open and effective relationships with local bodies through their route strategies.
On the hon. Gentleman’s question about spending, I can tell him that £4.7 billion has been spent on local roads this Parliament—27% more than throughout the lifetime of the last Parliament—and we have already announced £6 billion for the period 2015-16 to 2020. He also asked, as did several other Members, about the accountability of the new company. Ministers will remain accountable to Parliament for the way roads are run, and the strategic highways company will be accountable to Ministers for delivering the road investment strategy. Oversight from the Department for Transport, the strategic roads network monitor and our new Transport Focus will ensure that those strategies are delivered.
The Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Joan Walley), made a wide-ranging speech, but in particular she mentioned air quality. The Government obviously take their air quality responsibilities incredibly seriously, and the Bill will place a general duty on the company to consider the environment, including the impact of its operations on air quality. I am sure the report her Committee published today will inform its work.
The Government have invested £400 million this Parliament to support the market for ultra-low emission vehicles, with a further £500 million being invested through to 2020. Specifically on air quality, we have committed £100 million in the roads investment strategy to support improvements in air quality and mitigation for new schemes. I shall come to zero-carbon homes shortly, but I should mention at this juncture that one of the allowable solutions for off-site carbon abatement, across the range of possible measures, could be the development of a national network of electric car charging points—one of the barriers to the growth of low-carbon vehicles. I am sure we would all want to see that.
Further public accountability will be provided by the new watchdog mentioned by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mark Pawsey). We will be converting Passenger Focus into a new body, Transport Focus, which will better describe its reason for existence: it will now be commenting on the state of the roads as well as the modes of transport that use them.
Finally on roads, my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) made an important point about whether the company should have a view to the design and aesthetics of road infrastructure. It was an entirely reasonable point, and it allows me to mention the enjoyable evening I had last night in my constituency, watching a spectacular fireworks display over the Avon gorge marking the 150th anniversary today of the opening of the Clifton suspension bridge. That bridge, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, is surely the most iconic bridge not only in England or the United Kingdom, but possibly in the whole world. In the 21st century, we probably cannot aspire to the magnificent standards of the 19th century, but surely we can improve on the ugly concrete slabs that characterise our motorway network as laid down between the 1960s to the 1980s.
One of its aims is indeed to streamline decision making to make sure that national infrastructure projects are built on time.
A few Members mentioned the part of the Bill that deals with invasive non-native species. Species control orders will be used to support national eradication programmes for newly arrived species in exceptional circumstances. We expect approximately only one such order to be issued a year, and we do not intend species control orders to be used where the reintroduction of former native species is undertaken legally. I hope that reassures the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion, who had a particular concern about the European beaver.
The shadow Minister asked about the operation of the habitats directive of the European Union. Our responsibilities under the habitats directive extend only to protecting those European-protected species whose natural range includes Great Britain. Many of the species listed in the habitats directive, such as the crested porcupine and the marsh frog, are clearly non-native to Great Britain and could be invasive. The directive allows for derogations from protection in certain circumstances, including for reasons of public health or environmental protection.
Several Members spoke in support of the deemed discharge proposals to speed up planning consents under the Bill. The deemed discharge of planning conditions is indeed a good example of where a small legislative change, as proposed in the Bill, provides far greater certainty for house builders, other planning applicants and communities. Feedback from the sector is that local planning authorities often take longer than the statutory eight-week period to reach decisions, preventing building work from starting on sites. This measure will help to ensure that local authorities hit the deadlines that they should already be working towards.
Zero-carbon homes is the part of the Bill for which my Department is responsible, and I am particularly proud that we have got to this moment. Concerns were, however, mentioned by the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr Raynsford), the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (Sir Andrew Stunell). The intention of clause 32 is to make sure that all new homes achieve a zero-carbon standard from 2016—either through on-site measures or off site where on-site measures are not physically possible. As my right hon. Friend mentioned, there have in fact been two tightenings of part L of the building regulations in this Parliament: one when he held my post in 2011 and one in April this year. Together, those two measures have increased by 30% the energy performance of new homes built with planning permissions after those dates.
From 2016, we want another 20% advance in the energy efficiency of new homes across the mix of housing. Those energy efficiency measures should be done on site where possible, but off site where not. There could be practical reasons why those energy efficiency measures could not be introduced on site. That is why it is necessary to provide for a scheme of allowable solutions. This incorporates a wide range of measures such as the retrofitting of older housing stock—several Members mentioned that there could be a great need for that—and there could be local or national schemes where we need to act together as a nation and not necessarily tie the allowable solutions scheme to local authorities.
I hear what my hon. Friend says. No doubt he has made representations to Philip Atkins, the leader of Staffordshire county council, because those are local highway authority roads. I will join him in making those strong representations. I agree with him that Tamworth is an excellent place to invest.
I am not sure that I can add much to the last two answers I gave on that point. There is a desire to find a solution, but it is not the easiest area to deal with. I have made a commitment to start work on it during the RIS programme so that a solution can be found in the longer term to this serious bottleneck.
No. I am not going to call the right hon. Gentleman because Nettleton Bottom and Crickley Hill are a very long way from Newcastle. We will hear from him later, I feel sure.
I do understand that the death toll on this road is continuing to rise, and I also understand the delays that travellers are enduring as a result of congestion. I know that my hon. Friend has previously made this case, as has my hon. Friend the Member for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson). The Department is conscious of that and of the need to do more across a whole range of roads, but he can be assured that the powerful case they have both made will not fall on deaf ears.
This is a particularly challenging operation from both an environmental and an engineering perspective. The cost of the work has been estimated at about £255 million. It would include two junctions which would be grade separated, and the road is, of course, in an area of outstanding natural beauty. However, I have some good news for my hon. Friend: the Secretary of State plans to visit that part of the road next week.
It was made clear to us when we met my hon. Friend and our hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) during the winter that dealing with the problem has been in the “too difficult to do” box for too long. The phrase “missing link” is a very good way of describing this piece of road, given the congestion that it causes and, of course, its accident record, which is not good at all.
Because, as I said in earlier, the simple fact is that the trains will run on to Scotland. I think that Scotland will get the benefits from the first day that the new railway line is open. I have got used to people from Scotland and Wales talking to me about Barnett consequentials, and we will obviously follow any rules that require such consequentials, but my belief is that the benefits will go to both Wales and Scotland from the point at which HS2 first opens.
Well, I will give way to my hon. Friend, but this will be the last intervention for some time.
Scrutiny is one thing that the Bill has not been short of since it was published. The Select Committee will be given certain instructions, which will be debated tomorrow, and I am sure that my hon. Friend will have the opportunity to raise his point in that debate.
It is essential that we get this investment right. That is why I welcome Sir David Higgins’s recent report “HS2 Plus”, which took a hard look at the plans. He proposes better developments at Euston, getting services to the north sooner, integrating HS2 more effectively with the existing rail network, and working with local authorities and businesses across the midlands and the north to ensure that they get the right railway for their needs. The Government support him in all that.
It is also right that the project should be built to budget and that is an essential part of the task we have set. In his report, Sir David says that the current £21.4 billion budget for phase 1 is right, but he goes on to warn that time is money. He cannot reduce the contingency budget of around £6 billion at this stage while the legislation has not yet been passed. In short, he throws a responsibility to all of us in the House; yes, a responsibility to consider the Bill properly, but not to delay it needlessly.
Sometimes people ask why we are rushing HS2. Some people ask why on earth it is taking so long. The answer is that we are doing it properly and to the timetable set out by the last Government in 2010, so that the first services run in 2026. But the final choice lies with Parliament. Last year, we passed the paving Act, which prepared for a new high-speed route to the midlands and the north. With support from the Government and Opposition, the House voted for the Act by 350 to 34. The Bill before us today will provide the detailed authorisation. As Parliament considers the Bill for phase 1, we will prepare our proposals for phase 2, responding to the Higgins challenge to accelerate and improve it so that the most can be made of this investment—a commitment to get high-speed services to more towns and cities in the midlands and the north, and, crucially, to make sure that we get the most out of the economic opportunities it will bring.
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Perhaps I will break the consensus now. My right hon. Friend’s constituents will benefit from the investment in Crossrail and Thameslink, which will improve London’s transportation system. I gently say to him that his might be a slightly London-centric view. I hope that HS2 will be of benefit to every nation, region and sector of our country’s economy.
We welcome the removal of the HS1-HS2 link from the Bill, which would have caused huge disruption to Camden. Removing it will save £700 million from the budget. We also welcome David Higgins’s proposals for a coherent transport plan for the north, which has been historically underfunded, and for proper east-west rail links between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Hull. Our cities must plan and are planning how to maximise the regeneration and growth opportunities around the stations.
Tempting though it is to offer up my words of complete ignorance on the best way to build a railway, I will leave the matter to Sir David Higgins, who has a bit more experience in the area than me. I would certainly welcome anything that brought the benefits to the midlands and the north quicker, but he is the expert on delivering such large-scale projects.
The transport authorities must prepare to ensure that regional towns and cities reap the benefits of HS2. Railway engineering and advanced construction skills should be a national priority. We want more UK businesses, large and small, to win the large contracts. I hope that in his conclusion the Minister will tell us how he will support cities and businesses to make the most of the scheme.
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My constituents do not know the route, do not know what land is threatened and do not know what compensation they will be offered. That is not acceptable, so I would welcome at least some certainty about the process in which the Government will engage when they eventually decide on moving this issue forward with regard to HS2.
I missed the speech that the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Sir John Randall) made, but I am sure he raised some of the environmental concerns relating to the north of our borough. May I just raise one such concern, which was raised with me by Bert May, an elderly gentleman who has worked extremely hard with Hillingdon Outdoor Activities Centre, developing it through the Queensmead school sailing club into a sailing centre that has given thousands of young people in our area the opportunity to learn how to sail and enjoy the environment? HOAC is threatened and on behalf of Bert May, my 80-year-old constituent who has put his life into that project, I ask for some certainty about what will happen to our local area, because this affects community facilities such as that and will have a devastating effect on the livelihood, if not the well-being, of many of my constituents. That is unacceptable. Any MP facing this in their constituency would do what I am about to do, which is to vote against the Bill and to vote for the reasoned amendment. We need a reasonable approach to decision making in this House that restores some confidence that we have the capacity to take decisions on major infrastructure programmes that bring people with us rather than alienating them at each stage.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way and for coming well behind me to defend the Chilterns. Is it not true that, in the run-up to the last election, that is the route that we believed would be adopted by any Government of whatever complexion? Imagining that they would go through the widest route of an area of outstanding natural beauty and damage it so greatly was almost beyond credibility. We were going to go through the narrowest route, and should that not have been where it went anyway?
Infrastructure projects in the UK appear to follow a pattern, as I have experienced with our trams project in Edinburgh. The trams project, when we consider the size of the spend as a proportion of Edinburgh’s economy, is probably quite similar to HS2 in the UK.
We often start with questions, and this is what happened with the trams in Edinburgh. Why do not we have the things, such as trams, that they have in Europe? Why are we so far behind? Why do we build new housing developments on the edge of the city that do not have good transport links? Why are we suggesting regenerating our riverfront and docks area without putting in good transport? Why have we built a huge office park on the edge of the city when there are not good transport links? Surely they should have gone in first.
Once the project is proposed, it all gets a lot more complicated. At that point, it begins to suffer from almost going into stasis as people say, “No, not that bit,” or, “Yes we want it, but we do not want it to follow that route.” It was interesting that a lot of people in Edinburgh seemed to rediscover how wonderful our bus services were, whereas previously they had not been so complimentary. So that people could say that they did not need trams, the argument became that we had a splendid bus service so the project would be a total waste of money and we could do everything with what we had already.
Sometimes such projects do not go ahead and, sadly, our tram project has been truncated. Trams are running in the city, but they are not yet carrying passengers because they are being tested. Within the next month, they will be fully operational but on a much shorter route than was originally planned. At that point, we end up asking why Edinburgh and the UK are so bad at running such capital projects. It is not always the case that every detail is right, but if we do not go ahead with such investment we will rue it when people turn around and ask why things were not done and why the UK is so pathetic at getting people on board with such projects.
Of course, HS2 is not coming to Scotland at this stage. I would be happy to see something being built from the north, and, of course, if we wanted to start in Edinburgh I would be happy to see that. HS2 will have an advantage for Scotland and Edinburgh. Even with the first phase, journey speeds will be cut by half an hour, and they will be cut by more subsequently. That is important because a city such as Edinburgh wants business and investment. We want people to come to a place where there is development space and a well-educated work force that is ready to be employed. We want to encourage those people to think that they can make those fast links with the rest of the UK and, of course, with London. I would much prefer that linkage to be by train, not by plane, and to stop the unnecessary environmental damage that is caused to a small country such as the UK by people taking internal flights.
There is a strong economic advantage to my city and to Scotland in going ahead with this project. It is not necessarily perfect, but if we are not careful we will end up in the position that we have been in far too often before, when, in the face of all the argumentation, people get cold feet, they retreat, and another 20 years go by before another set of politicians starts to ask why the country does not have a high-speed rail network.
The issue certainly focuses on skip, refuse collection and construction lorries. I have noticed that many of those I see on the streets of London as I cycle there have such mechanisms fitted. We also need to look at other types of vehicle, including the batch concrete mixers that are currently outside the regulations.
Following my meeting with my hon. Friend and my hon. Friends the Members for Stroud (Neil Carmichael), for Gloucester (Richard Graham) and for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson), I am pleased that he is moving in the right direction with that consensus, and I will certainly work with him to see whether we can get the long-term answer that he desires.
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I am sure Members of the House would like to consider that proposal, but the introduction of the September sitting was to avoid the long gap between the end of July and October when the House returns. Members, I hope, will agree it is useful to have that opportunity for the House to meet, because there may be important matters that we want to discuss in September.
One of the things we are trying to do is drive out some of the subsidy in the railways to make it cheaper and more affordable for companies, but it is certainly true that there is subsidy in the rail industry. However, we have to think about people being able to get to work and what that subsidy supports. Sometimes the commuter in London, and the commuter in my hon. Friend’s constituency, deserves that support to enable him to get to the jobs that are available elsewhere. One has to be realistic and understanding about that.
I will now try to make some progress, because I have been speaking for longer than I had intended to take for my whole speech. This is not about a choice between upgrading the existing railway and building a new one. Upgrades will not provide the extra capacity we need. The choice is between a new high-speed line and a new conventional railway. The significant additional benefits make high-speed rail the right answer. Of course, big infrastructure projects are always controversial. As I often say, the easiest thing in the world for the Government to do would be not to build HS2 or to commit to it, but the costs of that would be huge.
It would be a cost in jobs. Our modest estimates indicate that HS2 will create and support 100,000 jobs, while the group of core cities predict that it will underpin 400,000 jobs, 70% of them outside London. It would be a cost in prosperity. Some estimates suggest that HS2 will add over £4 billion to the economy even before it is open. The line is estimated to provide around £50 billion in economic benefits once it is up and running. If we do not go ahead with HS2, there will also be a cost in lost opportunities for the towns and cities in the midlands and the north. I am not prepared to put up with a situation in which someone can get to Brussels on a high-speed train line, but not to Birmingham; to Strasbourg, but not to Sheffield; or to Lille, but not to Leeds. We cannot afford to leave the economic future of our great cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham and Derby to an overcrowded 200-year-old railway.
I did say that I would not give way any more, but I shall give way to my hon. Friend.
We will be looking at that. I will say a bit more about costs a little later, if my hon. Friend will wait. As always, we will look at how we finance, and not necessarily just in respect of the area to which he has referred. We could see private sector investment in some of the stations that we are going to develop. I will say something more about the stations in a few moments.
We will deliver the investment to develop new stations and growth at places such as Old Oak Common in west London, where we will invest more than £920 million in a new hub linking the west country, Crossrail and HS2. At Curzon Street in Birmingham, we will invest £335 million on station developments. Similar investments are due in Manchester, Leeds and other great railway centres such as Sheffield and the east midlands.
HS2 will also allow for significant improvements to the rail service on the existing main north-south lines, providing benefits for towns such as Milton Keynes, Tamworth and Lichfield. It will provide real scope to get more freight on to the railways, which I would have thought the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) would welcome. It will also free up capacity on the M1, the M6 and the M40.
My second point this afternoon is about the Bill before the House. It will authorise essential expenditure on the preparation work for high-speed rail. Planning and building the line will take time.
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I do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s premise that there will be no benefit to Scotland before the high-speed rail line gets there at some time in the future. It is clear that it will benefit from the project.
I have a great deal of sympathy for the hon. Gentleman’s point. It makes no sense to me at all that passengers from the south-east should have to change trains in north London to reach towns and cities in the midlands, the north and up to Scotland. We do not see this connection as an optional extra that can be delivered in a patch-and-mend way; it needs to be re-thought.
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Like many Members, I was rather saddened when I realised that the time for our speeches would be cut by half, until I realised that that is exactly what will happen to train journeys to my part of north Wales with the advent of high-speed rail.
Many local concerns have been legitimately aired in this debate and it is important that Front Benchers on both sides take those seriously, because they are fair and legitimate in respect of compensation. However, for me the crux of the matter is that I do not believe it can be right that from here it is quicker to get to Paris than to Wrexham, to Brussels than to Liverpool and to Rotterdam than to Glasgow. It is not right that while France, Germany, Italy and Spain all enjoy high-speed rail networks, we in Britain—the country that invented railways—do not have a comparable system.
I lived and worked in Japan for almost three years and saw how that country’s amazing bullet trains, the Shinkansen, can connect a nation and make travel so much faster. The Bill will bring jobs, growth and investment to the UK as a whole and, critically for me, to my home area of north Wales, although it is not directly on the line. I am delighted that such eminent Welsh experts as Professor Stuart Cole of the university of Glamorgan are pointing to the real benefits to Wales in terms of inward investment due to speedier connections and greater capacity.
As I said, the planned route does not go directly into Wales, but it is still hugely important for connectivity and investment. Getting the journey time from London to such key hubs as Manchester or Liverpool down to an hour and 10 minutes—and to Birmingham, I believe, down to 49 minutes—would be a massive improvement. If the proposed Crewe stop in the second phase takes place, as I very much hope it will, that would also improve things immeasurably. The investment would mean that getting business representatives from London to north Wales and back in a day would be easy. That is the sort of investment that we need.
I do not believe that backing HS2 excludes support for other improvements—indeed, both together are complementary. Backing HS2 does not exclude making the case for direct-line trains now from Wrexham, Gobowen and Shrewsbury to London on the west coast main line service. A Conservative Member made that case earlier and colleagues from north Wales and neighbouring Members from Shropshire, across the political divide, will continue to press it. Supporting HS2 certainly does not exclude the importance of electrification for north Wales and improvements to rail services in west Wales. All those programmes are vital.
We must, of course, ensure that there are sensible, proper connections from HS2 stations. Last week, in a debate in this House, we were reminded that it was the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo. I am loth to tread on the subject of European politics in this place, but might I be so bold as to ask why, if the French can manage high-speed trains, we should settle for something slower and second best?
I believe that the programme is needed for jobs, investment and connectivity—I emphasise connectivity, given the nature of my constituency. It is good for Wales, including north Wales, and for Britain. I welcome it and wish it well.
I firmly support the delivery of a new north-south rail line, because faster journeys will bring the constituent parts of our island closer together.
As a Scottish MP, my views on HS2 as it affects and, indeed, benefits Scotland, are coloured by the area I represent. The announcement of plans to extend the high-speed rail network north of Birmingham is welcome news, but it is right that all parts of the country, including of course Scotland, should benefit from such a significant expansion of the country’s transport infrastructure. As it stands, the plan takes high-speed rail only halfway from London to Scotland, so there is a real necessity to extend the network further north to Edinburgh and Glasgow. These better services would provide benefits to the Scottish economy of about £3 billion, as businesses in the cities would be able to operate more efficiently, increasing their productivity while accessing new markets and labour pools. Firms throughout the UK would be able to look to Scotland for business opportunities that distance and congestion had previously made less attractive. Tourism on both sides of the border would be boosted as the UK was opened up to faster, more convenient travel. Scotland’s strong engineering base might also benefit from the employment opportunities that the planning and construction of High Speed 2 will provide.
Importantly for Scotland, bringing Edinburgh and Glasgow closer to London, as well as to the cities of the midlands and the north of England, would undoubtedly boost growth across all of its major conurbations. It would also open up the opportunity for through trains to run from Scotland to Paris and Brussels.
The argument is reinforced by reports that estimate that the regional economic benefits of high-speed rail for central Scotland would be about £20 billion over a 60 year period, which compares with £5.4 billion for the west midlands. Studies reiterate that the most cost-effective option for a rail route between London and Scotland is a new high-speed route that connects London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Such a network would be expected to deliver up to £50 billion of business benefits alone. That would be felt greatly in Scotland and the north of England, as well as in the south.
We need extra capacity on north-south routes sooner rather than later and all northern cities must be able to link into those routes. It is apparent that that might not be fully realised. I understand that the HS2 technical director has described the construction of the UK’s high-speed rail network as the work of generations. It will be many years before England and Scotland are connected in this way. Public opinion demands that the high-speed network be extended north of the border. Concerns have also been expressed about the lack of information about funding, costs, routes and the location of terminal stations.
To sum up, the Scottish end of the UK’s high-speed network should be built as soon as possible so that we can have the immediate benefit of a high-speed line between Edinburgh and Glasgow. I call on the Minister to commit to a concrete timetable for extending high-speed rail to Scotland. Not only would high-speed rail boost the Scottish economy and support thousands of jobs in Scotland and throughout the UK, but it would give us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape the economic geography of the whole country.
I apologise for intervening so early, but I may have to go to the other Chamber for a debate. Will the hon. Gentleman explain where he thinks such a hub would be located? What are his views on the best options for the hub’s location?
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. He talked about HS2 being phenomenally expensive, and he has mentioned that a number of assumptions have been made. Does he believe that it would be important and useful to have an independent review of HS2 and its usefulness to the economy?
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this important debate. On the relationship between aviation and rail, does he think that by the time the project is actually completed, there may well be a totally different set of circumstances as far as air transport is concerned?
In a previous Adjournment debate, one question was never raised although it might have solved a lot of problems. Is the hon. Gentleman aware—as a regular customer of the airport, I am—of the distances and time it takes to travel between terminals at Heathrow? As a consequence of those times and distances, a single hub railway station would not really make a lot of difference.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on bringing this matter to the House. When the Civil Aviation Bill was discussed in Committee and on the Floor of the House, rail links were clearly important factors. The hon. Gentleman is outlining that case now. Does he believe that if a rail link is established along the lines that he is suggesting, that will provide an economic boost? I am thinking of, for instance, connections with the BRIC countries—Brazil, Russia, India and China—the world’s developing economies, where job opportunities come from and where contacts are made. Does he believe that there will be job creation in his constituency and other constituencies as a result?
That is just not true. Heathrow is one of the most successful hub airports in the world. It offers more flights to BRIC destinations; it offers more flights to China than any of its continental rivals. London is arguably the best-connected city in the world, with far more connections than equivalent cities around Europe, including connections to 360 destinations worldwide.
I apologise to the Minister; I cannot be here for her response because I will be in the debate in the main Chamber. I congratulate the hon. Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) on securing the debate. It is an invaluable debate to secure at this time.
In several debates on the issue, I have expressed concerns that the High Speed 2 consultation did not include the Heathrow link as part of a comprehensive consultation on the overall route. The consultation on the Heathrow link was done separately, which was incongruous to say the least. So far, we have witnessed 11 separate options for the link between high-speed rail and Heathrow, in addition to the hub proposal that has been brought forward. I would welcome more information from the Minister in due course on the exact route of the western link into Heathrow announced yesterday.
High-speed rail has consequences for my borough. Despite the Government’s welcome assurances on the tunnelling that will go ahead, areas of Hillingdon will still be directly impacted by high-speed rail. It will have a deleterious effect on people’s homes and local communities. I would welcome further information on the Government’s consideration of the representations that have been made by the London borough of Hillingdon and others.
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In part, I agree with the hon. Gentleman. We must look at journeys as a whole and not as individual component parts. For decades, we, as a country, have not got this right. Improvements could be made in a number of areas, from ticketing arrangements through to big capital investment. Yes, we have to do that, but I am putting forward one idea through which we might be able to achieve better connectivity. A journey from London to New York might involve taking a train for the first part of it. In Germany, such through-ticketing options do exist. The first part of the journey, for example, is on Deutsche Bahn before the passenger transfers on to Lufthansa. Although I agree with the hon. Gentleman, I am more optimistic about the potential to achieve such connectivity.
If High Speed 2 is properly connected to High Speed 1 and the channel tunnel, we will open up the option of achieving a modal shift not only in the number of domestic passengers into Heathrow but in the number of passengers travelling from Heathrow and Birmingham to the near continent, to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam. It would require careful planning. At the moment, it is estimated that the pivotal point for making a rail journey more attractive than flying is about three and a half hours. That will probably lengthen as business travellers value properly constructed carriages that allow them to do business during the course of their journey. If we look at the total travel time involved in a journey from Birmingham to Paris, there is real potential to achieve that modal shift, which will free up more capacity for longer-haul destinations without having to resort to the radical options of new runways or a completely new airport.
Let me give a few figures. There are 1.3 million flight passengers a year going from Heathrow to Amsterdam, the same number going to Paris and Frankfurt, and 500,000 to Brussels and Dusseldorf. Therefore, significant capacity at Heathrow could be released if we get the planning right.
My hon. Friend makes a valuable point. It is not an either/or situation. The line between Frankfurt and Cologne calls at Frankfurt airport, so people have the option of going either to the city centre or to the main airport.
My hon. Friend has put forward the Heathrow hub as a specific model. I do not have any particular detailed knowledge about whether that is the correct solution, but it is one of several possibilities that should be seriously considered.
In essence, that is my point. I do not want the Minister to come back and reject the Heathrow hub or favour another option. I just urge the Government in the recess, when tempers cool down a little and there is time for a little more blue-sky strategic thinking, to use that natural pause in our strategic transport planning to assess whether we have got this matter right or whether we could make some adjustments to improve the capacity of what we have and what is already planned before we start committing ourselves to more radical options, which have all sorts of other issues surrounding them.
On that point, I will conclude and allow other Members to speak in the debate.
I am very grateful, Dr McCrea, for the opportunity to speak, and I apologise in advance for not having notified you of my wish to do so. However, bearing in mind the time that we have, it is important that a wide spectrum of opinion on this issue is heard.
As you know, Dr McCrea, I represent South Swindon, which my constituents and I regard as the hub of the Great Western Railway. Swindon is very much a town that looks outwards in terms of its opportunities for growth, jobs and investment. One of the main concerns of businesses in Swindon, the town I have the honour to represent, is connectivity with Heathrow airport. In many cases, that is a more important issue for my constituents than connectivity with the centre of London, which is why the announcement last week by the Department for Transport about the creation of a western connection from Heathrow to the Great Western line was welcome news indeed. Of course, we understand that the control period is up to 2021, but a commitment of just under half a billion pounds is a significant shot in the arm for the economy that I represent. It potentially brings Swindon within 55 minutes of Heathrow airport, if the line from Reading through Maidenhead and Slough to Heathrow is constructed. Electrification would bring greater flexibility and, as my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) has said, we hope to see a direct service from Swindon and the west to Heathrow airport.
However, the debate today is somewhat more long-term. It is quite a common mistake that we all fall into as politicians in failing to appreciate the amount of time that a lot of these big projects take. We must remind ourselves that the High Speed 2 project is a project that will take 15 years or longer, rather than something that deals with the here and now. Although it is always important to look at the raw facts when it comes to the current operating success of Heathrow, that does not mean that in the medium to long term that position will remain the same. It is important to remember that when we consider this debate and where we are going. We are talking about a long-term future for Heathrow and long-term connectivity and capacity. That is why it is important that the case made so strongly by my hon. Friend is considered very carefully indeed.
I accept that many different permutations and options have been put on the table in the long debate about how we connect Heathrow airport with our rail network. My hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart) was careful to make that point and he is absolutely right to say that neither he nor anybody else has a particular monopoly of wisdom when it comes to the precise nature of such a scheme.
My hon. Friend says, “None of us have”, and I reinforce that message. However, it is very important for people like me to make a strong plea for the Government to look to the long term and to understand that it is only by achieving direct connectivity to airports such as Heathrow that we will acknowledge the fact that, with the exponential and welcome increase in the use of our railways, the demands upon our network will only become more stringent.
My worry is that we will be standing or sitting here in Westminster Hall in 15 years’ time, and looking back and realising that we have missed a great opportunity to rectify an historical anomaly when it comes to an airport of the significance and size of Heathrow. There it was, having been constructed in the post-war era, and it expanded to meet the huge demand placed upon it, and yet there were no direct rail links to it until many years later, when there was the link to Paddington. Now we have more development, which is welcome indeed. However, those poor rail links to Heathrow are an anomaly of history that we are duty-bound to try to rectify.
That is why it is absolutely vital that, in understanding the potential of HS2 to unlock the north, we must not forget the west. That is the plea I make today, that in any future development of HS2 priority is placed upon the need to connect the major airport for our country with the rest of England and the wider UK. Central London is, of course, an important destination, but the businesses that I represent tell me time and time again that it is Heathrow airport that is crucial to their future success. The importance of businesses’ ability to link with Heathrow should not be underestimated.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. When I looked in detail at a map of Old Oak Common—and I am delighted that it will become an important part of this network—one thing struck me very forcibly that I had not realised before, and that is how close the Euston line runs to the Great Western Line. In fact, there is a connecting spur now that allows trains to move between the two networks.
That spur is a metaphor for the debate that we are having today. We are within an ace of getting things right in terms of judging future demand, not only for rail capacity but for the future of our principal airport. As I have said, it would be a missed opportunity, as well as a tragedy, if we were within an ace of getting things right and we then missed the opportunity that, as my hon. Friend says, the hybrid Bill presents. He is right to say that once we proceed down the line of legislation, it will become more difficult to add on various concepts or indeed to get the basic concepts right in the first place. So this debate today is timely, I welcome it and I congratulate him on securing it. I wish to add my voice on behalf of both the west of England and south Wales—let us not forget that region—and the whole growing economy and growing population that need support and proper connectivity with what will continue to be our principal airport for many years to come.
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Certainly. It takes passenger a while to get from terminal 4 to the other terminals. The hon. Gentleman is right to raise that issue about Heathrow’s current layout, and I will come to it in a moment. Despite the adversities, however, Heathrow continues to be a successful airport. I appreciate and understand the point of view of my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds, but one of the fundamental drawbacks of his proposed rail hub at Iver, to support Heathrow, is that it would be more than three miles from the airport terminals. What my hon. Friend advocates would compound the problem that the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr Donohoe) has just alluded to, which is that Heathrow is already very spread out.
Returning for a moment to the environmental impact of surface access, I welcome the comments made by the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock). It is important that we all focus on the environmental impact of surface access, as well on that of aviation. We are committed to working with airport operators, local authorities and local enterprise partnerships to improve surface access to our major airports across the country. Time constrains me from going into detail, but improvements are under way in Manchester and Birmingham, and Luton will get better road access and Gatwick a new station. A tremendous amount of work is under way to improve access at a number of airports.
But it remains the case that among the downsides of my hon. Friend’s suggestion are the distance from the terminals, the lack of a serious proposal about how that distance will be travelled and a failure to cost the idea.
Returning to the work that is being done on rail access to Heathrow—the subject of the debate—Crossrail is now well under way, more than two decades since it was first proposed, and the tunnel boring machines have started their journey under central London. We expect the Crossrail project to provide new services that link Heathrow directly with the west end, the City and Canary Wharf for the first time. The 2010 spending review confirmed the Government’s shared commitment with the Mayor to the tube upgrade programme, which will increase the overall capacity of the London underground network by 30% and improve reliability, benefiting people travelling to Heathrow by tube.
Last week, as has been acknowledged, we announced as part of our aviation policy framework that the Government will provide funding for a new rail line to Heathrow from the Great Western main line near Slough. It would provide significantly improved connections from destinations west of the airport—a point already made—and would cut journey times from those destinations by as much as half an hour. Easier, faster and more convenient access to one of the world’s busiest and most successful airports should provide a significant boost to the economies of the Thames valley, south Wales and the west and south-west of England.
I very much welcome the enthusiasm shown by my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes South about how we might seek to take advantage of the electrification and east-west rail proposals, to see if we can further improve and enhance access to Heathrow airport.
The shadow Minister asked a number of questions about the project. More work is needed to refine it and assess delivery time scales over the coming months, including the consideration of route options. The scheme remains subject to the delivery of a robust business case, and we hope to secure funding contributions from the Heathrow aviation community.
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It is inevitable, when one seeks to build a major piece of infrastructure, that it will cause anxiety in the areas in which it will have a local impact. I will come in a moment to the efforts that the Government have been making to mitigate or reduce the impact of HS2. We fully understand the anxiety felt by those in the local areas affected and by those with wider concerns about protecting the countryside, but as I have said in the House many times, I firmly believe that, with high-quality engineering and care, we can mitigate the worst effects of HS2 and emulate the success of HS1, which has been delivered without the catastrophic local impacts once predicted for it. I believe that it is possible to deliver infrastructure on that scale in a way that is fair to the local communities affected by it. The Government are determined to do all that is reasonable to ensure that we mitigate the local impact of HS2.
To pick up where I left off, the Government’s preferred option for delivering the direct connection to Heathrow is a spur running from the main HS2 line, which would allow passengers from the midlands and the north to travel directly to the airport without having to change trains. Some of my hon. Friends and colleagues, including my hon. Friends the Member for The Cotswolds and for Milton Keynes South, asked for a pause. I assure them that other options, including a direct alignment that would have taken the line to Birmingham nearer to Heathrow, were considered before deciding on the preferred route that was presented for consultation.
Further thought and analysis was carried out on direct alignment as part of the consultation and the Government’s consideration of the many thousands of responses. As I said, it was one of the most extensive consultations ever carried out, and I am confident that the outcome is the right one. I assure my hon. Friends that further scrutiny will take place when the hybrid Bill goes through Parliament.
After the consultation and analysis were completed, it was decided that a spur to Heathrow would provide the better option, and it was concluded that the proposal advocated by my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds would have involved too great a journey time penalty and too much extra cost and, as I said, would not have taken the line to the airport. The site at Iver, the proposal for which he supports, is more than three miles from the airport terminals.
I will come to timing in a moment. We are enthusiastic about making progress on all aspects of HS2 as soon as we can. If we can speed up the process, we will be delighted to do so, but as I said, I will come in a moment to the timing of the next steps on phase 2 and the spur. I assure my hon. Friend that the spur is planned to have what is known as a delta junction, which could enable trains to run from Heathrow on to HS1, and possibly on to European destinations, when the spur is built.
On the timetable, the Government have asked HS2 Ltd to develop detailed route options for the spur. The plans will then be subject to detailed public consultation in 2014, alongside the rest of phase 2. If possible, we would like to make fast progress and start the consultation next year. Depending on the results of that consultation, the spur could be included in the hybrid Bill for the second phase, including the Y network.
HS2 represents a valuable opportunity to draw important strategic links between major components of our transport infrastructure. As my hon. Friend mentioned, other countries have successfully integrated high-speed rail services with their international airports. Using HS2 to improve access to the country’s major hub airport for businesses in the midlands and the north will create new opportunities for growth. Better links to Heathrow will make those regions even more attractive locations to invest and do business in, because they will benefit from Heathrow’s global reach as a successful hub airport.
As I said earlier, London has one of the most extensive aviation networks in the world, with connections to more than 360 destinations. Heathrow alone has more flights to the crucial BRIC economies than any of its rivals, including more flights to China. Airlines are expanding and covering new routes to key emerging markets. For example, British Airways recently started a new route to Seoul.
I agree with my hon. Friend and other hon. Members that we should look to HS2 to provide an attractive alternative to thousands of short-haul flights. Experience in Europe shows that where high-speed rail competes with aviation, it can capture a significant proportion of the market for journeys of up to three or even four hours. For example, Air France stopped flying between Paris and Brussels entirely when the high-speed rail link opened between the two cities, and high-speed rail in Spain led to a significant switch from domestic aviation to the train. Deutsche Bahn proposes to start direct services between London, Amsterdam and Paris, so the train could start to compete with the plane for some passengers on those routes, just as Eurostar already does on the Paris-Brussels-London route.
We have reached a conclusion on phase 1, which I have announced, and we have looked at such proposals. Network Rail is now able to look at the possibilities arising from the released capacity on conventional lines. That has the potential to address some of the points that the right hon. Gentleman raised.
I assure the hon. Gentleman that that element is an important part of the forward programme that is occurring.
No, I will tell the hon. Gentleman what the message is. It is that my announcement last week will result in the journey time to Swansea being cut by 20 minutes, to two hours and 39 minutes, delivering to people in Swansea all the time-saving benefits that would be delivered were electrification to progress as far as Swansea. I am sorry to have to tell him this, but if he looks at the facts of the case, the costs to the taxpayer and the benefits to the people of Swansea, he will discover that at the present time our decision is the right one. As I have said, we will keep it under review.
My hon. Friend is extremely diligent in pursuing the Swindon to Kemble rail scheme. Our proposals will require electrification through the Severn tunnel. I have not yet received a detailed proposal from Network Rail on how engineering work will be carried out, but we will be mindful of the potential for disruption.