High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill: Revival DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
William CashMain Page: William Cash (Conservative - Stone)
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Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. Once again, I am tempted to talk about a very laudable proposal from my right hon. Friend. I know that the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris), who is sitting next to me, sees significant merit in that proposal and will hopefully be looking at it in due course.
I note my hon. Friend’s concern. My direct reference to “Erskine May” would, I hope, have put his mind to rest as to why we are using this procedure in this rather unique circumstance.
Since the Government have decided that HS2 should go ahead and that phase 2a should be built, we now need to take the next step, which is to revive the Bill. This motion has the same effect as a carry-over motion, and if Members agree it today, the Bill will resume in the same place that it stopped. That means it will pass to the House of Lords, where it would resume its Select Committee stage. Passing this motion therefore allows the progress already made to be kept. It allows those directly affected to continue with the legal processes they still have to complete, safe in the knowledge that the changes they requested to the Bill and previously received will be kept.
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I think the hon. Gentleman makes a very valid point. The issues of governance and communication have to be improved, and I think everybody in the House would agree with that.
On modern and ancient woodlands, I just make the point that the commitment to the speed of this project may have to be reviewed. I think the commitment to going in straight lines at 250 mph has to be taken into consideration. If we look at the TGV in France, the average speed of that high-speed link is 187 mph, and that does not impact on its efficiency.
If the project is to have full public support, the fares on HS2 must be affordable and comparable with the rest of the fare system on the rail network. It has previously been intimated that for HS2 to gain the confidence of the public, it cannot be a premium service. If HS2 is successfully to replace so many long-distance journeys, it has to be an integral part of an affordable and accessible railway.
The Transport Secretary should ensure that the procurement of HS2’s rolling stock is conducted in a way that makes sure the trains will be manufactured in the UK and will benefit the UK supply chain. Could the Minister inform the House of what steps the Secretary of State is going to take to ensure that the delivery of HS2 is closely co-ordinated with Network Rail’s ongoing work programme and the development of Northern Powerhouse Rail?
Given the amount of public money that is to be spent on delivering HS2, it is essential that the Government ensure that HS2 services are run under public ownership, so that British taxpayers can see a return on their investment in supporting the UK economy, rather than in enriching private companies or foreign state-owned companies. Her Majesty’s Opposition are indeed supportive, and we look forward to the progress of the project.
The most interesting speeches in this place are always given when one does not expect to make them. I am sure that what I am about to say will not find favour with a lot of my colleagues, but sometimes one has to stand up in this place for what is right. I spent over a year on the phase 1 hybrid Bill Committee. We delved into that railway in enormous detail. I am sure that my colleagues who served on the phase 2a Committee, which also took nearly a year, delved into that in huge detail as well. I commend the motion to the House. This resurrection motion is the correct thing to do.
I started my service on that Committee opposed to the railway on the grounds that it was high-speed rail. However, it is nothing to do with high-speed rail; it is all about capacity. Unless we take passengers and freight off the east coast and west coast main lines, our roads will clog up, journey times will become completely untenable and we will fail to meet our carbon targets in 2050. The revival motion is therefore right and we need to build this railway. We need to build not only phase 1, but phase 2 and phase 2b.
As deputy Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, I want absolute value for money. I have already seen, in the phase 1 Committee, some of the horrors that took place. The evidence before us was, in many cases, disingenuous. The costs of the things we were doing were not fully costed. Nor was it fully understood how they could be delivered. I would be very concerned if the motion led to the same things on phase 2a.
Let me, with a little bit of latitude, give the Chamber some examples of what we found. The chief finance officer for HS2 Ltd asked permission in writing to pay enhanced redundancy payments. He was told not to, but he went ahead and did it anyway. That cost the taxpayer nearly £2 million. On Wednesday, the Public Accounts Committee will examine the costs. We will consider why £2 billion of savings—most of this is expected to come from phase 1 and phase 2a, which is what we are negotiating tonight—are probably undeliverable. Whatever the costs at the moment, they will be higher than whatever anybody says.
We need to build this railway. We need to increase capacity on our railways. We need to get cars and freight off our roads, otherwise they will clog up. That is why I support the motion.
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.
I cannot pretend, as a new Member, to have my hon. Friend’s knowledge of the intricate detail and the history of the development of the railway line. However, whether we support or oppose it, we all have a duty, when decisions on individual stations are looked at in detail, always to be open-minded to change if things are undergoing scrutiny. Ultimately, as I will come on to say, if we are building a major new railway it is inevitable that some people will face a negative environmental impact and some will have some part of the railway deposited on their patch, which they are not happy with. If we allowed that to, in effect, put a moratorium on the development of major infrastructure, that would not be the right decision for this country, even if individual Members were unhappy with it.
On what does work for my constituents, they are not very interested in getting to London 30 minutes quicker; they really are not very interested in that. What they are interested in, and what we must remind them of in terms of what we get from HS2, is that it opens up capacity as we shift inter-city traffic on to HS2 so there are more routes and journeys available to them. Faster routes tend to push the local services off the track. They welcome HS2 because it means we can transport more freight by rail. Local businesses in my area cannot get freight on to rail. When they can do that, they will be more competitive and we will move congestion off the roads. If you drive around the A roads in Crewe at night, you will see lorry after lorry after lorry parked up. That is how things are moved around and we need to switch back to the railway.
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I will not, because we are getting very short of time.
So on that local issue, I have got absolutely not an inch out of HS2. It has been completely inflexible. It is insisting on taking traffic round three sides of a rectangle, with a journey of about 14 miles, although it could have used a direct route of 6 miles. I am completely disillusioned with this project at national level, and I cannot see how we can justify this titanic sum of money. As my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) said, the original plan was for the track to go up the M40. We were going to have very fast trains that would deliver a substitute for flight times, which is not going to happen.
I am aware of that, and what is so worrying about the review is that it was totally split. Someone who is hopefully very respected by the Labour party, Lord Berkeley, is obviously strongly opposed to this.
Looking at the clock, I will finish quickly. At local level, I am totally opposed to this, and I have not had a single bit of flexibility out of HS2. This is a real threat to my constituents in Woore and, on their behalf alone, I will vote against it. At national level, I cannot possibly vote for this titanic expenditure on what is now a very flawed project, so I will vote against it tonight.