High Speed 2 (Scotland)

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 12th January 2012.

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Photo of Graeme Morrice Graeme Morrice Labour, Livingston 10:30 am, 12th January 2012

What discussions she has had on the route for High Speed 2 and its possible extension to Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening The Secretary of State for Transport

The former Secretary of State held discussions with Scottish Ministers regarding a potential extension of High Speed 2 to Scotland last year. As I said, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend Mike Penning, was up there yesterday and we expect to have further discussions with the Scottish Government to identify and evaluate options for developing high-speed rail further in the future.

Photo of Graeme Morrice Graeme Morrice Labour, Livingston

I hope that the Under-Secretary, who was in Scotland yesterday discussing rail issues, took the train to Scotland. The Scottish Council for Development and Industry’s recent survey of leading Scottish businesses demonstrated overwhelming support for extending high-speed rail to Scotland because of the significant economic benefits that it will bring. Will the Secretary of State now give a clear commitment that Scotland will be included in the development of the project from the earliest stage possible?

Photo of Iain Stewart Iain Stewart Conservative, Milton Keynes South

Does my right hon. Friend agree that taking the route of High Speed 2 through Heathrow will be important in achieving a modal shift for domestic passengers travelling from Glasgow and Edinburgh to London?

Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening The Secretary of State for Transport

My hon. Friend is right and that is why the second phase of High Speed 2 will see a spur to Heathrow. It is also wise to point out that the first phase will see Birmingham airport effectively connected to High Speed 2, too.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I hope that we will see direct trains from Scotland to Paris and Brussels. Will the Secretary of State confirm that the current proposal is for only a single-track interconnection between High Speed 1 and High Speed 2 and is she open to imaginative ideas to make better use of existing capacity to allow a proper two-track link between the two future high-speed links?

Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening The Secretary of State for Transport

The right hon. Gentleman is right to point out that we have plans to connect those two high-speed tracks in part of the first phase and his question demonstrates the opportunities for growing that capacity in future years. I think it shows why high-speed rail is so vital to the future of not just the capacity of our rail network but our economy.

Photo of Nigel Mills Nigel Mills Conservative, Amber Valley

There is great interest in the east midlands about where the route of HS2 and the east midlands station will be located. Will she bring forward the timing of the first announcement of the plans so that we can all understand the potential benefits and downsides of the route?

Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening The Secretary of State for Transport

The timelines are that we will get some initial advice on potential routes later this year, which will enable us to start having those discussions with local stakeholders and that, by 2014, we will have a preferred route on which we can formally consult. I hope that over the course of this year the sorts of discussions my hon. Friend mentions will be able to take place.

Photo of Ian Austin Ian Austin Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

Have the discussions about extending the route to Scotland included considering bringing the fast trains through Birmingham and into the black country, an area that has the largest concentration of manufacturing companies anywhere in Europe? That measure would enable the Government to deliver on their commitment to rebalancing the economy in favour of manufacturing and would cost much less than the alterations she has made to the route to allay the concerns about farms and fields in the home counties.

Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening The Secretary of State for Transport

The decision I announced earlier this week was my final decision on the route of phase 1, but I was in Birmingham yesterday and one thing that came across very clearly to me was the broader benefits of High Speed 2 for the whole region, including the black country. Of course, by providing more capacity, it will free up capacity on the existing rail network, which will particularly help that part of the country.