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Before I call the Minister to move the motion on Second Reading, I have a brief announcement to make. This Bill relates to a proposal which would affect my own constituency, as is well known. I have taken the view that it would best protect and demonstrate the impartiality of the Chair if I did not take the decision on whether the reasoned amendment should be selected. I therefore referred the matter to the Chairman of Ways and Means. His decision is that the amendment should be selected, and I have accepted that.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
Today, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has set out far-reaching plans to provide the infrastructure that we need to compete in the global race. We need better roads, better airports, better ports, and better rail links too—an ambitious programme for all parts of our country, with HS2 an important part of that. A growing economy, a growing population and growing demand for transport, which have seen rail travel double in a decade, mean that we must act. HS2 will be the first new main rail line north of London for 120 years, linking at least eight of our 10 largest cities, and improving services for Scotland too. I am pleased that HS2 enjoys the broad backing of all the main parties in the House. I want to make three points.
I shall come on to explain, if I may make a bit of progress, the way in which we shall link up to Scotland, and why the Bill covers the area. The Bill provides that important opportunity, and I shall come on that in a short while.
As I was saying, I want to make three points: first, the reason why a new high-speed line is right; secondly, the purpose of the Bill; and thirdly, the work that we are doing to manage the costs of the scheme. Why is HS2 necessary? The answer is not only speed, although HS2 will take an hour off journeys between London and Manchester, and between Birmingham and Leeds, and it will bring two thirds of people in the north of England within two hours of London.
I know that my hon. Friend is concerned, as I am, to make sure that there are sufficient connections right across the country. We have not yet reached the consultation stage on phase 2. Part of the reason why we published phase 2, although it would have been easier not to do that, was to show our commitment to serving the north, right up to Manchester, Leeds and the east midlands. So I am pretty sure that I will be hearing a lot more from my hon. Friend and others on the question of where the station should be located—Crewe or Staffordshire.
I met a group of Members from—well, I was going to say Staffordshire—I met two Members from Stoke-on-Trent and one from Staffordshire, and I give way to him.
I thank the Secretary of State for giving way and for his generous offer of coming to visit and see the lie of the land in north Staffordshire and east Cheshire. He will appreciate after our meeting that it is difficult for Members from north Staffordshire to support HS2 as it stands because it may very well, on the current modelling, reduce the number of direct trains from Stoke-on-Trent from 31 a day to just three a day. This knock-on issue is relevant to people from Stockport all the way down to Coventry, as he will see from the amendment. What assurances can he give that the west coast main line in the future, after HS2, will not become the ghost train line running a skeleton service, as the projections currently suggest?
I met the hon. Gentleman yesterday along with two of his colleagues, and I can assure him that this is about providing extra capacity, not reducing services to areas. I want to consider the points that he and two of his hon. Friends made to me yesterday along the same lines. I do not recognise where he gets his figure of three services per day compared to the present level of service. Of course, that will be part of the consultation and one of the aspects that we will examine fully as we move forward.
The last time I looked, York, Manchester, Birmingham and London were in England. HS2 was clearly an England-only project, yet there will be Barnett consequentials. Unless the Secretary of State can state that there will be equivalent consequentials for Wales amounting to about £2 billion, we will vote against the Bill at every stage.
I am sorry the hon. Gentleman feels that way, because I believe there will be advantages to Wales as well. As HS2 serves an area up to the north Wales coast, there will be ways in which that can be an advantage. I think he is saying that he will vote against because he is not getting the opportunity to get high-speed services. If we do not get the route as currently proposed, he has no chance of getting any high-speed opportunity whatsoever. He will see, if he looks at the way the plans are laid out, that this can be developed further—even further up to Scotland, as the Bill makes clear.
The Minister talks of expansion further up to Scotland. When? Given the remarks about no Barnett consequentials, the “when” is not in a decade, but should be here and now.
I would like to believe that it will not be next century and that my constituents will be able to benefit from the line as well. Clearly, they will benefit from faster services in so far as they can use the line further south, but we need to see work being done now and commitments made now to ensure that the further additions from HS2 do not start happening only in 2033.
The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. As I announced last October, I have asked HS2 to start doing the work on that, and I hope to be in a position to say more about it in due course. I cannot give him a specific date at this stage because there are some very big issues to address.
I was saying that HS2 will bring about two thirds of the people in the north of England within two hours of London. Its purpose is not merely to keep pace with our competitors, although it is worth pointing out that Italy will soon have 926 miles of high-speed rail, whereas we have just 67 miles.
Indeed, and I will say a little more about Lille shortly. I think my hon. Friend may have a copy of my speech, although as I was working on it until not long ago, I would be surprised if he had.
I will come on to say something about compensation later in my speech. I think Coventry will get many benefits. The whole west midlands area will get a huge number of benefits from HS2. I want to see councils such as Coventry start working to make sure that they can get the best out of High Speed 2, from both the connections and the way we serve those areas. I know the hon. Gentleman is incredibly concerned about the way we serve Coventry. As somebody who knows Coventry relatively well, I am also concerned to see that take place.
The Secretary of State is very kind to give way. My point is that not only is the route of HS2 environmentally damaging, but the whole scheme is socially regressive. It is unaffordable to the bottom 50% of income bands and, in effect, it redirects money from the poorest to the richest. How can he justify this reverse Robin Hood strategy when that £33 billion could be better invested in giving us a better rail system for everybody, not just for the privileged few?
I find the hon. Lady’s position on the issue strange. I should have thought that the Green party would welcome such investment in public railway systems. [Interruption.] I think I had better answer the hon. Lady. HS2 brings a great increase in capacity and I want to say more about that a little later. That is one of the important issues that lies behind the need for HS2. Also, as I point out to colleagues, going from St Pancras station to Canterbury, the first part of the route from St Pancras to Ashford on a high-speed train is a fantastic fast journey, then one hits the Victorian railway network to Canterbury and the journey slows down completely. I want the rest of the country to get the benefit of high-speed rail, not just the area in the south which already has a high-speed service.
And I have no idea how the Minister would extend it to Northern Ireland, but Northern Ireland does not benefit from the Barnett consequentials of this spend, either. Because there is a construction interest, can he give an assurance that when it comes to procurement, there will be no repetition of the mistakes that were made in the past whereby UK-based companies did not benefit from some of the high-spend capital projects, and there will be opportunities for construction firms from Northern Ireland?
I am more than happy to do that and I shall say more about that later. Crossrail has set a good example. About 97% of Crossrail goods are serviced by British companies, and the Mayor of London is in the process of purchasing a huge infrastructure project, the new London buses, from Northern Ireland. That is very much in my mind with regard to the way I will be dealing with HS2 and talking to the management of HS2.
My right hon. Friend mentioned his rail journey to Canterbury. I encourage him to take a different branch on High Speed 1 and travel to Folkestone, as he will see that the investment in High Speed 1 is the biggest single advantage we have in promoting the east Kent regional growth area.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who makes that point from vast experience. It is worth remembering how controversial High Speed 1 was when it was built. I will talk about that a little later. The simple fact is that every infrastructure project—not nearly every project, but every project—is very controversial when it first starts, and in that regard High Speed 2 is no different.
Indeed, but it would be very difficult to get to, and it would not have benefited from the improvements we have seen there.
I think that the answer starts with a simple point: without HS2, the key rail and road routes connecting London to the midlands and the north will soon be overwhelmed. Even on moderate forecasts, the west coast main line, the nation’s key rail corridor, will be full by the mid-2020s, a point made earlier by my hon. Friend Daniel Kawczynski, who wants more services from Shrewsbury to Blackpool. Having served as a Transport Minister in 1989, I know that the fundamental change that has taken place since then is that the pressure on a Transport Secretary now is often to find more services for the rail industry and more rail connections across the country—I was just talking about the west coast main line—and that is despite £9 billion of improvements north of Rugby in recent years. That means investing in the current infrastructure and trying to improve it. There are still problems south of Rugby, which is why Virgin has suffered problems in meeting some of the criteria it regards as important in providing the right kind of service.
Has the Secretary of State had an opportunity to look at the financial results released by Virgin Trains this morning? They indicate that profits are down by 40.5% but revenue is up by 2.8%, which is roughly the same rate as the fare increases, so the passenger increase must be very small. It says that it has now increased capacity by 40%, and this month it started a major advertising campaign to attract passengers. Does that sound like a railway line that is full to capacity?
No, it sounds like a railway that is providing the services that all colleagues want to see. As I pointed out a few moments ago, in certain areas hon. Friends are pressing for further services that cannot be provided because Network Rail says there is no availability on the existing highways.
My right hon. Friend can rest assured that, for a change, I will not be using this opportunity as a pitch to get more fast services to Nuneaton on the west coast main line. Can he assure me that, despite the investment being made in HS2, investment will still be made to continue to improve the services and capacity on the west coast main line?
Yes, indeed. That is one of the points that will become very apparent with the investment programmes we have over the coming years and that Network Rail will be carrying out. I can assure my hon. Friend that it is not a case of either/or; it is essential to invest in both areas.
Indeed, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Basically, 15 years ago there were about 750 million passenger journeys, and the latest estimate is for 1.5 billion passenger journeys, which is a massive shift that I would have thought my right hon. Friend Mrs Gillan would welcome.
Will my right hon. Friend accept that, in relation to my constituency, this project goes from top to bottom and is deeply opposed by all and sundry? I have had meetings with thousands of constituents already. Will he accept that, according to the Public Accounts Committee, the pricing is unrealistic, the values for journey time savings are untenable and there has been insufficient analysis of non-rail alternatives? What answer does he give to the Public Accounts Committee and my constituents, who are deeply angered by this?
To my hon. Friend’s constituents I say this: I understand that a big piece of infrastructure of the size of HS2 will obviously have an impact. I respect and understand that and do not criticise those people who raise objections. I will move on to talk about compensation later. He talks about an area where we are yet to confirm the route. We will be having a full and proper consultation later this year, when he and his constituents will be able to make those points. I will want to see what can be done to help with some of the environmental points. I also point out that part of the west coast main line runs through his constituency, and it, too, was very unpopular when it was built, but it is very beneficial to the area, because I know that he often takes the train from Stafford to get to London. I will give way once more to my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe, but then I will have to make some progress.
In relation to passenger numbers, my right hon. Friend will know the old aphorism that if one subsidises anything, one gets more of it. Will he remind us how much subsidy the rail industry has received over the past few years?
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 now 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 doing so 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.
My right hon. Friend knows, as does the rest of the House, that much of that high-speed European railway was built with European money. How much investigation has he done with the European authorities into how much he might be able to reduce the enormous £32 billion cost of the railway?
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 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.
On the point about this legislation being the paving Bill and agreeing the expenditure before the line gets built, will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that he will publish the receipts relating to everything spent as we advance to building the line, so that we can assure ourselves annually that the money spent represents value for money to the taxpayer?
I am about to make exactly that point; obviously, somebody else has an advance copy of my speech.
The line will be overseen and delivered by successive Parliaments, which is why it is right to provide Parliament with the opportunity to debate the project. The hybrid Bill will provide additional opportunities for closer scrutiny of HS2. This is the moment for Parliament to demonstrate that it is backing British business, jobs and growth by backing HS2.
Let me say how the Bill will help achieve those aims. Without this legislation, Treasury rules would limit the amount of work that could be done or undertaken until after Royal Assent on the hybrid Bill. That includes design work on the construction of the line, planning the movement of utilities and carrying out ecological surveys. The legislation will also ensure that future spending on the discretionary property compensation is compliant with the PAC requirements.
My right hon. Friend is being generous with his time. From the moment the train line was announced, the property market up and down the route has frozen solid. Unless my constituents can demonstrate an exceptional hardship, they cannot sell their homes and move. I implore the Secretary of State once again to reconsider a property bond as the single most helpful move he could make to help alleviate a lot of the suffering being caused right now, today, by the project.
I assure my hon. Friend that, if he has a little patience, I will say something about that exact point a little later.
The PAC requirement states that when there is significant new expenditure that is likely to persist, authority should normally be sought from Parliament. I appreciate that many hon. Members have concerns about the authorisation of expenditure on early works in advance of the subsequent hybrid Bill. That is why this Bill ensures complete transparency in what we are doing, when we are doing it and—crucially—how much we are spending.
The Bill creates a duty on the Secretary of State to produce an annual financial report on the amount of expenditure incurred, allowing Parliament to keep a check on the costs and progress. I hope that that answers the point made by Natascha Engel.
I will look at the detail of that. I am certainly determined that Parliament should be kept well informed and, of course, the company will be open to the scrutiny of the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office reporting to the PAC. There is a way in which the House can keep an eye on the matter.
My third point is about funding. We can today welcome the allocation made by the Chancellor in infrastructure investment. Tomorrow, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury will say more about our plans. I know that in the context of the Bill, the House will want to be updated on the cost of HS2. I can therefore tell the House that tomorrow I will be writing to the chairman of HS2 Ltd to set a target price for delivering phase 1 of the project. That amount is £17 billion at 2011 prices. That takes account of the design and environmental changes to improve the scheme. Those changes include a tunnel from Old Oak Common to Northolt, design changes at Euston station, and a tunnel under the M6 near Birmingham.
As a responsible Government, we must be prudent, which means allowing the right level of contingency. In addition, therefore, we have set an overall indicative amount for the budget for phase 1 of £21.4 billion. For phase 2, it is £21.2 billion, so the total is £42.6 billion at 2011 prices. That includes £12.7 billion of contingency.
At Prime Minister’s questions this afternoon, I asked the Prime Minister why the Government were opposing the continuation of the trans-European network north of London. The Prime Minister clearly did not have an answer, and I will understand if the Secretary of State does not. However, will the Secretary of State find out why we are opposing the extension of that network? While we are in the European Union, that could be cutting off a source of funding.
I heard the hon. Gentleman’s question to the Prime Minister. Those debates on that whole process are ongoing and still at an early stage. I have some worries and I would want to get clarification before we changed the Government’s position.
Will my right hon. Friend explain what the £12.7 billion of contingency will do to the benefit-cost ratio? During the consultation period, it was always made clear that the £32 billion was the absolute maximum and contained a vast sum for contingency.
At the moment, the value-cost ratio is reckoned to be 2.5. I also point out that the BCR tells us some things, but not everything. For instance, the BCR on the Jubilee line was a lot lower than that for High Speed 2. If the Jubilee line had not been developed, a lot of the development in Canary Wharf would never have taken place. The line brought a huge amount of investment into the area and the country. It is important that we are seen to be able to compete with other countries in the global race to attract businesses to this country. The point also relates to the Olympic games, where a contingency was allowed and in fact the price of the games came in below the budget that had been set by the Government. I expect the final costs to be lower than those I have outlined. However, I take on board my hon. Friend’s point about BCR.
My right hon. Friend has announced that the total budget for the infrastructure plan will be about £43 billion. Does that include the £8 billion for the rolling stock?
If my hon. Friend will allow me to make a bit more progress, he will find that I am going to be very open with the House and put all this out into the public domain. I want to be as open as I possibly can.
They are getting blurred for us all. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way and for yesterday meeting my constituents from Hints, Weeford and Drayton Bassett to discuss their concerns about compensation and mitigation. He has rightly referred to the great concern that people have about the compensation and mitigation that is available. In setting a budget for phase 1, will he prevail on HS2 to be as efficient as possible so that money can be saved and spent on mitigations in Staffordshire?
The meeting that I had yesterday with my hon. Friend and his constituents was very useful, and I gave them an undertaking to look at some of the points they made. I have had varying reports on how some of the public consultations have gone. I am determined that we improve the way in which they are conducted so that people get more reliable answers on the points they are making, and as quickly as possible, although sometimes these things take a lot of time if particular requests are made as to routes and the like. I thank my hon. Friend for behaving very constructively in the points that he is making.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way, and pleased to be able to follow the intervention by my hon. Friend Christopher Pincher. Next week I will be bringing people from Lichfield, Whittington and Armitage to see him to discuss, primarily, mitigation. May I ask him about compensation? He will know that with the current route I will have real difficulties with the hybrid Bill; in fact, I will not be able to support it. The Country Land and Business Association says that this stage of the game is the only opportunity to get compensation into legislation so that we can give it to people in my constituency, and indeed in Tamworth, who have been blighted for the past three years.
As someone who was born and brought up in Staffordshire, I know the area that my hon. Friends are talking about incredibly well. Without the authority of this Bill, we would be in a very difficult position as regards exceptional hardship. I mentioned earlier some of the requirements of the PAC in relation to accountability in spending money on a project without the approval of Parliament, and that also relates to compensation.
The Secretary of State has been dealing with blight, and he mentions Staffordshire, but he also knows Derbyshire well, and he knows a village called Pinxton. I spoke about blight when he made his original statement, and I was staggered to be told within hours by a farmer in Pinxton who was selling his farm that as soon as the statement had been made he was told that he would never sell his farm. How is that farmer going to be compensated?
I will say a little more about compensation in a moment. I accept and appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s point about the impact of naming the route. At the time of HS1 several routes were announced and there was potentially more widespread blight. In HS2 we have tried to be more specific about the routes so that we avoid widespread blight. However, I also say to the hon. Gentleman, who is well versed in how these things work, that we will be going out to consultation on phase 2—I will be announcing that in the very near future—and that will enable his constituents and those of the hon. Member for North East Derbyshire to make their points, find out more information, and possibly propose alternative suggestions and ideas.
It is a normal level of contingency that would be put into a scheme of this sort, and it is built in on an internationally based calculation.
This is the right way to plan for the project. In addition, with or without HS2, new rolling stock will be needed on the key inter-city routes linking London and the north over the next 20 years. I hope that deals with the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for
North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen). We are therefore budgeting £7.5 billion for HS2 rolling stock. To put that in perspective, the current inter-city express programme to replace trains on the east coast and Great Western lines, which is creating jobs in the north east, will cost £4.9 billion. The money that I have just announced for the rolling stock for HS2 also includes a contingency of some £1.5 billion.
Good infrastructure is an investment in economic growth. We are investing £14.5 billion to build Crossrail, while £11 billion has been invested in new infrastructure at Heathrow since 2003. Over the period of construction, the cost of HS2 will be less than 0.15% of GDP—I repeat, less than 0.15% of GDP. This is an investment that the country can sustain and needs. That is why tomorrow the Chief Secretary will set out the detailed HS2 funding allocations for the six-year period until 2020-21.
Before I finish, I want to explain what we are doing for those affected by the line. As I said earlier and have tried to make clear throughout this Second Reading speech, I do not dismiss those with objections as irrelevant. We do indeed need to design HS2 carefully, consult properly and compensate fairly. I hope that I can reassure people about why it is right to go ahead. Some have concerns about the impact of HS2 on the landscape. While I cannot deny that a project of this scale will have an effect, I believe that the positive experience of our first high-speed line in Kent shows that the consequences can be managed without wrecking the countryside. For instance, while not a single mile of the M1 is in-tunnel, about 40 miles of HS2 will be in-tunnel. Of the 12.4 miles that crosses the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty, 5.8 miles will be in-tunnel and 3.5 miles will be in deep cuttings. No part of phase 2 of the route crosses any national parks or areas of outstanding natural beauty.
It is also important to ensure that proper compensation is made to those affected by HS2. That is why we have introduced the exceptional hardship scheme although there was no statutory requirement to do so. We believe that home owners already affected with a pressing need to move should have recourse to compensation, but without the authority of Parliament to incur expenditure to continue with this compensation, I would need to consider carefully what other mechanisms, if any, we could use. Very soon, we will start a new consultation on compensation.
I have met some of my constituents in Greasbro road in Tinsley in Sheffield, whose homes will be demolished by the scheme. They accept that to a degree, but they ask me whether it is reasonable that people who, for the greater good of the country, are moving out of a home that they do not want to leave will simply get 100% of the market value, plus home loss. Is there no room for the Secretary of State to be more generous and say to people, “You are doing something for the good of the country. Therefore, you should receive more than 100% of the market value”?
The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. We have said that we will go out to consultation. I fully accept that the position of his constituents is slightly different because the consultation, in the first instance, will relate to phase 1. It is not possible to consult on phase 2 until we have confirmed the route, but there will have to be a consultation on that. Given that he is the Chairman of the Communities and Local Government Committee, which has an important role in this area, no doubt his Committee will want to consider the matter.
We will consider a range of compensation options, including a property bond, about which a number of Members have made representations.
In building HS2, we need to ensure that we make the best use of British skills and workers. For Crossrail, 97% of the contracts have been won by British-based companies. From 2017, HS2 will create 19,000 engineering and construction jobs.
Supporting British jobs is essential. The Secretary of State will know that the finest rail in the world is produced in my constituency at the Scunthorpe steelworks. Will he assure me that he and his Department will do everything they can to ensure that Scunthorpe gets a cut of HS2 and that we see those benefits and jobs in our region?
I can assure my hon. Friend that I want HS2 to be not dissimilar in this respect to Crossrail, which saw 97% of the business going to British companies. However, I am cautious about awarding contracts and making promises from the Dispatch Box. I am certainly a little more cautious than my hon. Friend was in asking me to do so.
I hope the hon. Gentleman does not mind my pointing out that I met a delegation before Christmas. I have met one delegation and I am happy to have another meeting with the hon. Gentleman on the same issue. I recognise that the council has changed its position and I look forward to his changing his position as well.
Today marks an important milestone in the progress of HS2. We must keep it to time and budget, and minimise the impact on residents, the environment and the landscape. We can do that and we need to do that because HS2 is an engine for growth: growth in jobs, growth in opportunities for business and growth in the global race. HS2 is a project for our generation. Now is the time to make it happen. I commend the Bill to the House.
Britain’s railways face a major capacity challenge in the years to come. That was why, when we were in government, Labour proposed Britain’s first new north-south rail line for more than 100 years. We remain convinced that the project is essential, as is completing the wider rebuilding of our rail network that began under the last Government to reverse the damage caused by decades of under-investment before 1997. Doing nothing is not an option because the existing network is fast reaching the limits of its capacity.
Attempting to upgrade the existing main lines could deliver some, but nowhere near all, of the additional capacity that will be needed in the decades to come, and yet the cost would still be great, as would the disruption to passengers and freight. It would mean that we had learned nothing from the experience of carrying out a major upgrade of the west coast main line while attempting to keep it in use. After a decade of inconvenience and disruption, and almost £10 billion spent, the job was finally completed, but it delivered nowhere near the benefits that will come from a new north-south rail line. By building a new line that extends from London to Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds, we can relieve the pressure not just on the west coast, but on all three existing north-south main lines.
It is vital that we are clear about why the scheme is necessary. Those of us from all parts of the House who support the new line need to be better at communicating why the investment is essential. The new north-south rail line is necessary to deliver a major increase in capacity on our rail network. That is why we cannot afford to delay the delivery of this project any longer.
The hon. Lady has just said that the project is supported by Members from all parts of the House. She knows that I do not support it. What would she say to Labour councillors in my constituency who consistently call this a Conservative project and imply that it is not a Labour one?
I would not agree with that, except in the narrow sense that the project is being taken forward by a Conservative-led Government at present. The Secretary of State and I understand that, on both sides of the House, not everybody is in favour of the project. The genuine concerns that people have need to be heard and we will listen to them in detail.
There will be significant benefits in addition to the new capacity that the line will offer. It will enable the introduction of much faster high-speed trains than can be deployed on the existing network. Journey times between our towns and cities will be cut, significantly in many cases. By building the line, we can help to rebalance the economy between London and the south-east and the rest of the country.
It is worth understanding the extent of the reduction in journey times that will be achieved. The journey from London to Manchester that currently takes two hours and eight minutes will be cut by an hour to just one hour and eight minutes. Sheffield will be just one hour and nine minutes from London, compared with the current two hours and five minutes. Leeds to London will take just one hour and 22 minutes, which is a reduction from the current journey time of two hours and 12 minutes.
Crucially, the journey times to destinations beyond the new line will be reduced. I am not sure that that is always understood. It will take just three hours and 38 minutes to get from London to Edinburgh, instead of the current four hours and 23 minutes. I look forward to being able to get home to Liverpool in a little over an hour and a half. It is not yet widely understood that high-speed trains will run off the new line on to existing track, serving communities across the country. It will be possible to get on a train in at least 28 of our towns and cities, including nine of the UK’s 10 biggest conurbations, and begin a journey that will use the new line. We need to communicate better the extent to which the whole country will benefit from this investment.
The development of stations along the new line will provide major opportunities for regeneration and jobs, in addition to those created through the construction of the line itself. With fast inter-city services moved to the new rail line, capacity will be freed up on the existing main lines for new commuter services, further improving connectivity between our towns and cities further north, and generating opportunities to shift freight from road to rail. The line will deliver a credible alternative to short-haul flights and, therefore, the opportunity to reduce the emissions that contribute to climate change and free up capacity at airports in the south-east that could better be used to open new routes to emerging markets.
We remain convinced that a new north-south rail line is needed. It is the right priority for investment and it is right that we make the decision to proceed.
The hon. Lady talks about the communities that will be served by the proposed high-speed rail line, but what about ticket prices? Will it not just serve the type of people who work in professional services, such as lawyers and accountants, who will be able to travel at high speed on company expenses rather than out of their own pockets?
Does my hon. Friend agree that this project will have a huge economic benefit to places such as Birmingham and the west midlands? In my constituency, we have a company from the United Arab Emirates that was originally going to settle in London. It provides 20 jobs in Birmingham, a figure that will go up to 80 jobs by the end of the year. The company is asking for better transport links, so that employees can commute as fast as possible. That will provide better jobs and training for our people in the midlands.
Is not the truth of the matter that High Speed 2 will release capacity on the west coast main line? Has the debate not recognised the importance of freight, which is growing at more than 10% per year on rail? Does that not come into the discussions we are having today?
My goodness, I find myself in total agreement with the hon. Gentleman.
Despite the importance of this project, there has been a real lack of drive from Ministers—I am not necessarily talking about the Secretary of State—in taking the decisions and delivering the action needed to make it a reality. The former Labour Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis, set up HS2 Ltd as long ago as 2009. By August of the same year, he had already confirmed plans for a new north-south rail line because he was a high-speed Secretary of State. Nothing has moved anywhere near as fast at the Department for Transport since he left, except the revolving door that has meant I am facing my third Transport Secretary since the election. I hope very much that the Government reshuffle that is rumoured to be on the cards does not deliver yet another change. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me on that.
I hear what the hon. Lady says, but she should look at the average length of service of Labour Secretaries of State for Transport—they were also fairly rapid through those doors.
It is starting to worry me, when I contemplate my political future, that the average length across the parties of Secretaries of State for Transport appears to be somewhat on the short side. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, while his Government are still in office, and I can increase the average length of time served.
I will make a little progress and then give way to the hon. Gentleman.
The fact is that it is only now, four years on from Lord Adonis’s initial action, that the Government are introducing the legislation required to enable money to be spent in advance of construction. The legislation needed to actually begin construction is still nowhere in sight. The Secretary of State’s own departmental plan continues optimistically to claim that Royal Assent on the hybrid Bill will be secured in May 2015, yet in The Times at the weekend he could not be any more confident than to say, “I hope it will.” I know he does not want to admit it, but is it not the truth that there is absolutely no prospect of securing Parliament’s approval for phase 1 before the next election?
Despite its inclusion in the Queen’s Speech, Ministers cannot even guarantee a Second Reading for the hybrid Bill in this Session, leaving just one year to secure its passage through both Houses. It took two years and one month to take the hybrid Bill for High Speed 1 through Parliament, and Crossrail took three years and five months. Neither of those schemes was on the scale, or came with as much controversy, as this new rail line. The Government’s inaction in the past three years requires them to rush the Bill at the end of this Parliament. The National Audit Office has warned that this compressed time scale poses even greater risks to the project:
“Faster preparation for the bill may increase the extent of petitions to Parliament which may make it less likely that royal assent is granted by the planned date of May 2015. It may also divert the Department and HS2 Limited from focusing on the deliverability of the design.”
With construction due to begin in January 2017, less than two years into the next Parliament, Ministers know full well that they are now cutting it very fine indeed.
The fact that Royal Assent will no longer be achieved for phase 1 in this Parliament raises the question of why the new line was split into two Bills in the first place. We all know that that decision was taken to ensure that at all costs Conservative MPs did not have to go into the next election with pressure from their constituents to vote against it. The Government have failed to achieve that goal, and have completely unnecessarily opted for two hybrid Bills, when taking the proposals forward as one scheme would have provided greater certainty and ensured that there was no doubt about the Government’s commitment to the whole north-south line, as Ministers claim.
Harvard Business Review says that there are about 40 mega-regions in the world that straddle national borders. They contain about 18% of the world’s population, 66% of its economic activity and 86% of the world’s patents. In these islands, we have two such mega-regions: south central England and the central belt of Scotland. Professor Richard Florida of the university of Toronto says that linking these regions helps global aggregate prosperity. When would the hon. Lady like to see high-speed links between these two UK mega-regions?
We cannot get any further north than Leeds and Manchester until we have got to Leeds and Manchester. That is a constraint, and I hear what the hon. Gentleman says.
The hon. Lady talks with great enthusiasm about HS2. Will she reassure the House that Her Majesty’s Opposition’s support for HS2 will continue up to and beyond the next general election? The support of the Government in this case is, I believe, rather like the support given by the rope to the hanged man.
The hon. Gentleman is speaking in hope rather than expectation. I know his own personal concern about the scheme and I understand his point, but I can be clear with the House that Labour supports getting on with building this north-south line.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way. I am also grateful to her and the Secretary of State for being so understanding about the problems the scheme will cause to my constituents and my constituency. Does she agree that, in spending in excess of £50 billion minimum on such a scheme, one would expect it to connect effectively to HS1 and Heathrow? Is it not right to say that going ahead with this project and looking at the phase 1 route at this stage before Sir Howard Davies’s review into airport capacity is putting the cart before the horse?
It is fair to say that there are concerns about connectivity and what is happening at the southern end, but it is also fair to say that the Government of the day must decide. It is reasonable for the Opposition to raise issues, but, with projects over multiple Parliaments, we must accept, as an Opposition, that we are not quite as well resourced as the Government of the day to come up with well-thought-through alternatives. The Government of the day have to make the decisions, but it is fair enough for opponents and supporters of the scheme to raise issues, recognising that, if the project is ever to be delivered, the Government of the day must decide on the way forward.
I did not quite catch my hon. Friend’s answer to Mr MacNeil, who asked about taking the line north of Leeds and Manchester. Will she confirm that we would wish to see the high-speed services and line taken north of Leeds and Manchester in due course? It is not just a question of speed, however; it is also a question of capacity, because, as she pointed out, the construction of high-speed lines further south will free up capacity on existing lines, but that will lead to capacity problems if all the high-speed trains end up going on the existing lines further north.
I understand my hon. Friend’s point, and the one I made in response to the earlier intervention was simply that we had to get to Leeds and Manchester before we could go further. Work is going on—led by the Department, I think—looking at the prospects for further phases, if one wishes to put it that way, after we have got to Leeds and Manchester.
The delays over the past three years are no surprise, given that the Department has been promising to publish a transport strategy ever since the election, but has yet again delayed it until later this year. The failure to deliver progress on this new railway line could not be a better example of what happens when one decides on a transport strategy towards the end of a Parliament, rather than at the beginning. It means major transport decisions—for example, how we connect the new rail line into Britain’s hub airport at Heathrow—are not being taken forward in an integrated way. That is entirely a consequence of ducking the big questions on aviation for the whole Parliament and of the Government’s decision, which we believe to be wrong, to tell the Airports Commission not to report until after the next election.
It is not just the rapidly slipping timetable that raises alarm bells and worries those of us who support this project. The National Audit Office wrote:
“We identified three areas of risk to the Department’s effective governance of the High Speed 2 programme:… Underdeveloped governance and programme management… Insufficient resources in the Department’s High Speed 2 team”— and
“Inadequate stakeholder management”.
The criticism that Ministers failed sufficiently to resource the team in the Department will be familiar to anyone who has followed the fiasco over the collapse of the Government’s rail franchising programme. The NAO has warned that there is
“a high risk that it may have insufficient skilled staff in the areas of procurement, corporate finance, rail technical and programme management.”
Yet again, the reckless way in which the Department was reorganised after the election and the scale of cuts to key staff have put a major project at risk.
The Government have finally, belatedly, appointed a new director general for HS2 as well as a new senior management team, which is welcome news, but is it not extraordinary that, just as with the west coast main line fiasco, it took so long for a senior responsible owner to be identified for the project? No wonder the Major Projects Authority has rated the delivery of the new rail line as amber/red. That should have been a clear warning to Ministers to take its concerns seriously, not simply dismiss them as irrelevant.
“the Department has strengthened its working relationship with HM Treasury.”
That is very sensible indeed, particularly in the light of the NAO’s concerns about the budget for the project. It has called the Department’s use of a precise estimate of £16.3 billion for the cost of phase 1 of the scheme as “unwise”, as I think we have discovered today. It said that an honest figure would be between £15.4 billion and £17.3 billion, so I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State has today given updated figures. I am sure that he will continue to do so, as he has undertaken to do.
The NAO was also unable to verify the Department’s claim that the £1.5 billion savings recommended by Infrastructure UK could be delivered. Work apparently only began on identifying those savings in September. The House needs to be told whether the savings have now been locked in. The NAO also raises doubts about the Department’s claim that phase 1 will result in reduced operating costs on the existing network of £3 billion over 60 years. This is on the assumption that fewer long-distance services are likely to run on the west coast main line, but because the Department has not set out any revised service patterns it is difficult to see how such a precise and neat rounded figure has been generated.
The Government should also be clear that the £42.6 billion cost of completing the north-south line as far as Leeds and Manchester does not include the £7.5 billion cost of the trains to run on the line.
The Secretary of State has made that clear today. These factors are an essential part of the project, and they ought to be included in the estimates in future.
Worryingly, the National Audit Office also claims:
“The Department has not included VAT in its cost estimates or affordability assessments”,
and warns that
“HS2 Limited will be liable for VAT at 20 per cent on almost all of its spending.”
Ministers need to confirm that the Chancellor and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs have agreed that the VAT will be reclaimable. If that will not be the case, that should also be accurately reflected in the budget.
The NAO also warns that, even with the additional £3 billion capital spending from 2015-16 that has been confirmed today, there is a risk that the project
“may restrict the ability to fund other capital projects across government”.
It goes on to warn:
“We estimate that there could be a gap in affordability of £3.3 billion spread over the four years from 2017-18 to 2020-21, which are the peak spending years for phase one.”
The Secretary of State will, I think, have negotiated something in that respect, but he must make it clear, when he can, that the settlement he has reached with the Chancellor—the details of which we might get tomorrow—has closed that funding gap in full. It would be unacceptable if the Department’s failure to plan the spending needed for this scheme were to result in any cuts or delays to the vital upgrading on the rest of the network. That includes the rolling programme of electrification and new inter-city trains, both of which have already been delayed or scaled back under this Government.
Finally, on the budget for the scheme, there is already a creeping increase in spending from the allocation set for this Parliament in the 2010 spending review. The Minister of State, Department for Transport, Mr Burns, has admitted to me in a parliamentary answer that the budget for the current spending period has been revised upwards from £773 million to around £900 million. That is worrying in the context of the legislation we are debating today, which will effectively give Ministers a blank cheque from Parliament to spend on the scheme. I am sure that the Secretary of State will keep Parliament fully apprised of where the money is going.
In addition to the delays and the criticisms of the budget, serious concerns have also been expressed about HS2 Ltd. It was initially set up to advise Ministers on the route for the new north-south line, but the Government have expanded its role to include building support for the scheme and then delivering it, despite the fact that HS2 Ltd has faced criticism for the way in which it has engaged with communities along the route, with local authorities and with MPs. The fact is that it has not proved to be an effective advocate for the scheme.
The NAO has issued a warning on this, too, saying:
“The programme has a complicated governance structure. This is because the Department aims to preserve some independence for its development body, HS2 Limited, while also maintaining effective governance.”
By divorcing the scheme from delivery of the investment in the existing rail network, there is a risk that we will not focus on the need to create a fully integrated single rail network. It makes no sense that Network Rail is, in effect, having to mirror some of the work of HS2 Ltd, including appointing staff of its own to work on the scheme and having to lobby HS2 Ltd to ensure that decisions are taken in a way that does not have a negative impact on the wider network.
It is increasingly clear that a better option would be to transfer responsibility for the planning and delivery of the new north-south rail line to Network Rail. That would reduce duplication and cost while better enabling the integration of investment in the existing network and the new line. The hopelessly inadequate plans for connecting the new north-south line with HS1 are a good example. The focus of the debate on this issue has been on whether there would be any demand for services from the continent to go further north than London. We should surely not turn our backs on the opportunity to end unnecessary and environmentally damaging short-haul flights, but the real case for getting the connection right involves the opportunity to run the excellent Javelin trains that served us so well during the Olympics further up the country, instead of simply between the coast and the capital.
According to the latest Government figures, Scotland has 8.4% of the UK population but provides 9.9% of the taxes. In effect, Scots will be paying for 9.9% of the new high-speed rail development, so it is disappointing that neither the Secretary of State nor the hon. Lady can give the House a date, an ambition, a target or a hope of when it might reach Scotland.
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.
Does the hon. Lady agree that, if we are going to spend this large amount of money on HS2, we should get the maximum benefit from it? At the moment, it is planned to connect HS2 with HS1 only by a rather tortuous single-rail route, but there is a better, double-rail solution available. Would it not make more sense to fully integrate HS1 with HS2?
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.
Is my hon. Friend aware that HS2 is saying that it wants to use the north London line for the link because
“it is assessed to have less construction risk than a tunnel”?
Is she aware that the man from Bechtel who masterminded the successful channel tunnel link and the refurbishment of St Pancras decided to do a double-bore tunnel from Barking to St Pancras because is was “less risky” to have such a tunnel than to use the north London line. Who would my hon. Friend trust on that?
I would undoubtedly trust my right hon. Friend—there is absolutely no doubt about that. The points made by both Geoffrey Clifton-Brown and my right hon. Friend illustrate the concern and controversy that remain about this issue. I believe that a solution should be devised that can minimise the impact on communities in Camden while ensuring that we do not miss a perfect opportunity to redevelop Euston in the right way for the long term. I believe that the Government should keep looking at that.
I am really grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way, because our speeches are being restricted to only six minutes in the main debate, so it will be hard to say everything that has built up over four years in those six minutes. From what she is saying, am I right to understand that her party might look at a different route for HS2, as the very point she is making about connectivity to HS1 and to Heathrow leans towards another route that was originally in the set of proposals—one that was not chosen by this Government?
I do not think it fair to assume that if I had the Secretary of State’s role after the next general election, I would tear everything up. I have made it clear that when there are projects that run across Parliaments, it is important to co-operate and to understand that decisions have to be made. We will, however, have to see where we are at by the time we get to the next election. I would certainly want to take every opportunity to make sure that the nation gets the best possible outcome from the money spent. As I say, we shall have to see where we are at that time. I am not interested in delaying going forward with what I believe to be a tremendously important scheme.
The Government must also be clear, following the successful judicial review, about how they intend to change the compensation scheme for households affected by the building of the line. The judge found that the consultation process was unfair, that not enough information had been provided and that the criteria for compensation options were not adequately explained. This failure has caused unnecessary added stress to those affected by the scheme, during what is obviously a very difficult time for them and their families.
It is simply not possible to take forward a project of national importance on this scale without causing a significant impact on some communities and on some people’s lives, but the obligation on all of us is to do what we can to mitigate against that impact and to act fairly in terms of compensating people for the loss of property and value that they suffer. Ministers must now act quickly to bring forward a new, fair scheme and ensure that it is communicated clearly and transparently.
I am willing to support anything that can properly, fairly and reasonably compensate people in a way that still meets the obligation to be reasonable with taxpayers’ money. I would thus be happy to look at the details of the scheme, as I think the Secretary of State has said he is, too. I think we have a particular obligation to treat those affected as fairly as we possibly can and within as speedy a time scale as possible.
I would like to mention a point raised with the Secretary of State a while ago. Asking people to make a sacrifice for the good of the country—that is effectively what we are asking the people whose homes are to be demolished to do— and saying to them, “This is the value of your property now and you can have 10% extra for the loss of your home” is really not adequate compensation. We should be able to do a bit better than that for people who are being forced to move home through no fault of their own and no choice of their own.
That is an important point. Such action could, indeed, lead to other benefits, if it meant that matters were settled earlier than they would otherwise have been. I believe that some European countries do as my hon. Friend suggests, and end up building their lines rather more quickly than we seem to manage to.
Ministers must now engage in a debate about the eventual cost of using the new north-south line, because that goes to the heart of the question of what kind of railway we believe in. There have been fears about the issue ever since the former Transport Secretary, Mr Hammond, started talking about rich men’s toys.
I think it important to put on record the fact that the phrase “a rich man’s toy” was presented to my right hon. Friend Mr Hammond, who is now Secretary of State for Defence. He did not demur, but it is not a phrase that he generated. I happen to have been a member of the Transport Committee at the time. I think it important for us to clear this matter up before the hon. Lady starts accusing my right hon. Friend of making that comment.
I think every Member of Parliament realises, given the present state of journalism in this country, that if a phrase is presented to one and one does not demur, it is quite legitimate to say that that is what one agrees with. I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point.
I hope that Ministers will agree with Labour’s vision of a new railway line that is fully integrated with the existing network, and whose fares are fully regulated. That is the line for which we will all be paying, and its use must therefore be affordable for many people, not just for a few at the richer end of society.
It is disappointing that Ministers have so far shown little interest in ensuring that this significant investment delivers real opportunities, especially for our young people. Labour has made it clear that every £1 billion of investment in the scheme should deliver 1,000 apprenticeships, and I hope that the Government will make the same commitment to apprenticeships and to our young people. Ministers must learn the lessons of the Thameslink procurement. Those trains are now to be built in Germany. It is perfectly possible, within EU rules, to ensure that public investment delivers jobs and apprenticeships where they are desperately needed, here in Britain. Every other EU country manages to do the equivalent through its own train procurement. The new line must deliver British jobs and growth, not only after its completion but during its construction, and that must include the manufacturing of the trains.
It was a Labour Government who first set out the ambition for a new high-speed north-south railway line to address the capacity issue on our rail network while also cutting journey times between our towns and cities, and the case for making this scheme a reality remains strong. Indeed, it is all the more necessary at a time when the Government’s economic failure has meant a failure to deliver the growth that the country so desperately needs. The progress made over the last three years, since Ministers inherited the project, has been disappointing, but it retains cross-party support. We will support the Bill today, but we urge the Government to get on with the hybrid Bill as soon as possible. We want to see the enthusiasm and commitment from Ministers that is necessary to make a major project on this scale become a reality.
Order. In view of the fact that more than 30 Back Benchers wish to speak in the debate, I have imposed a six-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches, with immediate effect.
I beg to move an amendment:
That this House
declines to give a second reading to a Bill which authorises preparatory expenditure on a railway without specifying further detail of the route and a limit on expenditure.
Let me begin by paying tribute to all the constituents and volunteers who have worked tirelessly to protect our interests in the Chilterns. HS2 Action Alliance, 51m, Stop HS2, our Conservative councillors and all the conservation groups have worked so hard and deserve all our thanks and congratulations.
There is no doubt that if HS2 goes ahead, Chesham and Amersham and the Chilterns will be badly affected. Indeed, I think that my constituents will be paying twice: once through their taxes, and once through the disruption and blight that they are suffering.
We have heard that this project was dreamt up under the last Labour Government, and I am glad that the shadow Secretary of State took responsibility for it. The mistake we made was adopting it without asking the proper questions, and now, after three Secretaries of State in as many years, we have a £50 billion project—so we heard today—not connected to any airport or other transport system such as HS1, and divided into two phases with no guarantee that the northern route will be built even in my lifetime.
The right hon. Lady is an excellent constituency MP and the route north of Birmingham includes Manchester airport, so, as she was once a candidate who aspired to represent Manchester, does she think she would have a different position on this matter now if she had won that election?
Ah, but fortunately I was elected to represent Chesham and Amersham, so I do not have to answer that hypothetical question.
This project is also almost 30 years out of date. Thirty years ago I might have been supporting it, but people are now looking to save costs in business by using teleconferencing and superfast broadband, and they are trying to reduce the amount of travelling their employees do. If we are in a global race, I would be much happier if we were in fact connecting effectively to Heathrow and HS1, because at the moment we do not even seem to be able to repair our existing roads and railways, and we cannot use the M25 without being stuck in a traffic jam. Surely we should be looking at our infrastructure and maximising its potential before building a bright, new, shiny railway?
Last week the New Economics Foundation did an excellent piece of work: it published a report examining a variety of projects across the country that could be procured for the same sum of £33 billion. They included some very valuable improvements for northern cities, active transport systems and much more superfast fibre-optic broadband, which we need to deliver competitiveness for this country.
I may have been a nimby—when I started off, I was a nimby—but I have studied this project and I am convinced that it is the wrong project. I am not alone in questioning HS2. We have heard what the National Audit Office has said. Its report was damning. It highlighted that the Department had failed to outline clear strategic objectives, had made errors in calculating the cost-benefit ratio and is not sufficiently engaged with stakeholders, and it casts serious doubt over the capability of HS2 Ltd even to deliver this programme alongside the other demands on the Department.
The judicial review has resulted in a judgment that was shaming of the Department, finding that its consultation on compensation was so unfair as to be unlawful. The Major Projects Authority’s report—which the Government continue to refuse to publish in detail, even though the Information Commissioner says it is in the public interest for them to do so—indicates that this project is in the red-amber category, denoting a very high risk of its failing to be delivered on time or on budget.
Does my right hon. Friend acknowledge that while the NAO report did, indeed, make those criticisms, it also said that at the end of the day there would be a return of 2.5:1 on this project, and does she not recognise the importance of that to the well-being of future generations?
That is a nice try, but the cost of this project is going up minute-by-minute, so I doubt that that ratio is accurate even as I stand here today.
I also have to say that the Department and HS2 Ltd have already failed on other bases: engineering calculations have been wrong, and the costs of alterations to Euston were inaccurate. That, along with public failures such as the west coast main line franchise debacle, must prompt this question: do the Department or HS2 have the leadership capability or competence to deliver the largest infrastructure project in the UK in living memory?
If the project gets the green light, however—as I fear it will, judging by the number of Members present—I want to make two particular points to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. On the current consultation—I use that term loosely—by HS2 Ltd on the draft environmental statement, whatever the failings of the process, at the moment one thing is clear: the area of outstanding natural beauty, which belongs to everybody in this country, is going to be irreversibly damaged. My first request to the Secretary of State is that if this project does go ahead, can we have the best possible mitigation in the Chilterns in order to protect our precious, and highly endangered, environment to the utmost level? A fully bored tunnel under the whole of the AONB would offer that protection, and I urge the Secretary of State to adopt that option.
My second request has I think been answered partly, because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State accepted in his opening speech that he will look more seriously at, and perhaps even deliver, the property bond. The compensation scheme has been totally inadequate to date, and the engagement of officials and Ministers often the dialogue of the deaf, frankly. The Bill does not include specific undertakings on compensation that would fulfil the Prime Minister’s assurance to me that it would be timely and generous to those people adversely affected. So I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will look at the property bond put forward by my constituent, Hilary Wharf, who is to be commended for her work in this area, and that the compensation system introduced is rapid, fair and does not make my constituents feel that the Government are wriggling to avoid paying them a proper price for their properties.
As you know, Mr Speaker, there are several Members of Parliament whose constituencies are affected by HS2 who are unable to speak today, so I want to say a few words on behalf of my right hon. Friend Mr Lidington, who has worked tirelessly to put forward the interests of his constituents. He asked me to point out today that places such as Wendover Dean and the Hawkslade and Walton Court areas of Aylesbury are among the worst affected of any along the phase 1 route. He also asked me to highlight the need for better mitigation—a request that fits in with my own request for a fully bored tunnel. I know that you, Mr Speaker, have regularly communicated your constituents’ overwhelming opposition to this project and, like me, have received thousands of letters and have similar experiences of the failure of the exceptional hardship fund to offer adequate compensation to constituents. Likewise, my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Grieve is very worried about the Denham viaduct and the Colne Valley site of special scientific interest.
Why do we need a paving Bill? There was no paving Bill for the channel tunnel rail link, Crossrail or the Olympics. We could continue to spend money as we have already, without this Bill. Once it is passed, as it undoubtedly will be, the Government can claim that HS2 is backed by the will of Parliament. Frankly, all colleagues should be concerned about proceeding with this project. The Bill is a blank cheque, handed over before Parliament is in full possession of the facts, and to a Department that is having a hard job convincing people that the project is fit for purpose. On that basis, and because this is the first time we have even had a vote on HS2, it is with a very heavy heart that I say I cannot support the Government. I hope that colleagues in the House today will support my reasoned amendment and vote against the Bill. At this stage, I have no intention of calling votes on any other part of the proceedings, but I will on the amendment and on Second Reading.
I am pleased to support this legislation today, which is a significant step in securing High Speed 2. It is important to recognise that HS2 is about having a vision for the future. It is about making a much-needed step change in capacity on our railways. It is about meeting growing demand for rail, addressing congestion on our roads and motorways, and connecting major cities not just across this country and the UK, but potentially across Europe as well. It has the potential to rebalance our economy.
However, it is very important that progress on High Speed 2 does not go ahead in isolation from considering the importance of continuing to invest in the existing classic line. Existing improvements such as the northern hub and the electrification programmes must continue and be stepped up. Assurance must be given that there will be proper access to high-speed rail, and that means that more attention needs to be given to the siting of the stations and connections to them. It is important that no local services be reduced as a consequence of building the high-speed rail line, and it is extremely important that the potential of developing the freed existing lines for both freight and passengers be addressed. That means that more work needs to take place, perhaps through local authorities and local enterprise partnerships working together, to make sure that proper plans are worked out so that the existing lines freed when high-speed rail comes to fruition will be able to be used to the maximum for freight and for passengers.
It is also crucial that the potential for economic development and rebalancing the economy is achieved. That means that we must not make any assumptions that simply building a high-speed line will automatically bring those economic benefits. Work has to be done, again by the LEPs, with the local authorities and with Government support, to develop economic strategies, regionally as well as nationally, to support business in taking advantage of those opportunities. I was very interested to read the results of studies instigated by local authorities. The Core Cities study put forward by major cities in our country identified about 400,000 new jobs that would come as a result of high-speed rail, and Centro’s report, looking specifically at the west midlands area, identified about 22,000 jobs that would come. I emphasise that none of those jobs will come automatically; we need to give attention to economic strategies and support for business to make sure that those opportunities come to fruition.
A number of important issues must be addressed. Concern remains that under the Bill as proposed, high-speed rail may not go beyond Birmingham. We have heard assurances from Ministers but we need rather more than that; we need a commitment in the Bill to make sure that HS2 is not simply between London and Birmingham, and that the rail scheme progresses to Leeds, Manchester and beyond. The time scale is a very long one, even on the current proposals of 2026 to Birmingham and 2033 to Leeds, to Manchester and to other areas.
I completely agree with the hon. Lady’s point. I wonder, Mr Speaker whether I might use this intervention to clarify something I said earlier, as I am afraid I gave the wrong figure. I said that the contingency was £12.7 billion but it is actually £14.4 billion, so it is larger than I said. I just wanted to take this opportunity, with your permission and that of the hon. Lady, to put the figure right.
I thank the Secretary of State for clarifying that situation.
The consultation, which has not yet taken place across the whole of the proposed line, must be a very real one. A number of hon. Members have already told us of their local concerns. There are problems in relation to London and, in particular, the development around Euston station, which is an important and difficult issue. Hon. Members have also raised issues in the House relating to access to Stoke-on-Trent. The proposals for Liverpool are not good enough and need improvement. Important environmental issues need addressing, and the question of compensation has been raised in the House this afternoon. All those issues are vital and must be addressed in a reasonable way. It is important for them to be resolved successfully because that will help to deliver a successful HS2—high-speed rail that is about much-needed capacity, connectivity and economic progress for the future, throughout this country and beyond.
It is always a great pleasure to follow Mrs Ellman, the Chairman of the Transport Committee. I have had the privilege of serving on the Committee for more than three years now. I have studied this subject not only through my Committee work, but through other personal research and I do not think I have studied any subject in more depth. I will try to put concisely my observations on the project in the next few minutes.
I support the principle of high-speed rail. I confess that I do not believe this route is the optimal one, and I have specific concerns and suggestions to make about it, but I support the Bill. I fear the opportunity cost of not proceeding with this project far outweighs the risk and costs of going ahead. I shall say a little about why I have reached that conclusion.
The point has been well made that many parts of our rail network are close to capacity. Rail passenger use and rail freight use have increased sharply in recent years and any reasonable projection shows that they will continue to rise in future decades. Simply taking into account the increased population of the country, particularly in areas such as mine, it is clear that there will be continued increased demand on transport services and rail in particular. Rail usage increased even in the recession from 2008 onwards.
It is often said that we should invest in the classic network rather than HS2. I would not support HS2 if it was at the expense of investment in the classic network, but there is substantial investment in that network. There is the electrification of the Great Western and midland main lines, as well as new rolling stock and junction improvements on the west coast main line. The Government have sensibly committed to reopening the east-west rail line from Milton Keynes to Oxford and Aylesbury. Those are just a few of the projects.
Essential and welcome as the upgrades are, they will not be enough for the long term. I have come to the conclusion from all my research, and from looking at all the projects and models that have been proposed, that we need to build a new north-south strategic rail line.
Does my hon. Friend think, like my hon. Friend Mr Binley, that this is a matter of needing more capacity? If so, why are we going for a very expensive system like high-speed rail, with its exponentially enormous engineering costs?
My research has shown that if we are committing to build a new railway line, the cost of building a fast one is not significantly more than building a conventional one. The majority of the costs come in building the cuttings, the bridges and all the other necessary infrastructure. Making a faster one costs a little more, but not a huge amount more.
If we merely expanded capacity on the west coast or east coast line, we would have to do that at the same time as running existing services. Anyone who used the west coast main line during the previous upgrade will say what an absolute nightmare that is. Such an approach would not solve the problem of competing demands for use on the existing line between commuter services, freight services, non-stop inter-city services and stopping services. We cannot continually squeeze more and more capacity out of one line, as we will reach capacity and will be overly reliant on that line. That is why I accept the case for a new high-speed line.
I accept that the project is controversial and completely understand the fears of residents along the proposed line of route. There are justifiable concerns about disturbing the peace and quiet of the countryside, but I urge right hon. and hon. Members to look at what happened during the construction and planning of High Speed 1. The same concerns were raised, but since the line has opened there have been very few, if any, complaints.
I can certainly back up my hon. Friend’s point. I was on the Committee that considered the Bill and the line was going through the garden of England, and there was talk of devastation and horrendous things. Some of the complaints were justified, but many proved to be empty. It has worked.
I was on that trip with my hon. Friend and a notable fact given to us by Kent county council was that Maidstone is now lobbying to have the line go through the station, whereas it was vehemently opposed to that originally.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right.
To those who voice concern about visual intrusion on areas of outstanding natural beauty, I simply make the point that railway infrastructure need not be ugly—it need not be concrete blocks. Look at some of the fantastic pieces of railway engineering and architecture we have: the Forth bridge, the Glenfinnan viaduct, Brunel’s bridges and tunnels—they have enhanced the landscape. I urge my right hon. Friend the Minister of State to make HS2 into an opportunity to showcase the best of British design and engineering, with bridges, viaducts and other infrastructure that show off and augment our landscape.
In the couple of minutes remaining, I will highlight five specific concerns and make some suggestions. The first is about the rolling stock for the line and making sure it is compatible with the classic network, particularly on the Anglo-Scottish services. At present, we have tilting trains that allow conventional lines to be used at high speed, but if high-speed trains cannot tilt, journey times on the classic network will be lengthened to an extent that might offset the time gains on the high-speed line. I urge the Minister to consider that.
The second concern, justifiably felt by people in Buckinghamshire, is that the line goes straight through the county with no stop. The high-speed line will intersect with the new east-west line in Buckinghamshire. I ask that, when the scheme is considered in full—the Y-network and connection to the channel tunnel—the case will be reassessed for an intermediate stop at Claydon junction. I would suggest calling it “Milton Keynes Parkway”, but others may have different ideas. That would enable people in the area to access the lines, which I believe would augment the business case.
Only seconds remain, so I will very quickly highlight the point, which has already been well made, about properly connecting airports, High Speed 1 and the channel tunnel. I do not think the plans are optimal. Finally, I urge my right hon. Friend to look at capacity at Euston, where the tube network is already pretty crowded. I believe we need to consider Crossrail 2, so I was delighted when the Chancellor floated that possibility in his statement earlier today. Notwithstanding those concerns, I support the Bill.
HS2 will unleash havoc on Euston, Primrose Hill and Camden Town in my constituency. It will demolish the homes of about 500 people and blight the homes of at least another 1,000. One local park will disappear for ever; another will be a building site for 10 years or more. The project will prevent the much-needed reconstruction of Euston station, which was intended to provide around 1,000 new flats for local people. It has already delayed plans to rebuild a local convent school. The link to HS1 will subject Primrose Hill and Camden Town to large-scale engineering works, mainly above ground level. Local shops and restaurants will be put out of business; quiet back streets are to become official routes for construction traffic. Yet the compensation and mitigation regime intended for our area is inferior to what has been promised outside London. That cannot be right.
When HS2 was given the go-ahead, we were told, first, that phase 1 would cost £17 billion; secondly, that it would be completed by 2026; and thirdly, that no one would suffer a significant loss. HS2 is backtracking on all three. For a start, as has been pointed out, £17 billion will not provide a working railway, because it does not include the cost of the trains, estimated to be £2 billion—it will be a train-free zone. Nor does it include the cost of the works at Euston needed to allow the already overcrowded tube and local roads to cope with additional passengers and traffic—that is probably another £2 billion. VAT at 20% will come to about £3 billion. The original estimate for HS2 also included £1.4 billion for a spur to Heathrow. The spur has been dropped, but it is not at all clear where the £1.4 billion has gone.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that because we do not have the full environmental statement—we have only a draft—we do not know the full cost of any environmental mitigation that may be needed along the route?
The right hon. Lady is absolutely right. Recently, HS2 Ltd has been forced to confess that it underestimated the cost of the works at Euston by no less than 40%. We have been asked to write a blank cheque for people who underestimate costs by 40%. On top of that, HS2 Ltd admits that it has to rebuild or strengthen cuttings, embankments and bridges on the north London line and the main line. Originally, it denied that that would be necessary, so it did not provide for it in the initial costings. I remind Members that those costs have soared while HS2 is still at a desk-study stage. God knows what will happen when people get round to practical work on the site.
I cannot possibly disagree with my hon. Friend. In theory, a million years ago, I got a degree in economics, and I have reached the stage where I can usually work out when someone is talking drivel. When I heard the Government’s cost estimates, I think I understood they were talking drivel.
Does anyone in the House really believe that the line will be completed by 2026? I was going to offer a bet against completion by then, but I suspect that the final completion date is so far in the future that I am unlikely to be around to collect my winnings, which brings me to compensation and mitigation.
At present, HS2 Ltd intends that people and businesses in our area should receive lower compensation, lower standards of protection and inferior mitigation measures. There is no excuse for that treatment of a settled residential and business community. Local council tenants, right-to-buy leaseholders, private tenants, leaseholders and owner-occupiers should be no worse off as a result of the project, which is being carried out, apparently, in the national interest. They must be found new homes that meet their needs, and without any detriment to the terms and conditions of their tenure.
The same approach should apply to businesses. Restaurants and small shops in Drummond street depend on passing trade to Euston station for up to 70% of their business, but HS2 Ltd proposes that for 10 years, they should be cut off from the station by a barrier that will be higher than the Berlin wall. What is worse, it is proposed that they would not receive any compensation at all. May I tell Government Members, who always say that they are speaking up on behalf of small businesses, that if they do not do something to prevent that wickedness, they will let down some small businesses? The same non-compensation rules will apply in Camden Town.
The Government must reconsider the project. Is it really the best use of a scarce £17 billion if we want to improve our creaking transport system? Even if it is, would not the London terminus be better sited at Old Oak Common which, unlike Euston, is on the Heathrow Express route and will be on Crossrail? It would be welcome there, and studies show that if people got off Crossrail at Old Oak Common, only 4% of London underground stations would take longer to reach than if they went to Euston. The stations that would take longer to reach are Euston Square, Regent’s Park, Mornington Crescent and King’s Cross St Pancras, so there is no disadvantage. If this goes ahead, most sensible travellers will get off at Old Oak Common anyway, whatever anybody says.
Finally, if it is decided to go ahead, I hope there will be agreement across the Chamber that there should be a special made-to-measure compensation and mitigation scheme for the whole length of HS2 and all the residents and businesses affected by it. It should be as generous as the Secretary of State promised, and I do not doubt the integrity of the Secretary of State.
I also have to say this: in all the years that I have dealt with public and private bodies, I have never come across an outfit as stupid, incompetent and incapable of even delivering letters as the people at present running HS2, and if I were in favour of the project, I would get someone else to do it.
I very much welcome the Bill. It is an important stage in implementing a promise from the Liberal Democrat manifesto. The Bill gives the Secretary of State the power, subject to the approval of the Treasury, to incur expenditure in preparation for the high-speed rail network. The language used in the Bill is open-ended because it states that this expenditure must include at least rail lines connecting London, Birmingham, the east midlands, Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester, and which connect with the existing rail network. The “at least” phrase means that the HS2 expenditure being approved under the Bill is not limited to the cities and regions mentioned, but prepares the way for further extension of HS2 in the future.
This is in line with the Government’s wish to work with the Scottish Government on this issue, with the aim of having a third phase to connect the high-speed link on from Manchester to Glasgow and Edinburgh. By enhancing connectivity between Britain’s large cities, HS2 will make investment in the regions outside London and the south-east far more attractive. This is vital if we are to help rebalance the UK economy and increase jobs and growth. HS2 will underpin the delivery of at least 100,000 jobs, and hopefully far more.
It is estimated that HS2 will transfer approximately 9 million journeys from road to rail and 4.5 million from air to rail. This will ease road congestion and reduce some of the pressure on our airports, allowing our economy to grow in an environmentally friendly manner. Passenger demand is expected to grow and if we do nothing, it is anticipated that the west coast main line will reach full capacity during the next 15 years. High-speed rail provides the best possible option to cope with ever-rising passenger demand and to ensure that we have sufficient future capacity to satisfy the needs of the UK economy.
HS2 will also help to free up capacity on the existing rail network, in particular the west coast main line. As well as improving services for passengers, it will free up capacity for more freight on the railways. HS2 will radically shorten journey times between London, the midlands and the north of England and Scotland. For example, it will shorten the journey time between London and Edinburgh by 45 minutes. That is after phase 2 is completed and without waiting for phase 3.
I have seen some of that analysis, but I disagree with it. All the past experience is that by connecting cities, we bring jobs and growth to both ends of the network. Our Victorian predecessors had great vision. No doubt there were people in those days who said, “This will all be a waste of money. Rail will never take off”, but experience shows that when we connect up people and cities, we create more jobs at both ends of the network.
It is important to point out to the Scottish National party, whose Members have departed and have not bothered to stay for the full debate, that it does not matter where the railway line starts—whether at the London end or the Scotland end. The journey time cut by each mile of track is the same, no matter which end one starts from. Were the SNP’s plans for the referendum to come to fruition and Scotland and England became separate countries, I cannot see a UK Government building the line any further than Manchester, whereas if Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom, I am confident that we will, in time, see high-speed rail all the way from London to Glasgow and Edinburgh.
It is important to point out that other countries, such as Germany, Japan and China, have already invested heavily in high-speed rail and have several rail connections that are much faster than ours. The United States also has plans to develop a high-speed rail network. If we do not go ahead with HS2, there is a great danger that the UK will fall behind our international competitors. We must make plans to meet future passenger demand, provide more capacity and cut train journey times for millions of passengers. The railway lines between our major cities are overcrowded and far slower than they should be.
I believe that the case for HS2 is clear and overwhelming. It will bring much economic development, delivered in an environmentally sustainable manner. The Bill is an important step towards delivering a vital high-speed rail network and I urge the House to support it tonight.
Two acts of monumental folly have been imposed on the railway industry over the past 50 years. The first, back in 1963, was the Beeching report, which led to the butchering of lines linking communities across the UK. Indeed, one consequence of Beeching is highly relevant to today’s debate, because one of the lines he closed was the Great Central line, which ran from London to Sheffield and Manchester. Were it still in operation, I suggest that we would be debating whether to spend money upgrading it, rather than committing £17 billion, rising to £32 billion, on High Speed 2, for which the infrastructure work will not even begin until 2017.
The second act of monumental folly, of course, was the decision in the 1990s to privatise the railways, something that even Mrs Thatcher steered clear of. She had the good sense to realise that it is not possible to privatise a railway system and divorce the operating companies from the infrastructure. As we all know, privatisation has brought no benefit whatsoever for the consumer. The subsidies now paid to train operating companies are double what they were pro rata when British Rail ceased to exist. The Secretary of State was a little reluctant to answer when asked what the subsidy is. Well, I will help him out: £2.6 billion a year is spent subsidising a railway system that is not fit for purpose.
I would have hoped that the Secretary of State and his colleagues would not bring to the Chamber today something that I believe will be yet another act of folly imposed on the railway industry, particularly in view of all the information that has come out over the past two years as the economic case for HS2 has unravelled. Regrettably, that appears not to be the case.
Reference has already been made to the National Audit Office report, but the comments made in it should be repeated again and again, not least the fact that it estimates that there is already a £3.3 billion funding shortfall, a figure that has just been glossed over as far as London is concerned, as my right hon. Friend Frank Dobson said. Indeed, the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee has said that the Government’s business case is “farcical” and
“clearly not up to scratch”.
Furthermore, she said that some of the Department’s assumptions were “ludicrous”. I am talking about the National Audit Office and the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, yet we have been told again and again today that the figures do stack up.
Has my hon. Friend looked at the really interesting French research showing the deleterious effects on the provincial cities of France as the French rapid trains were introduced? It drove those cities into penury.
We are where we are. I do not wish to have an argument about whether the building of the M1 and M6 was folly. What is folly is the privatised section of the M6, which is uneconomic and will soon go bust. It was supported by the Conservatives—“Let’s bring private capital into our motorways”. It is part of the motorway that is never used and will soon either go bust or have to come to the Secretary of State and ask for a handout.
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but I do not understand the point that he is trying to make.
As I said, we need to look at the economic case. The National Audit Office report and other reports have said that the project is already spiralling out of control. Already, figures that we were told about a year or so ago just do not stack up and people who have a vested interest in pushing the project ahead seem to be plucking figures out of the sky to suit whatever argument they are making. At the end of the day, the British taxpayer will have to pick up the tab if it goes wrong.
At this time of austerity and cutbacks across a range of services, the idea of reducing the time that business men take to travel from Birmingham or Manchester to London by 30 minutes and one hour respectively is absolutely farcical. It seems completely to disregard the fact that business men tend to work on trains nowadays. They use computers and mobile phones. Not one single, solitary business man in Birmingham has said to me, “Unless the project goes ahead and I can travel from Birmingham to London 30 minutes quicker, my business is going to suffer and be in danger.”
I say again that not one business man has come to me to make the argument.
The project is absolutely desperate. Secretaries of State always like to leave a legacy, and I understand that. However, I believe that High Speed 2 will not be a legacy. It is a vanity project, and if it goes ahead it could turn into a white elephant.
Order. Interventions have taken up a lot of time, so I am having to reduce the time limit to five minutes, and might have to reduce it again to get everyone in—[Interruption.] If you want to moan, please do so, Mr Gummer. The point is that everyone wants to speak. If you are suggesting that I knock somebody off the list, please tell me.
The eastern side of my constituency, in the heart of the east midlands, borders the proposed site for the east midlands hub. I share that border with my hon. Friend Anna Soubry, and I assure the House that as time goes on we will be working together on issues arising from the proposed site.
At this preliminary stage in the proposals for HS2, I speak in support of the project. That broadly reflects the representations made to me by businesses and constituents, although, it has to be said, not universally. On the current plans, the route clips the eastern edge of
Long Eaton, and a few roads in the town will not survive. I will deal with the concerns of its residents later. I also have very many constituents who welcome and support these plans. They are right to do so. Put simply, the proposals offer a chance for investment and regeneration on a vast scale in our midlands and northern towns and cities. In Erewash we have a proud history of jobs, businesses and apprenticeships in the railways sector. My late maternal grandfather worked his entire life on the railways. This project brings new opportunities to continue that historical link. The possibility of being a neighbouring town to the east midlands hub has to bring much more with it.
I was recently privileged to bring the Minister of State on a visit to Long Eaton to show him the proposed route. I was very grateful for his generous use of his time to visit Erewash. I am sure he agrees that the opportunities for my constituency in terms of jobs and investment would be second to none. In addition, my right hon. Friend will have noted the road infrastructure in Long Eaton. I hope he agrees that this scheme could bring with it an opportunity to improve the road infrastructure for the town, because as it stands the roads would struggle to manage the new traffic levels.
As I said, some businesses and homes in Erewash would be affected by the proposed route. Of course, it is impossible for any of us to imagine someone’s shock and worry on hearing the news that their home may not survive the construction of the project. However, like many other constituency MPs, I take my responsibilities to assist such residents extremely seriously. I have called a meeting and have been helping on a personal, individual basis every constituent affected by dealing with their correspondence and any application they wish to make under the hardship fund.
I bring to my right hon. Friend’s attention the historical Trent cottages that I was able to show him, which are located on the route. The cottages were built in the early 1860s to serve the railwaymen working close to Trent railway station, which was built at a similar time. They are a historical record of Long Eaton’s railway past, and I ask him to have due consideration of this when reviewing the route.
I return to my starting point in welcoming the possibilities of this project. I take into account the proposed costs of the scheme and the environmental impact, based on the information that we have so far, but I also note the simple fact that we need to address capacity on our railway network. This project, with broad cross-party support, will be the biggest investment on our railways since the Victorian era. In the past 15 years demand for long-distance rail travel has doubled to 125 million journeys a year.
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I hear his statistics, but I also look to the future. The broad fact is that we are reaching full capacity on our railway network. We can either ignore that or address it; I think we need to address it.
We also need to compete on a global basis. I will give just one example.
If my hon. Friend would like to see, as I have seen, the benefits of such a scheme, she should go to China and have a look at the effects of the high-speed network there, because those are the people we are competing with. I hope that she will do that before very long.
I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s imaginative ideas. If an opportunity arises to visit China and observe its high-speed rail, I will be delighted to take it.
Finally, I will always support projects that put Erewash on the map. The location of the east midlands hub will do that and more. Although my constituents can travel by train from Long Eaton to London in one and a half hours, there is a strong case for improving the travel times and infrastructure for the towns and cities of the midlands and further north. I will certainly advocate that case in Erewash.
The Minister knows of my obsession with supporting local rail services. Time and again in Parliament, I have raised the campaign to fund the reopening of the train station at Ilkeston. I am delighted to say that that has been successful. I thank him for his support on that project.
I represent a constituency at the heart of the east midlands, which has a strong and proud history of employment on the railways. If this project goes ahead, I have no doubt that that proud historical link will continue well into the future.
I will not detain the House long. I speak as the joint chair of the all-party parliamentary group for high-speed rail. I am therefore highly supportive of High Speed 2. I will make four simple points.
First, this country has a shocking and disgraceful record on infrastructure, under Governments of all political persuasions. The costs of not keeping our infrastructure up to date are much greater than the costs of High Speed 2. We have built one new runway since the second world war, we have the lowest motorway density in what used to be called western Europe, the Dibden port proposal was turned down, we have only a few kilometres of high-speed rail between the south coast and London, and we have a much smaller rail system than we had 40 or 50 years ago. Our competitors are investing in all those areas of infrastructure, to our economic disbenefit.
Secondly, the justification for High Speed 2 is not the speed, as has been said, but the capacity. Having high-speed rail will cost only 10% more than the alternative of building a brand new route and will bring the speed benefits as well as the extra capacity. The alternatives that are put forward by the opponents of High Speed 2 would provide only half the benefit, while costing a great amount of time, money and disruption, as we learned from the west coast main line build. If people are worried about the projections that are used to justify the investment in High Speed 2, they should consider the fact that train passenger numbers are already at the level projected for 2021.
On the economic benefits, I am enormously sceptical of almost all economic models. There may be disbenefit to some towns and cities. The Transport Committee found that some towns in Europe that were joined to the TGV or other high-speed routes had benefited enormously, whereas others had disbenefited.
The hon. Gentleman is making a convincing argument in favour of HS2. He raises the important point that one of the perceived benefits is that economic activity will be drawn up the track. However, there is a risk that economic activity will actually be drawn down the track, away from the regions to London. Does he agree that, to mitigate that risk, it is important that we look to build a hub airport up the track as part of the infrastructure development of this country? A hub airport in Birmingham would be a good alternative to what is being suggested at the moment.
I will not be drawn into a discussion about hub airports.
On the benefits and disbenefits, it is up to the people who run our towns and cities to ensure that people go in their direction and invest in their area. There is no doubt that such people want the high-speed line. My hon. Friend Mrs Ellman said earlier that she wants the high-speed route to go to Liverpool. I do not blame her, given the potential benefit.
I am sure that some of the arguments made against HS2 were made when railways began. The vested interests of stagecoach owners and bargees almost certainly led to their using similar arguments about how railways would not catch on. I know of no economic analysis that captures the likely benefits, but what we do know, from looking around the world, is that countries that invest in their transport infrastructure almost always do better economically. We should therefore invest.
As the proud MP who has King’s Cross, St Pancras and Euston stations in his constituency, I am rather in favour of the railways. For that matter, I am a member of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers. However, I think my hon. Friend is falling into the sort of syllogism that something must be done, this is something, and therefore this must be done. There are better ways of spending this money on improving the railway system.
I hope I am not falling into that trap. I think that a high-speed system that will eventually join Edinburgh and Glasgow, through Manchester and Leeds, to Birmingham and London will be of enormous benefit to the country. I do not believe it is a perfect system and I do not believe it is being constructed in the best way, but it has all-party support and it can be improved. I personally believe that we should be building north to south, as well as south to north. I believe, as my right hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State said, that we should be building a link directly through to High Speed 1. However, I do not believe that any of those problems are sufficient to stop us investing in infrastructure that will help the whole of the country.
I will not, if the hon. Gentleman will forgive me. I have already given way twice.
My last point comes from the experience of being responsible for building the second runway at Manchester airport. Paying compensation on the basis of free market value at the time is an extremely costly way of building infrastructure. Giving free market value plus 10%, 20% or 30%—whatever is appropriate—will speed up the process and save money. I hope the Government will give consideration to that, and to serious mitigation. If people take legal action because they think they are being treated unfairly, and if there is blight for a long time, that will hinder the project. It is estimated that delays in tunnelling on some high-speed routes have cost as much as the actual tunnelling. I therefore hope that on compensation the Government will not be short-sighted. I hope they will deal with the problems outlined by my hon. Friend Mr Betts and my right hon. Friend Frank Dobson, and be generous in looking at the problems and pain caused. That will benefit the high-speed system in the end.
I rise to support the Bill. I am in favour of expanding our high-speed rail network. I respect hon. Members who represent constituencies that will be directly affected, and it is right that they fight for the best interests of their constituents. I have the advantage of representing a constituency that is in no way affected. Even the increased capacity, which is the prime motive for the development of a new network, will be of minimal benefit.
My hon. Friend says that his constituency will be in no way affected. Unfortunately, it will be, because his constituents—this is true of every constituency—will initially receive a bill for £75 million, rising to a possible £100 million.
My hon. Friend makes a fair point, but similar points could be made about every item of Government expenditure. Ultimately, the increased capacity will benefit the more provincial towns and peripheral areas of our country. The network is operating to capacity. We heard from the Secretary of State that the west coast main line would be at capacity in the early 2020s, and similarly the east coast main line, which has an impact on my constituency, will soon be full.
People have talked about blight, but speed is essential. Yes, there can be blight on individual properties and so on, but if that is to be the case, the sooner we get a decision on routes, compensation and so on, the better. Speed is also essential for the economy. We have heard, quite understandably, that connectivity is important to the development of our towns and cities, and that has been proved by countless reports over time. If Hudson and the other Victorian rail moguls had had to operate to timetables as stretched as that for HS2, I doubt whether the network would have developed to anything like the extent it did and from which this country benefited in the late-19th and 20th centuries.
The Minister has just scuttled out of the Chamber. Perhaps he suspected that I was about to mention that increased capacity would allow additional services to Cleethorpes and elsewhere—but that is for the future. If we are to rebalance the economy to the benefit of the north of England, it is important that we have this increased capacity and connectivity. I can understand the arguments against it. The cost is phenomenal, and, as my hon. Friend Andrew Bridgen pointed out, my constituents will have to bear some of that cost.
Does my hon. Friend Mr Binley wish to intervene?
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will try to get back on line.
I am very supportive of where the Government are going with this. I was talking about rebalancing the economy. The economy of my own area in northern Lincolnshire is highly dependent on rail. We talked about the importance of freight earlier. Some 25% of freight tonnage moved throughout the country starts or ends in my constituency at Immingham, so I hope that the increased capacity will provide greater opportunities not only for passengers, but for freight. I therefore support the Government and, sadly, will oppose the amendment.
I, too, will support the Bill. I supported the Y route before it was the policy of the last Government, let alone of the parties in this Government, and argued strongly for it. I also agree with the comments made in the excellent speech of my hon. Friend Graham Stringer, in which he recognised the importance of this scheme for our economy and the fact that over the years we have fallen behind our competitors in our investment in infrastructure.
This is an important long-term investment for the country. Of course, different cost-benefit analyses will say different things. The problem is that the scheme will take 20 years to build and then will—we hope—deliver benefits for the country for many years after that, and if we put minor changes of assumptions into any cost-benefit analysis we will come up with very different results. To some extent, this is an act of faith. Do we believe that investment in the infrastructure of this country over the long term is likely to be good for the economy? I do, and I believe that high-speed rail is part of that long-term investment.
For the same reasons, it will be important to the rebalancing of our economy by concentrating on the major growth points, which will be our city regions in the midlands and the north. As my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley and Broughton said, the impacts will be different in different parts of the country, but the greatest benefits will tend to be in the city regions. We need to ensure that we get those benefits.
I am therefore very pleased that Sheffield is on the route, and that there will be a station there. That has been welcomed by all parties in the city and by those in the public and private sectors. There is a difference of opinion on where the Sheffield station should be located. I understand the argument for having a loop into the city centre, but I equally accept that a station at Meadowhall in my constituency could have incredible benefits for the wider city region, provided the need for connectivity to the region is properly recognised. We do not want to hear the argument in the future that, because we have high-speed rail, we will get no further investment in our transport infrastructure, and that everything will be for local councils to decide.
Looking ahead to the tram-train project, we need to determine how to develop that means of transport. I am sure it will be a success, even though it has taken nearly 10 years to get this far. When it has been proved to be a success, we must immediately start planning how to use it as a way of linking the Sheffield city region into the station hub at Meadowhall. That would benefit the whole city region.
I also want to mention compensation. There are industries in my constituency that will be affected by the project, including Outokumpu, a major steel works. It is important, when we compensate such industries, that we recognise the time that they will need to prepare for the changes that high-speed rail will force them to make. It is also important to ensure that we give the compensation in a way that does not allow a firm to take the money and run, taking the jobs elsewhere.
The Government’s exceptional hardship scheme is a welcome step forward, in regard to compensating people for their homes. We need to recognise that there might be people who have to move house, for whatever reason, before the full compensation scheme comes into effect, as well as those who might want to move for family or other reasons.
Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that compensation has already been paid to some people, and that it can continue to be paid without this Bill? The problem is that the exceptional hardship scheme is proving difficult for people who meet the criteria but find that the compensation does not meet their circumstances because the value of their house has gone down so dramatically.
I can understand that. I think that the right hon. Lady is making a wider point about the need to look at the whole compensation scheme, and I shall come to that in a second.
Property owners in my constituency have not yet had any experience of the exceptional hardship scheme, but I wonder whether it could be widened to include those who want to move and make the same choices for their families as anyone else could make, but who are unable to do so while the potential blight from the high-speed line is hanging over them.
I understand that point. I have a constituent who bought a small property as an investment with a view to putting down a deposit on another family home into which they were planning to move in a year’s time. They, too, have been caught by that provision.
I made the point earlier to the Secretary of State and to my hon. Friend Maria Eagle that if we are asking people to make sacrifices for the benefit of the country, they deserve compensation of more than 100% of the value of their homes. They would get 100% if they chose to sell, but they are not choosing to sell; they are having to move, and we need to be more generous. My hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood made the very reasonable point that if we were more generous, it would almost certainly speed up the process, so let us have a look at that.
In particular, let us have a look at the circumstances of my constituents who live on Greasbro road, which is a very low-value area. It is next to an ex-steelworks and to the motorway, and many people would not choose to live there, but it is a friendly road where people know their neighbours and family members who live nearby. They are worried about moving, and they know that they will probably not be able to buy another house in the local area with the compensation they will get. They ask why they should be penalised and forced to move away from the community that they know. Something more than the market value of their homes would help those people. It would not have to be a percentage increase on the market value; a lump sum in excess of the market value would particularly help people in low-value properties who do not want to reach retirement age in 10 years’ time and find that they have to take out an extra mortgage that they cannot afford.
I support the high-speed rail scheme wholeheartedly, and I support it coming to Sheffield, but let us see whether we can help those people who will be affected and make the benefits to the community more generally accessible.
I came to this place to try to do the right things for my constituents and, indeed, my country. I seem to find that a large amount of my time and effort is spent trying to stop bad things happening, which my constituents often reassure me amounts to much the same end, but I can assure you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that it is nowhere near as satisfying. There are few projects that I have ever believed are such a bad thing not only for my constituents, but for the whole country, as HS2. If this goes ahead, my constituency will take all the pain for none of the gain.
What we are being asked to vote for today is the signing of a blank cheque for HS2 Ltd for a railway that is, in my opinion, a solution looking for a problem. This is a scheme with vast financial costs for the taxpayer and a high human cost for those unfortunate enough to live or to have their business on or near the proposed route. The financial costs were initially estimated by the Government this morning as £33 billion, but stand at over £42 billion this afternoon, with a further £7.5 billion for rolling stock. That is an enormous commitment at a time of austerity for a project that will not be ready until 2033 and is of questionable economic benefit.
How can we be certain that today’s £10 billion of additional budget will prove to be the last? When it comes to keeping to budget, Government rail projects certainly have a terrible record. The west coast main line upgrade, which was initially estimated to cost £1.5 billion, ended up costing £9.9 billion. The Thameslink upgrade was estimated to cost £650 million in 1996, but the end costs will be nearer £6 billion on completion. We could be looking at a project with a final bill of many tens of billions more than the Government’s initial estimate or even today’s estimate. All that for a railway where the cost-benefit ratio analysis, even before today’s £10 billion, did not stack up. For phase 1, the Department for Transport claims that HS2 will produce £1.40 of benefit for every £1 spent. The Government categorise schemes below £1.50 as being low value for money—and that is before today’s extra £10 billion.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the cost benefit has been pushed to one side by Ministers today? Now claims are being made about extra capacity, but has it not been true of this project that at one moment it is about capacity, at the next moment it is about speed and at the next it is about restoring a better north-south balance? The objectives are always used to fit whatever the argument demands, and they seem to move around.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that intervention. She is absolutely right, and I shall deal with the issue of capacity later in my speech.
The cost-benefit ratios are questionable. As has already been pointed out, the assumption is that all time spent on trains is wasted time, so the figures are based on the extraordinary idea that when someone goes on a train they do not do any work. Anyone who travels on our railways will know that that is certainly not the case. It should also be noted that, compared to our European neighbours, journey times between first and second cities are considerably shorter in the UK. The journey time between Birmingham and London is already half that of high-speed rail travel in France and Spain.
My hon. Friend makes the point that others have made—that the business case does not properly reflect productive time, iPads and all the rest of it. Page 51 of the business case addresses that point explicitly, stating that if trains are overcrowded, people who are standing will not be able to work on PCs. The business case would be better if it took that into account.
My hon. Friend makes a valid point, and I shall deal with the issue of capacity later in my speech and hope to address it then.
When it comes to saving time—this point has been made several times today—I have never met a business person in my career who has said that the reason why their business is not thriving is that they cannot get to London quickly enough.
Another argument cited is that HS2 will rebalance our economy. I agree with that argument, as I believe that it will rebalance our economy, but further in favour of the London and south-east. Indeed, no serious academics support the view that HS2 will reduce the north-south divide. For weekend and leisure travel, for instance, which is the more likely scenario—that more families will travel from London to spend an evening in Birmingham or Manchester, or that families from Birmingham and Manchester will use the route to spend time and money in London? I suggest to hon. and right hon. Members that the latter is the more likely scenario, and that HS2 will simply suck more money from the regions into London and the south-east.
I therefore appeal to all Members to think very carefully about whether they are acting in the best interests of their constituents in supporting the signing of a blank cheque for this white elephant of a project, which is already forecast to cost every constituency in the country £75 million, and which, given the expected further overruns, could easily end up costing each constituency more than £100 million. Are Members prepared to support a scheme that will inevitably suck money away from transport schemes that could benefit their own constituencies? As for the issue of capacity, figures show that the west coast main line has the capacity for the 100% increase in passenger numbers that was proposed by FirstGroup when it submitted its franchise bid.
Does my hon. Friend not recognise that it has been stated categorically that capacity will be reached by 2026, although other people think that it will be reached earlier? Has he travelled on a London Midland train to London on which he could not get a seat and could hardly get through the door?
I put it to my hon. Friend that anyone predicting what capacity, or the demand for any commodity or product, will be in 20 years is living in dreamland. The capacity on the railway was driven by punitive taxes on company cars in the 1990s, and that will level out.
HS2 is a huge project that will take a lot of stopping, but I suggest to Members that they would not eat an elephant in one sitting, even if it were a white one, and that today’s debate is merely the first serving of many. I do not believe that this project represents the best use of taxpayers’ money, and I therefore urge Members to support the amendment and vote against the Bill.
In the few minutes available to me, I want to present a passionate defence of nimbyism. I think that this is a case less of “not in my back yard” than of “not through my front door and the rest of my house”. When we consider the people whose lives this project is affecting, we realise that the position is far too serious for them merely to be asked “How much compensation do you want?” People living in the villages and towns that the trains will pass through if the scheme goes ahead are being expected to wait for 20 years with it hanging over their heads, seeing no shovel in the ground anywhere in
North East Derbyshire, unable to sell their homes, and money is being lost hand over fist in very small rural businesses.
I pay tribute to the hon. Lady. There is rarely an occasion on which I do not agree with her. Constituents of mine have been literally suicidal because of the complete lack of sympathy for them, and because they are unable to obtain to compensation although their businesses are failing. Does she agree with me that we must get the compensation right?
Absolutely. It has already been suggested that the compensation schemes should mirror those in other countries such as France, where big infrastructure projects go ahead with no problems because the schemes are so generous. However, it is not compensation that people are after. They are saying “I have lived in this town, or this village, for four or five generations and I do not want to move. I am being asked to accept all the disbenefits of HS2 without gaining any of the benefits.” If I represented a major town, I might be able to see the benefits of this project, but it does not bring us in North East Derbyshire any economic benefits. In fact, it does exactly the reverse. I cannot see the sense of what is happening, and I shall explain why. I would welcome the Minister’s response to this.
Derbyshire county council has spent many years cleaning up, developing and redeveloping sites that were ruined by the results of the end of the mining industry and the steel industry in Sheffield. For decades those places have slowly been brought back into the economy. Up to £77 million has already been spent in Markham Vale, an area that I share with my hon. Friend Mr Skinner. That £77 million will, in effect, be wiped off because HS2 will be going straight through it. Chesterfield canal is one of the best and biggest pieces of redevelopment and regeneration in North East Derbyshire, bringing investment to the Chesterfield waterside project. There will not be a waterside project and the £310 million of investment that is coming into the local economy.
What about the small businesses in towns and villages such as Renishaw, too? Such businesses become the focal points of villages. Already, only months after the route has been published, a local wedding business has lost £70,000, some 20 years before anything is due to happen.
Does the hon. Lady share my concern that about 30% of the businesses on the route that could be affected have suggested they would close down, rather than relocate, so all those jobs would be lost all the way along the route?
That is absolutely right. This affects rural areas differently from how it affects cities. We are talking here about HS2 and a national economic policy, but we are not distinguishing between the cities and the rural areas.
I was going to go into the detail of the issue of connecting cities. This absolutely will connect cities, but that is not the issue for people who live in North East Derbyshire. In Apperknowle, what people want is to get a bus to the hospital, not to go to London. In each of the recent public meetings I have held, attended by hundreds of people, we asked when was the last time anybody had been to London. In one group of 300 people, five people had been to London in the past five years. This is not being done for the benefit of the people of North East Derbyshire.
I have serious doubts about the business and economic case, too, but those concerns have been raised by other Members, so I will not rehearse them. I do want to say, however, that I have found the consultation to be the most disappointing part of this whole project. HS2 Ltd has been very good at consulting stakeholders, but the stakeholders do not include those people whose houses and businesses the route is going through. The project has failed at the level of going and talking to people—not just persuading them of why the train has to come through their front room, but explaining why a high-speed rail link is needed. People are just not convinced.
At the same time as there is the hardship scheme, we are being told the route has not yet been fixed and the consultation has not even been opened, and therefore no decisions can be made on where the route is going to go. At the same time, however, not very far away from my constituency, a kink has been put in to get the train to go around Firth Rixson steelworks in Sheffield. Why are we allowing and announcing changes to the route when the consultation has not even been opened? If the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd are open to persuasion, will they please put in a kink and go all the way around North East Derbyshire?
My views on HS2 since being elected to Parliament in 2010 are well known. I started by supporting the principle of high-speed rail but opposing the route, but the more I have found out about the project, the more I have become convinced it will not be to the benefit of British taxpayers.
We have rightly heard a lot of talk about the value to the economy as a whole of any new railway line, and that is, of course, true: any new railway line will generate jobs and growth. There is no doubt about that, but the essential point that differentiates one project from another is value for money, and that is what we are not hearing about with the necessary level of clarity. What it costs to generate the growth is what matters. Today, we have heard that there is now a £14.4 billion contingency plan, which potentially makes this project 25% more expensive than before.
We have also heard comparisons with the motorway network, the Jubilee line and HS1. They were all very much resisted at the time, but every single one of them was unique in its own way. For motorways, there is a junction every few miles, so everybody benefits from them; they undoubtedly promote growth in our economy. Likewise, the Jubilee line has many stops, and therefore benefits a huge swathe of the population. HS1 is unique in the sense that it was the link to mainland Europe. HS2 is none of those things; it is a decision that we have taken in isolation.
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend, and I am not denying that any railway line or other infrastructure will bring growth. I am saying that the critical differentiator is whether the line brings more growth and jobs than something else, and that is where the case for HS2 is not proven.
I welcome the point about making more use of the high-speed track. Why, then, is my hon. Friend not campaigning vigorously for a station in Brackley, which would be of enormous benefit to her constituents?
I am delighted that my hon. Friend intervened, and that would be a possibility. The bottom line is that we are all here to represent our constituents. There is a case for making that argument, and if I made it, it would undermine the view of many of my constituents that this project is just wrong. Winning that argument would almost certainly cast the line in stone. My hon. Friend will understand that I could not do that, against the very clear wishes of my constituents.
If this is about the value for money of this project versus that of any other project—not the absolute but the relative level of growth and jobs generated by this project, compared with a different one—we need to ask ourselves, first, is this the best value for money for taxpayers? HS2 does mean little curvature of the line. My hon. Friend Iain Stewart said that a high-speed track is not much more expensive than a regular train track. That is not what HS2 engineers have told me. They said that it is very engineering-intensive. Because it has to go in a straight line, because there are lots of flood plains, hills and other inconveniences, and because of the speed of the trains, the line has to go through, under and over those obstacles. Therefore, it is much more expensive.
Secondly, high-speed rail has an exponentially higher carbon footprint, so in that sense it is not environmentally friendly compared with a classic line. HS2 has a massive impact on valuable open countryside and sites of special scientific interest, battlefield sites, grade I listed homes and so on.
Thirdly, if, as my hon. Friend Mr Binley said, this is about capacity, why not go slightly slower but along an existing travel corridor, so that costs and the impact can be reduced? Fourthly, is the project going to deliver soon enough? We will have no use of it until 2026, yet people say all the time that rail capacity is needed now. Fifthly, does it create the maximum number of jobs? Would another, less engineering-intensive project along an easier route, which we could easily find if speed were not the only goal, generate more jobs? Finally, what about both ends? Does it really make sense to decide where the traveller ends up before we have decided on our strategy for airports?
Having said all that, I note the commitment of the Government and the Opposition, who are determined to see this project built. Although I remain optimistic that during the Bill’s progress substantial changes may be achieved, it is important for me to be realistic. If HS2 is to go ahead, I want to achieve fair compensation and mitigation for the hundreds of my constituents who will be so devastatingly affected.
On mitigation, I urge the Government to ensure that HS2 is much more transparent and that they engage with communities much better than they currently are. Communities’ ideas on mitigation must be given full and proper consideration. The Department for Transport must prioritise the consultation on a full compensation scheme as a matter of urgency. It is shocking that a judicial review had to determine that the original consultation was unfair and in fact unlawful. The exceptional hardship scheme, to my constituents’ bitter experience, has been nothing short of a disaster. Residents up and down the proposed line of route and in the surrounding communities find themselves trapped in their own homes, unable to move either home or business. I strongly urge the Minister urgently to help with this situation.
I hope that, as well as a full compensation scheme that is more generous than the statutory requirement, the Government will agree to a property bond, and that the Secretary of State will meet with the Council of Mortgage Lenders and the National Association of Estate Agents, among others, in order properly to explore the options for a property bond. If banks will not give mortgages on properties because they are blighted by HS2, people cannot get on with their lives, at least until 2026. That is absolutely unacceptable.
Finally, I really regret the position that many Members have been placed in by the Bill. We have been told that this is a vote on the principle of HS2, yet we are also told it is an opportunity for a meaningful compensation scheme to be put in place for those affected. That makes me very schizophrenic, and it places all Members who have strong feelings about this project in a difficult position. I do not want to vote in favour of HS2 but I also do not want to do anything that delays my constituents’ receiving the compensation they deserve. As this is the first opportunity in the Chamber to vote on the principle of HS2, I shall, with a heavy heart, have to vote for the reasoned amendment and against the Second Reading of the Bill, and I urge colleagues to do likewise.
I am delighted to be at this debate and supporting this Bill, providing, as it will, the ability for the Government to spend money preparing the way for a second high-speed rail service serving London and the regions. My constituency has running through it the route of High Speed 1 and, in talking about spending and finance, I would like to draw the House’s attention to the need to ensure that spending on the new route is planned in a way that capitalises on investment already made, so that we get more bang for the taxpayers’ bucks.
How we will do that is by providing for a substantial link between HS1 and HS2. This new spending should provide this link, with the most obvious and effective way being to utilise the connection to Stratford in my constituency of West Ham. I am arguing that the link between HS1 and HS2 should be substantial and robust enough to enable Stratford to play a major role in the wider high-speed network. That would include it being the London stop for those international services that originate in the regions, thus adding to the viability and the financial business case of those services and, indeed, of HS2 itself. I am not aware of any costings yet undertaken on the funding needed for a robust link, so I ask the Minister to enlighten me in his summing up as to whether any are so far available.
If Stratford becomes a major support station in east London catering for HS2, inter-city and inter-regional services, that would significantly reduce the numbers needing to use the Euston terminus, and Euston could be smaller as a result. The planned Old Oak interchange on its own will not enable enough HS2 travellers to avoid the Euston terminus; we need an enhanced role for Stratford in the east to cater for a similar proportion and then we can have a much slimmed-down Euston terminus.
I hate to disagree with my hon. Friend, particularly as she is my Whip, but I think she will see that the overwhelming consensus of opinion is in favour of the Old Oak interchange. Although I understand that she is standing up for her constituents, I think she is whistling in the wind rather here.
Old Oak—where? All I would say to my hon. Friend is that Stratford has an international station, called the Stratford International station—the message is in the title. I suggest that he needs to look further and wider than his local concerns in order to understand the case. And if he ever wants to be slipped again, I suggest he stays seated.
As I was saying, we need an enhanced role for Stratford in the east to cater for a similar proportion and then we can have a much more slimmed-down Euston terminus. With a twin-track link to Stratford from Camden town, and with the proposals for Old Oak, the number of platforms at Euston would reduce from 12 to six or fewer. Recent research shows that there would be almost as much demand for trips to east London, docklands, Essex, East Anglia and Kent from HS2 travellers as for trips to central London. Using Stratford helps to cater for those needs. Perhaps the Minister would like to talk to the leader of his local county council, who, along with others, funded this research. His constituents will also, I am sure, be interested in the better travel options that will be available to them if this money is spent wisely. The interconnectivity of Stratford is already good, unlike—where was it? The two stations at Stratford serve 100 million passengers a year and it is the UK’s rail hub with the sixth highest use. It has two tube lines, regional rail services to Kent, Essex and East Anglia, and the docklands light railway, and it is strategically positioned for Canary Wharf, London City airport, and the Excel exhibition centre. Of course, it will have Crossrail.
The expenditure we are talking about today must include a robust and substantial link to Stratford between HS1 and HS2. About £1 billion of taxpayers’ money has already been invested in Newham’s international station, so it should get the international services for which it was built. To do otherwise would be crazy.
The business case for spend on HS2 will be greatly strengthened by a link that enables Stratford International to play a full role in the new network and the spending we are talking about today will be more effective as a result. I urge the Minister to try to ensure that that link is delivered.
I am pleased to speak in favour of Second Reading and against the amendment. I have been struck today by the large degree of cross-party support that High Speed 2 commands. Obviously, we have heard objections from Members on both sides of the House, largely from people representing constituencies that will be affected by the route. That is perfectly understandable; that is what happens in the House of Commons. Different interests come together—often there is conflict, and often there is compromise. It is perfectly legitimate for people whose constituents, and their livelihoods, are affected by the direct building of the route to state their objections, but it is also perfectly reasonable for people to speak in this House on behalf of the national interest and it is clear to me that High Speed 2 is very much in the national interest.
I am reminded that within a week of first becoming a Member of this House, there was a vote on an issue that had those on both Front Benches on the same side. An old Tory knight of the shires said to me, “Whenever the two Front Benches are in agreement, some poor devil is being done down.”
I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman’s witty intervention, but I do not think it has anything to do with the debate. It was a well-enjoyed interlude.
We have not had any real perception, understanding or analysis in the debate of what high-speed rail has meant for our partner countries in Europe. I am a member of the Select Committee on Transport and we went to France and to Germany. Nobody in those countries is suggesting that they should close down their high-speed routes. Indeed, everyone we met, from local residents to other stakeholders, Government people and business people, was determined to expand the network.
I am not suggesting for a minute that because such things are supported in France and Germany we should follow that path, but I am saying that we should investigate, as we have, the reasons behind their approach. We need some very good reasons why Britain is so peculiar and different that high-speed rail will not benefit us. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State observed, Italy has 960 miles of high-speed rail. We have only a small amount—only 60 miles, I believe—
I am sorry—67.
Everyone else—including China and others around the world—is looking to expand their high-speed rail network. It is only in this country where we are looking not to build any further expansion of the network. That should strike right hon. and hon. Members as very bizarre.
In his pilgrimages around the European Union, did my hon. Friend have the opportunity to speak to the citizens of Lyon and see whether they were as enthusiastic as he is about high-speed rail? I hear something quite different.
I am not sure which citizens of that famous French city my hon. Friend has been speaking to, but the ones we met were very enthusiastic, as were people in other cities. Lille, for example, has been transformed by the high-speed rail—of course it has, and that is a good thing. No one in France is suggesting that the high-speed rail network should be closed down and the country should go back to what it had before.
There are clear economic benefits. My hon. Friend Mr Binley suggested that freight transport is growing at 10% a year. How on earth can that growth in freight be accommodated without substantial investment in our railway infrastructure and without building a high-speed rail network? As my hon. Friend Iain Stewart said, simply building another line that is not a high-speed line will cost just as much and not give the benefits, and no one is suggesting that as an alternative.
I am pleased that we have Members with such fertile imaginations in this House that the hon. Gentleman has his own scheme. I have not looked at it, though, so I could not possibly comment.
What is clear to me, as a Member for a south-east constituency that is very built-up and highly residential, is that disputes about infrastructure spending are inevitable. I suggested that when the Tower of London was built, people objected to it on quite worthy grounds. There have been objections to every piece of infrastructure spending in this country for hundreds of years, but that does not mean that we have not gone ahead and built the railways or the ports. We are a commercial nation with incredible skills in engineering. We have, or we used to have, great architecture and engineering—I am not casting aspersions on current architecture, just suggesting that it was very good in the past—so there is no reason to suggest, as some have, that HS2 will be a blight on the countryside. It will change of course, but as has been pointed out, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and other Victorians completely transformed the landscape of this country, but they did not make it worse in any way.
I hear my hon. Friend chuntering from a sedentary position. We have an extremely interesting side of the Conservative party that refuses to countenance any Government spending on infrastructure. Happily, I am not of that wing of the party and recommend that both sides of the House come together in support of the Bill.
My final few words will be about the financing. Yes, £50 billion is a lot of money, but it will be spent over 20 years and, if one uses straight line depreciation, it is not much more than the infrastructure spend on Crossrail. I would suggest that HS2’s benefits are much more transformative than the Crossrail project’s, so on that basis alone, I urge colleagues to vote in favour of Second Reading.
Order. Sixteen Members still wish to participate in the debate, and I fully appreciate how important this is for their constituencies. I am therefore reducing the time limit to four minutes from now on. May I please ask Members who have already spoken to intervene sparingly, if at all, and those who are still waiting to speak to realise that an intervention will take time from their speaking time later in the debate?
It is a pleasure to follow, even at two thirds of the rate, the stirring speech made by Kwasi Kwarteng. I support the Bill, the principle and, indeed, the route—with the caveat about the London terminus—for many of the reasons given by the Secretary of State and shadow Secretary of State. It seems bizarre that when most of the developed world believes in having a high-speed rail network, we might want to rely on 19th-century railways. That is not to disparage the existing railways, which have stood us and continue to stand us in good stead, but the example of how they were built is one that I think we should follow, rather than shy away from. Having said that, I am concerned about pricing. Completion is a long way off, and there is a danger of this becoming a rich man’s railway. Cost control is an issue, and costs have spiralled before the project has even left the drawing board. There is also the issue of compensation, and whether it will be adequate.
It appears, however that there is consensus—given the time, I shall restrict myself to this—about the proposal that Old Oak, which is in my constituency, should be the major interchange. It would become the fifth busiest station in the country, with a Crossrail station, and links to HS1, tube lines, First Great Western services and Heathrow. A rail interchange in west London would be of massive benefit in an area much of which is categorised as being in the 1% most deprived in the country. Within a mile of the proposed station, 50% of the adult working population is unemployed.
On Friday, the boroughs and the Greater London authority will publish a vision for the future of Old Oak, described in rather hyperbolic terms as the new Canary Wharf. There is talk of 90,000 jobs and 19,000 new homes, and I am pleased that the boroughs have already taken an interest. However, there are local problems. As currently envisaged, there are poor links with HS1, tube lines and the west London line. There is an inadequate road network and poor-quality station design. We should look at the option of making Old Oak the terminus. I have an open mind on that, although I know that my right hon. Friend Frank Dobson would urge me to be stronger in my opinion because he does not want the line to go to Euston, and he is certainly right that the connectivity from Old Oak is better than the connectivity from Euston. It appears that HS2 Ltd wanted to go to Euston simply because it wanted to say that it had a central London terminus, but it should look at that again. With all due respect to my hon. Friend Lyn Brown, who is no longer in the Chamber, Stratford International is an exception to the rule, “If you build it, they will come.” There is consensus about where the interchange should be.
My other caveat is that we have to take care with the construction. Most compulsory purchase schemes are hopelessly inadequate both in the compensation that they offer and the way in which people are dealt with. The effect on small businesses and even large businesses—Cargiant is in my constituency, as well as Wormwood scrubs, which is a large area of important open space—must be considered, and I hope that the project will be undertaken sympathetically, however important it is to the nation. Finally, I back my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras in saying, “Please take HS2 Ltd off the job”. The company is not making a good job of promoting the scheme, and we should find someone who will take this national project forward in the way that it should be done.
Life can deal some heavy blows, but not usually from so kind a Deputy Speaker. I will discard most of what I was going to say about capacity to meet your requirements, Madam Deputy Speaker. I will simply say that connectivity is vital. Capacity is highly limited, and one need only talk to my constituents in Northampton to know how much capacity impacts on performance. They are pretty sick of it.
I was going to discuss whether it was worth the money or not but, again, that argument goes out the window. I would only say that any business man would willingly accept a benefit ratio of 2.5:1, and would grasp at it. To say that that is not good enough for a national project of this kind is crazy. I was going to discuss the benefits of the project for my good constituents, but that is out of the window too. I shall merely say that we are driving ahead with a project called Northampton Alive. We are expected to build 56,000 houses to help ease the problems of the south-east and London, and we need a better rail link to service those people. The only way we are going to get it is by having additional capacity.
Now let me talk about the one thing that most speakers have not talked about, other than my good friend Kelvin Hopkins—an honourable friend, too. Freight is a major player in the whole of our rail network. It has grown sizeably, to the point where it is now delivering 90 million tonnes of goods each year. That rate is growing by more than 10% a year. We cannot accommodate that growth on the west coast main line. We need another line to enhance the corridor. That is why high-speed rail is so important, why it impacts upon the national interest, and why it is massively important to Britain’s prosperity and to the future well-being of my children and grandchildren.
Do not forget the freight issue. It is vital to the debate. The second issue that is vital is connectivity, as I indicated earlier. If we do not have a high-speed rail link to Europe and beyond, we will miss out massively. I am sorry if my hon. Friend Mr Cash is thinking, “Rarely do you do this as a little Englander.”
In the long-term future we will have high-speed rail links to south-east Asia and to the middle east, provided people there can settle down and settle their differences. That future is what we are thinking about when we talk about High Speed 2.
So what are my conclusions? High Speed 2 is vital to the nation’s future economic well-being. It will improve rail connections between economically important parts of our country and with our markets in Europe and beyond. It will stop heavy lorries from Prague, Warsaw and Bratislava messing up our road network. I want to see a more effective rail network and High Speed 2 is a vital part of that. I pray that this House has the courage to make that decision and make it now.
It is a pleasure to follow Mr Binley. His emphasis on freight is absolutely right. I have a scheme which would solve all his problems and, I believe, the country’s problems, but that is another story.
I am a long-term passionate believer in railways as the mode of transport for the future. That was not true 30 years ago. It is gratifying to see Members on both sides of the House supporting the principle of railways, even if we disagree about what particular railways we ought to build. I remain sceptical about HS2. I believe it is unnecessary and extremely expensive, and the opportunity cost of spending elsewhere is very great indeed. But I do not want to be negative; I want to propose sensible, practical alternatives.
The core of all the problems of capacity is London to Birmingham and there is an alternative, which is to upgrade the route between Paddington and Birmingham Snow Hill via Banbury. That could double capacity between London and Birmingham, and also would go to a very sensible terminus at Paddington, which is of course on Crossrail. At the Birmingham end, Snow Hill is in the town centre. The station for HS2 will be away from the town centre, so much of the advantage of speed will be lost in extra transport from that station into the town centre, but Snow Hill is in the centre. That would be a great advantage.
In 1990 British Rail, as it was in those days, freed up the line and ran a train from London to Edinburgh with a two-minute stop at Newcastle. For most of the journey it was a 140 mph operation. The journey took three and a half hours—two and a half hours to Newcastle, three and a half hours to Edinburgh—which was eight minutes faster than the time advertised for HS2 now, so it can be done. We need to upgrade the route on the east coast main line, which means a double viaduct at Welwyn, so that there are four tracks at Welwyn instead of two; an east-west flyover at Peterborough; and a flyover for the Lincoln route at Newark.
All that will free up the line for a very fast, mostly 140 mph, operation on the east coast main line, and we can get that journey to Edinburgh eight minutes faster than HS2. It also means that we could get a one and a half hour operation from King’s Cross to Leeds, using the east coast main line. There is even another route to get to Sheffield via Retford from King’s Cross, providing additional fast capacity—not high speed, but fast. Much of that route would be 140 mph.
There are sensible alternatives. They would require a bit of upgrading, such as the redevelopment of some stations, but we would be talking about spending a couple of billion pounds, not £50 billion or more. They would make life much easier for everyone and free up all that extra spending for other routes. The whole railway system, being Victorian, needs an enormous amount of work, including electrification and track renewal, which is needed in many areas.
I also think that we need a dedicated rail freight line, built on old track beds and underused lines, running from the Thames right up to Glasgow, linking all Britain’s main conurbations, and capable of carrying lorries on trains. Some 80% of freight goes by lorry, rather than container. They cannot get through tunnels and bridges, so it would have to be on a new dedicated route capable of taking that kind of traffic. That is what we need to do, and it would cost a fraction of HS2. All those other operations, when added together, would cost much less than HS2 and provide much more benefit. If the cost-benefit analysis was done for that, and for the other routes I have mentioned, I think we would see that it is much more desirable in social, economic and financial terms.
HS2 has been proposed as a solution to the problems we currently face. We are told that it is green, that it will deliver regional growth and that it will resolve slow journey speeds between British cities. However, all those claims are questionable. It is important that we highlight them before UK taxpayers are asked to foot the enormous bill of £32.7 billion.
HS2 will lead to an increase in CO2 emissions. Its supporters insist that the project is carbon-neutral. However, according to HS2 Action Alliance, 250 mph trains use three times as much power as 125 mph trains. HS2 Ltd’s plans rely on transferring passengers from existing classic rail, which uses much less fuel and carbon, to high-speed trains. That means that the new line will have few, if any, environmental benefits.
We have also failed to learn lessons from High Speed 1. In Kent, Thanet remains one of the most deprived areas in England, despite being served by high-speed rail that runs direct to London. Even the experts are questioning the proposals. Professor Mackie of the University of Leeds has said:
“For various reasons HS2 is rather unlikely to make much difference to the north-south divide. A spatial analysis would probably show London to be the main benefiting region”.
It is unlikely that HS2 will deliver the regional benefits that have been promised.
London operates as a brilliant hub, and cities across the country have brilliant connections with the capital, but that should not be the focus of investment. Lines outside London need investment too. People do not travel out of London to work and then back again to sleep; the overwhelming majority come into London for work. Our European neighbours have had a similar experience. I will give just one example. In France, on the line connecting Paris, Rhone and the Alps, passenger growth to Paris was three times greater than that from Paris.
The only people who will benefit from the project will be those living within about a 10-mile radius of the station near Birmingham on the HS2 line. Those who live any further away, such as the black country or Coventry, will be asked to travel more than 10 miles. Will people really be prepared to pay the cost of travelling to stations more than 10 miles away? Even if subsidised travel is provided, why should 99% of people have to pay for the 1% who use the line?
I must agree. Only a very small percentage of people use trains regularly. As the Transport Secretary has said, 10 million people travel annually on HS1, or about 30,000 people a day; another, say, 1.5 million people travel on all the other trains. What is the number of those not travelling? Practically everyone else in the country—59 million, say. That is the difference: 1.5 million on the one hand and 59 million on the other.
Another argument in favour of HS2 is that current trains are too full and the project will provide the opportunity to increase capacity. I disagree. If trains are currently too full, why not put the prices up? The way to make that fair would be to say to current regular commuters, “Yes, you can keep the current rate but a new user of the trains should be required to pay a bit more.” That would encourage further growth and investment in towns and cities outside London and raise more money towards the costs of running trains.
If it is to be delivered, the project must be delivered using private funds. The public sector should not be expected to foot the bill for HS2 while people are having to make their own financial sacrifices, and there will be no need at all to spend public money once we are out of austerity.
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.
In the light of your entreaty and decision to cut us down to four minutes, Madam Deputy Speaker, I have binned my speech.
I say to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that I am going to support this Bill because I believe strongly in the principle of a superb infrastructure to enable this country to be competitive in the 21st century. I hope, however, that he will regard me as a critical friend, because I think that his proposed route contains two fundamental weaknesses.
Before I talk about that, I would like to concentrate on the costs. In discussing this Bill which we are, I hope, going to pass, we need to know precisely what costs we are dealing with. My right hon. Friend has now given us two lots of costs, and I hope that he or the Minister of State will clarify exactly what those costs are. I believe that we are now talking about £42 billion for phase 1 and phase 2, plus some £9 billion for rolling stock, making a total of about £51 billion. It would be enormously helpful if he could clarify those costs.
It was not an idle intervention that I made on my right hon. Friend earlier. I do think that money should be available from Europe in the transnational networks, and I hope that he and his Department are urgently investigating that. As Susan Elan Jones said, a lot of the superb high-speed rail network was funded by Europe.
In the very short time I have available, let me deal with the two fundamental flaws in the proposed route. First, it is completely wrong to have an holistic transport policy that does not link HS2 with our major hub airport. Sir Howard Davies and his airport commission will not report until after the next election, so how can it make sense to fix a route when we do not know where the hub airport will be? If, for example, he favours—I make no recommendation as to which option he should favour—an estuarial hub airport solution, the current route would be in completely the wrong place.
The other fundamental flaw in the route is that it does not properly link HS2 and HS1. Other Members have talked about this, particularly Lyn Brown. I would say to her, and to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, that they should look at the process that was involved with HS1. The then new Secretary of State, my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Malcolm Rifkind, very late in the day, called in all the evidence and changed the route. That route, which had been designed by British Rail, went right through south London and was going to blight large numbers of houses, and he changed it at the very last minute. If he had not done so, Stratford International would never have come into being and the Olympics would never have taken place. I say this to my right hon. Friend: do please look at the route, because if we are spending this vast amount of money, let us, as a nation, get the maximum out of it.
I commend to my right hon. Friend a solution proposed by Ove Arup—the Heathrow hub. A Heathrow hub would produce a truly holistic transport policy integrating road, rail, freight and air. Above all, it would benefit my constituents in the west, because the newly electrified west coast main line would go into the Heathrow hub rather than having to go into Paddington and out again, as is currently the case if people want to get to Heathrow by rail. A Heathrow hub would also benefit my right hon. Friend—my good friend—Mrs Gillan, because the route could be altered to be taken along the M40. I ask my right hon. Friend to think about existing transport networks, as with HS1, because if HS2 is run along existing motorway links, each one cancels out the other.
I believe in this new HS2 project, which will put Britain into the forefront of competitiveness in the 21st century, but will my right hon. Friend please have a look at the route?
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 offer a heartfelt thank you to my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State and the Minister of State, who have been exceptionally receptive to me and my constituents and have worked hard to resolve the issues with HS2 in my constituency.
I fully support HS2. It is a vital project for Leeds. Unfortunately, the plan that has been put forward is unacceptable, but my right hon. Friends have worked very closely with me and we have come up with some ideas. The route will still go through my constituency, but hopefully those ideas will form part of the consultation. As has been said, it is important that we utilise, as far as is possible, the high-traffic corridors that already exist, such as the M1, which is 12 lanes wide up to Leeds.
My hon. Friend says that he overwhelmingly supports HS2. He supported it this morning when it was going to cost £33 billion. He supports it now that it will cost £43 billion. Will he support it when it will cost £50 billion or £60 billion?
I am glad for the extra minute, but my hon. Friend knows that he is making those figures up. He is including the contingency, which will not necessarily be spent. The Secretary of State has also made it clear that £5 billion will be spent on rolling stock, which could go on the existing west coast and east coast main lines. My hon. Friend knows that he is being rather naughty with the figures.
Returning to the advantages for Leeds, over the past decade Leeds has been a growth city. A great deal of business has come to Leeds. There are things that we need. I lead on transport issues within the team of Leeds MPs. Leeds is crying out for its transport network to be improved, because it is worse than it was in the 1950s. We want to move forward with the tram-train system.
None of those things will happen unless there is investment in our northern cities. That is one reason why HS2 is so important. There are huge commercial opportunities in Leeds. There is also a willing and able work force in and around Yorkshire that can be drawn to Leeds. We have got to get away from the idea of its being a Leeds to London link. The most important benefit to Leeds—yes, we will be able to get to London within an hour and 20 minutes—will be the Javelin trains, which will service a wide area of the Leeds city region and will link up, if I can get a tram-train system put in, with the Leeds-Bradford International airport, which is vital to the economy of Yorkshire. Thanks to lobbying by the airport and local MPs, there are now three British Airways flights a day to Heathrow, which dock at terminal 5. The Javelin trains will cover the wider area, so that people in south Yorkshire and west Yorkshire will be able to get to Leeds-Bradford airport in minimum time, get airside and get off in New York, San Francisco, Australia or wherever they are going. HS2 will open that up. It is nonsensical to say that we need to discuss where we are going with the airline industry first before we talk about HS2—they complement each other.
In April, we came to the House during the recess to reflect on the death of Margaret Thatcher. Many Members on the Government Benches gave speeches about how she was a visionary, and how she led and did what she thought was right. I ask my hon. Friends to reflect on the great lady’s comments in 1986, on the opening of the M25:
“Now some people are saying that the road is too small, even that it’s a disaster. I must say I can’t stand those who carp and criticise when they ought to be congratulating Britain on a magnificent achievement and beating the drum for Britain all over the world.”
I am sure my right hon. Friend the Minister remembers the quote. She went on to say:
“And to those who say, ‘we always build our roads too small’ we can only point out that at some of the planning enquires those who object to the new road say that our traffic forecasts are excessive, and that improvements to existing roads would be enough. Fortunately the planning inspectors and successive Secretaries of State have not accepted that viewpoint.”
We can see the comparison with the high-speed rail network, which I believe is vital for my home city of Leeds and for the growth of Britain.
I rise to support the Bill. HS2 will link eight of Britain’s 10 largest cities. As a Yorkshire MP, that is not just good news for Leeds and Sheffield, but for the wider economy. My nearest city, Bradford, is intrinsically linked by its economy to Leeds. The key benefits of jobs, increased capacity and shorter journey times will transform the north of England’s ability to contribute to the economy, which is why I am extremely disappointed that the Labour-led leadership on Bradford council has turned its back on this project. I ask them to reconsider. If the great wealth generators of the industrial revolution who transformed our northern cities had the same limited vision for our communities as the Labour party in Bradford, this country would not have achieved the greatness it attained.
As a direct consequence of this investment, two-thirds of the population of the north of England will be within two hours’ reach of London’s markets. Redrawing the economic geography of the nation will bring our cities closer together and contribute to rebalancing growth and opportunity. The growth in jobs could start earlier by starting the build at both ends of the proposed route, and by ensuring that materials and the work force are sourced as much from the north of England as they are from the south. We need that investment in the north of England. We have a huge contribution to make to Britain’s economy, and that will help us to win the global race that the Chancellor talked about earlier today.
Not since the Victorian era has there been this level of investment in our rail infrastructure. I am sure that the businessmen and women who have to stand on trains on the east coast main line at peak times all the way to Doncaster before they can get a seat will vouch for that lack of investment. The imbalance between the economies of the north and the south cannot carry on. The Bill is a key component in bringing about change and I ask my colleagues to support it.
Earlier this year, hundreds of my constituents awoke to find that the value of their homes had been substantially reduced and those who had plans to move discovered that purchasers could no longer get mortgages. That remains the case. The reason was the announcement of the preferred route for HS2—a route that followed none of the previously published options nor an existing transport corridor. Furthermore, the project will not see a shovel in the ground for 13 years and will only be completed in 20 years, meaning uncertainty and disruption for a generation. It was also a route that, I have been told, can hardly be altered, because it is designed to take ultra-high-speed trains travelling at up to 250 mph and hence must be straight. As a result, it goes through five villages in my constituency and comes very close to others.
I have long advocated sensible investment in rail in the UK. When the previous Government proposed to build new track for the west coast main line across my constituency in order to cut journey times and improve capacity, I supported it, but I believe that HS2 is the wrong solution. The Government have rightly said that a new rail network needs to be designed to increase capacity, rather than speed, so I cannot understand the fixation with speeds of 225 mph to 250 mph, if that means that routes are so inflexible that they cannot follow existing corridors, such as motorways, as many have argued. No railway in Europe travels at that speed. The maximum is 200 mph.
Then there is the question of capacity and demand. I imagined that HS2 had done a lot of detailed work on this point, so I wrote asking for current figures for the utilisation of west coast main line services as well as projected figures to 2035. The answer from HS2 was:
Does my hon. Friend agree that the fact that Virgin is starting a major advertising campaign to attract people to travel on the west coast main line means that it can hardly have a capacity problem?
I do. The first-class coaches are almost never full. Indeed, I have often seen one person per first-class carriage. It needs to make at least two of them standard class.
I had also imagined that HS2 would be largely used by business travellers, so I was surprised to have the reply from HS2 stating that 70% of journeys on HS2 were expected to be for leisure purposes. I fully recognise the value of leisure travel to the economy, but where is the justification for an ultra-high-speed line, such as that which HS2 seems so determined to build, if 70% of those using it are doing so for leisure?
Yes, and I fully understand the problems mentioned by some of my hon. Friends. We need to do something about that, but an ultra-high-speed line is not the answer.
I come now to the business case for HS2. There has been a lot of argument about whether it is valid. I am not an expert in these matters, but there are several things that make me sceptical. The first is the apparent lack of knowledge at HS2 about current demand. The second is the surprising fact that HS2 is to be largely a leisure railway rather than a business railway. Since leisure passengers are much more sensitive to price than business passengers, especially premium business, I wonder whether this price sensitivity has been fully incorporated into the business case. The third reason is the large question mark over whether this is the right way to help the midlands and the north to develop. Just this week, plans were unveiled for a vast new commercial development at Old Oak common in London at the proposed junction of Cross Rail and HS2. I welcome that, but it underlines the concerns of those who worry that HS2 will simply bring more development into London, possibly at the expense of the midlands, the north and Scotland.
Then there is the business case for the west coast main line after HS2 comes into service. The line will remain an essential part of our national transport infrastructure, so it is essential that its post-2035 business case be at least as strong as that for HS2, but I have not had that case from HS2, despite my asking for it. Given that HS2 is so dependent on leisure traffic, I am concerned about what will be left for the west coast main line. Clearly, there will be an increase in freight and some leisure, commuter and regional services, but will it be sufficient to maintain the line without very substantial subsidy? And if a subsidy will indeed be required, has that been factored into the business case for HS2?
I fully support the comments made by north Staffordshire MPs about the real concern over the connectivity of Stoke-on-Trent, which is one of the top 10 conurbations in the country. I ask the Secretary of State to take that matter very seriously. On compensation, I entirely agree with those who support the idea of a property bond. That must be done. In France, people receive well over the market rate for their property, and everything goes through much faster. Let us be generous, as many Members have suggested.
I have no pleasure in opposing the proposals before us. If this were a Bill to provide for additional capacity in the network by using existing corridors at a sustainable cost and without a fixation on ultra-high-speed trains, I would support it wholeheartedly, but I am afraid that it will achieve none of those things.
I certainly welcome the Bill. For too long, we have been trying to move our 21st century population round the country on a transport system that was built by the Victorians. For too long, we have tinkered with the system—at a very expensive rate—to try to improve it, but that only brought disruption and did not solve the problem. We still have a major and pressing capacity problem that is simply not going to go away. It is going to get worse, and we ignore that fact at our peril.
Routes that are crucial to counties, cities and towns such as Yorkshire, Leeds and Pudsey are going to be overwhelmed. We have already heard about the doubling of train journeys in the past 15 years. In 2011, during the morning peak, an average of 4,000 people had to stand as they travelled on the routes into Euston, and 5,000 had to do so on the routes into Birmingham. There are currently 115 passengers for every 100 seats, and the situation is going to get much worse. We need to act now to increase the capacity on our railways. As a country, we cannot afford to leave the economic future of cities such as Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham to an overcrowded railway that will be almost 200 years old by the time HS2 opens.
If we are going to deal with the problem, why not be ambitious about it? Let us do it properly. Let us not tinker with it; instead, let us get back that Victorian foresight and ambition and make our railways something we can be proud of. The only way we can do that is by building a new line, so let us use the best technology and make it a high-speed line. After all, it is rather embarrassing that Turkey will soon have 1,500 miles of high-speed rail when we have just 67. HS2 will bring us the capacity that we need. It will double the number of seats between Leeds and Birmingham, it will transport the equivalent of the population of Cardiff every day, and it will run up to 18 trains an hour.
Over the years of debate on HS2, those who are against it have said that it will have an impact on the regions that it is trying to serve, and that the money would be better spent on local services. But this is not an either/or; it has to be both and, frankly, it is both. The northern hub is being funded in full, the line between Manchester and Leeds is being electrified, and new stations are opening up all over the place. The core cities are predicting the creation of 400,000 jobs. During the construction phase alone, the project will provide more than 8 million pay packets. HS2 will also link our cities to help them to do business. At the moment, trying to get on a train going from Birmingham to Leeds is a nightmare. Let us see business working together in those two great cities. As we have heard, 70% of the jobs created will be outside London.
We have heard about the costs and the business case, and I shall not repeat those points, but we need to maximise the potential. I welcome the decision to create a taskforce, led by Lord Deighton, to keep this major project on track. He has a great record in this area. We must ensure that British industry and the British work force are ready to deal with these changes. I want the best for my constituents. I want them to benefit from the best opportunities that the country has to offer, just as those in many constituencies in the south have been able to do. We cannot wait; this is urgent. Let’s get ambitious.
If Members can agree on anything, it is surely that there is an urgent need to rebalance Britain’s economy away from over-reliance on London and the south-east, so that we can harness the full potential of the whole country. For too long, the black country and the wider west midland region were allowed to fall behind while other parts of the economy accelerated. Although the financial services bubble gave the illusion of economic growth, the black country saw relatively little of the benefit. Gross value added in Dudley and Sandwell fell from 88% of the national average in 1997 to just 74% in 2008. Now that our local economy seems to be getting back on track, we need to make sure that the recovery is sustainable, and we need to put in place the infrastructure to make sure that the west midlands is not left behind again. This Bill, and the project it allows for, is absolutely vital for the west midlands economy.
Halesowen and Rowley Regis was at the heart of the industrial revolution. Our communities developed around the transport network of the day, and new links were built to transport our goods around the country. The position of the west midlands at the centre of the motorway network is still a huge advantage for transporting freight, but we need much better transport infrastructure to move people between Britain’s great cities. Great cities such as Birmingham and Manchester offer many advantages over the capital, but the reality for many companies is that much of their work will still need to be done in London, and they see the current rail network as an obstacle to effective business rather than as a way of getting from one location to another efficiently.
Most of the focus has been on reducing journey times. Although this will be an important consideration for many businesses, for most of my constituents the key benefit of HS2 will be the increased capacity that the new line will offer. The rail network around the west midlands is quickly approaching bursting point, which would be catastrophic for businesses and for people just needing to travel across the country. The number of people travelling by rail to and from cities in the west midlands is increasing even more quickly than the national trend.
My constituency is served by three mainline railway stations, with regular services to and from Birmingham. Our regional services have to share lines with the inter-city network, severely constraining the ability of either to expand to meet rapidly growing demand. Rail journeys to and from Birmingham have increased by 22% over the past five years, and for Coventry the figure is even higher at 30%.
If there is a clear need for greater capacity across the core of our rail network, surely the only question is what form the extra lines should take—whether we build a new high-speed line across the country or expand the lines we have. Although I can understand why, on a superficial level, it might sound attractive to try to add extra capacity to old lines, this cannot be the best way forward in the long term. We have an ageing rail network, and HS2 would be the first major rail line built outside London for 150 years. During that time, plenty of lines have been taken out of service.
Our economy is relying on a rail network that was largely designed around the needs of the mid-19th century. Given the cost of any expansion in capacity on the scale needed to meet future demand, why on earth would we opt to stick with a technology that would be nearly 200 years old by the time the new service was operational? If we are serious about building an effective rail network, and serious about rebalancing our economy, surely the only way forward is for us to invest in this infrastructure and allow our regional economies to compete and succeed.
As is the norm with any major infrastructure project in this country, HS2 has provoked a massive debate and has become something of a national drama. I think it fair to say that Ealing and Acton has not exactly been immune from the debate, and that the project has had a bumpy ride in my patch. With a border to the north more or less marked out by the railway lines pinpointed to be the arteries taking the new trains in and out of London after they have passed through Old Oak common, it is undeniable that the proposal will have an impact on my constituency.
Residents in north Acton, living right on the boundary between Ealing and Brent where the new Old Oak Common station would be, will be particularly affected by an estimated eight years of construction works. Some will also find themselves potentially living alongside the railway where it comes out from the tunnel. Obviously, it is not easy to allay genuine and legitimate concerns, but, first and foremost, compensation for those whose properties border or lie close to the track must be as generous as it is possible to be.
Secondly, the onus will be on Ealing council and Transport for London to manage the arrangements in a way that keeps disruption to a minimum. I understand that some constituents fear that they will be almost completely trapped, and will be unable even to gain access to local shops or their doctors while the works proceed. That would be simply unacceptable. Alternatives such as extra bus routes around the works will have to be laid on, and effective traffic management will be essential.
Concerns about mayhem around the Hanger Lane gyratory system while the line is being constructed, along with anxieties about the impact of an overground HS2 through parts of north Ealing, prompted a vigorous campaign by local residents who have demanded, at the very least, a tunnel between Old Oak Common and Northolt. Last year I wrote to the Secretary of State supporting their campaign, and I am delighted to say that that option appears to have met with his favour. We look forward to final confirmation.
Nevertheless, as my constituents know—notwithstanding those local impacts and the opposition from campaigners further up the proposed line—I have long been a firm supporter of what I see as an ambitious and timely project. Given that I have campaigned loudly against a third runway at Heathrow and have used the “train not plane” argument, how could I not be? Central to this pledge was the logic that a new high-speed rail link improving north-south connections would dramatically reduce the need for the airlines to lay on so many short-haul domestic flights from some of our northern cities, which take up so much landing space at Heathrow. The HS2 concept, however, has always been more than just a buffer against the immediate third runway threat. It is a project for the future, and a rare example of a Government’s demonstrating genuine long-term vision—something that we should be encouraging.
We know that existing services will be full to bursting point by the mid 2020s. We know that the demand is there and that we need to ease the pressure, so why not plan now? Sooner or later we will need the extra capacity, and if we wait for 10 years we will just be doing what we have to do now in a rush. In any case, I have always believed that a country that can be ambitious should be ambitious, and should seek to update its infrastructure in a timely fashion.
High-speed rail makes sense, it will be needed in this country, and the proposals are achievable. I believe that as long as there is generous compensation—and I do mean generous—for all whose lives would be blighted, we should all get behind this project.
I support the Bill, but before I say why I support it let me give a number of reasons for not building this railway. We should not build it just because we have less high-speed track than any other country in the world. We could be right and those countries could be wrong, so that is not a good reason. We should not build it because the business case for HS1 to move to St Pancras was predicated on access to the north. We should not build it on environmental and carbon-related grounds: I think that those are rather difficult to justify, at a time when most electricity continues to be produced from fossil fuels. We should not even build it to try to rebalance infrastructure spending, which over the last decade has been 10 times higher per head in London and the south-east than in the north-west, and more than 10 times higher than in the north-east.
We should proceed with this project if, and only if, three conditions exist: a robust business case, clear transformational benefits, and affordability in cash-flow terms, at about £2 billion a year. That £2 billion a year needs to kick in as Crossrail finishes, and I think that that is quite achievable. I cannot go into the business case in a great deal of detail, other than to say that the benefit-cost ratio remains higher than 2—about 2.5 for the full Y network—and is predicated principally on capacity arguments. The number of passengers on the west coast main line has been increasing at a rate of 5% a year for the last 15 years. This business case assumes an increase of only 1.6%, which is quite conservative.
As for transformational benefits, some Members have said today that the northern cities could do better if they just invested in broadband, while others have said that northern cities do not understand that HS2 will cause all the jobs to be sucked into London. All that I can say to that is that the northern chambers of commerce do not agree. They have estimated that in the north-west it will produce some 40,000 extra jobs and £8 billion of incremental benefits, while KMCG’s Green Gauge report estimates that there will be about 50,000 extra jobs.
I want to make a number of observations about the project. First, on the timing, 2032 is a long time ahead, and I am a little concerned that there is going to be a gap of over a decade before it goes to Birmingham and Manchester. That is a decade in which the northern cities will be put at a disadvantage—although prosperity will not, of course, stop in Manchester and Birmingham. I do not fully understand why we are not able to do more in the north earlier, in terms of the timing of the investment.
It is important that the northern cities are linked not only to London but to Brussels and Paris. I do not fully understand the issues around the linkage and all that goes with that, but to do this project and not allow that to happen would be wrong.
I also want to comment on a number of councils. We heard about Bradford no longer supporting the project, and I have heard Warrington council say it no longer supports it, because there is no station on its patch. Either this project has transformational benefits for the region and all of us in that region benefit, or it does not. My constituents in Warrington work in Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and elsewhere. What matters to them is that we go some way towards fixing the north-south divide and getting prosperity much more evenly spread across the entire country.
Finally, let me say that I commend this Bill and that I hope the House supports it tonight.
I oppose this Bill on national and local grounds. I pay tribute to the people of Stone, Swynnerton, Whitmore and Madeley for the meetings we have had to discuss these matters, and I also pay tribute to the Country Land and Business Association and Stop HS2 for the back-up they have given at these meetings and in consideration of all these matters.
I oppose the Bill for many reasons. The route will cut a swathe right the way through my constituency from top to bottom. I also agree very much with the comments of my right hon. Friend Mrs Gillan and my neighbour and good friend Jeremy Lefroy. I do not need to repeat their points. They have made them forcefully and so have many others, and they are right.
The reality is that my constituents gain no benefit from this whatever. As has rightly been said, it is all pain and no gain. The unfairness of the current arrangements is so gross that it has to be rectified; there is a complete failure to understand that in the 21st century we must have a proper compensation arrangement if this Bill is to go through, as many predict.
I do not believe the comments of the Public Accounts Committee can be in any way disputed, and as for the question of the amount of money involved, that is the biggest white elephant of all time. As has been noted, the amount has already gone up to £50 billion-plus, and I will not be surprised if it is £75 billion by the time this is finished. The reality is that this is a very expensive operation that is blighting people’s homes already in a way that is completely unfair, and it deserves to be discarded.
On the question of compensation, the arrangements favour the acquirer so much against the claimant, and they do not even say how the compensation is to be calculated. As for the exceptional hardship scheme, three quarters of the applications have been rejected, as the Minister knows, and compensation is available only through a discretionary scheme.
Does my hon. Friend agree that there is nothing in this Bill that either pushes forward any compensation scheme or stops the Government continuing to pay compensation, and what we really want is the new consultation on compensation, which I hope the Department will launch as soon as tomorrow or the next day?
I could not agree more. The fact is that the current arrangements for compensation are wholly inadequate to deal with this unique—and, I believe, appalling—scheme.
We are also now pressing for a property bond scheme, which would underwrite the property values where this project has an adverse impact. That needs to be set up. Members will know that it is fear of the unknown that has the greatest impact on the property market. A property bond scheme would create stability in the market, and the idea has already been propagated by the BAA and Central Railway. The ideas are out there, and amendments will doubtless be tabled in Committee to show how such a scheme could work in practice; the argument can be made in more detail then.
As far as I am aware, this scheme has no support whatsoever in my constituency. I have held many meetings in packed rooms and overflowing halls. At the end of them, I have asked, “Does anybody agree with the proposed scheme?” Only one person, who I think was from HS2 Ltd himself, said yes. The amount of very sensible opposition to the scheme is amazing.
The west coast main line is a very good service. My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford hit the nail on the head: it is available and can be improved. Extensions can be made to Euston to improve the availability of the service.
The bottom line is that the whole scheme should be rejected. I shall vote against it with absolute determination tonight, and if we lose, we move on to the compensation arrangements. In fairness to the people who have been completely blighted and whose lives have been destroyed, we must have a property bond and proper arrangements. It is disgraceful.
I rise to speak in favour of the Bill. This is a massively important piece of national infrastructure that will benefit us not just in the immediate decades after its completion, but for probably more than a century. Connecting the great cities of the north and midlands to London and the south-east, and to the continent through the channel tunnel, is an investment in our future. We should look at the benefit not just in ticket sales, but in the business regeneration that will take place across the network.
The Secretary of State described the business situation in Kent, an issue that, as a Kent MP, I should like to touch on. It is impossible to imagine how east Kent can be regenerated without the benefits that High Speed 1 brings. I sit in meetings with the regeneration group that looks at the east Kent regional growth zone, and selling the benefits of High Speed 1 and the lower journey times into London is the single biggest advantage we have. As the Secretary of State pointed out, the HS1 line runs only as far as Ashford into London; the rolling stock running from Folkestone, Dover and Canterbury into Thanet is also a massive source of regeneration.
None of us can know for certain what the future will bring—no more than when, nearly 30 years ago, this House debated the Channel Tunnel Bill. At that point, many Members spoke against it. Some said that we were living in the age of Concorde, and that international rail travel was not the future. The channel tunnel has outlasted Concorde and will be there for many more years to come. Back then, my predecessor, Michael Howard, championed the property blight issue. A compensation scheme was in place, but in fact people’s property prices actually went up, not down, as a result of the building of the channel tunnel rail link. People said at the time that it would be a drain, diverting business investment from the south-east to France, where it would be encouraged. In fact, that gateway is bringing business investment into the UK from France. People said that it would destroy jobs in Kent; in fact, it is creating jobs. As I said earlier, it would be impossible to imagine a job creation strategy for east Kent without the physical infrastructure of the channel tunnel.
In the 1980s, Members said that they did not think there was a case for city-to-city rail travel, and certainly not through the channel tunnel, which would simply reduce journey times across the channel itself. Of course, there is now an enormous market for city-to-city travel: not just from London to Paris and Brussels, but soon opening up into Holland and Germany and to other locations in Europe. My hon. Friend Mr Binley pointed out in his very good speech the enormous benefit that rail freight infrastructure gains from investment in high-speed rail, and from the channel tunnel. The potential is enormous and evolving, and it will be the same with High Speed 2. I commend the Bill to the House.
As we have heard today from numerous hon. Members, the railways face an imminent capacity crunch. The lack of capacity is holding back growth and costing the taxpayer, as our existing infrastructure bears an ever heavier burden. Soon, on the west coast main line, the route will effectively be full. For passengers, this means overcrowded peak services, with many commuter trains regularly running at more than 150% capacity. I challenge anyone to use their travel time productively when they do not even have a seat to sit in. We need radical action to break through the logjam and provide additional connections between our major cities. That is why a new line is needed.
HS2 is a project for the country as a whole; it is a new north-south rail line to connect our cities, slash journey times and release additional capacity for freight and passenger services. As a major infrastructure project, it can drive economic growth, attracting additional investment along the route while delivering jobs and skills. We have heard already today about the failure of this Government on infrastructure spending, which was down by nearly 40% in the past year. That makes it even more important that a new line is built, but there must be strong oversight on its delivery.
A number of hon. Members have said that we should improve the infrastructure we already have. Of course, we must continue to invest in our existing network. We have always been clear that projects such as the northern hub must be complementary to a new line, but there are limits to what we can do with our current infrastructure. We have already spent more than £9 billion on the west coast upgrade. Hon. Members representing constituencies along the route will know just how disruptive that process was; indeed, Iain Stewart described it as an absolute nightmare. Although that work made essential improvements, it did not provide the additional capacity needed to keep pace with passenger demand. As Network Rail has said:
“The lack of capacity will become even more acute beyond 2024 as demand continues to grow. The most effective and best value for money way to create additional capacity will be through building a new line.”
We must not look at passenger growth in isolation. The freight sector has enjoyed a decade of continual growth, but with limited additional paths available, there is a risk that freight operators will have to be turned away in the future. Any Government serious about climate change will want a growing rail freight sector to help reduce carbon emissions and congestion on our motorways. But the challenges facing freight underline the danger of treading water instead of delivering a new line.
We also have to consider the improvements that can be made to passenger services. As a constituency MP, I know how overcrowded and slow the services between Nottingham and Birmingham can be, holding back a growing commuter route, and inadequate connections between our core cities are stopping commuter routes from developing at all. It can take more than two hours to travel from Nottingham to Leeds on existing services, but the new line should cut that journey time by two thirds.
A number of hon. Members, including Andrew Bridgen and my hon. Friend Mr Godsiff, have suggested that high-speed rail will only benefit London, but that underplays the growth we have seen in regional traffic. From 2000 to 2010, passenger growth between Manchester and London was 70%, whereas between Manchester and Birmingham it was 105%. In addition, we must not forget that this project was driven forward, in part, by the regions. For example, Centro, the transport authority covering Birmingham, started to make the case for high-speed rail in 2008, before the last Labour Government became committed to the project.
The Government have announced this week a regional growth commission, chaired by Lord Deighton. Ministers must ensure that local authorities have every opportunity to contribute to that review. As my hon. Friend Mrs Ellman rightly said, the Government must work with local bodies, including transport authorities and local enterprise partnerships, to maximise economic development and the benefits from released capacity. This is an area where the case has not been made strongly enough. So far, local media coverage has been dominated by HS2 Ltd’s suggestions for reductions to existing mainline services. That is a pity, because the released capacity and rolling stock could help enable more local services and even the reversal of some Beeching-era cuts, but Ministers and HS2 Ltd have not made that case. They must do so if the constituents of Members such as my hon. Friend Natascha Engel are to be convinced.
That is part of a wider problem. It sometimes feels like the project is being developed in isolation, with little regard for other transport needs. We know that we will not see a decision on a spur to Heathrow until the Davies commission reports, after the next election. We would have liked that decision to be made sooner.
We are also concerned about the day-to-day running of HS2 Ltd, for which Ministers are ultimately responsible. A station redesign for Euston was announced with no prior warning or consultation. My right hon. Friend Frank Dobson spoke passionately on behalf of his constituents about that point and many others. New tunnels appeared for west London and the east midlands without clear information about how they would impact on the overall cost of the project.
According to the National Audit Office, the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd need to do more to make the business case for high-speed rail. There has been no information on the cost of tickets. The new line cannot be a rich man’s toy; all fares must be subject to regulation on the same basis as the rest of the network.
We have also not had the commitments we would like on apprenticeships. We have said that an apprenticeship should be created for every £1 million spent, creating 33,000 apprenticeships over the lifetime of the construction project. A similar approach is training a new generation of skilled workers through Crossrail, and Ministers should build on the experience to ensure that apprenticeships and opportunities for young people are delivered as part of the new rail line.
Many right hon. and hon. Members and their constituents have understandable concerns and questions remaining about compensation and I would be grateful if the Minister could tell us when he expects the new consultation on the subject to be announced. We need to make sure that we are getting value for money, especially as we are debating a spending Bill today for a project that has increased its preparatory budget from £773 million in 2010 to more than £900 million today. We will continue to press the Government on these issues in Committee.
Let me recap. There are real questions that Ministers need to address. However, they are questions about how the project is being introduced, not about the need for it. We can meet our capacity challenges only through serious investment, and treading water is not an option.
For too long we ran a 19th century railway on the 20th century principle of “make do and mend”. In an age of rising passenger demand, that is no longer enough. We are not managing decline; we are investing in the future. The proposed line will cover 330 route miles, directly linking most of our major cities and cutting journey times from others. It will improve transport links between England, Scotland and Wales, as my hon. Friend Susan Elan Jones pointed out. It will meet or even exceed the standards of the rail infrastructure of our continental competitors. It will be a north-south rail line—one might even call it a one nation rail line.
It would have been better to have introduced a hybrid Bill for the whole route, but at least this preparation or paving Bill does cover both phases. We will support the Bill as we want the project to succeed, and we will hold the Government to account as we go into Committee.
This has been an extremely good and well-informed debate. A significant number of my hon. Friends and other hon. Members have spoken in support of High Speed 2 and this paving Bill, and a number, including a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends, have expressed their concerns and lack of support.
I want to begin in a slightly unusual way by congratulating the shadow Secretary of State, Maria Eagle, and the shadow Minister, Lilian Greenwood, on taking the view in the national interest that they will support the Bill tonight, as they supported it when they were in government. For that consistency, I congratulate and thank them.
We heard a number of excellent speeches. I thought the speech by my hon. Friend Damian Collins was particularly relevant and interesting, because his constituency has the experience of High Speed 1. I also enjoyed the robust contribution made by my hon. Friend Mr Binley, who is clearly a keen and enthusiastic supporter of the project.
I say to my right hon. Friend Mrs Gillan, my hon. Friend Andrew Bridgen and others who oppose the Bill and who have the preferred or proposed route going through their constituency that I understand what they are going through. I have considerable sympathy for them as constituency MPs and I admire they way in which they are rightly fighting for the interests of their constituents, but ultimately I believe that the national interest must come first, although we must do all we can to alleviate any problems that have been highlighted.
I am sorry, but no. I have very little time and a lot to say to reply to the debate.
In the comments made both by those who support the Bill and by those who oppose it, there was a common theme: we have to sort out the issue of compensation. I agree. We accepted the High Court’s decision in the only one of the 10 judicial reviews that we did not win that we should reconsult. That consultation on a comprehensive compensation scheme will begin shortly, and I can say to my hon. Friend Andrea Leadsom and others that the options to be considered will include a property bond.
My hon. Friends the Members for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson) and for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) asked that we say once again what the costs are. I will give those figures to the House now. For phase 1, it is £21.4 billion in 2011 prices, and for phase 2, it is £21.2 billion, making a total of £42.6 billion, which includes a contingency of £14.4 billion. The cost of rolling stock is £7.5 billion, of which £1.7 billion is the contingency fund.
The debate has laid bare the fact that everybody wants the benefits that high-speed rail is set to deliver—new jobs, growth and prosperity for our country—but there are understandably some questions and concerns about how we realise those benefits. Those concerns are not unlike those that surrounded the construction of many of the now indispensable parts of our nation’s transport infrastructure, such as the M25, the Jubilee line extension to Canary Wharf and High Speed 1 itself. High Speed 2 is not a scheme being built for the future based on the travel behaviours of the past. We stand firm in our belief that High Speed 2 is the right choice for Britain in the 21st century, just as the railways were the right choice for Britain in the 19th century. Amazingly, back then, those opposed to the railway claimed that it would terrify country folk, turn cows’ milk sour, stop hens from laying and lead to an invasion of town folk into the country; and that travelling at speeds of more than 25 mph would cause the engines to combust and the passengers to disintegrate.
The doubts of today are the only true hindrance to realising our vision and the benefits it will deliver, and I am sure that future generations will look back at these doubts in the same way as we look at the doubts of those opposed to railways in the 19th century—and, ironically and using a shorter time scale, the doubts that the people of Kent had in the 1980s and ‘90s, which they now totally reject. One of my hon. Friends mentioned that Maidstone successfully avoided having a station, which went to Ebbsfleet instead, and Maidstone is now begging to have a station because the town is losing out on the regeneration that a station delivers.
High Speed 2 is a vision that we have to realise. Over the past decade, about half of economic growth has been concentrated in London and the surrounding regions. While High Speed 2 will shrink the distance between our great cities, the vision for High Speed 2 is to extend the benefits that it will deliver far beyond the actual network. We estimate that over 70% of jobs created by High Speed 2 will be outside London. High Speed 2 will redress the imbalance felt acutely by millions of people in different parts of the country. Britain cannot afford to burden the economies of great cities such as Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham with an overcrowded railway that will be almost 200 years old by the time that High Speed 2 opens and which has no spare capacity.
It is time that Britain—the country that invented the railway—raised its aspirations and ambitions by building that world-class, high-speed rail network. I am confident that the House will recognise the core objective of High Speed 2 to create an engine for growth that will unlock massive potential and opportunities for UK cities such as Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and others along the route. It will link eight of Britain’s 10 largest cities, serving one in five of the UK population. People will be able to travel from Edinburgh to London and back in the time that it takes to drive one way. The network will be fully integrated with the nation’s airports, with stations serving Manchester and Birmingham directly, an option for a spur to Heathrow, and short connections to East Midlands airport from Toton station, which is halfway between Derby and Nottingham. That will radically redraw the economic geography of the nation, bringing our cities closer together and rebalancing growth and opportunities. In doing so, High Speed 2 will rewrite the economic fortunes of this country.
It is imperative that we do not delay the project, and the expenditure powers that we are seeking in the Bill will allow us to move forward with this ambitious investment in infrastructure. I have to say to right hon. and hon. Members that dithering is not an option if we want to maximise the economic potential of the country. By building High Speed 2, we will demonstrate that Britain still has the ambition and vision to build world-class infrastructure to support a world-beating economy. For those who do not believe that there will be acute regeneration around the stations and depots, I suggest that they go to Japan to see what has happened in places such as Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, where there has been massive regeneration, with shops, leisure activities, hotels and businesses, not simply in the immediate vicinity of the stations but beyond in the wider community.
We have to move forward to show that we still have ambition. At its heart, that is what HS2 is all about: jobs and growth—jobs and growth for this generation; jobs and growth for future generations. That is the legacy that the House is being asked to support today—a legacy that will support this nation’s zeal for hard work and its determination to succeed. We must have the courage and conviction to make bold decisions. We must be bold now, and it is for that reason that I urge right hon. and hon. Members to support Second Reading and to reject the amendment.