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High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:06 pm on 26th June 2013.

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Photo of Natascha Engel Natascha Engel Chair, Backbench Business Committee, Chair, Backbench Business Committee 5:06 pm, 26th June 2013

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?