High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill

Part of Speaker’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 6:36 pm on 28th April 2014.

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Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield 6:36 pm, 28th April 2014

Five years ago, I would have thought it incredible that I would probably be in the same Lobby as Frank Dobson, not united in some unholy alliance, but instead united in opposing my Government’s Bill. This, for me, is a first. Five years ago, the leader of the Conservative party, now the Prime Minister, supported HS2 in principle, and so did I. Five years ago, my right hon. Friend said that the Adonis route was profoundly wrong—that its implementation would be damaging to the environment, damaging to local areas that could otherwise enjoy peace and quiet, and damaging to the nation as a whole. Yet here we are, five years on, with the Government supporting the original Adonis plan. I find that quite extraordinary.

I totally agree with the arguments for HS2. There is a major capacity problem. Every day some 5,000 to 10,000 people arrive at Euston standing, because there are just not enough seats on the trains to let them sit. However, I agree with the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras and, indeed, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, when he argues that there is not enough capacity at present for those disembarking at Euston to travel across London. How on earth can that be sustained when, in addition, something like 30 trains an hour will be arriving from the midlands and the north when High Speed 2 is completed?

I believe that the implementation of HS2 is deeply flawed. As my right hon. Friend Mrs Gillan has already pointed out, the promises of breakfast in Brum and lunch in Paris with a through route have all gone. There will be no connection between the midlands and the north and HS1 and the channel tunnel. Meanwhile, the Department for Transport, which is supposed to be an integrated, joined-up Department, has, quite rightly, commissioned the review by Sir Howard Davies of which airport is to be the main airport for London. We will not know its conclusions until after the next general election, yet HS2’s route is already fixed and we do not know which airport it will link to. Indeed, it probably will not link with any airport, like HS1. This is a deeply flawed system.

What about compensation, a topic that has been raised by colleagues? What about constituents in Lichfield who are facing spoil heaps for five or six years, as all the soil from the tunnels in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham is transported up to Lichfield to support giant viaducts that we are going to have built? Where will that be stored? In Lichfield. There will be no compensation because the spoil dumps are being regarded as temporary only. Believe me, for someone who is 70 or 80 years old and living next to a temporary mountain, with dumper trucks running by every day, five or seven years can be a lifetime. There should be compensation, and I hope that the hybrid Bill Committee will consider that. I have already talked about the problems of disembarking at Euston and homes being blighted, but what about the arbitrary distances? Beyond a certain distance, there will be no compensation. Absolutely no account has been taken of the local topography; whether someone will be affected by HS2 will depend on whether there are hills or the land is flat.

So it is that, with the greatest regret and for the first time in my membership of this House, I am going to support the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham and vote against my own party on such an important piece of legislation. I hope—I say this for the benefit of the Whip—that it will be the last time I do so.