High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill

Part of Speaker’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 6:52 pm on 28th April 2014.

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Labour, Blackburn 6:52 pm, 28th April 2014

I accept that. I came into the House a long time ago, when the line to Manchester and Liverpool was so slow that there was still a need for sleeper trains. They were very reliable, because they went slowly. I accept that for those travelling from the north-west and from the midlands, the main capacity constraints are those south of Rugby. The amendment proclaims a need for greater capacity, but it fails to provide further and better particulars on how to achieve it.

One reason that the west coast main line upgrade took so long and cost so much was that it had to be added on to the existing infrastructure. That was far more disruptive and costly than the provision of additional lines. I look forward to hearing alternative suggestions, but the only way I have heard of providing additional capacity for passengers and, critically, for freight is through the provision of additional two-track capacity. That would be far less disruptive than the construction of the M40 or any other motorway, and it would produce benefits to constituents in the home counties, as well as to those in the north and north-west, by relieving the present capacity constraints.

I am passionately in favour of the HS2 proposals—all the way: phase 1 and phase 2—but they can go ahead only on an all-party basis. I welcome the decisions of the Cabinet and the shadow Cabinet to back the Bill now and for whoever wins the election to back it, the other side of the election.