High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill

Part of Speaker’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 9:02 pm on 28th April 2014.

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Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Conservative, North West Leicestershire 9:02 pm, 28th April 2014

It is a great pleasure to follow Mr Sheerman, especially when I agree with so many of his remarks. I draw the attention of the House to my previous declaration: not only does phase 2 of HS2 bisect my beautiful constituency; it runs within 100 yards of my home.

Since the House debated and voted on the paving Bill for HS2 in June last year, many questions surrounding the project have been asked, but precious few have been answered. The Government are continuing to block the Major Projects Authority report on HS2, an issue raised by my right hon. Friend Mrs Gillan and Natascha Engel. I raised this issue most recently with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in this place on 17 December 2013 only to be told that there was no need to publish the MPA report because there is no shortage of reports on HS2. That is true, but most of them are sponsored by the Government or HS2, and most of them have had their evidence totally discredited. The continued suppression of the MPA report on HS2 must be a great source of concern to hon. Members who should surely have all available evidence to hand, especially on a project of this cost and magnitude that will have such a huge impact on the lives of so many of our citizens.

Cost continues to be a running issue for HS2. We know from last year that the initial cost of £33 billion increased to more than £42 billion, with a further £7.5 billion cost for rolling stock. That is all in 2011 money, with no account taken for interest payable on borrowed money. Indeed, it could be considered that, with inflation, the cost is now well in excess of the £50 billion limit set by the shadow Chancellor to trigger opposition from Labour. As evidence from international rail projects suggests an average overspend of 45% and a lead time of 13 years adding to the cost of rolling stock, nothing has persuaded me that we could not well be looking at a sum of more than £70 billion or possibly £100 billion to see HS2 through.

Another question that we are struggling to get the answer to concerns evidence of overcrowding on the west coast main line and the capacity issue in general. On 6 January this year I received a response to my written question to the Department for Transport asking how many passengers in the previous year had used the line during peak periods between Euston and Birmingham and Euston and Manchester. I was directed to statistics that show rail passenger numbers on trains throughout the day in several major cities, as well as levels of peak crowding, but these are not available by route. It surprises me that the Government could not have made available the actual numbers on the west coast main line to demonstrate the case that this line is full. Again, the evasiveness and the lack of ready statistics to back up the case for HS2 fuels suspicions about the reasoning behind the whole project.

Then there is the issue of blight, which has been raised by many Members. The project is causing immense blight. It has been estimated that 240,000 homes are within 1 km of the proposed line and are likely to suffer losses that are mostly ineligible for compensation under the Government’s current policy.