High Speed 2

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 28th January 2016.

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Photo of David Mowat David Mowat Conservative, Warrington South 9:30 am, 28th January 2016

What progress has been made on finalising the route for phase 2 of High Speed 2.

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Secretary of State for Transport

May I associate myself with your remarks, Mr Speaker, to both members of staff who are retiring and wish them well in their retirement? I am sure they would be welcome to come back and observe us in a different role, if they so wished.

In November last year I confirmed plans for accelerating the construction of phase 2 from the west midlands to Crewe so that it opens in 2027, six years earlier than planned. We are developing our plans for the rest of phase 2 and I intend to make decisions on the rest of the route by the autumn at the latest.

Photo of David Mowat David Mowat Conservative, Warrington South

The Secretary of State will be aware that HS2 Ltd is currently evaluating a proposal to extend the line north of Manchester to Wigan. The cost of that is around £1 billion but as yet no incremental business or economic case has been produced. Will my right hon. Friend undertake that, before a decision is taken to extend the line north of Manchester, a business case will be laid before this House so that it can be reviewed?

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Secretary of State for Transport

When we come forward with proposals, they will receive the same scrutiny as those for the earlier part of the line. I believe that high-speed rail is essential for the long-term economic future of the United Kingdom. It gives us the increased capacity that we so desperately need on our railways, and that is a whole other scheme.

Photo of Louise Ellman Louise Ellman Chair, Transport Committee, Chair, Transport Committee

Can the Secretary of State tell us how planning the route for HS2 will be linked with planned improvements for east-west rail travel—for example, Liverpool to Hull?

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Secretary of State for Transport

The hon. Lady, as Chairman of the Select Committee, is absolutely right that that is part of what needs to be done. It is part of what is being addressed by David Higgins as chairman of HS2 in his designs for the routes. Also, we wait to see what the National Infrastructure Commission led by Lord Adonis comes out with on the east-west link on HS3.

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Chair, International Development Sub-Committee on the Work of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, Chair, International Development Sub-Committee on the Work of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact

Will the Secretary of State give close consideration to how Middlewich railway station can be reopened to passengers? That would facilitate much increased use of the rail line right into Manchester from Crewe and relieve considerable congestion on the M6, which has the support not only of local residents, but of a number of surrounding Members of Parliament.

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Secretary of State for Transport

I am not sure that comes into the HS2 line route development, but I am more than happy to discuss these matters with my hon. Friend, as is the rail Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend Claire Perry. One of the reasons for developing a high-speed rail link is that we need to find a lot more capacity on the existing rail network, and one of the ways we do that is by providing the extra capacity that HS2 will give.

Photo of Graham Jones Graham Jones Labour, Hyndburn

I share the concerns of David Mowat. Is not it poor that there are no plans for any HS2 rail service north of Manchester, particularly to Wigan? The 530,000 people in east Lancashire will be completely disconnected from phase 2 of HS2. Will the Secretary of State look at that?

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Secretary of State for Transport

The simple fact is that from day one I see HS2 serving areas wider than just those in which it is built. When we start the service from Birmingham, it will be possible to link with conventional rail routes, rather as high-speed trains currently run from St Pancras to Ashford and then beyond. I hope that the northern parts of the United Kingdom will be served by HS2 straightaway.

Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford

When the plans were put forward in November, they included none of the proposals for mitigation in my constituency that I and my constituents had put forward. Will my right hon. Friend give me an assurance that those proposals will continue to be looked at throughout the passage of the Bill?

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Secretary of State for Transport

Indeed. When we bring forward the Bill, my hon. Friend and his constituents will have every opportunity to make their case, including throughout its consideration in Committee.

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Chair, Public Accounts Committee, Chair, Public Accounts Committee

This is one of the largest and most expensive Government projects on the table. Just before Christmas the Public Accounts Committee heard from the Secretary of State’s permanent secretary about the evaluation of High Speed 1, which was two years late and was therefore not included in the evaluation for the early stages of High Speed 2. How can he convince us that he really has a grip on the costs of this project and that the House will have proper, full scrutiny of that challenge?

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Secretary of State for Transport

The hon. Lady represents a London constituency and will therefore get the benefit of Crossrail, which is a very expensive scheme—the expense is not dissimilar to that of the first part of phase 2 of HS2. We are evaluating the project very carefully indeed, and we look very closely at anything the Public Accounts Committee tells us—of course, it always tells us in hindsight; never in advance.

Photo of David Nuttall David Nuttall Conservative, Bury North

If the Wigan spur proceeds, does that mean that when it comes to extending the HS2 line up to Scotland, it will go up the west coast, rather than the east coast, thereby missing out the north-east and Newcastle?

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Secretary of State for Transport

No, I very much want to see Newcastle served. Those decisions are yet to be taken in full, but there is no reason why Newcastle should not be served on the east side of the HS2 spur.

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

We welcome the decision to accelerate HS2’s construction to Crewe. However, the whole of phase 2 is crucial for the midlands and the north. We were told that Ministers would confirm the route by the end of 2014, but that target has now slipped by at least two years, prolonging blight for residents, creating uncertainty and scaring off investment. Does the Secretary of State agree that there must be no doubt about the Government’s commitment to phase 2? Does he further agree that were a Chancellor with a Cheshire constituency to terminate the route south of Manchester, that would be an abject betrayal of the northern powerhouse?

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Secretary of State for Transport

I agree with the first part of the hon. Lady’s question, but I have had no stronger support in promoting this scheme from any member of the Government than I have had from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, even though it affects his constituency. He has been very clear about the benefits it will bring not only to the north, but to the whole of the United Kingdom. To intimate that he is somehow against the scheme is wholly wrong. I said that I hoped to have the full scheme announced by the end of this year, but I left a bit of leeway in order to make announcements sooner if I possibly can, to alleviate the blight of certain areas affected, which might not be affected under the proposals now being worked on.