‘(1) The Secretary of State will require the nominated undertaker to take reasonable steps to develop integrated and comprehensive design and construction plans for Euston Station that include integration with other Euston Schemes.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1) “reasonable steps” mean, but are not limited to, the following measures—
(a) The nominated undertaker will seek to maximise, in so far as is reasonably practicable, the volume of excavated and construction material from the construction of the enlarged Euston Station and its approaches to be brought in and removed by rail;
(b) The nominated undertaker will design an enlarged HS2 Euston Station having regard to all relevant parts of the Euston Area Plan and any other relevant Opportunity Area Frameworks or Guidance,
(c) The nominated undertaker will be required to participate in the Euston Strategic Board, which shall comprise representatives from the Department for Transport, HS2 Limited, the London Borough of Camden, the Greater London Authority, Transport for London, and in any successor or additional future governance arrangements which may be agreed between the London Borough of Camden, and the Greater London Authority and Transport for London from time to time,
(d) The nominated undertaker will be required to participate in a Euston Station Strategic Redevelopment Board which shall have the same membership as specified in subsection (2)(c), with the addition of Network Rail and any successor network and station operators, designated under Section 8 of the Railways Act 1993 and having responsibility for Euston Main Line Station or rail tracks that connect to that station,
(e) The Euston Station Strategic Redevelopment Board will advise the Secretary of State on the delivery of an integrated and comprehensive design for the enlarged Euston Station and other Euston Schemes, alongside other duties which may be set out in its Terms of Reference which may be updated from time to time;
(f) The nominated undertaker will be required to participate in a Euston Integrated Programme Board, the membership of which shall include the organisations specified in subsection (2)(b);
(g) The Euston Integrated Programme Board shall have responsibility for managing the integration of the nominated undertaker’s Euston Station design and construction work plans with proposals for other Euston Schemes;
(h) The nominated undertaker will be required to take all reasonable steps to maintain public access to Euston Station and through construction sites that are established for Phase One purposes, including for cyclists and pedestrians;
(i) Where it is not reasonably practicable to maintain public access under subsection (2)(h), the nominated undertaker shall identify alternative measures to maintain public access and implement them where it is reasonable;
(j) The nominated undertaker will be required to participate in a Euston Station Design Panel and use reasonable endeavours to agree the chairperson and other members jointly with Camden London Borough Council, Transport for London and the Greater London Authority, and Network Rail or any successor network operator as defined in subsection (2)(d);
(k) The Secretary of State will require the nominated undertaker to have regard to all recommendations made by the Euston Station Design Panel regarding the nominated undertaker’s ongoing design work for Euston Station,
(l) If requested to do so by the Euston Station Design Panel, the Secretary of State will require the nominated undertaker to notify Camden London Borough Council and the Greater London Authority of the full reasons for failing to incorporate into its design work any changes recommended by the Euston Station Design Panel,
(m) The nominated undertaker will make provision for ongoing community engagement during the construction works for the enlarged Euston Station,
(n) Details of the funding expected to be required to rebuild Euston Main Line Station shall be set out when the Secretary of State’s duties are fulfilled under paragraph 1(D)(1) of Schedule 4A to the Railways Act 1993 in respect of the review periods preceding the rebuild of Euston Main Line Station and the review periods during which the rebuild of Euston Main Line Station is expected to take place,
(3) For the purposes of subsection (1), “Euston Schemes” shall be taken to mean—
(a) The enlarged Euston Station as referred to in Schedule 1 to this Act,
(b) The rebuild of the Euston Main Line Station,
(c) Over site development and related development opportunities above the Euston Station and tracks in line with the Euston Area Plan; and
(d) Additional proposals for new subterranean railways that may be introduced by the Greater London Authority or Transport for London during the Phase One construction period.
(4) Nothing in this section shall override other limitations imposed by this Act.”—(Andy McDonald.)
Question put, That the clause be added to the Bill.
The House divided:
Ayes 190, Noes 254.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
Our railways and roads power our economy. It is almost two centuries since this House gave its backing to the pioneering railway from London to Birmingham—a line that changed our country, and on which many of our great cities still rely today. Of course, we could leave it as it is for another two centuries—congested and unreliable—and suffer the consequences in lost growth, lost jobs and lost opportunities, particularly in the midlands and the north. However, the House has already shown that it can do much better than that, by backing a new high-speed route, alongside other transport investments in road and rail access across the country.
In 2013, Parliament passed the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Act 2013, paving the way for HS2. That was backed by welcome support and co-operation from all parts of the House, for which I thank all parties. We have made outstanding progress since then. British contractors are bidding to build the line. British apprentices are waiting to work on it. British cities are waiting to benefit from it. That is why today’s vote is so important.
If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, a lot of people have been here all afternoon. We have a fairly short period for Third Reading, and I want to give other people the opportunity to speak.
On what will be a Great British railway, phase 1 will be the bedrock of the new network. Phase 2a will take it to Crewe. Phase 2b will take it onwards to Manchester and Leeds.
Our trains are more than twice as busy as they were 20 years ago, and growth will continue. HS2 will help us to cope. It will work, it will be quick, it will be reliable, it will be safe and it will be clean. When it is finished, we will wonder why we took so long in getting around to building it.
Many hon. Members will want to speak, so I will keep my remaining remarks short. I will touch on the detail of the Bill. I will also set out the work that has been done on the environment. Then I want to describe what will come next, including what we are doing to build skills and manage costs.
First, the Bill authorises the first stage of HS2, from London to Birmingham. The Bill has undergone more than two years of intense parliamentary scrutiny since 2013. Even before the phase 1 Bill was introduced, the principles of HS2 were extensively debated on the Floor of the House. In April 2014, we had the Second Reading of the phase 1 Bill.
There was then a special Select Committee. I thank all members of the Committee, particularly my hon. Friend Mr Syms, who chaired it so ably. I also pay special tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for North West Norfolk (Sir Henry Bellingham) and for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley), who, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Poole, sat on it for the whole Committee stage.
The Committee heard over 1,500 petitions during 160 sittings. It sat for over 700 hours, and over 15,000 pieces of evidence were provided to it. It published its second special report on
Many of the changes made to the scheme in the Select Committee related to the environmental impacts. Building any road or rail link has impacts, but we will build this link carefully, and we will build it right. For example, HS2 Ltd has today started to procure up to 7 million trees to plant alongside the line to help it blend in with the landscape. The changes made in Select Committee will mean less land take, more noise barriers and longer tunnels.
I totally understand the economic reasons for this project, but may I just put in a bid for nature and for ancient woodland to be given the reverence it deserves? Much of it is already going to be undermined and threatened, so will the Secretary of State please ensure that this irreplaceable habitat is given all the reverence it deserves?
I can assure my hon. Friend that, as I think I have shown, given the time taken in Select Committee, the way in which procedures can be put in place and the way in which the Woodland Trust appeared before the Select Committee to make its case, that that will be taken into account. As I have said, the planting of new trees is an important part of the work that has been done.
We have done a huge amount to assess the environmental impacts. More than 50,000 pages of environmental assessments have been provided to the House. We have produced a statement of reasons setting out why we believe it is correct to proceed with HS2. That information is important to ensure that the House makes its decisions to support this vital project in the light of the environmental effects.
I expect construction of HS2 phase 1, between London and Birmingham, to begin next year. To enable that, HS2 Ltd has this morning announced that nine firms have now been shortlisted for the civil engineering contracts for the line. Those contracts alone will create more than 14,000 jobs, and we want those jobs to be British jobs. That is why the HS2 skills college, with sites in Birmingham and Doncaster, will open its doors next year, to train our young people to take up those opportunities.
It is not all about jobs; it is also about materials. HS2 will need approximately 2 million tonnes of steel over the next 10 years, and we are already holding discussions with UK suppliers to make sure that they are in the best possible position to win those contracts.
Later this year, I will set out my decisions on HS2 phase 2. As that happens, we must have a firm grip on costs. The November 2015 spending review confirmed a budget for the whole of HS2 of £55.7 billion at 2015 prices. HS2 is a major commitment of public money, but it is an investment that Britain must make, and it can afford to do so: the cost of HS2 equates to about 0.14% of UK GDP in the spending review period.
I respect the fact that there are those in this House who take a different view of the project, but it is about the future of our nation. It is a bold new piece of infrastructure that will be open to passengers in just 10 years’ time. This is about giving strength not just to the north, but to the midlands. Today I can get a high-speed train to Paris and other parts of Europe, but not to Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds or Scotland. This is about boosting the links to the midlands manufacturing heartland and the connections to Leeds, York, the north-east and Edinburgh, and to the north-west, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow. It is about making
HS2 a part of our national rail network, including Euston, where we are not only building a world-class high-speed rail station, but funding work by Network Rail to prepare for the masterplan for Euston station, which is an important step forward in our vision of an integrated hub that will enhance the area. At Old Oak Common, I have agreed to the transfer of land to the development corporation, paving the way for more than of 25,000 new homes and 65,000 jobs.
High Speed 2 is a measure of our ambition as a country and of our willingness to look beyond the immediate future and to take a hard-headed view of what we need to succeed as a nation. This is a railway that will unlock that future. I urge colleagues to support the Bill’s Third Reading, as they have done to date, and the carry-over motions so that it can continue its passage in the next Session.
I commend the Bill to the House.
Several hon. Members rose—
Order. I remind hon. Members that we have only half an hour to debate Third Reading and an awful lot of Members wish to speak, so there will be a speech limit of three minutes on all Back-Bench contributions in the hope that we can get as many people in as possible. If you use less time, everybody will be grateful.
Today’s proceedings mark the end of a long process and I am sure the House will want to express its gratitude to all those who served on the Bill Select Committee, the Clerks and all those who petitioned or who assisted the petitioners in making their case. The project has undoubtedly been improved by the parliamentary scrutiny it has received. I thank my hon. Friend Andy McDonald, who represented the Opposition with great skill in the Public Bill Committee and on Report.
HS2 is a Labour project. When the high-speed rail Command Paper was published in March 2010, the urgent need for greater capacity on our rail network was at its heart. Since that paper was published, passenger numbers have grown by a third. Punctuality has declined as the constraints on our existing infrastructure grow. The case for HS2 was based on the assumption that passenger demand would grow by 2.2% a year; in reality, the average is more than 5%. The case for HS2 has not weakened in the past six years—it has grown stronger and more urgent.
Our north-south lines are testing the limits of their capacity. The midland main line has been officially designated as “congested infrastructure” and freight services are being turned away. The east coast operator has said that
“this route faces track capacity limit.”
Nowhere is our capacity shortfall more keenly felt than on the west coast main line between London and Birmingham, which is the most congested part of the busiest and most complex mixed-use line in Europe, carrying a quarter of all passengers and freight. At least £9 billion was spent on a hugely disruptive modernisation package for the line, and it did not deliver the benefits we were promised. Just a few years on, we have used up almost all the extra capacity, and even if we lengthened every train and converted every first-class carriage to standard, that would not be enough and it would not enable us to run a single extra train. On some sections of the west coast main line, the notorious curves and gradients are pre-Victorian, and they cannot be altered. We have reached the practical limits of the existing infrastructure, and new signalling would have limited benefits on such a busy route, where inter-city commuter and freight services all compete for scarce paths. The scale of the capacity challenge requires us to take action. Commuter services have already been cut back in the west midlands and on the approaches to Manchester because of a lack of capacity on our main lines.
Does my hon. Friend recognise that in its current form, the Bill does not satisfy the concerns of north Staffordshire? There is no connectivity with or stop for Stoke-on-Trent, which is a far greater conurbation with a bigger economy that that of Crewe.
I am sure that my hon. Friend appreciates that the Bill deals with the creation of the line between London and Birmingham. I am sure that we will return to questions of connectivity when we reach phase 2.
As I was saying, freight operators are turned away, forcing lorries on to our already congested motorways. That has real consequences for our ability to meet our greenhouse gas emissions targets. I have visited places in the areas that my hon. Friend talked about south of Stoke where local stations have closed, not 50 years ago under Dr Beeching but in the last decade after paths for local services were reassigned.
Some might ask why we are investing in new infrastructure when sections of the existing network need to be upgraded, as, of course, they must be. The Great Western electrification scheme, the costs of which have risen by more than 400% in just five years, is a sobering reminder that route upgrades are no panacea. We could spend an equivalent sum on a conventional modernisation programme, but it would lead to 2,000 weekends of closure and misery for passengers, and it would trigger enormous compensation payments to train operators. At the end of such a project, a conventional upgrade would deliver less than half the additional capacity of a new line. By contrast, new build infrastructure is more resilient and it will allow us to integrate high-speed rail with existing lines, revolutionising journeys between cities directly on the route and beyond it.
That potential is reflected in the support for this project not just from the leaders of Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield and Leeds, but from those of Liverpool, Bristol, Newcastle, Cardiff and Glasgow. After billions has been invested in Thameslink, Reading, HS1 and Crossrail, this project is about building 21st-century infrastructure in the midlands and the north, not just London and the south-east. It will support jobs and skills through our world-class rail supply chain at Hitachi in Newton Aycliffe, Bombardier in Derby, the training colleges in Doncaster and Birmingham, and the hundreds of small and medium-sized enterprises across the country that support the construction and maintenance of tracks and trains.
We urgently need better connections and more capacity, and HS2 is the right project to provide them. There are, however, questions that need to be answered about the Government’s stewardship of the scheme. HS2 was always conceived of as a wider network, and Ministers were due to confirm the phase 2 route at the end of 2014, but that deadline has slipped by two years. That is compounding planning blight for residents, prolonging uncertainty about station locations and warding off private sector investment. It is incumbent on Ministers to confirm their plans for high-speed rail in the midlands and the north.
We have heard today about the Government’s inadequate treatment of Euston. The 1960s station is no longer fit for purpose. With 10 million more passengers a year using Euston than in 2010—a staggering increase of 43%—it is clear that a rebuild would be needed even without HS2. We urgently need a plan for a comprehensive redevelopment of Euston station, but four times HS2 Ltd has presented different plans for the site, all of which would lead to years of disruption for residents and businesses.
I have been glad to work with the Labour leadership of Camden Council to help to win a series of assurances from the Government on the removal of construction materials by rail rather than road, the development of a plan for an integrated station design and support for affordable housing provision. However, the reality still falls a long way short of the Chancellor’s rhetoric, and it is deeply disappointing that Ministers voted against our amendment on the matter. The Opposition will, no doubt, come back to that in the other place.
To conclude, as well as putting on the record my appreciation of the role played by my hon. Friends the Members for Middlesbrough and for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds), who served as shadow rail Ministers during the passage of the Bill, I want to record my appreciation of my predecessors as shadow Secretary of State, my hon. Friends the Members for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle), for Wakefield (Mary Creagh) and for Barnsley East (Michael Dugher), who all showed great constancy, even when there were reports of leaves on the line.
HS2 is essential for meeting our capacity challenge and rebalancing the economic geography of the UK. I will vote for the Bill today, and I encourage hon. Members on both sides of the House to do the same.
I have three minutes to sum up six years of hell for my constituents in Chesham and Amersham.
I pay tribute to the dignity and persistence of my constituents, who have remained committed to positive change in the face of great adversity. Those individuals are too numerous to mention, but they include my dedicated constituency staff, our local councils at all levels, our environmental and community organisations, the Clerks of the House—they have been tremendous—and colleagues who have served on both the Committees on the Bill.
I thank colleagues who have stood four-square with me, despite all the pressures that have been brought to bear on them when I have opposed the project. We have succeeded in making some positive changes that will make a real difference to people’s lives. The two extensions to the Chilterns tunnels are very important; the improvements to the “need to sell” scheme are also significant; and even the Chilterns AONB review panel, if it comes about, is important—to name but three aspects of the project.
However, HS2 is being built on the backs of my constituents, who are losing their homes, their businesses, their peaceful retirement, their heath and their communities. The Prime Minister promised me the most environmentally friendly Government ever and that compensation for people affected by HS2 would be fair and generous. This project will still cause damage along over 8 km of the line through a nationally designated, environmentally protected area, and many of my constituents are still fighting for fair treatment and compensation. They would not use the words “fair” and “generous” about the compensation.
For the all the inequitable and atrocious handling of the project, for the poor value for money for the taxpayer, for the inadequate integration of the project and for the damage it will cause my constituency and constituents, I will vote against the Bill again this afternoon. I urge hon. Members to join me in doing so. It may not achieve very much, because Labour and Conservative Members are being whipped to support the project, but at least I will be able to put my head on my pillow knowing that I have done the best by my constituents. I have tried to protect them from the ravages of a project that will consume vast amounts of taxpayers’ money and suck it out of the rest of the system. My constituents and many others up and down the line will pay disproportionately for the burden of political intransigence.
Once again, I confirm that we welcome the HS2 proposals before Parliament. We certainly welcome the wider context of the roll-out of the high-speed network, as well as the Government’s commitment, alongside that of the Scottish Government, to the aspiration for a three-hour journey time between Glasgow or Edinburgh and London. That will mean a quicker point-to-point journey time compared with using Gatwick or Heathrow airports. It will bring obvious environmental benefits and, clearly, much greater choice for air travellers.
I welcome the release earlier this week of the broad options report, which was commissioned by both Governments. It is important to develop these options as soon as possible to achieve shorter journey times to Scotland. In Scotland, the Scottish Government have confirmed their commitment to rail investment with the construction of the Borders rail line, which is the longest rail line to be constructed in the UK since Victorian times. As we have already heard, the vast bulk of the existing rail network was built in Victorian times. It stood the test of time fantastically, but now is the time to reinvest in and to future-proof the rail network. That will be done through these options.
I welcome the proposals, and I look forward to the roll-out of the high-speed network and to the improvements on lines to the north to improve journey times to Scotland.
I will be brief. This has been a long process, and in many respects it has been Parliament at its best, listening to people from ordinary communities, many of whom will be badly affected by the impact of the railway. However, as a senior Clerk said to me, the last time we looked at the
Standing Orders was 1946, and without taking away the right of somebody to come before the Committee it is right that we consider that process. There will be further phases of this project, and perhaps airports will come in along the line. I therefore hope that the Leader of the House and the House authorities have a good look at how we could make things a little more efficient. On occasion, we listened to people who were burning up a lot of time but who we felt were not affected, and that had an impact on some people whose farms are being cut in half and who will be very badly affected. There is an argument for reform, and I hope that the House authorities consider it, so that any future Committee that has the good task of listening to people who will be affected by such a project will do so more efficiently.
I support the Bill, which will bring vital capacity for an expanding railway. It is reassuring to see that so many of the points raised by the Transport Committee in 2011 are now incorporated into the Bill, including maximising jobs, whether in construction or regional economic development. High Speed 2 is part of a connected railway, with plans for ensuring that lines freed by the construction of High Speed 2 can be used for passengers and freight. We must ensure that those who are not on a high-speed line or situated near a high-speed station do not lose out.
It is vital that the necessary investment in High Speed 2 does not come at the expense of investment in the classic line, but evidence to date suggests that that will not be the case. Improvements in other parts of the country, including east-west links, must be linked with high-speed rail as part of the connected rail network. When in phase 2 the trans-Pennine developments take place—now known as High Speed 3—it is vital that High Speed 2 is linked into that so that, in the words of Lord Adonis, the chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission:
“Route decisions on the northern sections of HS2 should support enhanced high speed connections within the north including between Leeds-Sheffield, Liverpool-Manchester, and Sheffield-Newcastle.”
I am sorry that we are not considering High Speed 2 as one Bill, and that instead we have it in two phases, and I hope that the end date of 2034 can be brought forward. However, I am pleased that we are deciding on the go-ahead for phase 1 of High Speed 2. This is for the future. It is about vision and confidence in the railway sector and public transport, and I hope that hon. Members will approve the Bill.
I am not one of those who say that HS2 is a white elephant, or that there is no congestion on the west coast main line—indeed, today 5,000 people arrive standing on trains as they come into Euston. I accept the need for an additional north-south corridor, and if that can be high-speed, then all the better because there is not that much additional cost.
Before I come to my main point, I wish to thank my hon. Friend Mr Syms and all his colleagues for their work on the Committee, as well as the Transport Secretary who, given the structure of HS2, has been incredibly helpful to my constituents in Lichfield.
I do not believe, however, that I can support HS2, because it is not an integrated railway. I could not understand why it was so appalling, until I heard Lilian Greenwood say that HS2 is a Labour project. Only a Labour project could be so unintegrated with the rest of the transport system. Lord Adonis chose a system whereby people arrive at Euston from Birmingham and then have to trek across London with their bags to get to St Pancras. The promises that were made—that people would get on to a train in Birmingham and wake up in Paris—have come to naught. When people get to Birmingham, can they get on to network rail because the train arrives at Birmingham New Street? No. That would have been too obvious. This Labour project, so brilliantly designed yet so sadly duplicated by the Conservative Administration, instead goes into Curzon Street, and people have to schlep across Birmingham to get there, too.
It is about as integrated as my old Hornby 00 railway. I put that on the carpet and it went round and round, but it did not connect with the road or other railway systems, because it was a toy. I would not go so far as to say HS2 is a toy, but it is damaging and it could have been designed better. That is why I have to say to my hon. Friends the Whips that—I am not going to make it a habit—I will have to vote against Third Reading.
I am not against HS2. I am for trees, but not just any trees; trees that enhance our environment and improve our biodiversity. I want to pick up on two very brief points, in relation to the remarks of the Minister of State, Mr Goodwill, on net biodiversity loss and translocation.
It is absolutely clear that the commitment in the Government’s White Paper was not simply to no net biodiversity loss but to leaving the natural environment of England in a better state. This project will set a precedent on how to deal with the natural environment for all future major infrastructure projects. The question is whether it will fulfil the promise of improving the natural environment, leaving it in a better state for our children. National planning policy framework 118 is absolutely clear:
“planning permission should be refused for development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodland”.
Ancient woodland is irreplaceable.
The Secretary of State used the figure of 7 million trees when he spoke from the Dispatch Box earlier. Seven million trees, if planted at the rate suggested by the Woodland Trust of 2,500 trees per hectare, would give rise to 2,400 additional hectares. I want a commitment from the Secretary of State that they will be additional hectares: additional to the Government’s promise that 5,000 hectares of new woodland will be planted in England each year, a promise that at the moment is not being met. Some 2,400 hectares had been planted up to 2014-15, which is more than 4,000 hectares light on the existing promise. I want a commitment that the additional 2,400 hectares—the 7 million trees he spoke of—will be on top of the existing promise that is not being met.
Finally, on translocation, Natural England clearly states that an
“ancient woodland ecosystem cannot be moved”.
The Woodland Trust’s extensive research into translocation states:
“The only thing that is certain when translocation of ancient woodland soils is undertaken is that a valuable habitat will be destroyed.”
There is no guarantee that a similarly valuable habitat will be created. The idea, therefore, that translocation can be used and justified as the Minister attempted to do earlier—he is an honourable and decent man using the information that his civil servants no doubt gave him—is wrong.
As someone who was involved in much earlier parts of the planning process, I am delighted that tonight the Bill will progress from this House to another place. That is long overdue. It is sad that, for far too many major infrastructure projects that this country badly needs, the process of getting from the beginning to the end is so drawn out.
I pay tribute not only to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Minister for all they have done—and to the civil servants who have backed them up—but to the Labour party, which was not prepared to play narrow party political games on what is in the national interest. It has stuck by the national interest to ensure that the project will go ahead.
I accept there will be disruption and problems along the line. That is very upsetting, but I offer one beacon of hope to those people. When I first came into this House in 1987, the same arguments were being bandied about across the Floor of the House on High Speed 1. The local authorities were against it and the local communities were against it. They fought it, with hon. Members in this House, tooth and nail to try to stop it. It happened, and now local communities along the route in Kent are thrilled with the resulting benefits—the economic benefits, the regeneration, and the improvements in connectivity and capacity. I am convinced that when HS2 is finally completed, in 2033, people who do not think there will be any benefits now will come to learn that there are major benefits not only to their communities but in improved capacity.
The point about capacity is critical. The west coast main line will run out of capacity in the middle of the next decade, and it is not acceptable for any Government, of whatever party, to ignore that fact and allow our transportation system to come to a grinding halt. I hope, therefore, that the Bill will have a speedy passage through another place and on to the statute book so that phase 2, to Leeds and Manchester, can be expedited. We will thereby finally get a fit-for-purpose, modern transportation system along the spine of this country.
I rise to support the Bill and to commend both Front Benches for the cross-party support on this issue. It would have been easy for the Labour party to play this for short-term political advantage in the last Parliament or this one; that we have not done so is to our credit, especially that of my hon. Friend Lilian Greenwood.
I am a former shadow Rail Minister and was a member of the Bill Committee, so I feel confident in saying that I am familiar with this issue. I say this: this country needs HS2. The key issue is capacity—it has always been about capacity. So often the conversation has been bogged down in arguments about journey times, but that misses the point. Of course, if it takes me less time to get from the House of Commons to Stalybridge station’s world-famous buffet bar, that is welcome, but it is more important that I can do so on a train with enough seats for everyone. With the west coast main line expected to be full by the middle of the next decade, it is vital that we act now. In fact, this is the one time I can think of when this country has acted on a major infrastructure problem before it has become acute. If only our predecessors had done the same with aviation capacity!
The railways are filling up and are crying out for this investment. The statistics speak for themselves. Each day, 3,000 passengers arrive at Euston or Birmingham standing up on trains, having been unable to get a seat. The benefit of HS2 will be to address that looming capacity crunch. More powerful than the statistics, however, are the experiences of passengers—especially those who have the unpleasant experience of being on a packed train leaving or coming into London. I can still vividly remember my wife phoning me after a particularly hellish journey from London to Manchester. Eight months pregnant, she was forced to spend the two-hour journey on the floor outside the toilet entertaining a two-year-old. That should not happen on a 21st-century railway network.
The common arguments against HS2 do not stack up. Spending the money on upgrading the existing line will cost more and give us less. Building a new line that is not high speed will cost nearly as much but give us a fraction of the capacity. Saying we should spend the money on local services rather than north-south improvements fails to understand that the way to improve local services is to free up that existing infrastructure by building a new line. As for the argument that this will be a railway only for the wealthy, we simply have to apply the laws of supply and demand. The guaranteed way to price people off the railway would be to do nothing, because if demand is rising and supply does not increase, prices will go up.
I have great ambitions for what HS2 can deliver for the north, and particularly Greater Manchester—jobs, growth, connectivity, better wages, better career paths and, of course, the opportunity for hard-pressed Londoners more easily to spend time in the UK’s real first city: Manchester. I commend the Bill to the House.
I was not expecting to be called, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I am delighted.
Having sat on the Select Committee, I wish to say two things, hopefully in less than a minute. First, the hybrid Bill Committee system needs overhauling: 160 days—not for me, as I only joined after the election—and 1,600 petitions is unsustainable. Somebody needs to look at the system. Finally, we should all celebrate the fact that we have a record number of people travelling on trains, but we need more capacity. I say to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, even though he did not acknowledge that I had been on the Committee, that we need to plan this thing properly. We must ensure that there is proper connectivity into HS2 from all the other lines and that the west coast main line and other lines can make the most of the opportunity for freight.
I support the principle of high-speed rail and this project, not least because it allows the regeneration of the Old Oak area in my constituency—by some distance the largest development area in the country, bringing more than 24,000 homes and 50,000 new jobs to an area of severe deprivation. I support the project with reservations, and I have been happy to work with those on both sides who will be voting against the Bill tonight, because the local implications for residents, businesses and the environment have not been properly considered through this process. I say that with all due respect to the Committee, which has done an excellent job and worked incredibly hard.
In the minute left available to me, let me mention three things. First, if the issue is about capacity and not so much about speed, why are there not more stations, which would make it more beneficial to areas between London and Birmingham? Secondly, why are there not better links with HS1? I accept why the Camden link had to go, but it is ridiculous not to have those better links.
Thirdly, why can we not have a proper integrated centre at Old Oak, which would bring the Great Western line, the overground, the underground and Crossrail together? It is a huge wasted opportunity not to use that land properly. It is a real waste of public money and opportunity in that area. I urge the Government to look at that again and to work with the new Mayor, who I hope will be my right hon. Friend Sadiq Khan, to ensure that we have proper regeneration on that site.
Three hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings on consideration, the debate was interrupted (Programme Order,