One of my first steps as the new Secretary of State for Transport was to reiterate the Government’s backing for HS2. I did so from the conviction that it is essential to delivering a modern, vibrant economy for the United Kingdom.
This is a Government who deliver the infrastructure projects that the economy needs, which is core to delivering a country that works for everyone, wherever in the country they live. Last month, we announced support for a new runway at Heathrow, showing that Britain is a dynamic country that is open to the world.
Today I am announcing the Government’s preferred route for HS2 lines from Crewe to Manchester and from the west midlands to Leeds, known as phase 2b, which will help to rebalance our economy beyond London and the south-east, ensuring that economic prosperity and opportunities are shared throughout the country. That means that following on from the 2013 consultation and work that we have done since, I am today confirming the majority of the route. There are a number of cases, including the proposed route through south Yorkshire recommended by Sir David Higgins in a report earlier this year, where I am proposing substantial refinements. I am launching a consultation to seek the views of communities and other interested parties before reaching a decision on those sections next year.
The first phase of HS2 from London to the west midlands is just over 100 miles long, but phase 2 is significantly longer at 174 miles. The route that I am confirming today represents a huge commitment to the midlands and to the north. HS2 is not just about a faster connection between the south-east, the midlands and the north. It represents a bold vision for connecting up the great cities of the north of England and of the midlands, both east and west. Connectivity is central to HS2. Poor connectivity between the cities and regions of the midlands and the north has restrained their economic growth. High quality transport allows businesses to grow, work together and access a wide range of customers, suppliers and skilled labour markets. By improving connections between our great cities, HS2 will generate jobs, skills and economic growth and help us to build an economy that works for all.
Today, only 4% of people who travel between Birmingham and Manchester do so by train—hardly surprising, when the journey takes around 90 minutes. But on HS2, it will take less than half that time—just 41 minutes—so at a stroke, those two regional capitals are much more closely linked and can deliver increased economic prosperity. The flow of people, ideas and opportunity will follow those new connections.
Work is also progressing to see how HS2 could help to deliver parts of a fast, frequent northern powerhouse rail network for Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Hull and Newcastle. Where necessary, we will include passive provision for these services in the phase 2b hybrid Bill, subject to agreement of funding and the supporting business case. Just as important as connectivity is the uplift that HS2 will deliver to our transport system. It will not be a separate, stand-alone railway, but an integral part of our nation’s future rail network and overall transport infrastructure. It will add to the overall capacity of our congested railways. Even those who never travel on HS2 stand to feel its benefits.
By providing new routes for intercity services, HS2 will free up space on our existing railways for new commuter, regional and freight services, while also taking lorries off our roads. It will provide new options for services to towns which currently do not have a direct connection to London. Tomorrow’s HS2 and east and west coast main lines could have 48 trains per hour to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. That compares with 29 today.
Even those who never travel by rail at all stand to benefit from the thousands of local jobs and apprenticeships created by the better connections that HS2 will bring and by the project itself. It will generate around 25,000 jobs during construction, as well as 2,000 apprenticeships. It will support growth in the wider economy, worth an additional 100,000 jobs. I recently visited the site of the new National College for High Speed Rail in Birmingham. Together with its sister college in Doncaster, it will open its doors next year to provide Britain’s workforce with the specialist training, skills and qualifications to build HS2 and future rail projects. It will deliver highly skilled, highly motivated people who will have the opportunity of a great career in a vital industry.
Today’s announcement represents an important step forward in delivering HS2, and with it the transport infrastructure essential to the economy of 21st century Britain. However, I am well aware that there are those with the firmly held view that HS2 should not go ahead, and those who doubt whether the case has been made satisfactorily. Indeed, I know that many Members of this House have strong convictions on this issue. I am under no illusions; this is not an easy undertaking, but I believe that it is the right thing to do. The easy thing to do would have been to keep patching the existing railways, making do and mending a railway that the Victorian pioneers themselves would still recognise, and hoping to fit ever-increasing passenger and freight growth in the same pint pot. That is not what the people of this country deserve, nor is it what our economy requires.
In addition to publishing today a Command Paper and accompanying maps, setting out the full detail of my preferred route for the HS2 phase 2b route, I have written to those Members whose constituencies are affected, and the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend Andrew Jones, will make himself available to Members who wish to meet him later today.
In order to ensure that our case is robust and in line with the requirements of the Treasury’s Green Book, we have of course considered alternatives to the phase 2b scheme. We found no alternative that could deliver the same level of benefit for the country, stand the test of time and provide the same level of capacity, connectivity and service as phase 2b does. Over the past few months I have personally visited most places along the HS2 route. I have seen and heard for myself all the issues, and I remain convinced that through this project we are delivering the right solution to the country’s transport needs.
It is important to say that I recognise that building major infrastructure will always be disruptive and disturbing for those living nearby, and I am mindful of the concerns of the constituents of very many Members of this House. In proposing this route, I have listened to the views expressed in the consultation of 2013, as well as those of HS2 Ltd’s engineering and environmental specialists.
I am issuing safeguarding directions for the whole of the preferred phase 2b route today. That protects it from conflicting development, but it also means—this is extremely important—that the people who are most affected by these plans will be able to access statutory compensation straight away. In addition, I will be consulting on discretionary property schemes that will go over and above what is required by law and give assistance to those who will be adversely affected by the railway. These schemes are the same as those currently in operation for people living along the phase 1 route. I aim to be able to confirm next year the schemes on which I am consulting today.
Two of these schemes will come into operation from today. They are the express purchase scheme and the need to sell scheme. Express purchase allows owner-occupiers to apply to the Government to buy their home sooner than would be possible under statutory schemes. The Government will buy properties at their unblighted open market value, as if HS2 were not going to be being built, will provide a home loss payment of 10% of the property’s open market value up to £58,000, and will pay reasonable moving costs.
Need to sell is a purchase scheme for people who have a compelling reason to sell their property but cannot do so, other than at a significantly reduced price, because of HS2. There is no geographical boundary to this scheme. The Government will agree to buy property for 100% of the open market value if an application is successful.
As I say, I am mindful of the impacts that HS2 has on communities. I can assure every Member of this House that my Department and HS2 Ltd will continue to work with affected communities and local authorities up and down the line of route, and in that process I expect people to be treated with fairness, compassion and respect.
Today marks the end of a long period of uncertainty for communities, councils and businesses along the route of phase 2b. These have been complex and difficult decisions to take, but I make no apology for taking the time to get them right and making sure that the route we are proposing offers the best possible outcomes for passengers, communities, the environment and the economy.
I need to touch briefly on phase 1. I can report to the House that phase 1 from Birmingham to London is progressing well. Construction work is due to start early next year, subject to Royal Assent. Phase 1 will open in 2026. In a clear signal of how work is progressing, this morning I have announced the companies that have been awarded the phase 1 enabling works contracts. These works include archaeology, site clearance and the setting up of construction compounds ahead of the start of the main civil engineering work. These contracts are worth up to £900 million and cover the whole of phase 1 from London to Birmingham and the connection to the west coast main line at Handsacre. Work is due to begin in the spring.
Another aspect of the preparatory work on phase 1 is the considerable engagement with those on the line of route, some of whom have taken up our express purchase compensation scheme. We are continuing this offer of support and will be writing to those people whose homes or business may be directly affected by construction. We have a general obligation to continue to seek further reductions to adverse impacts during the design, construction and operation of the scheme. This is something that I will be watching very closely. In keeping with that obligation, HS2 Ltd has continued to look at possible mitigation measures around Euston station where existing rail lines converge. This could significantly reduce impacts on rail passengers and the local community. Any decision on the adoption of these possible mitigations would be taken closer to the letting of main contracts next year, and I will update the House at that time.
This is part of a wider design process, which will continue to add detail to our proposals for phase 1 well into next year and beyond. I would expect similar mitigations to come forward elsewhere along the route as the detailed design stage starts in earnest after Royal Assent.
HS2 is an ambitious and exciting project, and we must seize the opportunity it offers to transform our country for future generations. Local authorities and local enterprise partnerships are gearing up for HS2 and developing growth strategies, supported by UK Government growth strategy funding, to maximise the benefits of HS2 in their area. I am pleased to announce further funding today for Manchester, the northern gateway partnership, Leeds and the east Midlands, and the first tranche of funding for Sheffield, to support this important work.
This Government are planning for the future. We are taking the big decisions and investing in world-class transport infrastructure. We are ensuring that the UK can seize opportunities and compete on the global stage. But we are also aiming to deliver more capacity on our overcrowded railway, which could see a 65% increase in the number of trains on this part of the network.
The route decision I published today takes us an important step closer to realising the full potential of HS2. It means better transport connections and capacity, more jobs and more training opportunities. Just as importantly, it links centres of innovation and opportunity in the cities and regions of the midlands, the north and our knowledge economy. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Secretary of State for his statement and for advance sight of it, for which I am most grateful.
Labour Members are pleased to finally have a partial announcement of the HS2 route, and it is to be very much welcomed, as the delay in getting to this announcement has been immensely stressful for the communities concerned. Labour supports HS2 because we recognise the need for not only faster journey times and improved connectivity but, most importantly, extra capacity—not just for the benefit of passengers, but to transfer freight from road to rail, as the Secretary of State mentioned in his statement.
The employment, and in many cases the lifelong career opportunities, that HS2 will bring will be immense, and we very much welcome all of that, but that does not mean that our support is without qualification, as considerable concerns still remain. There are significant details of the route that have not been confirmed in today’ s announcement—most notably a decision on whether to site a station in or around Sheffield, which has been dodged, along with three decisions on the western leg and three on the eastern leg. This is not the first time we have experienced this Government dithering on key infrastructure decisions. While we welcome the consultation that is to follow, there is clearly a risk that it may cause the Government to overly delay decisions, as we have seen recently on a number of nationally important pieces of infrastructure. I ask for an assurance from the Secretary of State that that will not be the case in this instance.
During the consultation, it is imperative that the voices of local communities be heard—especially those communities that will be particularly disrupted by the route as we now know it. Among other things, we have seen the pain and anguish caused to many villages and communities in the south Yorkshire region and elsewhere, and while we need to study the detail of the proposals we must ensure that proper mitigations and comprehensive compensation schemes are in place. There will be strong arguments made to modify the alignment of the route in many cases, and those arguments will have to be given proper consideration.
Earlier this year, the National Audit Office reported that HS2 had an “unrealistic timetable” and faced major cost pressures, and that too ambitious a timetable meant that not all the intended benefits would be delivered. We have seen similar problems beset other rail projects, with the Government recently reneging on their manifesto commitment regarding electrification works on the Great Western route and refusing to commit to the already delayed timetable of electrification works on the midland main line. The Department for Transport has a track record of being unable to complete works on time or on budget, so there is understandable concern that HS2 will not be delivered to budget or on time, and I ask the Secretary of State to confirm unequivocally that the planned start dates will be met and the project delivered on the planned timescale and costings.
This is not solely about HS2. So-called HS3 has to be progressed, as do the paused and unpaused enhancement works that are essential to bring greater connectivities to communities that are not directly connected to HS2. They cannot be forgotten, and they cannot be left behind. The benefits that HS2 can bring to the country are significant, but the Government must get a grip to keep the project on track and to avoid the concerns expressed in the National Audit Office report being realised.
The Government announced that a new rail franchise, the west coast partnership, which is scheduled to start on
Given the concerns about the cost of HS2, the Government should be looking to get the best deal for the UK rather than the shareholders of private train companies or the taxpayers of Germany, France or Holland. It is time to take back control of our railways. Labour is committed to the public ownership and running of our railways, and that includes HS2. A future Labour Government would bring any such franchise back within public operation at the earliest possible opportunity. We support HS2, but it has to deliver for taxpayers and passengers alike, and that will be the consistent challenge for Parliament in the years ahead.
First, let me welcome the hon. Gentleman’s support for the principle of the project, although we obviously have one or two areas of difference.
Let me start with the issue of the route through Sheffield. The hon. Gentleman accuses us of dithering. I would simply remind him that we have a statutory duty to consult. We are bringing forward a new set of proposals. He will not, I am sure, argue that I should break the law when it comes to the consultation process that we need to go through. I clearly want to give people as much certainty as possible, as quickly as possible, but I have a statutory duty, and I intend to fulfil it.
I recognise the issue that local communities face, and part of what we will need to do through that consultation process is listen to those local communities about the things we can do, large and small, to mitigate the impacts on them. That is a very important part of the consultation process.
The hon. Gentleman talks about an unrealistic timetable. I think many people in this country would share my frustration that, actually, it will take 17 years from today to complete the whole of HS2. If that is an unrealistic timetable—if it should take much longer—heaven help us. This project has taken a long time to get to this point and will take more years than I would wish to complete—and we need it to be completed—so the idea that it is an unrealistic timetable to complete this project by 2033 seems to me a strange one.
The hon. Gentleman raised the question of electrification. I would simply remind him that, through 13 years in government, Labour electrified 10 miles of railway line. It is small wonder, when we actually started to electrify key main lines, that the expertise was no longer there. It is all very well Labour calling on us to do this, but we are the ones who are undertaking the modernisation of our railways. Through all those years when Labour was in power, the investments in our railways were pitiful by comparison with what we are doing today.
The hon. Gentleman also raised the question of HS3. He will be aware that Transport for the North is working on proposals for what is now being called northern powerhouse rail. That will be much more than a single railway line, and it will build the connectivity we need from east to west. I am waiting with interest to see Transport for the North’s proposals for the future.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the west coast partnership. He will understand that, on the day before this line opens, there will be Pendolinos running up the west coast main line, and, on the day after, there will be express trains running up HS2 to Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool. I want that to be a smooth transition. We have to make sure the train drivers are trained. We have to make sure the staff are ready for the change. I do not envisage a situation where we sack all the staff one day and hire a new group the next. It makes sense to have a smooth transition, and that is what we are planning.
On the hon. Gentleman’s point about the private sector, let the Labour party hark back to the days of British Rail; we want a railway that is modern and progressive. Since the railways were privatised, after decades of decline, the number of passengers has doubled and new stations and railway lines have opened. This is a railway that is moving forwards, not backwards, as it would under Labour.
I welcome today’s announcement by the Secretary of State, not least because it gives a degree of certainty to all the poor people and businesses that are going to be affected by this project. Perhaps he will forgive me if I do not share his overexcitement about its potential, as no benefit accrues to the Chilterns. He is well aware of my criticism of how HS2 has conducted its operations. Will he therefore give me, and people beyond this Chamber, a personal undertaking that there will be generous, fair and rapid compensation, the highest environmental protection, and timely and thoughtful community engagement? I hope that there will also be a revision of the totally archaic hybrid Bill process, which has in itself added pain to the suffering that people along the line have had to experience so far. It is crucial that lessons are learned from phase 1 before we embark on phase 2a.
I absolutely echo the need to make sure that we do the right thing by people affected on the route. I slightly disagree with my right hon. Friend about the benefits in the Chilterns, although it is true that in her constituency, which is on a different line, the benefits are different from those a little further away on the other side of the Chilterns on the line that runs up through towns such as Tring, where there will be a benefit in extra capacity on commuter services—it is estimated that there will be twice as many seats on trains going to Euston station in the morning peak, and I think that will be very welcome to the people who use that line. Of course, I absolutely understand that we have to take great care. I share her concern about the hybrid Bill process. It is clear from the discussions we have had on this in the past that there is a widespread view in this House that we want a simplified and modernised process, and work is being done right now on how that might be achieved. However, I also believe very strongly that we need to invest in our future, and that is what this is about.
I thank the Secretary of State for early sight of his statement. I have studied all seven pages of it. He starts by stating that in making his decision he “did so from the conviction that it is essential to delivering a modern, vibrant economy for the United Kingdom”, and ends by saying that he is “ensuring that the UK can seize opportunities and compete on the global stage.” Yet in seven pages mentioning 34 places, including the future beneficiaries, not once does Scotland get a mention. There is nothing about connecting Scotland and there are no options for Edinburgh, Glasgow or any other Scottish city—no passing comment even. We support high-speed rail, but not just to Birmingham, Leeds or Manchester. This announcement, unless followed by a commitment to speed up links to Scotland, means, in effect, our getting further away from London, in relative terms. When did he discuss this announcement with the Scottish Government, and what guarantee did he give for high-speed rail to be connected to Scotland?
Let me start by reminding the hon. Gentleman that I have made two very significant transport announcements in this House in the past month, the last of which was very specifically focused on ensuring that we had better aviation links both to London and internationally via our expansion of Heathrow airport. I was particularly keen to stress the importance of protecting connectivity particularly to Scotland and Northern Ireland, because the air links are so crucial to the economies of those nations. Let nobody suggest that I am not interested in connectivity to Scotland; it is a priority for us. Let us be clear about what this project delivers for passengers travelling down the east coast and west coast routes, who will benefit as much as anybody else from the increased speeds at which they are able to travel over most of the route to Scotland. There is therefore a benefit to Scottish passengers as well. Let us also remember that this is much more than simply a transport project: it will generate a whole set of new skills and business opportunities for this country—for this United Kingdom. Indeed, the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend Andrew Jones, recently spoke at a suppliers’ conference in Aberdeen. I fully expect to see jobs created in Scotland and opportunities for business in Scotland. That is all part of how we seek to represent and support this entire United Kingdom.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State is clearly a very lucky fellow indeed; I am sure that he much enjoyed orating to the said conference.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is very important to see today’s announcement in a broader context, because while we are investing in the long term we are also investing in the short term. To give just one example, £350 million is being spent on improvements to the rail network around Liverpool. There are many other examples around the country—indeed, there are improvements in Scotland and in Wales. Our Government strategy is about much more than this railway line; it is about delivering transport improvements across the whole United Kingdom.
Those of my constituents who are affected by this will be appalled that none of their proposals on the route has been taken into account, either on the route itself or on mitigation, and will, frankly, wonder why they bothered. There is a concern that the Government and HS2 are taking seriously the concerns and interests of cities but not those of towns and smaller communities, and that there is a willingness to invest in mitigation or tunnelling for the south but not for the north. What can the Secretary of State say to my constituents to give them any good reason to carry on engaging with this process at all?
I would say to the right hon. Lady’s constituents that we fully intend to go through a process of detailed engagement. I am happy, as is my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, to meet her to talk about these issues. I have travelled the route and seen for myself some of the issues and challenges. I have in mind some things that we might do to help improve the design of the route and reduce its visual impact. I will listen to her and to other Members. Fundamentally, though, she will understand, as a Yorkshire MP, the importance of this kind of connectivity to the economy of her region and the jobs it will create. We have to do this in the best possible way.
As my right hon. Friend is aware, many of my constituents have been living under a great deal of stress for three years now. I am sure that residents and businesses alike will welcome the compensation package that he outlined, especially those directly on the route through Long Eaton, but will he reassure the whole of Long Eaton that it will not be cut in half by the track that will go through it?
I have been particularly concerned about Long Eaton, for which we have tabled two options for consideration: a high-level viaduct and a low-level viaduct. I am well aware of the issue that the town faces; this is a complicated piece of engineering. Of course, the jobs created by the new development around Toton will be of benefit to Long Eaton. We will do our best to get this right, and that is why we have tabled more than one option for consideration by the local community.
I welcome this statement, with its promise of much-needed increased rail capacity, together with the jobs that go with that. Will the Secretary of State tell us more about how this investment will benefit the whole network, and how the economic benefits will actually be achieved? In particular, how much is he working with Rail North in bringing maximum benefit to the cities of the north, including Liverpool?
We awaiting the proposals of Rail North and Transport for the North on the connectivity that runs east to west, which I regard as very important. For a city such as Liverpool, there are two particular benefits. One of those will come through the part that this development has to play in that east-west connectivity, particularly with the routes around south Manchester. In addition—as the hon. Lady knows, I have been a regular user of the route to Liverpool over the years—there will be more trains to Liverpool and they will run faster from Liverpool to London than they do now. That will knock a significant amount off the journey time, making a real difference to her and her constituents when they travel not only to London but to Birmingham.
I am pleased to say that the contracts announced today will involve very substantial British participation in the early works. The vast majority of steel used on our railways today comes from British plants. I do not expect that to change, nor do I want it to change. I am also very clear that the businesses that take part in this programme have to leave a skills footprint behind them. I am not interested in firms that just turn up and do not expect to invest in the next generation of skills that this country needs. We need to be very robust on that throughout the procurement process. Moreover, this will allow us to provide extra connectivity to towns that do not currently have direct services to London.
The Secretary of State should not airbrush history and the massive £8 billion upgrade to the west coast under the last Labour Government. There was a huge improvement in services and a huge increase in the number of passengers using them.
I want to ask a specific question about my constituency. The Command Paper states that there will be an additional train to Liverpool, so there will be two trains per hour. Will the Secretary of State confirm that they will also stop at Runcorn, as is currently the case?
I do not expect any changes to the service to Runcorn. It would be a big step in the wrong direction if that service changed. The Liverpool trains have always stopped at Runcorn and Liverpool, and I would not want that to change.
Whole new areas in my constituency will be blighted as a result of today’s announcement, although other parts of it will benefit from the hub at Crewe. Given the blight on my constituency, will the Secretary of State agree to visit Eddisbury to speak to my local residents and hear their concerns about how it will impact on them?
As my hon. Friend knows, I lived very close to the route some years ago, so I had advance knowledge of how difficult it will be for many of her constituents. Of course, we are very happy to engage with her and her constituents on the issue. As I have said, there is no easy way of delivering such a big infrastructure project without consequences for some people, but we will do everything we can to mitigate its impact wherever possible.
HS2’s rejection of the Sheffield Meadowhall option—it said that there was a lack of consensus—is a stab in the back for the south Yorkshire economy. The reroute through the three villages of Wales, Aston and Bramley in my constituency will knock down homes and businesses. There is no consensus for that, either. Can we just have some common sense, instead of moving around all the time? If the decision was made about Meadowhall and compensation paid to householders as a result, why should there be a reroute?
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, Sir David Higgins did a lot of detailed work on that issue. Strong views were expressed in Sheffield about what worked best for the city. I have been to Aston and seen the potential impact. I will work to try to ensure that we get the maximum possible mitigation in such areas, but the right hon. Gentleman will understand that, if we are to deliver opportunities and prosperity for the northern part of the country, we need to make sure that it has the connectivity it needs.
One of the benefits that will be experienced by towns on the existing west coast main line will be the potential for a significant increase in the number of services. For example, for those who commute from Milton Keynes to London, we expect twice as many seats to be available on suburban routes to Hertfordshire and beyond to Milton Keynes, and greater opportunities for semi-fast services. The route from the town of Coventry to Birmingham is two tracks wide and constantly congested, as freight, express and passenger trains jockey for position. The proposal will create a huge additional amount of much-needed capacity for commuters to Birmingham on that very busy route.
I welcome the fact that HS2 has listened to residents in the Lowton and Golborne area and moved the depot off a site of special scientific interest to more appropriate location. Is it not the truth, however, that the investment in HS2 will make sense to the majority of people in the north only when it is combined with investment in new east-west, high-speed lines linking the great cities? Our roads are full and cannot take any more, so will the Secretary of State press the Chancellor to use the autumn statement to set out a clear timetable for northern powerhouse rail, including a completion date to tie in with HS2? Will the Government make that investment a higher investment a higher priority for transport investment than spending billions more pounds on London with Crossrail 2?
The right hon. Gentleman is, of course, a powerful advocate of the city that he hopes to represent as mayor. He is also a Liverpudlian, so he will be aware of the substantial amounts of money that we are spending on improvements in both Liverpool and Manchester. One of the benefits of the arrival of HS2 in Manchester will be to create much more connectivity on the suburban routes to Manchester Piccadilly, which is much needed. We are also poised to open links between Piccadilly and Victoria, so improvements are happening today and the right hon. Gentleman is right to say that more are needed for the future.
I give my hon. Friend an assurance that that will happen. It happens, of course, as part of the consultation process for such proposals, and the hybrid Bill process that lies ahead will give his constituents every opportunity to seek change from this House, in the same way as they previously sought change from this Government.
The original justification for the spur that goes through my constituency was the stock depot at Golborne. It has now been announced that that depot will move to north of Crewe, so why is the Secretary of State continuing with a spur that will devastate the village of Hollins Green in my constituency, have a huge environmental impact on Culcheth, even though the line has moved slightly, and does not even give Warrington a station so that it can profit from all that disruption? There are other places in the north-west besides Liverpool and Manchester, but the Secretary of State seems to have forgotten that, if we are going to have the HS2 line, they need to profit from it, to compensate for all the disruption.
The hon. Lady of all people should know that the last thing I would do is forget that places such as Warrington exist. The issue on the west coast main line north of Crewe is that much of the route through Warrington and up to Wigan is two-track. To try to fit the HS2 trains while meeting existing demand for freight and for passenger services from Liverpool and Manchester is almost impossible to engineer. We have, therefore, chosen the route that maximises rail capacity through Warrington. There will be HS2 services that serve Warrington and that, in addition, create the speed, connectivity and extra capacity that we need.
This is, indeed, good news for the city of Leeds, which is already starting to experience the economic benefits, with companies such as Burberry investing in it because of HS2. I welcome in particular the integrated approach to Leeds station. Does the Secretary of State agree that all the towns and villages across west Yorkshire have an opportunity to benefit from HS2 through a properly integrated station, and that what we really need now is a properly integrated transport system in the city of Leeds, to cope with the number of people who want to invest there?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. Such investment builds economic strength in cities such as Leeds, and that ripples out across the whole region by creating not only jobs in Leeds, but opportunities for businesses in west Yorkshire. This will be of huge benefit to the economy of the whole area around Leeds, permeating into the rural areas, and it will deliver real improvements to the economy of the north as a whole.
The Secretary of State will no doubt have seen last Thursday’s ITV programme supporting the powerful case against HS2. I am not alone in considering HS2 to be wholly unnecessary, and it will, indeed, be horrendously expensive. For much less than its likely eventual cost, essential modernisations, electrifications, additions and upgrades on our railways could all be funded. Would not that be a much more sensible investment?
The hon. Gentleman misses the central point, which is that this is a project about capacity. Whenever we have Transport questions, we hear about the pressures and congestion on, and the challenges for, our rail network. The west coast and east coast main lines, which are principal routes, are mixing together express long-distance trains, intermediate semi-fast trains, local community trains and freight trains. When things go wrong, they become congested and the trains are mixed and matched. We have to create extra capacity if we are going to be able to deliver solutions to the demands of the next generation. That is what this project is all about.
May I start by thanking my right hon. Friend Sir Patrick McLoughlin, my hon. Friend Mr Goodwill, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend Andrew Jones and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State? As one of my constituents put it to me, what has happened today, with the actioning of my proposed reroute of the branch line to Leeds at Woodlesford, shows that the political system does work. However, the main line past Swillington and Garforth in my constituency remains unchanged, so will my right hon. Friend meet me at the earliest opportunity to discuss mitigation and landscaping that will limit the impact on my constituents?
I am pleased that my hon. Friend’s constituents are happy with the change in his area. My hon. Friend the Minister will be happy to meet Members from across the House later today if they wish to raise specific issues, and of course we will have those discussions.
I want to mention something that I should have said in my earlier remarks. I cannot remember which Opposition Member’s constituency includes Crofton, where one of the depots is planned. I have been to the site and I am looking actively at whether we can find an alternative location for the depot. I hope to be able to bring forward an alternative, but I cannot provide guarantees today.
I do not have an updated figure for the hon. Gentleman, but to ensure that Aberdeen prospers, we are making sure: first, that we have a growing economy; secondly, that we continue to provide financial support to the Scottish economy from across the rest of the United Kingdom; and, thirdly, that we continue to look to create job opportunities and business opportunities in this programme for people in Aberdeen. That was why my hon. Friend the Minister went there.
We are moving ahead now and work is being done on the next stage of electrification. I am very keen to ensure that, by 2020, we will be able to deliver improved capacity and the improved speed on trains, but we will make sure that all the benefits are delivered as quickly as possible.
HS2 can be justified only if its full benefits are spread across the country and it is not simply a link between major city centres. For Cheshire, that means that we must proceed with the Crewe hub to spread those benefits around. The Secretary of State has not made his decision yet, so will he tell us when we can expect to hear about the Crewe hub? Will he also confirm that investment in HS2 will not detract from further electrification along the Chester and north Wales line?
The improvements that we are making to the rest of the network are separate from HS2. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we are doing a vast amount of work around the rail network—we will continue to do so. With regard to Crewe, we will have to put forward new proposals for consultation, but it is clear to me that Crewe station will have improved connectivity and will play a central part in our plans.
We would like a tunnel, please, at Strelley village, but HS2 enjoys widespread cross-party support in Broxtowe and beyond, because we get the east midlands hub at Toton sidings, Stapleford. HS2 delivers capacity and growth. To that end, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is important that at Toton we get a world-class business park, not just hundreds of homes and houses?
I have been to Toton. The site was once one of Britain’s great railway centres, so it is sad to see it overgrown, as it is at present. I fully expect that we will engender a real process of regeneration, with both residential and commercial development around the site. It will, of course, be for the local authority and Members of Parliament such as my right hon. Friend to shape exactly what that development should be. We want her region to be a major centre of economic regeneration, and the Toton site, large as it is, provides a real opportunity for that.
I have long campaigned for high-speed rail for Leeds, but the HS2, HS3, and phases 2a and 2b proposals are clearly flawed. Not to have a station in Sheffield is simply ludicrous. Why will the Government still not look properly at the alternative High Speed UK proposals, which are £20 billion cheaper and far more environmentally friendly? The scheme would also provide better connectivity and would not plough through the Chilterns. Why will the Government not consider that?
With all respect, I think that turning the clock back and starting the process all over again—going through the process of another hybrid Bill to get this project off the ground—would delay the project further and further into the future. We have taken a project that originated from the previous Labour Government and developed it further. We have put in place a clear plan, and next spring we start construction. I, for one, am not in favour of turning the clock back.
Derby is one of the places that will benefit from the proposals. Having the new east midlands hub between Nottingham and Derby will give both cities the opportunity to benefit enormously from it. I will be surprised if the great rail industries of Derby do not play a pretty active part in the programme.
I extend an invitation to the Secretary of State to come to Bolton and travel with me on the trains during rush hour. He would see how my constituents are squashed like sardines, how short the trains are, and how many of my constituents miss their trains and are late for work. Why can the Government not find some investment—proper money—for Bolton and the surrounding areas?
I hope that the hon. Lady welcomes the new northern franchise, which includes longer and newer trains, more services and the electrification of key routes around Greater Manchester. It should deliver a much better travelling experience for the public of the north, because that experience has not been good enough for a very long time. We are taking the action that is needed to make it much better for the future.
May I give the Secretary of State one more opportunity to confirm the huge investment in the great north railway? That is not instead of, but as well as, investment in our local and regional services. Does he agree that to win hearts and minds, we must emphasise quality jobs and apprenticeships, connectivity between towns as well as cities, and a supercharged HS3 between Liverpool and the city of culture, Hull?
I agree with my hon. Friend. Part of the job of delivering the northern powerhouse is delivering connectivity that goes from east to west—or west to east, depending on which way we look at it. This is about not just rail but road improvements. In my work on how we shape the next generation of investments, I am mindful of the need to ensure that that east-west connectivity for the north is delivered.
I have been open-minded about the right location for the Sheffield station, but may we have a clear indication from the Secretary of State of when a decision will be made? Many of my constituents have had their homes and lives blighted for many years. Will he give us some clarification about the possible Sheffield city centre station? Is it true that the trains that run there will be shorter and narrower than the full HS2 trains? In other words, is it true that they will not be full HS2 trains? Given that it does not look as though the midland mainline electrification will happen, will HS2 now have to pick up the full bill for electrification from the HS2 line into Sheffield station?
The hon. Gentleman makes some assumptions on the latter point. The trains that operate off the HS2 network will be a different design from those that operate exclusively on the HS2 network—that is to do with platform widths and gauges. That does not mean that they are slower trains or that they are less good trains; they are simply trains that can operate both on HS2 and on a conventional network. Clearly, if those trains go through Sheffield midland station, which is on the conventional network, we will be using them.
North Warwickshire has consistently suffered due to a lack of engagement from HS2, so I was alarmed to learn this morning that despite assurances given by HS2 to my local council just three weeks ago, there would be no changes to the line locally. The line will, in fact, move around 150 metres nearer to the village of Austrey, although that significant change was not even mentioned in the route refinement document. That the very first paper published on phase 2b directly contradicts information offered by HS2 so recently is cause for great concern. What assurances can my right hon. Friend give me that communication will actually improve? Will he meet me to discuss the impacts of the most recent changes on my constituents?
I absolutely give my hon. Friend that assurance. I was not aware of the situation that he describes, and the Minister and I will talk to him about how we address it.
Hitachi Rail Europe in Newton Aycliffe in my constituency is well placed to manufacture the rolling stock for HS2. It has a long track record of more than 50 years of building high-speed trains, such as the bullet train in the 1960s in Tokyo. Will the Secretary of State outline the procurement timeline in the coming years, and will he tell us when the rolling stock will start to be produced?
I can start by letting the hon. Gentleman know in advance that I will be visiting the plant in Newton Aycliffe next month. It is a great addition to our manufacturing base, and I look forward to seeing the first trains from that plant operating on our network. The team at Hitachi is doing a great job for us.
I obviously cannot prejudge the outcome of the tender process—it will take place towards the end of this decade—but I am clear that the company that builds the trains for HS2 must leave a skills footprint in this country. We will not simply bring trains in on a ship, with no benefit for engineering skills or apprenticeships in this country. I want a genuine process that will leave behind a skills footprint with regard to not just rolling stock contracts, but the whole contract.
I cannot judge future developments, but York will be one of the places that benefits from HS2 connectivity: trains will run up the HS2 line and on through York. The extra capacity and extra speeds—the extra capacity on the east coast main line, and the extra speed and connectivity to London—will very much benefit my hon. Friend’s constituents.
Having regularly buttonholed the Secretary of State’s predecessor, Sir Patrick McLoughlin, to ensure that Chesterfield was included in HS2, I am highly delighted with the Secretary of State’s proposal. Will he, however, confirm that passengers boarding HS2 at Chesterfield will have single-train access to Birmingham and London, as well as north to Sheffield and Leeds?
It is certainly our intention that people who board at Chesterfield and Sheffield will have good connections to London. I expect that there will be through trains. I cannot give the hon. Gentleman a number at the moment, but I am expect that to happen.
I congratulate the Government on their joined-up thinking on the west coast franchise and HS2, and welcome today’s announcement. Will the Secretary of State confirm that there will, in due course, be a third stage to take the route further north—arguably to the true north—and will he take Carlisle into account as a possible station?
I hear my hon. Friend’s representation. I am not in a position to give him such a guarantee today, but Carlisle will benefit from faster services, and specifically from the HS2 rolling stock that will come up the west coast main line to Carlisle, which will improve connectivity for his area from north to south. I am looking forward to talking to him about the A69 connectivity from east to west.
If HS2 is indeed to benefit the whole of the UK, it is important that areas such as north Wales, with its important routes to Ireland, receive investment and connectivity. May I therefore press the Secretary of State on the point made by my hon. Friend Christian Matheson about Crewe? Will the Secretary of State ensure that connectivity to north Wales, and beyond it to Ireland, is an essential part of any plans relating to Crewe station?
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. I was interested to read that high-speed rail services are being considered for rail passengers in Macclesfield and, indeed, in Stoke-on-Trent. Will he tell the House the time within which these decisions are likely to be made, and will he confirm that, whatever the outcome, passengers from Macclesfield will continue to enjoy the same speed and frequency of rail services as they do today?
It is certainly our intention that HS2 services should not reach Manchester exclusively by the existing route. We have talked about Stoke-on-Trent, and Macclesfield is one of the places on the same line. The other benefits to my hon. Friend’s constituents, many of whom work in Manchester, is that this will provide far more opportunity for commuter services, and far more space on those commuter services, for them and people living further north on the way into Manchester, which in my view they very much need.
As the Secretary of State is an avid Manchester United fan, may I ask him what first attracted him to extending the high-speed line from his home in the south-east to his beloved Old Trafford? Secondly, what discussions he has had with Transport for Greater Manchester about extending the light rail network out to the HS2 station at Manchester airport in my constituency?
On the latter point, there is an obvious logic in continuing to develop the Metrolink network. We have just announced additional routes to the west of the centre—indeed, passing pretty close to Old Trafford—so I am very open to discussing with the new Mayor, when he or she is elected in the summer, the ways in which we can continue to develop the transport system in Manchester.
As for the direct route between Surrey and Old Trafford, although they say that most Manchester United supporters live in Surrey, I suspect that we might struggle to get the passenger numbers to justify a high-speed route all that way.
I hope I am a lot happier just after 2.30 this Saturday afternoon than the Secretary of State, who knows my allegiance in this matter.
Midland main line electrification has a better benefit-cost ratio than any other electrification scheme and a better benefit-cost ratio than HS2. For a fraction of HS2’s cost, it would deliver momentous line speed and capacity improvements for towns across the east midlands, including Kettering. Will the Secretary of State use this opportunity to commit to fulfilling the Government’s pledge to complete the electrification of the midland main line by 2023?
My hon. Friend will be aware that work has already started on the electrification process that will, in the next stage, go as far as Corby, as well as—this tends to be seen rather as the poor relation—on track improvements and extra tracks passing up through his constituency to Corby, which will enable us to have much faster trains and much more capacity. My goal is to deliver faster journey times and extra capacity by 2020—long before the date he mentioned.
In the statement of funding policy that accompanied the comprehensive spending review, Wales was allocated a 0% Barnett rating, whereas Scotland and Northern Ireland both got a 100% rating. This means that Wales will lose out on a full Barnett allocation from HS2. As expenditure increases during the construction phase, so will the impact on the Welsh Government’s budget compared with those of Scotland and Northern Ireland. Will the Secretary of State look at this issue once again and ensure that this injustice is rectified?
My view is that this is about transport improvements around the country. I, of course, regard improvements in Wales as extremely important. I met the Minister responsible for transport in Wales last week, and we will work together to deliver the improvements that Wales needs.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for indulging a west country interloper on these proceedings. I very much welcome the improved connectivity to the midlands and the north that HS2 will bring, but an awful lot of the country lies to the west, so it is regrettable that key parts of the electrification programme on the Great Western Railway have been deferred. As we build an economy that works for all parts of the UK, will the Secretary of State look again at the benefits of running fully electric trains all the way from Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads, which for so many rail users is the entry point to Somerset and the whole of the south-west of England?
I am as frustrated as anybody by the challenges we have had on the Great Western Railway route. One of the great ironies is that while the Labour party attacks us on rail issues and talks about the need for renationalisation, one of its targets is the one bit of the rail industry that is in the public sector. The fact is that Network Rail has not been involved in electrification for many years. It did virtually nothing in Labour’s years in power. This first project has developed more problems and challenges than expected, but I still want it to be completed as quickly as possible.
I very much welcome what my right hon. Friend said in response to my hon. Friend Mr Hollobone, but I will unashamedly ask for more. I want more services, both northbound and southbound, running to Corby. Our town is growing hugely and at a rapid rate, and we need more capacity to meet growing demand and to utilise the existing lines. How will phase 2b of HS2 help to unlock opportunities through the midland main line?
The more that we take express trains off the existing main lines and the more we move passengers on to the new capacity, the more capacity will be created for intermediate journeys. The big difference for my hon. Friend’s constituency is the unheralded one of just building an extra track to Corby. That will make more difference to his town than almost anything else. By 2020, we need to have delivered much more capacity on the routes used by people represented by him and my hon. Friend Mr Hollobone. That will be essential to deliver a proper, effective commuter rail network, alongside what needs to continue to be a good express system to the midlands and the north.