I am grateful to you for allowing this statement, Mr Speaker. I am pleased to be here in front of the House tonight. As you know, sometimes these things can happen as a result of cock-up rather than conspiracy.
Today marks a major milestone in the Government’s plans to deliver High Speed 2. High Speed 2 will deliver economic growth across the United Kingdom. It will provide the rail network with the capacity we need for the next century, faster journeys and better connections between cities across the UK.
As announced to the House this morning, we will be awarding stage 1 of the main works civil engineering contracts for the phase 1 route from London to Birmingham. This stage primarily covers design and pre-construction activities, although it is worth saying that the initial works have already begun. We expect these contracts to be signed by the end of this month after the completion of the mandatory standstill period. The expected total value of these contracts covering stages 1 and stage 2, which is the full construction phase, is £6.6 billion. They will support around 16,000 jobs across the country and are expected to generate around 7,000 contract opportunities in the supply chain, of which I expect around 60% to go to small and medium-sized enterprises. I have also confirmed the shortlists for the station design contracts and Euston master development partner procurements.
As well as that announcement, today I am introducing the phase 2a High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill to the House. This seeks the powers to construct HS2 from the west midlands to Crewe so that this important section, which links up to the west coast main line just south of Crewe, can open in 2027.
The design of the route set out in the Bill is largely as announced in 2015. However, there are three refinements I have decided to make, following consultation last year. I have decided to move the connection to the west coast main line and the start of a tunnel in Crewe further south. I have also decided to move the construction railhead, and subsequently the infrastructure maintenance facility for this part of HS2, from the Basford area near Crewe to a location near Stone. I am very sensitive to the impact that that could have on the local community, which my hon. Friend Sir William Cash has diligently drawn to my attention, but I believe this site is a better location from which to construct and maintain phase 2a. The new location near Stone is strategically located midway along the phase 2a route, which means that it can support construction activities heading north and south simultaneously, offering significant programme and construction benefits. Of course, the site at Stone benefits from good transport links, with access to the M6 and the existing rail network right at that location.
In Crewe, moving the railhead from the Basford area avoids planned housing regeneration in that part of Cheshire. It also negates the need for maintenance loops at Pipe Ridware, thereby reducing impacts along the phase 2a route. It is worth saying that that area of Basford is one of Cheshire’s most significant economic development and housing development sites, and I have been very sensitive to that. The construction railhead and infrastructure maintenance facility have been carefully designed so as to minimise impacts locally, particularly on the community of Yarnfield. Having heard local concerns, I have made sure that Yarnfield Lane will remain open.
In preparing the Bill, HS2 Ltd has sought to minimise impacts on the environment and on communities. Following the deposit of the Bill, there will be a consultation on the scheme’s environmental statement. That will provide the opportunity to comment on the environmental effects of the proposed phase 2a scheme and the reasonable alternatives considered and reported by HS2 Ltd. The process will result in a report from an independent assessor, which will be provided to all Members of the House before Second Reading.
Turning to Crewe, the HS2 business case has always included two trains per hour stopping at Crewe. The phase 2a Bill includes the interventions needed to support that, but I know that there is a strong ambition to achieve even more. Today, I am therefore launching a consultation on options to develop a Crewe hub. This work shows how such a service pattern could support an HS2 service to Stoke-on-Trent and bring benefits to places like Chester, north and south Wales, Shrewsbury and Derby. Future decisions will be subject to affordability and value for money. Funding the broader vision for a Crewe hub will require national and local government to work together, but I believe that there is the potential to deliver even more benefits.
Finally today, I am announcing my decision on the outstanding sections of the phase 2b route to Manchester and Leeds, which we consulted on last year. After carefully considering the responses to the consultation, I have decided to confirm the following changes to the route. The western leg rolling stock depot will move from a site near Golborne to a site north of Crewe. That site will be included in the full environmental assessment being undertaken for the whole route and I will look carefully at that assessment.
A 26 km section of the route in the Middlewich and Pickmere area of Cheshire will change and be raised as it passes through the Cheshire salt plains, to avoid brining and gas storage infrastructure. The approach to Manchester Piccadilly station will be adjusted to improve operational efficiency and reduce impacts on residential areas and a primary school. The route near East Midlands airport will now closely follow the eastern side of the A42. This avoids tunnelling under the airport and reduces the impacts on some communities. At Long Eaton, after much consultation with the local community, the route will pass through the town on a high viaduct.
The route in South Yorkshire will be the route we consulted on in 2016, which in part follows the M1 and M18, and serves Sheffield city centre via a spur from the HS2 line. I am also asking HS2 Ltd to take forward the provision of a northern junction back on to HS2, giving a city centre to city centre connection between Leeds and Sheffield in less than 30 minutes. That is very important for the development of Northern Powerhouse Rail. We will also continue to work on a possible parkway station.
Finally, I have decided not to proceed with the proposed change of route to the east of Measham. Instead, I am confirming a modified version of the 2013 preferred route to the west of Measham. In Measham itself, the route is moved approximately 80 metres and the viaduct extended to mitigate commercial property impacts. I have heard the concerns raised by local communities about the proposed eastern leg rolling stock depot at Crofton. HS2 Ltd believes it has found a better option, on which I am now consulting, which is east of Leeds in the Aire valley, adjacent to the M1 on a brownfield site.
I intend to bring forward a third hybrid Bill for phase 2b in 2019. In preparation for that Bill, HS2 Ltd is today launching a consultation on the technical scope and methodology to be used in the environmental and equality impact assessments.
Today’s decisions bring certainty for communities who have been unsure of the route for some years. I am updating the safeguarding directions for the phase 2b route to protect the land required for the construction and operation of the line. I can also confirm that the same range of property schemes currently operating for phases 1 and 2a will be available for phase 2b. This goes over and above what is required by law and gives assistance to those along the line of the route. I have also made amendments to some of the detailed urban/rural boundaries for phase 2b and to the treatment of properties around tunnel portals.
A report published today by property specialists Carter Jonas tells us that the particular circumstance of the Shimmer estate development in Mexborough, South Yorkshire means that this package may not allow some homeowners to acquire a similar property in their local area. In the light of the report’s findings, I therefore also confirm that the Government will ensure that Shimmer homeowners can secure a comparable home, as referred to in my summary document “High Speed Two: From Concept to Reality”, which is also being published today. That is really important.
We need HS2. Since privatisation, the number of passenger journeys on our railways has doubled. It has nearly tripled on the key west coast inter-city corridor. We cannot continue to rely on the legacy of our Victorian forebears, far-sighted though they were. By providing new routes for inter-city services, HS2 will free up space on our existing railways. It will reduce overcrowding and allow options for more varied and frequent services, including for places that currently do not have a good connection to London. This released capacity could allow more freight trains. It could also more than double the current number of peak-time seats on busy services from Manchester Piccadilly towards Stoke and Crewe, and from Leeds towards Wakefield. It has the potential to almost double peak seats from London to Peterborough and east coast destinations further north.
Any significant investment needs to offer good value for money, as HS2 does. Today I am publishing the updated business case for phase 2, which shows that, including the wider economic benefits, the full HS2 network will create £2.30 of benefit for every £1 spent. We want to make the most of our investment in HS2. When phase 1 becomes operational, HS2 trains will run to Manchester, Liverpool, Preston, Warrington, Wigan and Glasgow. Phase 2 will further reduce journey times between London and Glasgow and Edinburgh to around three hours and 40 minutes. To my Scottish colleagues, let me say that we will continue to work with Transport Scotland and Network Rail to look at the best ways of further reducing times, towards an ultimate ambition of a three-hour journey time between London and Scotland. We are also looking at opportunities to use HS2 to support Northern Powerhouse Rail and Midlands Connect.
Finally, I know that today’s announcement will not be welcome news for those living along the line of the route. There will be concern about how HS2 will affect their homes, communities and businesses. That, sadly, is inevitable if we are going to do big projects of this kind for our nation, but I am determined that we will engage extensively with everyone affected and that we will show fairness, compassion and respect. All the products mentioned today are in the Libraries of both Houses.
Our plan for Britain is a plan to build a stronger, fairer country, with an economy that works for everyone—one in which wealth and opportunity are spread across the country and we are set up to succeed in the long term. Investment in economic infrastructure is a key part of this. HS2 will be the new backbone of the UK rail network. It will transform a rail network built for the 19th century into one designed for the 21st century. It will increase capacity and connectivity across our rail network, bring our country closer together and support economic growth. The benefits of HS2 will be felt across the whole of the United Kingdom. I commend the statement to the House.
May I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement? I also thank you, Mr Speaker, for hearing the point of order made earlier today by my right hon. Friend Edward Miliband about what could be done to encourage the Secretary of State to better inform the House of the crucial decisions that he has reached on one of the most significant and costly pieces of transport infrastructure that this country has proposed for many a year.
Perhaps the Secretary of State will be kind enough to explain what happened earlier today, given the widespread trailing of an oral statement on the anticipated announcement and the House’s subsequent disappointment at initially being asked to settle for a written statement, until such time as the outcry seemingly reached the Transport Secretary’s ears and his somewhat belated appearance in the Chamber tonight.
Labour has consistently supported HS2 and the attendant benefits it will bring—indeed, we were its initial proposer in 2009—but that support brings with it many questions. On the construction, there are concerns that companies selected to do the work were previously involved in the practice of blacklisting workers.What assurances can the Secretary of State give that no such practices will be tolerated in the delivery of HS2? Far too often in the case of significant projects in recent times, overseas contractors—and several have been awarded contracts here—have brought in their own labour, and have recruited exclusively from jurisdictions outside the United Kingdom. HS2 clearly represents huge employment and career opportunities for apprentices and established workers alike. Can the Secretary of State guarantee that the practices we have seen in the construction industry that have excluded British workers from UK projects will not be allowed to obtain in the construction of HS2?
There are also concerns about the financial health of Carillion. What measures has the Secretary of State put in place to ensure that any financial instability of any of the contractors will not delay or add to the cost of the project? He said in evidence to the Treasury Committee that it was not his job to monitor conflicts of interest in the delivery of HS2, but given the revelations of the revolving door between HS2 and the engineering firm CH2M, does he accept that he does, in fact, have such an obligation if the public are to have confidence in the arrangements between HS2 and the contractors?
What assurances and guarantees can the Secretary of State give that the total overall cost will not exceed the stated £55.7 billion, and will not spiral, as has been alleged in certain quarters? In one of the many documents published today, we are told that in adopting the M18 route in south Yorkshire, although HS2 Ltd has included in the costs estimate the delivery of a junction north of Sheffield and back to the HS2 main line, it has not costed electrification of the midland main line between Clay Cross and Sheffield Midland, or from Sheffield to the north. Does the Secretary of State intend the line to be electrified in readiness for HS2—and if so, when—or is he working on the basis that trains to Sheffield will be bimodal, and the line will remain unelectrified?
Will the Secretary of State provide further and better particulars of his proposals and preferences in respect of potential parkway stations? Will he also provide an update on the progress of the northern east-west rail and the extension to the north-east—“Crossrail for the north”—and its connection with HS2, and on what discussions he has had with Transport for the North in that regard? Finally, will he reassure the House that his announcement about progress on HS2 will not be followed by an announcement of yet further delays to electrification of the trans-Pennine route?
I am grateful to Andy McDonald for the Opposition’s continued support for the HS2 project. I hope that we shall be able to work on it together. I think that the House, or a large proportion of it, is united in believing that the project is necessary to the economic development of the future.
As I said a moment ago, I am very pleased to be here now. I should have preferred to be here earlier, but, as I said, it is sometimes a case of cock-up rather than conspiracy.
Let me begin by saying something about the construction contracts. We have contracted a range of significant British companies as part of the awarding of contracts today. A range of consortiums is participating, and many of them are already an integral part of Crossrail, which is our biggest engineering project—and the biggest in Europe. We have a good team of UK and international organisations that are used to working as a team to deliver big infrastructure projects. However, the assurance that I give the hon. Gentleman and the House is that, as I have made clear all along, the companies that win contracts for HS2—whether construction, design or, ultimately, rolling stock contracts—will be obliged to make a commitment to leave a lasting skills footprint. That means apprenticeship programmes and skills development, and I think the two high-speed college campuses that we have established in Birmingham and Doncaster will help to develop real expertise for the future.
The hon. Gentleman talked about Carillion. Carillion is a big UK construction business which is clearly going through a troubled time, and we all hope that it will pull through, because we want to see British business succeed. However, I can tell him that Carillion is part of a consortium in which all the organisations involved have committed to delivering their part of the contract, and I am confident that whatever the position in respect of Carillion, that consortium will deliver the results that we expect.
The hon. Gentleman talked about conflicts of interest and CH2M. As he is aware, it pulled out of that particular contract. I have every intention of ensuring that we have proper behaviour by companies in future; they will be unable to continue to work for us if they do not do the right thing.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the total cost of the project. Over the past 24 hours there have been some wild rumours about the cost, based on people who are not involved in the project putting a finger in the air. I simply remind the House that it is incredible, inconceivable and simply nonsense to suggest that HS2 will cost five times the amount of HS1 per mile. This project has a total cost attached of £55.7 billion. It is currently on time and on budget, and I expect it to stay that way. In this country we have experience of major projects, such as Crossrail and the Olympics, and we have been pretty good at delivering on time and on budget. I am sure that we will carry on doing so.
The hon. Gentleman asked about electrification of the M18 route. I can confirm that the route from Sheffield Midland north to Leeds will also be electrified to ensure that through services can run to Leeds. That link is also an important part of northern powerhouse rail. On parkways stations, work is continuing to look at the best options. With regard to the whole northern powerhouse rail project, I am waiting for Transport for the North to bring forward its proposals. With regard to trans-Pennine modernisation, nothing has changed.
I thank you, Mr Speaker, and I thank the Secretary of State for coming to the House to make a statement on this important project at this late time of night—I am willing to discuss HS2 with him any time of the night or day. He has put a great deal of confidence in the contractors he announced today, to which he is awarding £6.6 billion of taxpayers’ money. However, just by glancing at recent news reports, we see that Strabag, an Austrian firm, is pulling out of a hydroelectric plant contract in Bosnia, having sought to increase the contract price. Skanska UK has revealed major project cost overruns and write-downs of £33 million. Costain has yet to reach a settlement for a private finance initiative project contract with the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority, where it has already incurred £15 million of losses. Last December the Health and Safety Commission confirmed that Kier Infrastructure and Overseas Ltd was being prosecuted for three incidents that took place during the construction of the Crossrail tunnel. That is in addition to Carillion’s well documented financial problems, which mean that it is having to restructure. Can he confirm that he knew about all those matters, that he has carried out due diligence on those companies, and that the taxpayer is not in reality carrying unacceptable risks on the construction of HS2?
We of course monitor the fitness for contracts of all the companies we award contracts to. The consortia to which we have awarded contracts today are groups of firms that have a track record of delivering major projects for this country, and they also include major British businesses that I want to see succeed. It is really important to ensure that we use the expertise that is already delivering for us and that we also champion British business. The awarding of the contracts does that job.
I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement, and for his honesty in admitting that today’s proceedings are yet another Government cock-up, which is quite the theme.
I have consistently spoken in favour of High Speed 2, so long as Scotland is not excluded. I therefore welcome the Secretary of State’s restatement of the aspiration to have a three-hour journey time to Scotland. By contrast, my scheduled journey time today from Glasgow to London was four and a half hours—50% longer—which shows the real benefits that high-speed rail could bring. However, my understanding is that when high-speed trains run on the existing network north of Crewe they will actually run slower than my train did today. Can he confirm that, and if so, what will be done to look at the rolling stock to try to improve that speed?
Can the Secretary of State also advise on the estimated journey time of three hours and 45 minutes when high-speed trains start running to Glasgow, and how much that reduced journey time will be due to the reduced number of stops? Can he confirm in which investment periods upgrades to the west coast main line north of Crewe will take place? A previous KPMG report highlighted some possible negative impacts in Scotland, including a predicted £220 million drop in economic output in Aberdeenshire, if high-speed rail continues without including Scotland. Has he updated the review of those figures, and if not, why was the Secretary of State for Scotland able to tweet that today’s announcements on high-speed rail will bring economic benefits to Scotland?
I want to reiterate the concerns about Carillion, which now has the prefix “troubled” when it is mentioned in the newspapers. What engagement has there been with Scottish companies for bids? Will the Secretary of State uphold his predecessor’s commitment that offsite constructions will definitely be in Scotland? With regard to today’s announcement about the Crewe hub, can he confirm that it will not be to the detriment of services to Scotland or the funding of upgrades north of Crewe? Finally, I offer the small reminder that the devolution of Network Rail to Scotland would allow the Scottish Government to progress upgrades north of the border much quicker.
As I said earlier, this project benefits the whole United Kingdom. It will reduce journey times to Scotland, and I am committed to looking at how we ensure those journey times come down on and beyond the HS2 network. I will work closely with my Scottish colleagues to see how best we can achieve that, to deliver what people in Scotland want, which is— [Interruption.] Well, I hate to say this to the Scottish National party, but actually we are the ones who just made ground in Scotland. The hon. Gentleman will not be surprised if I listen to my Scottish colleagues, who seem to me to have their fingers firmly on the pulse of what people in Scotland want. Of course, we will deal with the Scottish Administration, but there is more than one voice for Scotland in this House now.
Service patterns for the future will ultimately depend on timetabling much closer to the time, but I expect to see genuine benefits for people across the network served by HS2 in Scotland, the north of England and north Wales. This investment will lead to better services all around the country. It will deliver better services from the east coast ports; I see my hon. Friend Andrew Percy in his place, and there is a real opportunity to open new routes to those ports on the existing east coast main line. There is a real opportunity to improve the services to cities off the HS2 network that will be served by HS2 trains—Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Preston, Liverpool. This will benefit people on a very widespread basis.
The hon. Gentleman talks about a drop in economic activity. This is a huge project that will feed the supply chain all around the United Kingdom. So this will be good news for Scottish business, good news for English business, good news for Welsh business and good news for Northern Irish business. This is good news for the United Kingdom as a whole.
The hon. Gentleman talked about Carillion. I would hope that everyone in this House would share my ambition that a British company going through a troubled period pulls through and has a stronger future, and I see no reason, when it is part of a consortium that has agreed collectively to deliver for us, why we should hold its current position against it and take away an opportunity that might help that business recover.
Lastly, I do not see how delivering on a Crewe hub that will help connections to north Wales, for example, should in any way disadvantage Scotland.
As my right hon. Friend knows, I am profoundly and deeply opposed to phase 2, which goes straight through my constituency from top to bottom. Will he confirm that Yarnfield Lane will be kept open, as he said in his statement, and reconfirm his personal assurance to me that he has instructed officials to prepare plans for a deeper and longer tunnel at Whitmore, Baldwin’s Gate and Madeley, and that he will give renewed consideration to the introduction of property bonds, which I have pressed for in the past?
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend; I accept that it is never easy when a project like this comes through a constituency, and I respect the constructive way in which he has approached this on behalf of his constituents. I know he and his constituents feel strongly about it. I can give him an assurance in each of those areas. As he knows, I have been to his constituency and looked at the impact of the route and can confirm that Yarnfield Lane will remain open. I can also confirm that we are looking again at the tunnel issue and how we best deal with the issue of properties, as he discussed. I will continue to have discussions with him and seek to do the best we can for his constituents, whom I know do not welcome this development, necessary though it is for the country as a whole.
I welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement today. Certainty about the route and the timetable for progressing the project is essential if businesses are to have the confidence to invest and create jobs in the region served by HS2. But, as he acknowledged, decisions also present huge challenges for those communities most affected, and HS2 Ltd has rightly been criticised for the way it dealt with communities on phase 1, so what specific action has he taken to ensure improved engagement and address the need to respond promptly, effectively and sensitively to community concerns?
I thank the hon. Lady for her support for the project as a whole. I accept her criticism; I met the HS2 leadership team this week and expressed my concern that that should change. I am absolutely clear that as we go through the process of the hybrid Bill for phase 2a, and the further process for phase 2b, I expect HS2 to do the right thing by the affected communities. I invite any Member of the House to come and see me or the Minister responsible if they feel that that is not happening, and we will seek to ensure that it does.
Order. I do not wish to embarrass an hon. Member by naming the person, but one hon. Member in the Chamber is standing and seeking to catch my eye despite having just arrived, 21 minutes after the statement began, which is, to put it mildly, a tad cheeky.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement. He has confirmed that there will be a major construction site just inside the constituency of my hon. Friend Sir William Cash. There are no exits to the M6 in that area, between Stone and Crewe, so the A525, which runs through my constituency—and particularly the village of Woore—will be affected. Does he have any idea at this stage of the volume of material that will be transported to the construction site, first by rail and laterally by cross-roads such as the A525?
One of the advantages of the site is that it adjoins the west coast main line, and I expect as much as is practical to be delivered and taken away by rail. There certainly will be a road impact, however, as we move towards the construction phase. As we go through the hybrid Bill process, we will discuss that in detail with the Members of Parliament representing the affected constituencies, and I am open to asking Highways England to look at any local amelioration measures that could be put in place to ensure the least possible trouble to the local communities.
I am afraid that the Secretary of State’s statement will provoke deep anger among my constituents, not just because of the local impact on them but because they believe, as I do, that this is the wrong choice for jobs, for regeneration, for connectivity and indeed for the ambitions of HS2 for South Yorkshire. I want to ask him two questions in that context. First, the consultation came back 15:1 against the M18 route, so why did he ignore it? Secondly, can he honestly say that this is a better choice for Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham—towns that need to benefit from HS2?
I know how strongly the right hon. Gentleman feels about this—he and I have spoken about it—and I give him my personal assurance that I have considered the matter very carefully. The truth is that, when it comes to consultations, there are strong views against an option when it affects a particular community. There is no doubt about that at all. I have considered the regeneration issues around Meadowhall as compared with the current route, and I have considered the engineering challenge of building a large station in the Meadowhall corridor. I have also been mindful of the potential benefits of the direct connection between Sheffield Midland and Leeds for northern powerhouse rail. My judgment, after much consideration and listening to the advice of the HS2 leadership team, is that this is the best option. I accept that the right hon. Gentleman will not agree with my decision, but I give him my personal assurance that I have not taken it lightly. I have listened to what he and others have said and given the matter careful thought. He will disagree with me, but I want him to believe that this was a sincerely taken decision.
In Broxtowe, many people support HS2—rightly, in my view—because we know that it will bring jobs and growth to the east midlands hub at Toton sidings. People in Trowell will be delighted that the rural scheme for compensation has been extended, and I really do thank the Secretary of State for that decision. However, there will not be the support for the scheme that there should be because of the proposed 60-foot viaduct through the village. Will he give an undertaking that he will look at that again? If he changes his mind about that, the scheme will have widespread support throughout the whole of Broxtowe.
As the hybrid Bill goes through its consideration in this House, there will be have to be debates about such issues, and I know that my right hon. Friend and the petitioners will make that point clearly to the Committee. The High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Act 2017 was modified in places in Committee, and it will be open to those who can win an argument with the Committee to secure change.
I also express my thanks to my right hon. Friend for the constructive way in which she has approached the discussions. She is right to say that the regeneration of the Toton site will make a real difference to the east midlands. It is a huge waste at the moment, and I hope to see the project breathe life back into it.
The Secretary of State referred to the “good news”. This is not good news at all for people in Mexborough and various other places because of the vanity project idea of a station in Sheffield, which has resulted in the spur going straight through the middle of the Bolsover constituency. It is not good news in Newton, where 50 homes are likely to be affected. It is not good news at McArthurGlen in Ashfield, where they were going to increase the number of jobs by 1,000, which has now gone down the pan because of this new route—the so-called HS2 spur. The only decent news is for firms like Carillion, which has been involved in blacklisting. It is almost a mirror image of the current Tory party.
I know that the hon. Gentleman feels strongly about this project, which does affect his constituents. I have been clear in saying that it is not possible to build a project like this without affecting someone—whichever route we chose. In fact, if we had chosen the Meadowhall route instead of the M18 route, more properties would have been demolished. The reality is that we have to take decisions and ensure that we treat the people affected decently. I know that the hon. Gentleman will not agree with me or us about this project, but I assure him that we will seek to treat his constituents fairly.
When I predicted in 2013 that the cost of HS2 would balloon to £100 billion, I was wrong. It is clear that the project will end up costing the nation an awful lot more than that. Does the Secretary of State share my constituents’ concern? They would absolutely expect a Labour Government to wilfully and neglectfully waste taxpayers’ money, but they despair at seeing a Conservative Government do exactly that with this project.
I know that my hon. Friend also feels strongly about this project, but I remind him that HS2’s purpose is to deliver additional capacity in our transport system. It will create the opportunity to double the number of peak-time seats into Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham, and there will be a huge increase into London Euston. It will provide the opportunity for more freight to move off the roads and on to rail. That is what this is all about.
I have heard a lot over the past 24 hours about numbers. The project has a budget of £55.7 billion. This country has a decent track record of late of delivering projects on time and on budget, and I am confident that that is what will happen this time. As far as I can see, those who appear to be telling a different story have no involvement in the project and little direct knowledge of it.
Will the Secretary of State confirm that he has once again dismissed proposals for cut and over or other adjustments to the route around Normanton? For all the effort and energy that he has put into looking at alternatives for south Yorkshire, he has not looked at alternatives for West Yorkshire. We have no station between Sheffield and Leeds, and many people will see the costs of the development, but not the benefits. In Normanton, for example, despite being less than 20 minutes from Leeds, we have only one train an hour and will not benefit from any of the shift in capacity that he has talked about. Is he not concerned that his approach to HS2, because of its focus on cities, not on any of the links to towns, will only widen the serious gap between cities and towns in this country, which is becoming even more serious than the divide between north and south?
The first thing to say is that we have taken a lot of care to try to put mitigation measures in place, and the movement of the depot from Crofton is a case in point. I have looked to try to change the configuration of the route around Barnburgh, and I have been up there myself to look at the locations. I am sure that the right hon. Lady will make further representations to the Committee that considers the Bill. If she looks at the challenges facing the rail network in the north, she will see that it is not about the lines that have lots of stations; it is about the fact that the links between our major cities are caught up by slow trains. A fast train from Leeds to Manchester across the Pennines is not possible because of all the stations in between, and councils and representatives in the north have been calling for better, faster links between our northern cities, and this project will do that job between Sheffield and Leeds. One reason why I am attracted to the link between Sheffield city centre and Leeds city centre is to provide fast connections between the two.
Tatton or Shipley? Esther McVey.
Good choice, Mr Speaker.
I appreciate that the Secretary of State is seeking to be decisive, but my constituents in Tatton are deeply concerned by what they hear in the media. Will he ensure that my constituents, and I as their representative in Parliament, will be fully involved in the decisions that will hugely affect them, and that he and High Speed 2 will not ride roughshod over their legitimate concerns?
This is my first opportunity to welcome my right hon. Friend back to the House. I am delighted to see her, and she will know that, of all the constituencies in the country apart from my own, I know hers well. I used to live there, and I understand the impact on local communities. I give her an assurance that we will do everything we can to be sensitive to the concerns and needs of those communities. As I said earlier, such a project cannot be delivered without it impacting on some people. I know the route through her constituency very precisely, and I can assure her that I will continue to work with her to make sure we minimise the impacts to the maximum degree we can.
Between 2013 and 2016, a station at Sheffield Meadowhall was preferred by HS2. Sir David Higgins told me at an MP consultation meeting a few months ago that the station did not go ahead because there was no consensus on Sheffield City Council to build it. The Secretary of State will have seen today’s publication of the consultation on the M1/M18 route that goes through three of my villages, which was 15:1 against—a lot of people support Meadowhall. Why do we spend money on consultations if that is the case?
The Shimmer estate at Mexborough was mentioned earlier, and it is estimated that quite a number of houses there will have to come down. On the Broadlands estate at Bramley in my constituency—the estate I live on—at least 81 houses are within 100 metres of HS2, and on the other side is the M18 motorway. The route will be devastating for the constituency, yet HS2 always denies the number of houses that will be affected.
Secretary of State, if HS2 is saying that fewer houses will be affected on the Meadowhall route—I defended that route, which goes through my constituency, too—it is not the truth. I put it in Sir David Higgins’s hands months ago, and he still will not give me a figure for what would happen at Meadowhall.
We worked through the decision between the two routes very carefully. It is the case that more houses would be demolished on the Meadowhall route than on the M18 route, but the key point is that I have taken careful advice from the team working on this, and I have considered the different options. The towns and cities to the west of south Yorkshire prefer one route and the towns and cities to the east of south Yorkshire prefer another. We have tried to take a balanced decision based on what we think is in the best interests of the country. I have given an assurance to the people affected, and I echo it to the right hon. Gentleman’s constituents, that we will seek to do the right thing by them. I understand that a project like this is difficult. We need to take decisions in the interest of the country, and we then need to do everything we can to look after those affected.
There are many people, including in Yorkshire, who think that HS2 is a huge waste of money that could be better spent on infrastructure projects elsewhere in the region. He was bullish about the total figure that HS2 will cost. Will he therefore put a cap on the cost to make sure it does not overrun in the way some people think? At what point does he think HS2 will become too expensive? Or does he support this project whatever its ultimate cost?
The taxpayers are paying the bill, but believe me the Treasury keeps a pretty careful watch on public spending and I have no doubt that it will be keeping a very weather eye on those costs, as will all the various bodies that look at public procurement projects and public construction projects. We have a good recent track record in delivering major projects on time and on budget—people have only to look at Crossrail to see that. We should be self-confident as a nation and say that we can do this. Why would it be the case that other countries can deliver projects such as this and for us to think we cannot—I think we can.
As the hon. Lady knows, Liverpool is one of the cities that will be served from the start by HS2 trains. When we have finished the Golborne link, I expect that in the end to become part of the connection that becomes Northern Powerhouse Rail, but I am waiting for Transport for the North to bring forward its detailed proposals. My view is that Liverpool will benefit enormously through reduced journey times, but I also expect it to be part of Northern Powerhouse Rail. As she knows, I know the city well and I am keen to make sure it benefits from the investment we are putting in.
Although I welcome the clarity that today’s announcement brings to residents of Long Eaton, Sandiacre and Stanton Gate in my constituency, and the extension of the rural service to the south of Long Eaton, some of my constituents who have lived in their homes for 40 years or more are being offered only two thirds of the value of their homes and cannot afford to buy another home. As HS2 will be of great benefit to the whole nation, does my right hon. Friend agree that nobody should be worse off as a result of it?
I do agree, and I am very grateful to my hon. Friend and to the people of Long Eaton; as she knows, we have had a long discussion about whether we should have a high-level embankment or a low-level one, and I hope the solution we have reached is one that her community will support. I am clear that I do not want people to lose out as a result of this, and I extend to the House the request that Members should come to tell me if there are any places where there is a danger of that happening.
If Members look at what we are doing now, they will see that we are in the process of modernising the signalling on the north Wales line. I am very clear that one beneficiary of the construction of HS2 will be north Wales, which will suddenly have significant additional capacity for services to London, Birmingham and elsewhere. This investment benefits everyone, by freeing up the capacity to deliver the services that they want.
May I say to the Secretary of State that my constituents in Wimboldsley and Winsford will be devastated by this decision? As he has found an extra £750 million, which has been identified by the TerraConsult report as being needed to build over the salt plains of Cheshire, will he confirm that the environmental impact assessment will consider salt subsidence, which is hugely prevalent in this area, and that he will also dedicate £750 million towards the mitigation that will be needed in respect of the effects of raising the height of HS2 throughout the constituency?
We will attempt to make sure that we deliver mitigations where we can. It is worth saying that one question that has been raised is about the cost of this route relative to what counterparts in other European countries would spend, but we are, up and down this route, spending additional money on mitigations that other countries perhaps would not necessarily spend. That is an important part of finding the right balance between investment in infrastructure and trying to do the right thing by the communities affected. I know the concerns my hon. Friend has raised and I assure her that I will continue to work with her and her communities. The environmental assessment must look at these issues and of course when the Bill comes before this House the Committee concerned will also look at them. She and I will carry on working carefully together to make sure we deliver the right outcome—the best possible outcome—for her constituency, which will undoubtedly have parts that do not like what we are doing.
The original justification for the Hoo Green to Bamfurlong spur was the siting of a stock depot at Golborne. The Secretary of State has confirmed today that that will be moved to Crewe and that he will develop the Crewe hub. The costs for that part of the line have been repeatedly questioned and the devastation it will cause to the two villages of Culcheth and Hollins Green in my constituency has not been taken into account in any economic assessment. Does he accept that this spur is now the whitest of white elephants and yet another example of the concentration of HS2 on big cities and the neglect of its effect on towns?
No, I do not, because the Golborne link is an important part of ensuring good connectivity for Preston, Lancaster, Carlisle and Scotland. If we are to deliver better connectivity to Scotland, we need the Golborne link so that the trains can use that route to reduce journey times as much as possible. I am afraid that I do not accept the hon. Lady’s point. I understand the reluctance in parts of her constituency to have this piece of the line developed. We will obviously do the right thing by the people affected, but this is an important part of delivering connectivity to the northern part of the country that would not otherwise happen in the same way.
My right hon. Friend is already well aware of my constituents and my concerns over the route over the Ingestre salt marsh, but will he also consider putting some tunnelling back into the route through my constituency? The only bit of tunnelling that was there has now been removed, yet there are plenty of kilometres that could be tunnelled to avoid the impact on my constituents in Hopton, Marston and other places, including the Staffordshire showground. Will he also consider the impact on transport links across the region as the route in my constituency cuts across the A34, the M6, the A51 and several other A roads that are important for both regional and national infrastructure?
On the latter point, I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that we cannot end up with principal routes cut off. The environmental work we are talking about and the hybrid Bill Committee will consider the issues he mentions. I am happy to carry on talking to him about those options, but now, with the Committee, my hon. Friend and others have the opportunity to make the case to parliamentary colleagues about changes that might be necessary. That worked for the phase 1 Bill and the Committee will no doubt give careful thought to what he has discussed in the context of the phase 2 Bill. I will happily keep talking to him about his concerns.
The Secretary of State might remember that I have been a consistent opponent of the project for a very long time. It was £20 billion as a Labour project, then it became a Conservative project and would cost £40 billion, and I was told that I was irresponsible for saying that it would reach £60 billion. It is very clear from the article in The Sunday Times only this Sunday that it will cost £100 billion and beyond. I believe that people who elected me and who vote for my party believe that that sort of national treasure should be invested in public services and the national health service, not in a technology—I hope that he will listen to this—that by 2033 will be as out of date as the canals were by the time the railways arrived.
If we roll the clock back 30 years, we were being told that about the rail network, and large chunks of it were closed. I now have hon. Members from all over the place saying, “Can we reopen it?” I am afraid that I do not accept the argument that in 10 or 15 years’ time the railways will be redundant. If we are going to maintain a balance between our roads and rail system for transport around the country, we will need investment in both. That is what this is all about. I would simply say to the hon. Gentleman that I accept his view, but I thought the stuff I read in The Sunday Times yesterday about cost was absolute nonsense, coming from somebody with no involvement in the project.
Lichfield has been blighted twice by HS2, first by phase 1 and now by phase 2a. Farms are facing devastation in my constituency, with quarries being planned for them under phase 2a. Will the Secretary of State confirm that they can appeal through a petition? His predecessor said that the whole rationale for HS2 was congestion, but is it not the case that most of the congestion is south of Birmingham? I do not believe that phase 2a and phase 2b are necessary. It would save this nation money and I can tell the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend Paul Maynard, who is on the Front Bench, that this legislation certainly will not have my support when it comes to a vote.
My hon. Friend talks about congestion; he should see the communications that I receive from people in Manchester and Leeds saying, “Our trains and railway lines are full; we need more capacity.” And, for example, our new colleague, my hon. Friend Jack Brereton, is keen to see additional services from Stoke to Birmingham. If we are to have new capacity to deliver new services, we need a bigger network; that is what this is all about. I am absolutely clear that people will have the right to petition and to express their views to the Committee; that is the right and proper process to follow.
The Secretary of State will have heard the concerns from across the House about the costs of this contract and the companies involved in the consortium, including Carillion, which has made its profits from the frankly over-inflated rates of return on private finance products. Can he confirm that the contract has been awarded under the auspices of the Private Finance 2 pipeline? Under whatever auspices it has been awarded, will he commit to publishing the guidance that his Department used to undertake the value-for-money assessment for this contract?
I can give the hon. Lady an absolute assurance that when it comes to letting contracts, we are not taking the same disastrous approach to private finance as the Labour party did, which led to the huge deficits that brought parts of our national health service into a state of financial chaos. We follow a value-for-money approach that is vetted by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority and the National Audit Office. These are value-for-money public contracts to deliver an essential project for the nation.
Ah yes, the man in the cream suit: Mr Alec Shelbrooke.
Bringing some brightness to this late hour.
May I say to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that the jobs bonanza that will come with moving the depot to Stourton is hugely welcome to Leeds, the Aire valley and my constituents? On the conversation that I had with the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, my hon. Friend Andrew Jones, and on the tunnelling that will take place under Woodlesford, has the Secretary of State given consideration to the site on which the depot will sit? Has he considered putting all the tunnelling equipment and the spoil on brownfield land, so as to minimise the disruption to my villages of Woodlesford and Oulton, and the traffic around them, during construction?
My hon. Friend makes an interesting suggestion that I will pass on to the HS2 team. I am very glad that he supports this alternative site; I think it is the right one, and that people further south will welcome the decision. I have sought, having visited all the route, ways of minimising the impact, but as I said earlier, there are inevitably consequences of a project on this scale.
May I ask the Secretary of State for a clarification and about a point of omission? On the clarification, he referred to the electrification of the line north of Sheffield to Leeds. Will he confirm that the cost of that is provided for in the decision? Paragraph 2.7.62 of the Department’s report talks about the possibility of bimodal trains operating north of Sheffield if the line is not electrified. On the omission, the biggest challenge to his decision is the lack of capacity at Sheffield Midland station. His departmental officials have confirmed that there is capacity for only two trains an hour, yet the proposal is for two HS2 trains from Sheffield to London, two from Leeds to Birmingham through Sheffield, and hopefully more trains from Sheffield to Manchester as part of Northern Powerhouse Rail. How will he deal with that lack of capacity? Where is the money coming from?
As we get towards the opening of this part of the route in 2033, we will have to make sure that the necessary capacity is available, but as the hon. Gentleman knows, this is the route that Sheffield City Council has argued for. I have accepted that argument. We will have an electrified route that links HS2 and Leeds via Sheffield; that is really important.
Thank you, Mr Speaker; again, a good choice. I am a huge supporter of HS2; it is absolutely needed for the north of England, as is HS3. However, as the Secretary of State knows, my preference has been for the Sheffield Meadowhall option, which would carry more regeneration benefits for south Yorkshire and the Humber. Given that that has been ruled out, when will we get a decision on the parkway station and its location, and how will we ensure that the rest of south Yorkshire outside Sheffield, and the Humber, benefit from this investment?
We are doing the work on the parkway station at the moment, and I am interested in getting the views of my hon. Friend and others on how that might best work. Regarding his constituency, I am waiting for Transport for the North to come forward with its proposals about how to create the connectivity that is in Humberside in the rest of Yorkshire. That is the essential part of the process.
Will the Secretary of State please confirm to my constituents in Crewe and Nantwich that the hub will be situated at the current Crewe station? Will he also confirm how many stops there will be? Crewe will welcome this if Crewe and the workers in Crewe will benefit from the station, but we need to know that we are getting the right number of stops and that the hub will be in the centre of our town.
The answer is that I expect the Crewe hub to be at the current Crewe station. There is huge potential there to develop a much better centre, a much better station and much better capacity around the station. Service patterns will be sorted out in the future, but I expect there to be a regular service, and much better connections to north Wales and elsewhere.
I call Mr Simon Hoare.
I stand as Hobson’s choice, I think, Mr Speaker.
Huskisson and his predecessors will have heard many of the concerns about the Victorian railway network as proposed about this village, that village or the other. He and his colleagues wisely proceeded, and the benefits of economic growth and job creation from the Victorian rail network were very clear. Will my right hon. Friend reflect on the important statement made by the shadow Secretary of State? Notwithstanding the parliamentary arithmetic, he provided the support of the official Opposition for this project, understanding and realising the important economic benefits that the proposal brings to the whole United Kingdom. That is to be underscored and welcomed at any time, but particularly in a post-Brexit environment.
My hon. Friend is right. In the event that I am still Transport Secretary when the first train runs, I do not plan to emulate Mr Huskisson by standing on the track in front of the train as it arrives.
I am grateful for the cross-party support. I know that individual Members on both sides of the House have constituency problems or principled concerns about the project, but the fact is that the project was proposed by both parties back at the end of the last decade. It was first put on the table by the last Labour Government and has commanded cross-party support. I hope that will continue because both parties understand the benefits the project can bring to the whole country. I hope we can work together to ensure that we deliver this Bill, the next one and the whole project. I am grateful to the shadow Secretary of State for the support he has given to it.
The Secretary of State has indicated that the project will generate jobs throughout the region, 60% of which will be in small and medium-sized enterprises. What practical measures are being given to small contractors in other regions—I am being a bit parochial—such as Northern Ireland? What opportunities could exist for them in such a project?
I have been very clear to HS2 and to our contractors that I expect them to work with small and emerging British companies, to develop apprenticeship programmes and to do the right thing by all our futures. That is an essential part of the project, which is an investment not just in our infrastructure but in our skills base. That skills base resides not just within the apprentices who will be working on the project, but in the small businesses that supply it. I want those small businesses to come from every part of the United Kingdom.
The Secretary of State has talked a great deal about my great city of Stoke-on-Trent, but he said in his statement that the service pattern “could” support an HS2 service to my city. Can he guarantee that we will retain our two fast trains to London per hour, as well as any potential classic-compatible trains?
Let me be very clear—indeed, my hon. Friend Jack Brereton has already been lobbying me hard on this—that Stoke-on-Trent will be served by HS2 services and will see additional services connecting to other parts of the region as a result of the development. I see the future of the train service in Stoke-on-Trent as very bright. People in that great city will have access to more services as a result of the investment.
In Chesterfield, we stand ready to take advantage of the opportunity created by the jobs at the new Staveley depot, which we welcome. We also very much welcome the suggestion that there will be a stop at Chesterfield. Will the Secretary of State build on the good news for us in Chesterfield by confirming that there will be stops at Chesterfield? The wording of the Bill is somewhat ambiguous. Will the project also necessitate the electrification of the midland main line south of Sheffield to Chesterfield and beyond?
I can confirm that Chesterfield will have a service on HS2. I can also confirm that the HS2 route through Chesterfield and Sheffield to Leeds will have to be electrified so those trains can run through to Leeds. I also think that when Northern Powerhouse Rail is developed, the route north of Sheffield will become a very important part of it.
At a line-of-route briefing last week with MPs from Yorkshire and the midlands and me, I was dismayed to see that the HS2 chief executive officer, Sir David Higgins, roundly dismissed all the genuine concerns about lack of engagement and the failure of project staff to empathise with residents. In fact, when I raised the issue of Wells House Road in my constituency, he said it should have been bulldozed at the start. I have heard what the Secretary of State has said to my hon. Friend Lilian Greenwood and others, so could he urgently step in and act as Relate, if necessary, to help repair what looks like a complete breakdown in relations between my constituents and HS2?
I cannot comment on the original individual conversations. I simply repeat the point I made earlier that my door and the Minister’s door will be open to any Member from any part of this House who is concerned that their constituents are not being treated properly as part of this project.
I welcome the focus of the statement on the Crewe hub and its importance to the wider area of Cheshire and the north-west, but may I press the Secretary of State on some details? In the statement, he talks about the importance of HS2 to the whole country, but he also talks about the Crewe hub requiring national and local government to work together, which suggests that we in Cheshire will have to make a contribution that other parts of the country will not. Since this is such an important part of the economic development plans of Cheshire, the wider north-west and the cross-border area, will he confirm that he will not be asking local authorities to contribute, because of the benefit the hub will bring to my area?
The Crewe station site has the potential to be much more than just a station. There is a big regeneration opportunity for Crewe around that site, and it goes far beyond the provision of rail access. Inevitably, that needs to be something we work with the local community and local authorities on. I am very excited about the potential for Crewe station: if we look at the redundant land, particularly to the west, we see huge capacity for a massive and really important redevelopment project for the whole town of Crewe.
The Secretary of State will know that, in May 2015, HS2 Ltd decided that there was no credible business case for extending a dedicated high-speed rail link north of Manchester to Glasgow. Given the announcement today, will he consider the merits of extending a dedicated high-speed rail link to Glasgow, given that a classic-compatible train without tilting capability will actually increase journey times between Manchester and Glasgow? That is unacceptable.
As I said earlier, our goal is to work to deliver that three-hour journey time we talked about, and that has the effect of bringing high-speed rail to Scotland. We have to use taxpayers’ money wisely, and we have to find the right balance in this project, but I want this project to work for Scotland as well, and I will do everything I can to make sure that happens.
I absolutely expect that to be the case. Of course, the benefit of taking the current express trains off the main line is that it provides the opportunity for better services from north Wales to other parts of the country, so those services in north Wales are one of the potential real beneficiaries of this.
May I start by saying to the Minister—[Interruption.] I have not even got there yet. The Minister may feel the need to hand out party political trinkets to Jack Brereton, who is not in his place. In doing so, he does not cause a problem for me or my hon. Friend Ruth Smeeth, but he undermines the good work done by Sara Williams and the Staffordshire chamber of commerce, who have been lobbying on this matter for a number of years—long before any of us were elected to this place, and that belittles the Minister in this place this evening.
The Secretary of State has said that there “could be” support for having HS2 in Stoke-on-Trent. That is not a commitment that my constituents can base any real decisions on. Could he confirm that, as was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North, the number of fast trains running from Stoke-on-Trent to London—London, and not another part of the region —will not be diminished by this announcement? Could he also confirm that capacity for freight transport on the west coast main line will not be diminished through making space for classic-compatible trains? As Jeremy Lefroy asked, could the Secretary of State make it clear that the pain that Staffordshire feels will have economic gains, because without that he will struggle to get our support in the vote?
I met my hon. Friend Jack Brereton today to talk about the need to make sure that there is an HS2 service for Stoke-on-Trent, and I have given him that commitment. [Interruption.] Labour Members may chunter, but I remind them that my hon. Friend has been the transport spokesman for the ruling group on Stoke-on-Trent City Council, so he is eminently well qualified to make this case, and is already doing a first-rate job as representative of the Stoke-on-Trent South constituency. I have been pleased to give him a commitment about the services for Stoke. I am also pleased to give Gareth Snell a commitment that the whole point about HS2 is that it frees up capacity for these extra freight services and extra local passenger services. That is one of the reasons we are doing it.
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for confirming in his response to my hon. Friend Toby Perkins that the midland main line will be electrified, but we have been waiting for as long as I can remember for that to happen, and led up the garden path on numerous occasions. Will he therefore, for the record, give us a date when the midland main line south of Sheffield through into London will be electrified?
We are talking about the ability to run an electric train from London, up HS2, around the route into Sheffield Midland, and back up to Leeds. I have given a very clear commitment that that will be the case. As I have said in this House before, the next stage of electrification of the midland main line is currently under way. I have also said that my big priority is to deliver for the people on that line the service improvements they want as quickly as possible, and that is what I am seeking to do.