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Part of High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:00 pm on 15th July 2019.

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Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Conservative, North Shropshire 7:00 pm, 15th July 2019

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his interventions. He has been busy making these points throughout the debate and I understand that he is fully in favour of the project. I began my working life by spending 25 years on Merseyside. I am fully aware of the need for transport connections for the north, particularly including west to east across the north of England. I began wholly in favour of this broad idea, but the more I look at it, the more worried I become.

Let me finish my points on my local issue in the village of Woore. We cannot just dismiss these as tiresome little irritations in a huge juggernaut of a project. These are real people: 1,200 people live in Woore and they will have 300 trucks a day going through a village where, in some places, there is no footpath. In schedule 1, on page 48, Members can see some proposals on mitigations, such as a “realignment of the A525” in a few places. These are just passing places. They in no way satisfy my constituents with regard to what they are looking for and are not good enough at all.

Will the Minister, who is beginning to get her notes together, comment on the proposals from Woore Parish Council that section 17 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 should be invoked? As I understand it, under that section, the unitary council’s—in my case—permission is required if there are heavy vehicle movements exceeding 24 a day. In Woore, we were faced with the horror of 600 movements. As a result of stretching out the length of the project, we are now looking at 300 a day, so we are massively over the threshold. I would like to know what would happen if Shropshire Council did not give permission as required under section 17 of that Act. Where would these trucks go? As I said, they are already taking a perverse route, over three sides of a quadrangle, to go from Baldwins Gate to Madeley.

I want to pick up some points that, again, could have been flushed out if the amendment had been properly drafted. Let me look at the economic impact. My worry about this project is that this is actually Victorian technology. Large steel boxes rolling around on steel wheels on steel tracks is not modern technology. [Interruption.] My neighbour, Laura Smith, is laughing at that. We are looking at the most expensive railway ever imagined. The original proposals were set in 2010 and the projected cost was £32.6 billion. That is now up to over £60 billion. Some estimates are talking about £80 billion, while others suggest £100 million. Let us compare that with what we could do on broadband, where we are miles behind other countries. We have only 4% full fibre connections at the moment. Spain has 71% and Portugal has 89%.