I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
In 2015, the Government decided to accelerate the construction of the section of High Speed 2 between the west midlands and Crewe. This has become known as phase 2a. Our intention is to open this section of railway earlier than the rest of phase 2, to start bringing the benefits of the new railway to the north as soon as we can. Today, we can give an unequivocal statement that we are investing in our rail network, and in the midlands and north of England. This House has already given its backing to the building of phase 1 of High Speed 2, paving the way for the first new railway north of London in more than 100 years. Our creaking rail network, which the Victorians took the bold step of building, has continued to serve us well, perhaps beyond the dreams of the visionaries who brought it to us. However, it is bursting at the seams, with more passengers than ever before, and certainly more than were ever envisioned. We have exhausted the options for just “improving” our existing west coast main line; 60% of the peak capacity from the £9 billion west coast route modernisation project, completed as recently as 2008, had already been used by 2014. So we can have no more sticking plasters.
I am delighted that the Bill for phase 1 received cross-party support. High Speed 2 was a 2017 manifesto commitment of not just my party, but Her Majesty’s official Opposition. We all recognise that High Speed 2 is needed, not least because it will reduce congestion on our important rail transport arteries—it will also increase capacity. Adding an entirely new line between the west midlands and Crewe will increase capacity elsewhere on our existing rail network.