Other

– in the House of Commons at 9:57 pm on 20th June 2022.

Alert me about debates like this

(15) In paragraphs (1) and (8) above, references to further proceedings do not include proceedings under Standing Order 224A(8) (deposit of supplementary environmental information).

(16) In paragraphs (3) and (10) above, references to the submission of a petition are to its submission electronically, by post or in person.

(17) In paragraphs (2) and (9) above, references to the Habitats Regulations are to the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017.

That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.

Motion 8—High Speed Rail (Crewe - Manchester) Bill Select Committee: Additional Salaries—

That the Order of the House of 19 March 2013 (Positions for which additional salaries are payable for the purposes of section 4A(2) of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009) be amended, in paragraph (1)(a), by inserting, in the appropriate place, “the Select Committee on the High Speed Rail (Crewe - Manchester) Bill”.

Photo of Yvonne Fovargue Yvonne Fovargue Labour, Makerfield 9:58 pm, 20th June 2022

My manuscript amendments seek to extend the discussion on the Golborne spur and to allow petitions relating to this link to be heard by the Committee, as I do not believe the full facts have been taken into account by the premature and ill-informed decision to remove the link and to explore alternatives that deliver similar, although I would say inferior, benefits within the £96 billion envelope of the Government’s integrated rail plan.

HS2 phase 2b, Crewe to Manchester, including the Golborne link, will cost £17 billion at 2019 prices. The proposed removal of the Golborne link is expected to reduce costs by approximately £3 billion. The Government committed to publish a supplement to the January 2022 strategic outline business case for HS2 phase 2b to set out the implications of removing the Golborne link ahead of the Second Reading, but that has only just been published. How can a reasonable decision be made without full and costed alternatives that allow time for full consideration of the implications for all, especially those in my borough of Wigan? It does state that it will deliver benefits sooner to Manchester and the north-west, but it is pretty difficult to see the benefits that will be delivered to Wigan, and to Lancashire and Cumbria.

The January 2014 update to the business case for HS2 included a

“without link to the West Coast Mainline” sensitivity test, which showed a benefit-cost ratio of 0.7, which equates to gaining £7 billion of benefits from spending £10 billion. The benefit-cost ratio with the Golborne rink is 1.2. It is difficult to understand how the Golborne link can be considered a “white elephant” and its removal a

“worthwhile saving of taxpayers’ money” on that basis. The environmental statement included an alternatives report, which considered a wide range of alternatives for the western leg of HS2 phase 2b, before arriving at a shortlist and then a clear preference for the Golborne link as part of HS2 phase 2b.

One alternative that was considered, and is clearly now back on the table, is the upgrade of the west coast main line north of Crewe. Parts of the west coast main line between Crewe and Wigan are heavily congested, notably the section between Winsford and Weaver in Cheshire, including the Weaver junction. That section is twin track for the majority of its length and is used by long-distance services between Scotland, Liverpool and London, inter-regional services between Liverpool and Birmingham, and freight services. It is already constraining service improvement. This alternative option would include partial four-tracking of the Weaver junction, the provision of an alternative freight route via Sandbach and substantial grade separation between Crewe and Preston. Upgrading the west coast main line was found to deliver faster journey times compared with the existing situation. However, they do not match the journey time benefits provided by the Golborne link, which would deliver substantially faster journey times between cities in the north and the midlands, as is set out on page 20 of the alternatives report.

Both the upgrade of the west coast main line and the Golborne link were found to create extra capacity on the national conventional rail network for other services. However, only the Golborne link would create extra capacity for potential high-speed services north of Birmingham, and would therefore better meet the Government’s strategic objectives for HS2. So without the Golborne link there is a fundamental concern that provision for additional high-speed services north of Birmingham would be to the detriment of local and regional services, and freight services, which would need to be removed or reduced, or at the very least would remain constrained against their potential for growth, including in response to any carbon reduction challenges. This alternative option would also result in years of significant disruption to passengers and freight on the west coast main line compared with building a new railway. The Government have suggested that a solution could be delivered more quickly than the Golborne link, but we have not got any evidence for that. Given that they have made similar claims in removing the eastern leg of HS2 and in downgrading Northern Powerhouse Rail, in preference to upgrading existing lines, there is not enough capacity in the industry to do all of this work, and there is also the time constraint in working around live railways to consider. Even if there was, it is not possible to close different routes at the same time to facilitate the work without causing widespread disruption. Instead, it is highly likely to take much longer than building a new railway.

This alternative option would also be more expensive than the Golborne link, as the works needed between Crewe and Wigan would be of a similar scale to those needed between Wigan and Preston to accommodate the high-speed trains. That is likely to cost in the region of £5 billion to 10 billion—and that is the estimate from Network Rail. On that basis, the cost of upgrading the west coast main line between Crewe and Wigan will exceed the £3 billion needed for the Golborne link by around £7 million.

It is pertinent for the Wigan borough that the loss of the Golborne link will be to the detriment of the service provision at the proposed new rail station at Golborne, which is on the west coast main line south of the proposed junction with HS2. Significant capacity enhancements to the west coast main line between Warrington and Wigan, particularly around the junction with the Chat Moss line, would be needed if that station was to be served by the stopping trains without disrupting the high-speed through services. In the absence of the Golborne link, they will all pass through that location.

The report also considered a connection to the west coast main line north of Preston, near Brock. It would be 46 km in length as an extension to the Golborne link north of Lowton. It would pass close to a number of communities, including Hindley and Ince-in-Makerfield, as well as numerous other communities in Lancashire, and would require an elevated crossing of the River Ribble and a new parkway station west of Preston. That would clearly mean additional noise and visual and landscape impacts that would all need to be mitigated. A further 63 demolitions would be needed, it would impact the setting of up to three scheduled monuments and up to six grade II listed buildings, and it would impact on two ancient woodlands.

Preston City Council did not support the need for a new parkway station on the outskirts of Preston, instead favouring investment in the regeneration of the existing city centre station. Although such a connection would deliver journey-time improvements between London and Glasgow, it was considered that the benefits gained from the journey-time savings and new markets did not outweigh the substantial costs and additional sustainability impacts. It was therefore determined that this alternative option did not deliver sufficient economic or journey-time benefits to offset the higher costs, sustainability impacts and lower regional connectivity.

Option 3 was a new connection to the south of Preston, on the basis that it would have the potential to deliver more benefits and reduce journey times by two to three minutes more than the Golborne link. As with the connection north of Preston, this would be an extension to the Golborne link north of Lowton. The alternatives report explored the recommendation in detail and determined that various connections to the west coast main line south of Preston performed less favourably in terms of construction complexity, sustainability and journey time when compared with the options connecting to the north of Preston. That was despite a shorter length of track.

There is a clear contradiction between the Union connectivity review and the alternatives report. A connection to the west coast main line south of Preston may deliver greater benefits than the Golborne link, but the feasibility of such a connection has been examined by HS2 across a number of locations and been deemed unsuitable for progression in favour of other options. It should be noted that any connection to the west coast main line south of Preston would in effect extend the Golborne link and cost significantly more than the link’s £3 billion cost. It is also highly likely to cost more than the works that would otherwise be needed to accommodate high-speed trains on the west coast main line between Wigan and Preston, which Network Rail has advised would cost in the region of £5 billion to £10 billion.

There is another option. If Government chose to extend HS2 northwards, which currently seems unlikely, the council would want to retain the Golborne link connection to Wigan to avoid the borough being bypassed by HS2. This would need a junction with the extended route north of Lowton and the retention of that part of the Golborne link from that point to the west coast main line at Bamfurlong, which is a short length of around 3 km. The remainder of the Golborne link would be part of a longer link regardless. [Interruption.]

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Standing Orders Committee (Commons), Chair, Standing Orders Committee (Commons)

Order. The hon. Lady is making a serious speech. There are people sitting in this Chamber who are not whispering to one another but speaking as if they are in a normal evening conversation. If you are in the Chamber and someone else is speaking, it is polite to speak quietly to one another. I am not suggesting that there should be no conversations going on, but I should not be able to hear those conversations from the Chair.

Photo of Yvonne Fovargue Yvonne Fovargue Labour, Makerfield

This is an important factor for Wigan, for my borough and for the people who live in my borough. It is important that we get HS2 right so that we get the economic benefits for all the north-west. In any such connection, the council would seek to progress the items that have been identified for petitioning on the Golborne link, to mitigate the adverse impacts of the proposals on local communities, including the proposal for a green tunnel at Lowton.

The Golborne link would free up capacity on the west coast main line for residual passenger services and rail freight and maximise the time that services can travel at high speed between London, Birmingham and Scotland, minimising end-to-end journey times. The significance of that is set out in the January 2022 update to the HS2 Phase 2b business case, which is explicit about the role of the Golborne link in unlocking capacity and services to Scotland. As Gavin Newlands mentioned, this is important for Scotland, not just for Wigan.

The Golborne link also gives rise to the opportunity to connect to the Manchester spur and bring significantly improved journey times to Manchester airport and Manchester Piccadilly, avoiding the congested Castlefield corridor in central Manchester—from Wigan, the north-west and Scotland. Our services to Manchester Oxford Road are always under threat in Wigan. We have very poor transport links, and we will not even get a tram until 2040, so it is important that HS2 provides actual benefits for my borough.

At £3 billion, the Golborne spur is clearly cost-effective compared with the option of upgrading the west coast main line, and it could be delivered more quickly, with minimal disruption to passengers and freight on the existing rail network.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Is it the case that the Government are maintaining safeguarding on this route so that, if they change their minds in the future, this will still be able to go ahead?

Photo of Yvonne Fovargue Yvonne Fovargue Labour, Makerfield

Indeed, safeguarding has been maintained, but there is no opportunity in the Select Committee to put forward the proposals to include the Golborne link. There is no opportunity to put a petition. Basically, debate has been stifled by this amendment, which is why I am objecting to it.

There are no alternatives that are cheaper than the Golborne link. In fact, it becomes more likely that phase 2b without the Golborne link will cost more than it delivers. There are no alternatives that can be delivered with less disruption to passengers and freight on the west coast main line than the Golborne link. There are no alternatives that can be delivered quicker than the Golborne link other than small-scale isolated improvements. Wigan Council has identified a number of measures that could easily be incorporated in the Golborne link that would substantially reduce the adverse impacts on local communities. Greenhouse gas emissions will be increased by removing the Golborne link.

The Government have insisted that any alternative should deliver the same benefits and outputs. There is no alternative to match the benefits at similar cost. As concluded in all the independent analyses that have taken place, the solution to all of this is the Golborne link. It is simply wrong to stifle debate by removing any possibility for the Select Committee to re-examine it and for people to petition for this. It is stifling debate. The land is still safeguarded and people are still blighted by it and yet we cannot even talk about it. That is why we need to re-examine it and local people, local councils and Transport for Greater Manchester all need to be able to have their say.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton 10:13 pm, 20th June 2022

There are three possible positions to take on the Golborne link. There is the position that my hon. Friend Yvonne Fovargue has just put very convincingly that it should still be able to be considered during the passage of the hybrid Bill and that one should be able to petition against it. She made the powerful case in support of it, not just the facility to talk about it.

There is a second case, which James Grundy made in the previous debate, that there was significant disturbance to his constituents and that on their behalf, which he is completely entitled to do as a constituency MP, he objects to the Golborne link. That is a completely reasonable position to take, although, when it comes to building high-speed lines that are good for a region or the whole country, it is inevitable that there is little immediate benefit for many constituents. It is the nature of high speed that it will go “whoosh” past a lot of places, and people will not be able to get the normal benefit they get from a train service by going to the local station. This is a particularly difficult project for national, and not local, benefit.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Is it not the case, though, that by having a high-speed network we will take the pressure off the existing Victorian network and allow more routes for passenger services and particularly for freight, which will help us to reduce our carbon footprint?

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton

Absolutely right. I was talking about the inconvenience and disamenity there is to a local community. In many cases, they will not be able to get on the high-speed link, because it will have very few stations—if it had a lot of stations, that would defeat the objective of high speed. Greg Smith made a strong case against the whole of high speed 2, which, again, he is completely entitled to do. However, a previous Member for Buckinghamshire, Cheryl Gillan, managed to get a great deal of money out of the Government for tunnels under Buckinghamshire, and one point that could be made is that not only are we unable to discuss the link, but we will not be able to discuss amelioration of that route.

I am left with those two cases, put by my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield and the hon. Member for Leigh. The third case has not been put. We have not heard at all from the Minister about what the alternative is—just that he will have a look at it. That is a strange way for Government to do business. “We have a perfectly good line that will cause some disruption; we will not allow you to talk about it and we will not pursue it, but we don’t know what we’re going to do instead or how much it will cost.” That is not a good way for Government to do business.

I am left thinking that maybe there are other reasons, and I have two suspicions. One is that we suddenly get that change not because of the powers of persuasion of the hon. Member for Leigh, strong as they may be, but because of the desperation of a Prime Minister under pressure, wanting votes from his Back-Benchers before a vote of confidence within the parliamentary Conservative party. That may be over-cynical, although I suspect there is an element of truth to it. The other side of the argument is that this is not a cut of £3 billion that is waiting for another scheme yet to be specified by the Government, but simply a cut.

Photo of James Grundy James Grundy Conservative, Leigh

That is a very interesting theory from the hon. Gentleman that this decision was somehow buying me off. However, the problem is that my position is also the position of Labour-run Warrington Borough Council and Charlotte Nichols. This is immensely frustrating from my view, and I hope the hon. Gentleman would agree. He says that there has not been enough debate on the Golborne link, but we have been debating it for nearly 10 years. Is it not time for the suffering of my constituents to end?

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton

I said there has not been enough debate. We have just had the Second Reading of the Crewe to Manchester hybrid Bill. There has been a great deal of debate all over the north-west about the link, particularly in Wigan and Leigh, but I was referring to debate in this Chamber, where it should be taking place and where, in the future, it will not be allowed because it is not part of the hybrid Bill.

It may or may not be coincidence that the decision was made. Other people from different political parties may agree with the hon. Member for Leigh, but if the Prime Minister wanted votes from the parliamentary Conservative party, he would not go to Wigan Council looking for those votes; he would go to his own Back-Benchers.

The second reason not to do with the Prime Minister is that this is simply about cuts. We saw £3 billion appear, and my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield made a persuasive argument that there is no cheaper option but only more expensive options. So, when they have spent time on this project from the very beginning, are the Government looking at ways of cutting it? Leeds and Yorkshire have lost out. Parts of the east-west link have gone. It looks to me as though, if it is not about votes for the Prime Minister, it is about cuts. I cannot see any real alternative explanation.

That brings me to an overall point that was also referred to by my hon. Friend. If one goes back 40 years to when this country first started looking at high-speed rail—I was a Manchester politician then, leader of the council, not a Member of Parliament—we were promised high-speed rail coming into Manchester Piccadilly when the cross-channel link was made, but it was cut. The trains were bought for that route. They used to say in French—

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Standing Orders Committee (Commons), Chair, Standing Orders Committee (Commons)

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not speaking widely about the general concept, because we are not on the Second Reading debate now; we are very specifically debating motions 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. I have allowed him to range quite widely. However, I hope that he is not going to range too far as he should be speaking specifically to these motions, not making a Second Reading speech.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton

I am grateful for your advice, Madam Deputy Speaker. I will now finish in two or three sentences. I was trying to make the point, while not extending the debate too widely, that over a long period there have been cuts to the original high-speed link and to this high-speed proposal that a Labour Government originally decided to take forward in 2010. We have had a long history of cuts. I think the most objective view of what is before us is that it is not a chance to look at an alternative, because there is no such chance within the hybrid Bill; it is another cut in a series that has gone on for a long time.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport) 10:22 pm, 20th June 2022

I rise briefly to put on record the SNP’s support for the comments by Yvonne Fovargue.

I made clear on Second Reading the Scottish Government’s displeasure on the Golborne link issue because the current position is total unsatisfactory. When I asked the Minister how much slower a journey from Glasgow to London would be without the Golborne link, an answer was not forthcoming, or certainly not a number, but the answer is that at least 20 minutes will be added to the journey. There is now a shared ambition to reduce journey times rather than anything definite, because the business case for HS2 from a Scottish perspective is massively weakened without the Golborne link or an effective replacement scheme. Call me a cynic, but I wonder whether we will ever see a replacement scheme, and if we do, just how much disruption to the west coast main line it will cause.

Just to be clear, there has been no consultation with the Scottish Government on the Golborne link and no notice about the change on the removal of the Golborne link, so we have an entirely unsatisfactory situation.

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Transport) 10:24 pm, 20th June 2022

First, I point out that the Minister may have inadvertently misled the House, because he said earlier from the Dispatch Box that a vote for the amendment of my hon. Friend Yvonne Fovargue would be fatal for the Bill. I do not think that that would be the case given that the Bill has passed Second Reading. Perhaps he could correct that later for the record.

Gavin Newlands has outlined the Scottish Government’s position. The Opposition also believe that the Golborne link would free up capacity on the west coast main line for passengers and freight, and would maximise services that can travel at high speed between London and Scotland. As my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield pointed out, the significance of that was set out in the January 2022 update to the HS2 phase 2b business case.

We should have been informed in the House that the Golborne link was likely to be cancelled, but we actually learned about it in April when the media reported that the 1922 committee chairman, Sir Graham Brady had been assured by the Transport Secretary in private that it would be scrapped. That builds further on the excellent points that were not quite cynical, but were sharply made by my hon. Friend Graham Stringer. It is important that as many parts of the UK as possible reap the long-term benefits. Without the link, there will be a bottleneck on the already busy west coast main line.

The Government have said that we should give them time to propose alternatives now that they have decided to scrap the link, but surely they should have come up with those excellent alternatives before taking the current option off the table. The amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield is not fatal to the Bill and does not prevent us from deciding not to progress with the Golborne link in Committee or at a later date once all the Government’s proposals have been fully considered and compared against the Golborne link. As the Government’s proposals have not yet been published, or as is likely, even fully considered by the Government, we simply do not know what those alternatives will be or when they will be proposed.

If the Government are developing proposals at the rate at which they have been working on the annual rail network enhancements pipeline update, we could be waiting for decades—if they ever come at all. We know that the Government have a track record of promising rail projects that never actually transpire. I am getting quite sceptical that we will ever see an alternative to the Golborne link, but I hope that the Minister will allay my concerns.

This is the important point: the only reason that the Opposition would support the Golborne link not proceeding is if there is an excellent alternative proposal. I hope that I am proved wrong. The Government’s motion binds the Committee’s hands unnecessarily and prematurely. Surely, we should allow the Committee to undertake its work and then decide how best to link the west coast main line to HS2.

Photo of Andrew Stephenson Andrew Stephenson Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Department for Transport) 10:28 pm, 20th June 2022

I start by addressing the comments of the shadow Minister, Mr Dhesi. I do not recognise his comment that I said the amendment would be fatal to the Bill; it would not be, because the Bill has passed Second Reading. I hope that he will recognise that the last two HS2 hybrid Bills for phase 1 and phase 2a took around four years to pass through this place. If we were to keep the Golborne link in while the Government thought about and studied alternatives, and waited to make any progress until we had done that, we would probably be delaying the Bill by a further two years. I am not prepared to delay the delivery of benefits to people in Greater Manchester and across the north of England by a further two years. I think we need to get on with delivering the benefits of high-speed rail now.

The Union connectivity review set out that the Golborne link would not resolve all the rail capacity constraints between Crewe and Preston. We have therefore decided to look again at alternatives that would deliver similar benefits. Yvonne Fovargue made an eloquent case for some of the merits of the Golborne link, which has of course been a part of the Government’s proposals up until now, but I hope that she will take into account and recognise the many speeches made on Second Reading by Members who do not support the Golborne link and support motion 6 to have the Golborne link deferred while we consider alternatives, including her fellow Wigan MP, my hon. Friend James Grundy. Members from her own side of the House who have not spoken today, including Charlotte Nichols, and of course the leader of Warrington Council, have welcomed the Government’s decision to bring this motion forward.

Photo of Yvonne Fovargue Yvonne Fovargue Labour, Makerfield

I recognise that there is debate about this, but I have to say that the whole of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority supports it, plus Transport for Greater Manchester. Despite Warrington Council being held up—I appreciate there are different views—the whole of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority does support the Golborne link.

Photo of Andrew Stephenson Andrew Stephenson Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I think we would all agree that we have to get high-speed rail right. Without the Golborne link, this is still a £13 billion to £19 billion scheme; including the Golborne link, it a £15 billion to £22 billion scheme. We have to get it right: we have to ensure that we are delivering the maximum reductions in journey times to Scotland, that we have the least environmental damage possible and that we are building this infrastructure —the infrastructure that the House has just supported on Second Reading—in the right way. That is why I believe we are right to bring forward the motion to remove consideration of the Golborne link from the Bill while we look at alternatives.

I would like to tidy up some misunderstanding, as this has been mentioned by a couple of hon. Members, about the decision to remove the Golborne link on Monday 6 June—a day when there was also a confidence vote in this House. I think anybody who is aware of parliamentary procedure—I know all the Opposition Members here are very well aware of parliamentary procedure—will know that for me to table a written ministerial statement on the Monday, I had to inform the House I was doing so the week before. I notified the House authorities and also tabled the title of my written ministerial statement, which was well before any confidence vote was anticipated.

Graham Stringer said that his only other explanation for what this could possibly be about was cuts. With the £96 billion of rail investment in the midlands and the north in the integrated rail plan, this is the biggest ever Government investment in our railways, and it cannot be described—seriously, it cannot—as a cut. I look forward to continuing to work with Gavin Newlands to reduce journey times to Scotland.

I think we all have an interest in getting this infrastructure right, and I therefore ask the hon. Member for Makerfield not to push her amendments to a vote.

Question put and agreed to.