HS2: Revised Timetable and Budget

– in the House of Commons at 12:42 pm on 14 March 2023.

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Photo of Iain Stewart Iain Stewart Chair, Transport Committee, Chair, Transport Committee 12:42, 14 March 2023

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the revised timetable and budget for completion of HS2.

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

Although we notified the House first about Thursday’s announcement, I start by apologising for the timing of the written ministerial statement, which I accept was discourteous to Members and to you, Mr Speaker.

As part of the largest capital programme ever committed, the Transport Secretary last week confirmed more than £40 billion in transport investment over the next two financial years. This will enable the opening stage of HS2 to be delivered on schedule. By 2033, passengers and communities will benefit from high-speed rail services between new stations at Old Oak Common in London and Curzon Street in Birmingham, but the House will also be aware that we face significant economic headwinds. Record inflation caused by Putin’s illegal war and ongoing global supply chain issues have ramped up construction costs, making capital projects more difficult to deliver. It means we must make responsible decisions on which parts of our capital programme we can deliver within current budgets and timeframes.

While we remain committed fully to HS2, we will need to rephase the delivery options as part of the project due to inflationary pressures and the need to spread costs. Between Birmingham and Crewe, we expect to push back construction by two years, with an aim to deliver high-speed services as soon as possible after accounting for the delay in construction. We also remain committed to delivering HS2 services to Euston, but will take time to ensure an affordable and deliverable station design, which means delivering Euston alongside the high-speed infrastructure to Manchester. While HS2 Ltd and Network Rail continue work on developing HS2 east, we are also considering the most effective way to run HS2 trains to Leeds.

The Prime Minister promised to place trust and accountability at the heart of this Government. That means strengthening connectivity across the country while managing public finances effectively. It means never shirking the tough, but necessary decisions as we deliver on the people’s priorities to halve inflation, grow the economy and reduce debt.

Photo of Iain Stewart Iain Stewart Chair, Transport Committee, Chair, Transport Committee

I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question. As Chair of the Select Committee, we feel that there was not enough detail on a number of areas in Thursday’s statement, so I would be grateful if my hon. Friend gave further detail.

First, my hon. Friend rightly references inflationary cost pressures in construction, which are affecting all sorts of projects up and down the country, but the written ministerial statement also referenced other “increased project costs”. What are they? Is he satisfied that HS2 Ltd has a grip on its finances? Secondly, the statement said that Old Oak Common to Birmingham will be finished “as soon as possible”. What does that mean? Is there a delay to the planned opening date?

Thirdly, what is the reason for the delay to the Euston to Old Oak Common section? Is it purely down to costs or are there other reasons for a redesign? A lot of construction work is happening at Euston now, so should the redesign not have been identified earlier? Finally, when can we expect to see further detail on HS2 east, the integrated rail plan and the Leeds route options? The industry and the public require—nay, demand—certainty on this. Can we be assured that this is the last delay to the project?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I thank my hon. Friend the Chair of the Transport Committee for his questions. I will provide some answers, but there will no doubt be further detail to discuss as we go through the session.

On my hon. Friend’s question about the increased project costs, they chiefly relate to the opening section of the line in phase 1, which is the part that is under construction at the moment. We are spending about £600 million a month on phase 1 construction, which is at its peak. He rightly talks about inflation; the Office for National Statistics shows that construction inflation is running at about 15%, which is why we have an issue with costs. He is right to say, however, that we need to bear down on costs. Yesterday, I met the chief executive of HS2 Ltd. I am delighted with the appointment of the chairman, Sir Jon Thompson, who has a background in finance. Certainly, it is within HS2’s requirements to ensure that, where we have inflationary pressures, it fills the gap by bearing down on costs.

My hon. Friend asked what finishing Old Oak Common to Curzon Street “as soon as possible” means. As I stated in my opening remarks, we expect that, by 2033, passengers and communities will benefit from high-speed rail services between those two stations. He asked about the reason for the Euston delay. Euston was always scheduled for delivery after the opening of phase 1, which is why we are prioritising Old Oak Common. We will not proceed with construction at Euston in the next two years, due to affordability and profiling issues, but we will use that time to work with partners to ensure an affordable and deliverable design.

My hon. Friend asks for detail on HS2 east, the integrated rail plan and the Leeds route study. I will be writing to him on the back of the integrated rail plan report this month and further information will be tabled in the six-monthly HS2 report, which is due in May. On the Leeds route strategy, it has been cleared by the Department and we expect it to be published soon.

My hon. Friend is right to say that the industry needs certainty, and I believe he asked whether we can be certain that this is the last change to the project. Although the pandemic and Putin’s illegal invasion of Russia were not anticipated, we expect these HS2 plans to be the plans that deliver it from London to Manchester.

Photo of Louise Haigh Louise Haigh Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

Eighteen months ago, the Government slashed Northern Powerhouse Rail, binned HS2 to Leeds and sold out the north of England. Here we are again: huge changes affecting billions in investment and jobs announced at 5 pm on Thursday—minutes before the House rose.

We now know why the Secretary of State was desperate to dodge scrutiny: I have a leaked document written by his most senior officials that blows apart his claims and lays bare the consequences of the decisions he has hidden from. His chief justification for the delays to HS2 was to “balance the nation’s books”, but his Department admits what he will not—that the delays themselves will increase costs. It admits that they will cost jobs and that construction firms could go bust; it cannot rule out slashing high-speed trains that serve Stoke, Macclesfield and Stafford altogether; and it suggests that HS2 could terminate on the outskirts of London until 2041.

Is it not time that the Minister came clean that this absurd plan will hit jobs, hurt growth and cost taxpayers even more? As his own officials ask,

“you have already changed the design once, which wasted money. What will be different this time?”

Even the Government have lost faith in this Government, and little wonder. Is there anything more emblematic of this failed Government than their flagship levelling-up project that makes it neither to the north nor to central London? Last year they crashed the economy, and once again they are asking the country to pay the price. Does this announcement not prove once and for all that the Conservatives cannot fix the problem because the Conservatives are the problem.

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I thank the hon. Lady, but we obviously do not comment on leaked documents, certainly not documents that I have not been given. I say to the hon. Lady that it is an entirely responsible Government approach to balance the commitments we make—as I have stated, the transport commitments that have been set out to the House total £40 billion—and, indeed, to reflect on how the delivery of HS2 had been designed. It is also well within a responsible Government’s remit to consider the public spending pressures that there are right now, due to the help that this Government have given to those facing increased energy costs and the continued costs from the pandemic, and therefore the impact on the amount of borrowing. Over £100 billion is required each year, or it was last year, to service the overdraft, which is greater than the amount we spend on defence. It would be entirely irresponsible for any Government to look at all of its portfolio without those figures in mind.

However, I am very proud of what we are doing on delivering HS2. The construction of the Curzon Street station in Birmingham, which remains, as I have stated, is expected to create 36,000 new jobs. On the hon. Lady’s point about not levelling up across the country, the redevelopment of Piccadilly station in Manchester is expected to create 13,000 new homes. In London, the regeneration of Old Oak Common will contribute £15 billion over the next 30 years. Those are figures to be proud of, and we will deliver them.

I found it very helpful, at the end of last week, to discuss this with stakeholders from across the country—businesses, regional organisations, council leaders and Mayors on the route—who were all very supportive about what the Government are doing. They also have to run budgets—unlike the Opposition—so they understood the pressures that the country faces, and were absolutely delighted that this project will continue to be built.

Photo of Jack Brereton Jack Brereton Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent South

For Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, HS2 means a huge amount of pain for little to no gain. I am extremely concerned, as are many of the people I have heard from, that phase 2 will actually reduce capacity on some existing services. Will the Minister use this pause to look again at whether more of the investment should be spent on upgrading the existing network to ensure that we better connect places such as Stoke-on-Trent and Stafford?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

To make it absolutely clear, we remain committed to the delivery of HS2 from London Euston up to Manchester. The extra time that can be afforded—that was a great conversation I had with the council leaders and Mayors—will be used to assess and improve the design, if necessary, but we will not be taken off the track of London Euston to Manchester. I look forward to more contributions from my hon. Friend, who knows I am committed to delivering transport in his area, and I do see HS2 as part of that solution.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport)

I almost feel sorry for the Minister—almost. Mr Speaker, you will know that the north of England has seen cut after cut not just to HS2, but to any real modernisation of its rail network, with HS2 to Leeds cancelled and Northern Powerhouse Rail cut to the bone. We on the SNP Benches have supported HS2 because we believe increased sustainable connectivity is to all our benefit. However, what we have now is a gold-plated commuter line of just over 100 miles for two cities in the south of this island, costing nearly £50 billion, while the rest of the country is expected to fight for scraps from the table.

Combined with the announcement of slashed funding for active travel, which leaves England, outside of Greater London, receiving less than £1 per person per year—30 times less than Scotland—that makes it clear that the Government regard transport funding outside the M25 as nothing more than a rounding error. Thankfully, we in Scotland have a Parliament and a Government investing in our rail network, investing in active travel and taking transport decarbonisation seriously, so can the Minister tell me in which decade high-speed rail will reach the Scottish border?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

The Government are plainly not committed only to delivery between London and Birmingham, because the entire plan is predicated on a two-year rephasing of the parts going up towards Crewe from the midlands. Beyond that, up to Manchester, the indicative timeline does not change at all. The Bill Select Committee remains in place, as does its brief, so that commitment is there. It is not a commitment just to the south-east, and the hon. Member has certainly got that wrong. The £96 billion integrated rail plan is based solely on the midlands and the north, and that shows this Government’s desire to level up across the midlands and the north, as opposed to spending money in the south-east.

Active travel is not part of this urgent question, but £3 billion will be spent by this Government on active travel during this Parliament. There are levelling-up fund bids that go toward active travel. We are absolutely passionate and committed to the delivery of active travel, and that will continue, as will our delivery of HS2.

Photo of Alec Shelbrooke Alec Shelbrooke Conservative, Elmet and Rothwell

So far, the Minister has rightly been talking about phase 1 and phase 2a, but not about phase 2b. My constituents and I are sick to death of waiting for the inevitable announcement that phase 2b is not happening. I have constituents who have been suffering for over a decade while preserved land kept aside has ruined their ability to sell their houses and forced them into compensation schemes. It is not going to happen—Mrs Miggins in the Dog and Duck knows it is not going to happen. So will the Minister stand at the Dispatch Box right now—not to talk to me about the integrated rail plan; I have been hearing that cobblers for three years—and tell me that my constituents will get their land released and stop having their lives blighted?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

When the integrated rail plan was published, it made reference to a Leeds area study that needed to be published, which in itself would unlock money for a mass transit scheme for Leeds. We will shortly bring forward that route study, which will provide the answers on how HS2 trains can go up to Leeds. Until then, the safeguarding will remain in place. I am keen that we get those answers, so that we either find a solution to get HS2 trains up to Leeds—again, that will be down to the study and responses—or, if that is not possible, decisions will need to be made about land and property that is currently blighted. That will occur once the route study has been published and responded to.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton

I have great respect for the Minister, but I feel sorry for him today, because he is having to defend the completely worthless words of previous Secretaries of State for Transport, and Ministers, over a decade. Let me explain to him what is really happening. The Government are showing, yet again, their complete disdain for the north of England: no trans-Pennine investment, after 13 years of this Government; cuts to phase 2b; and cuts to the rest of high-speed rail. This is not about the economy because, when one looks at Crossrail 1, the Oxford-Cambridge link and all the rest of the investment in the south-east, there are no cuts. We have seen the Treasury take control of transport, putting the money where it always likes to—into London, not the north of England—and we know where that will lead. It will lead to tax cuts that will benefit the south of England at the start of next year for the general election.

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I have the greatest respect for the hon. Member, and I served alongside him on the Transport Committee, but I take issue with him on there being no investment going into the north. The integrated rail plan is £96 billion of investment going to the north and the midlands. The HS2 statement commits to the completion of Old Oak Common to Curzon Street because that is where the construction is being delivered. It talks about a rephasing of two years on the section that goes to Crewe, and on the line from Crewe to Manchester—phase 2b—there is no change to the indicative timeline at all. Once phase 2b is delivered, we will see the benefits of Northern Powerhouse Rail, which we are committed to as well. I could not speak to projects in the south-east that are anything like those I have mentioned over the last minute, because the bulk of the investment in rail is going to the north and the midlands, and that will continue to be the case.

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

In the three years that I was the Minister responsible for HS2, almost a decade ago, I commissioned work to see whether we could deliver the project more quickly by opening Birmingham to Old Oak Common ahead of Euston. The result came back that around two thirds—certainly more than half—of passengers would be getting off at Old Oak Common anyway, to use the Elizabeth line to access places such as Heathrow airport and Canary Wharf. Does the Minister agree that Old Oak Common will, for the majority of people, be the London terminus that they use, even when Euston is open?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I am glad my right hon. Friend mentioned Old Oak Common, because following the Oakervee review, that was anticipated to be the station where services would commence from 2033. Despite what may have been said, it is interesting to look at what we are doing with Old Oak Common. It will be the best connected and largest new railway station ever built in the UK. It will have 14 platforms and be one of the busiest railway stations in the country, with access to central London and Heathrow via the Elizabeth line, and connections to Wales and the south-east. Importantly, it will also allow us to deliver trains to Manchester in one hour and 11 minutes, which is 54 minutes quicker than at present. That demonstrates that the whole country benefits from Old Oak Common.

Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Shadow Minister (Education)

We all look forward to seeing more detail about the note that my hon. Friend Louise Haigh spoke about, but the least surprising thing she said was that the Government already know that these delays do not save money; they cost money. The increase in the cost of HS2 from £32 billion when the Government took power in 2010 to at least £71 billion, and escalating all the time, is precisely because of the delays and incompetence that the Government have shown, and their lack of commitment to HS2 over 13 years. My constituents in Chesterfield want HS2 to come, and we are desperate for the eastern leg. Will the Government acknowledge that what they are announcing today is a further increase in the cost of the project, and the further undermining of a crucial infrastructure project that the whole of the north demands?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

As well as investing in the future, which we are doing, we must cover ourselves for the present. That is why three of the Prime Minister’s five priorities are to halve inflation, grow the economy and reduce debt. The reality for a project such as HS2 is that we have had to rephase one of the elements by two years, and that the remainder will go ahead as we outlined previously. It is vital for any Government to take into account the current state of the economy, current spending requirements and the impact they have on inflation, and the cost of borrowing. I am proud to be part of a Government who take a balanced responsibility between investing in infrastructure for the future—and we absolutely are—and managing the day-to-day finances, which the Opposition are demonstrating they are not doing.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield

Lichfield is north of Birmingham, but it is also in phase 1. Currently, around the cathedral city there are huge amounts of engineering works and massive road closures. My constituents and I would like to know whether this pause will apply to Lichfield—in which case, will they make good and reopen the roads—or will the work carry on as if there were no pause in other parts of the network?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I engaged with my hon. Friend yesterday on that point, and I salute him for the manner in which he represents his constituents’ interests. I recognise that this as a concern. As far as we are concerned, those parts of the HS2 network where construction is going on will be completed, and we will do that to the timescale I have talked about. I need to give my hon. Friend a little more clarity about what that will mean in terms of scaling, but as far as I am concerned, phase 1 will be completed and ready for us to deliver trains by 2033. I will talk to him further about this, and write to him as well.

Photo of Yasmin Qureshi Yasmin Qureshi Shadow Minister (Equalities Office)

For well over a year from 2014 to 2015, I sat on the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill Select Committee, which usually had seven sittings a week. As a northern MP, I was gutted when we were told that the extension to the north was being delayed—another betrayal of the north. I thought that at least businesses such as Booth Industries in Bolton South East, which builds train doors and is ready to be part of the supply, could benefit. When will the Government start taking action, invest in our economy and support our jobs, or will it be the same continuous mismanagement of the past 13 years of broken promises?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

That does not stack up at all. Almost 30,000 people are employed by HS2—I met the 1,000th apprentice a few weeks ago, who was playing her part. Some 2,500 companies registered in the UK are delivering on HS2, and 60% of those are small or medium-sized enterprises. We are talking about a rephasing by two years of a stretch of the line to Crewe. There is currently no construction on that part of the line, and land possessions and dealing with business matters will continue. I ask the hon. Lady to put the investment into context.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee, Chair, European Scrutiny Committee

HS2 goes from the very bottom to the very top of my constituency, and I am extremely glad that the Minister has agreed to come to see my constituents soon—I wish he would confirm that. We have put in some proposals called phase 1-plus. Those are very important, and the delay should help to work through them.

On a personal note, many of my constituents are aware that work is continuing now, despite the announced delay. They are suffering from extreme stress, bullying and harassment, of the kind described by my right hon. Friend Alec Shelbrooke. Staff have taken possession of their homes against their will, without adequate or timely compensation, and of land that they do not need. One example is Mr John Evanson, aged 79. He was born on his farm, where he worked his entire life, but it has been taken away from him. He and his partner are now prisoners in their own home, surrounded by fencing and with as many as eight security guards, which is utterly intolerable. Will the Minister guarantee to look into that issue and sort it out?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I am always happy to meet my hon. Friend, and to discuss cases brought by my colleagues and Members across the House. It is essential that HS2 treats those whose land is being possessed or worked on nearby with compassion, and offers the right element of compensation. A lot of good work has been done by my predecessors on that front, but we know that there is more to do and I am happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss that case. Indeed, I have offered to view some of those cases to get a better understanding.

Photo of Sarah Green Sarah Green Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Wales)

Delaying HS2 will not reduce the environmental or financial costs already incurred, but it will reduce any value that the project ever claimed to have. Why not admit that this was a mistake, and scrap HS2 altogether?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I will take that as Liberal Democrat policy from now on. It is important that all parties have a shared policy. On the ecological benefits of HS2—I have viewed some of them—the area around Colne valley where the chalk is being tunnelled will created a new chalk habitat, and I have seen that for myself. There will be no net loss to biodiversity as the route goes up to Birmingham, and as it goes beyond there will be an ecology gain of 10%. In my view, HS2 is a force for good not just through decarbonisation and what that does for the environment, but in respect of ecology and the legacy it will leave.

Photo of Greg Smith Greg Smith Conservative, Buckingham

Instead of tinkering with the edges of HS2, would it not be better to admit that we cannot afford it as a country, that it has ruined livelihoods up and down the area where construction has commenced, and that it brings massive environmental destruction with it? Would it not be better to scrap it altogether? Does my hon. Friend agree that if he is to persist in building phase 1, among the cuts and budget reductions, not a penny will be taken from the mitigations put in place for residents who suffer real human misery under the construction of this project?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

May I thank my hon. Friend? It was a pleasure to visit him and see some of the impacts in Buckinghamshire, which he so ably represents. I absolutely accept, as does HS2 Ltd, that right now HS2 is at the peak of construction—I referenced the amount being spent each month—which means the impact is probably at its greatest for residents. That will reduce as the line is delivered to Curzon Street, which it will be. We remain committed to delivery, but we are also committed to ensuring that we work with hon. Members, such as my hon. Friend, on mitigation measures. I am very happy to discuss with him further what more we can do to assist his constituents, but I have to be absolutely clear that we are delivering HS2 to Curzon Street in the time specified. It will continue to take place. I am very proud of that delivery and I want to thank everyone who is doing it.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Shadow Solicitor General

The consequences of this announcement for Old Oak Common include doubts about the capacity of the Elizabeth line; limited interchange between lines at the station, especially for disabled people; very limited access to the station site; and the postponement of development of HS2 land until after Euston opens. Will the Minister meet me and other MPs who are concerned about the indefinite delay to Euston opening to discuss the consequences for my constituents, which are game changing?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I try to make myself available to all colleagues across the House, and I would be very happy to meet the hon. Gentleman. To be clear, Old Oak Common is a massive regeneration opportunity that is being realised for west London. As I have stated, it will be one of the largest train stations delivered. It offers connectivity not just into London via the Elizabeth line, but to the west country and Wales via Great Western Railway. One amazing thing about Old Oak Common when I visited was that rather than lorry loads of spoil being taken away through the community, a conveyor has been built so we can use the existing freight line to take the spoil away. That is better not only for costs but for the environment, so I am very proud of the work being done at Old Oak Common. I would be very pleased to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss it further.

Photo of Virginia Crosbie Virginia Crosbie Conservative, Ynys Môn

The Minister detailed the impact on various economies in England, but will he make an assessment with Cabinet colleagues of the potential impact of the new timing of the construction of HS2 between Birmingham and Crewe on the economy of north Wales?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

More detail will be added when the six monthly report for HS2 comes before the House. We also have the enhancement pipeline, which we will look to publish in the months to come. That will detail the investments we can make off the back of HS2. My hon. Friend makes a very good point about the benefits that accrue from HS2: not just passenger trains on the existing network, but the ability to take freight off the existing line. I am very happy to take further representations from her. She is very passionate about projects for north Wales and we will continue to talk.

Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn Labour, Leeds Central

Despite having been repeatedly promised that HS2 to Leeds would be built, the Government broke their word. At the time, they promised they would look at the most effective way to run HS2 trains to Leeds, but just now, in answer to Alec Shelbrooke, the Minister speculated—if I heard him correctly—on what he would do about safeguarding land if it does not prove possible to do that. Can he clarify whether he is indicating to us that it may not prove possible even to honour the second promise and that it looks as if we will be disappointed again?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

Perhaps I can clarify and try to assist, because I can see the obvious trap I am being invited to fall into. First of all, the Leeds route study has to be published, responses have to be returned, and then a decision has to be made on how and whether it is possible to get HS2 trains to Leeds. That has an impact on Leeds station, which is currently about 115% over capacity. There are also implications for the ability to invest in Leeds station. The whole basis I am trying to lead to is that we have to get the study out and the responses back, and then the decision can be made as to what occurs. That lends itself to what happens to properties that have come into possession. I hope that orderly process is now clear to the right hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mark Fletcher Mark Fletcher Conservative, Bolsover

I am grateful to the Minister for meeting me last week, but I have to say that I agree entirely with my right hon. Friend Alec Shelbrooke. The chance of the current line running up to Leeds is absolutely non-existent, yet those communities who are currently locked into the line of route are dealing with the wickedness and viciousness of HS2 Ltd, most recently including, as the Minister is aware, 38% rent increases. When will he end this cycle of misery and lift the safeguarding in my constituency?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I have the greatest sympathy for my hon. Friend’s constituents. They have been ably represented by him, because he has spoken to me on a number of occasions. I have already set out the steps that will be taken with regard to the decision on HS2 trains to Leeds. That will remain the case, but I am already looking into the case for his constituents. A 30% to 38% increase in rents seems like an incredibly high jump in one go. I need to find out the background to that, but he will be meeting me again, so I can give him the detail that he can then give back to his constituents. I will do everything I can to minimise the impact.

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons)

I was 45 when the Tory-led Government gave HS2 the go ahead. Since then, as the Minister knows, it has been repeatedly chopped, changed and delayed. I will be 57 next week. How old will I be when it gets to Nottingham?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

Mr Speaker, it is another trap I do not wish to walk into, beyond saying that with regard to the plans going eastward, which will allow for much faster services to London and Birmingham from Leicester and Nottingham, we will set out more detail both in the response I have to give to the Chairman of the Transport Committee on that aspect of HS2 east and in the parliamentary report. We announced that in the integrated rail plan, which did change matters. It is important that we now give better delivery, so we can indicate timescales and costs.

Photo of Rob Butler Rob Butler Conservative, Aylesbury

My constituents never wanted HS2. As my hon. Friend the Minister knows, they have always said that costs would escalate out of control. Sadly, it seems too late to stop its construction in Aylesbury and Wendover, despite the huge damage being done to the beautiful Buckinghamshire countryside. Will the Minister take advantage of the pause he has announced to phase 2 to encourage those at HS2 Ltd and their contractors to devote a little bit more time to helping those impacted by phase 1, to improve mitigation and not constantly have the response “Computer says no.”?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

My hon. Friend gives me the opportunity to confirm again that we remain on track for the delivery of HS2 between Old Oak Common and Curzon Street. We expect to see trains delivered by 2033. Again, there will be peak disruption for his constituents in Aylesbury, Wendover and the region. I will have a further conversation with the chief executive and the chairman of HS2 Ltd, and I will absolutely restate the importance of ensuring that, as we are at peak construction period, mitigations are in place. I recognise that there are some in constituencies in the home counties who, notwithstanding the mitigations we have made, think that more could be done. I am happy to represent those calls.

Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Minister (Tech, Gambling and the Digital Economy)

Despite our paying through the nose for HS2, not a single inch of track will be laid in Wales as part of the project. All the while, the UK Government still insist on classifying HS2 as an England and Wales project. Let us be clear: the Welsh Government will fail to receive around £5 billion in Barnett consequentials as a result of the project. With the extension up to Scotland already scrapped, is it not about time the Secretary of State admitted that the Government have turned HS2 into an England-only project?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

As I hope I have outlined, I would be surprised if there was a single constituency, of the 650 represented in this House, that did not have its part to play in terms of business contribution or workforce. I believe it benefits the whole United Kingdom. On Barnett consequentials, the situation in Wales is that Network Rail is funded by the Department for Transport for England and Wales. In Scotland, Network Rail is funded by the Scottish Executive, which means that Barnett consequentials are paid, so the matters are completely separate.

Photo of James Duddridge James Duddridge Conservative, Rochford and Southend East

If we, as a United Kingdom, cannot build high-speed rail from north to south, what good are we? I remember Lord Adonis coming to the Conservative party and asking for support for the project. Should we not demand greater co-operation from the Opposition Benches, to come together and deliver the project? If we cannot do it, are we doing a good job, as the Victorians did, of building the infrastructure that we need? After all, it is not rocket science, although Robert Stephenson would probably disagree.

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

My right hon. Friend certainly speaks for me. I want to talk up all those who work on this project. We are building HS2 because it allows us to better connect our cities. For those in parts of the country who feel that they have been underdeveloped, this is the opportunity to level up so that development and business expansion go further north, which is better for the country as a whole. He is right that, as a pioneer of our great railways, it is a tragedy that we do not have a high-speed rail line that connects our country as in European countries. That is why I am proud that we are delivering on HS2. There is a rephasing of a portion of the line, but the rest is to be built as planned. I will be proud to use it when it is open.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care)

It should not come as a surprise to the Minister that we northern MPs are very sceptical about the promises that he has made today. After all, we were promised high-speed trains from east to west, but all we are getting are high-speed trains from Liverpool to just beyond Manchester, and then trains chugging across the Pennines to Yorkshire. He promised HS2 in full, yet the Yorkshire leg will not happen and the leg to Crewe is delayed. What guarantees do we have that Manchester and Euston will be delivered on time, as he says? Why should we believe a word he says?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

If there were no commitment to Manchester, the Bill Committee would have been disbanded, but it continues to go ahead for section 2b, and the indicative timescales remain exactly the same for the Crewe to Manchester piece. Its delivery is crucial to Northern Powerhouse Rail. That is why nothing has changed for 2b. I gently add, having been to see the engineering projects for the trans-Pennine route upgrade, that billions are being spent through the Pennines towards York to fully electrify that line, because that is where the bulk of our investment is geared—to the north and the midlands.

Photo of Maggie Throup Maggie Throup Conservative, Erewash

Over the past 40 minutes, the Minister will have realised that one of the big issues is blight. What steps is he taking to ensure that those residents who remain blighted by the original HS2 routes, such as those in my towns of Long Eaton, Sandiacre and Stanton Gate, are fully compensated now that their properties are no longer required for the revised route?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

The line of route remains the same. There is a two-year rephasing of the section up towards Crewe, but the line of route remains the same as when it was announced. My hon. Friend is right that many constituents have experienced issues as a result of the impact on HS2. The process in place with HS2 ends up in appeals in the Department for Transport. I look at those individual cases, as does the Secretary of State. In some cases, although those constituents may not be strictly entitled to the cost of moving, we have looked at them and decided that their health impacts necessitate a payment and assistance from the Department. I will continue to work with my hon. Friend and all hon. Members to help their constituents.

Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Labour, Barnsley Central

Another day, another delay. Does the Minister understand the huge frustration of colleagues across the north of England, who have lived with countless Rail Ministers and iterations of the plan? It is beyond frustrating that the Treasury does not seem to appreciate the huge value that this infrastructure will deliver for the north of England. The Minister will know that I have a particular interest in the high-speed rail study between Sheffield and Leeds, which was announced back in 2021. To be clear, it is not a study; it is just about agreeing the terms of reference to do the subsequent piece of work needed. I ask the Minister again: when does he think that the work on the connectivity between Sheffield and Leeds will be completed?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

The hon. Member has been persistent in asking those questions, and I have just signed off another written ministerial response to him on that. The answer remains that we intend to publish the options for Leeds soon. As I said at the beginning, that has been cleared by the Department and we will now work with colleagues to get that out there, so that we can get the responses quickly and then make the decisions to allow the options to be delivered.

Photo of Jason McCartney Jason McCartney Conservative, Colne Valley

I welcome the trans-Pennine rail upgrade. I visited Marsden in my patch with Network Rail a couple of weeks ago. There are massive plans to redesign the stations at Marsden and Slaithwaite. However, Yorkshire needs more. We need Northern Powerhouse Rail delivered in full from Liverpool to Hull, via Bradford, and HS2 up to Yorkshire. I will try again on behalf of Dan Jarvis: will the review plan of how to get HS2 trains from Sheffield to Leeds report back before the summer?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I fear that I am becoming a stuck record. I said that the document has cleared through the desk of the Department for Transport. The entire Government will hear the House loud and clear on its desire to see that published—I certainly do. On investment across the Pennines, like my hon. Friend, I have seen the extraordinary work that has been done, which will be transformative. We are fully geared to investing. I am happy to meet him to discuss that further.

Photo of Liz Saville-Roberts Liz Saville-Roberts Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Women and Equalities) , Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader, Shadow PC Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Attorney General)

The Minister comes to the Chamber unable to detail HS2 advantages to either north or south Wales. Not a single inch of HS2 track will be laid in Wales, yet it is considered an England and Wales project. That denies Wales any investment in return. The £20 billion already spent on the biggest white elephant in the Tory circus should have resulted in a £1-billion investment in Wales’s gutted railways. Will the UK Government therefore guarantee that Wales will receive that £1 billion?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I represent the good people of east Sussex, where not a single mile of track is being laid either. HS2 investment will be spread across the UK. I have deliberately used the figure of 29,000 jobs, because those are jobs across the whole UK. Some 2,500 businesses are working on HS2, most of them small or medium-sized. There are vast impacts for those companies and for the economy. I reiterate that, on funding, the Department for Transport funds Network Rail for England and Wales. That is not the case for Scotland, which has its Barnett consequentials to fund Network Rail. That is the difference between Wales and Scotland.

Photo of Darren Henry Darren Henry Conservative, Broxtowe

The integrated rail plan 2021 set out the Government’s intention for a new Network Rail station in Toton in my constituency. That station is vital for connectivity to the east midlands—the region with the lowest transport spend per head year on year. Will the Minister reaffirm the Government’s commitment to a Network Rail station at Toton, and the timescale for completion?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

As the HS2 east proposals outlined in the integrated rail plan are fleshed out, we will provide more detail, both in response to the Chair of the Transport Committee and ongoing liaison with the Committee, and in the six-monthly report. We remain committed to delivering on the East Midlands Parkway plan, which will improve journey times for Leicester and Nottingham. That remains the same, but the details need to be fleshed out, and I will provide the House with that detail.

Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Minister has answered over and again that the projects will apply solely to England. The last time I checked, Manchester, Crewe and Birmingham were not in Wales. Can the Minister set out the economic benefits for Wales, where no track is being laid? He has given three answers about how Wales’s infrastructure for Network Rail is funded. The reality is that we have 11% of the track but 2% of the funding. The Tories are failing Wales and are investing nothing in Welsh rail infrastructure.

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

That is not the case at all. Investment in enhancements on the railway will apply to England and to Wales. The enhancements pipeline to be published in the months to come will address where we can invest with new track in England and in Wales, and I look forward to detailing that. I reiterate to the hon. Gentleman’s constituents and mine that there are UK-wide benefits from the delivery of HS2. Anybody in any constituency or any part of this House who says that they will get no economic benefits from levelling up the entirety of the UK—I am sorry, but they are not living in the UK.

Photo of Scott Benton Scott Benton Conservative, Blackpool South

By the time phase 2b arrives in the north, if indeed it ever arrives in the north, it will have been nearly 30 years since the project was first signed off. Whether it be HS2, nuclear power, housing or whatever, there is not a single economic competitor who takes so long to deliver strategic infrastructure. If we are serious about economic growth, surely we have to do better.

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I recognise the frustrations that delays to large infrastructure projects can cause. HS2 phase 2b, for example, is being looked at by a House of Commons Bill Committee; there will then be a House of Lords Bill Committee. There is also the ability to petition. For phase 1, there are many more miles of viaduct and tunnelling than when the programme was first envisaged. That is because of democracy, because of this place and because of the need to mitigate issues for constituents. Although I recognise the frustrations about the delivery of infrastructure projects, I say to my hon. Friend that that is a part of the democratic process, the planning process and the legal process that we have to abide by.

Photo of Martin Docherty Martin Docherty Scottish National Party, West Dunbartonshire

As you well know, Mr Speaker, the Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II appreciated the importance of railways in nation building and approved the building of the Hejaz railway to connect Istanbul with the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, despite the perilous state of his empire at the time. In failing to deliver on even the most basic vision for HS2, the Government have revealed a preference for leaving Scotland and other parts of their realms poorly connected to the centre. How does the Minister expect my constituents in West Dunbartonshire to feel affinity to a British state that cannot even build a railway in its direction?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I reiterate the benefits of HS2 with regard to the United Kingdom as a whole. The hon. Gentleman will be interested in the options for the Golborne link; we will be writing back to the Transport Committee about those options. That, of course, will assist with our long-term vision to take HS2 trains all the way through the spine of the country, including to Scotland.

Photo of Selaine Saxby Selaine Saxby Conservative, North Devon

Alongside its amendments to HS2, the Department for Transport also slashed active travel budgets last week. Can my hon. Friend confirm that the Department has a timetable for decarbonising our transport networks? Does he agree that cutting quick-to-deliver, cheap, healthy active travel budgets may not assist our drive to reduce NHS waiting lists and decarbonise?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

My hon. Friend is an assiduous champion for the active travel sector, and I have worked with her over the years in that regard. We are still committed to spending £3 billion on active travel schemes over the course of this Parliament. There are £2 billion-worth of additional decarbonisation spends with regard to transport. Our commitment to active travel and to working with Active Travel England remains, and I very much look forward to working with her on how we roll the plans out.

Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

The cost of HS2 has already doubled because of poor management and costly delays. The Minister is claiming that this delay is about saving money: he keeps talking about managing the day-to-day finances. Can he confirm that it is his explicit intention to delay and to pile the cost on a future Government?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

The rationale behind this is to balance the vast amounts we are spending on HS2 and other transport and infrastructure projects with the priority to grow the economy and reduce debt. I referred earlier to the sheer scale of our borrowing charges that we are having to utilise. It is absolutely right that we look at current spending and at how it can be reduced, while ensuring at the same time that we can still deliver to plan. I reiterate to the House that the only part that is changing in this regard is the rephasing by two years of the section towards Crewe. I feel that the balance between managing the day-to-day economy right now and investing in the future for our infrastructure charges is the right one.

Photo of Robin Millar Robin Millar Conservative, Aberconwy

It is clear from the contributions of Members across the House, and indeed from people across the country, that rail has played an important part at the heart of our history as a Union and will play an important part in future. The UK connectivity review highlighted the importance of the north Wales main line not only to the economy of north Wales, but to the interconnectedness of all parts of the Union. Will the Minister please confirm that HS2 is indeed an England and Wales project? Will he also confirm that work on a business case for the electrification of the north Wales main line is continuing and that the delivery plans for its electrification remain part of the Department’s plans?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

We are looking to publish the enhancements pipeline in the months to come. It will detail the future projects off HS2, which will include bids from projects in Wales and in England, not least the one to which my hon. Friend refers. I also understand that there are champions for a project in south Wales; indeed, I have met hon. Members about it. All those projects will be considered as part of the enhancements pipeline. I reiterate that I see HS2 as a UK-wide project that will benefit the whole United Kingdom, and of course that includes Wales.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Chair, Committee on Standards, Chair, Committee on Standards

I am 61. [Hon. Members: “Misleading the House!”] I am not misleading the House. I cannot see, from what we have heard today, that there is any chance of any of these trains chugging into central London in my lifetime—and I am not intending to shuffle off this mortal coil very soon. [Interruption.] My political lifetime may be a different matter.

Lots of us in this Chamber like the Minister, although incidentally we think the Secretary of State should be the one to answer this important point. Notwithstanding everything the Minister says, however, my constituents in Wales are paying for this incompetence: £600 million is being spent every month, as he says, and they will not get any benefit whatsoever. If he will come to the Rhondda and explain to people at a public meeting why this is an England and Wales project and they are getting no funding, he can have my support. Otherwise, he can forget it.

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

How could I resist that kind and welcome invitation? When the hon. Gentleman is 71, he will be able to access a train from Old Oak Common to Birmingham. At the interchange station, which I have seen, he will then be able to take the train to central London. It is an extraordinary opportunity: he should go and visit.

I hear the same point from my constituents in East Sussex: they ask, “What’s the benefit for me? I don’t have any part of the line.” I continue to extol the virtues of a UK-wide project that will connect the whole UK, grow the UK’s economy and provide jobs and houses for the whole UK. All the UK will benefit from that, regardless of which parts the line of route goes through.

Photo of Tom Randall Tom Randall Conservative, Gedling

I am disappointed to hear of the further delays. Further to the Minister’s answers to Lilian Greenwood and to my hon. Friend Darren Henry, the eastern leg of HS2 will massively improve journey times between east and west, for example by cutting the journey from Nottingham to Birmingham down to as little as 28 minutes. Can the Minister give me every reassurance that he will do everything he can to ensure that that leg of HS2 proceeds on schedule as is currently planned?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I can. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that there are great benefits for those around the city of Nottingham and around Derby with regard to the journey time to Birmingham, and indeed further down to London. That was announced as part of the integrated rail plan, and as I have told the House, we will have further details to set out in the parliamentary report that is due. I am very much looking forward to giving him that extra detail.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy Security and Net Zero)

The Minister baldly states that Euston was always to follow after Old Oak Common, but a previous promise was that on day one of their operation, high-speed trains would run from central London to Scotland. It is not going to be day one, it is not going to be day 100 and it is not looking like day 1,000 either, so when will HS2 trains run from central London to Scotland? Will the Minister confirm that north of Crewe, the journey time will be slower on high-speed trains than it is the now, on Avanti trains?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I think I have already made clear, in answer to an earlier question, that the decision that the first HS2 trains would run from Old Oak Common to Birmingham was made following the Oakervee review; but I do not accept some of the hon. Gentleman’s other points. As I have said before, there are long-term ambitions to connect HS2 trains further north than Manchester, but, as things stand, we are planning for Manchester.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

May I say, as the Member of Parliament representing the fabled Old Oak Common station, that this is a huge slap in the face for my NW10 residents? They will have to put up with even more years of living on a building site, with the carrot that was dangled before them in the form of the promised fast route to Euston now gone as it becomes the terminus. Given the already rammed tube trains in the area and the fabled Old Oak Common Crossrail station that is supposed to be coming, will the Minister not provide extra funds for TfL to lessen the pain and absorb the overcrowding?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

We have been giving plenty of funds to TfL in recent years. All I can say to the hon. Lady is that she will be very proud that her constituency has the best-connected and largest new railway station ever built in the UK. I have been there to see it, and I want to thank all those who are working on it: what is being done there is extraordinary. This station will regenerate the hon. Lady’s constituency, and I am amazed that she is not welcoming it.

Photo of Clive Betts Clive Betts Chair, Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, Chair, Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, Chairman of the House of Commons Members' Fund

At the same time as the cancellation of the HS2 route to Leeds, the route to Sheffield was cancelled, but we were told not to worry because plenty of other good things were going to happen. The electrification of the midland main line would be unpaused for the third time, and we would get the high-speed trains to Leeds, which we are now told we may know something about at some time in the future. All that has happened since then is the ending of the direct link between Sheffield and Manchester airport. May I return to the first of those promises, and ask the Minister to give a categorical commitment on when the midland main line electrification will be extended to Sheffield?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

A statement was issued on Thursday. The urgent question relates to HS2, and I have given the commitments in respect of how that will be delivered. As I said earlier, the enhancements pipeline—the HS2 investments—will be forthcoming, and will be put before the House in the coming months. A vast number of projects are in that pipeline, and we will give careful consideration to which ones we will adopt.

Photo of Christina Rees Christina Rees Independent, Neath

Will the Minister accept the cross-party recommendation of the Welsh Affairs Committee that HS2 should be reclassified as an England-only project, so that Wales can receive the £5 billion in Barnett consequentials which will allow the Welsh Labour Government to continue to expand public transport services, and people in Wales can receive the same benefits from HS2 as those in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

Let me reiterate the funding model relating to Network Rail and the way in which we have managed our railways. The funding for England and Wales is provided by the Department for Transport; it is not provided for Scotland, which receives Barnett consequentials so it can fund Network Rail itself. That is the difference between Scotland and Wales.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

As the longest-serving Labour Member of Parliament, may I say to the Minister that I opposed HS2 from the very beginning, in January 2012, because I thought it was a vanity project and would not benefit my constituents? I wanted investment in the north. HS2 is still, in my view, a vanity project. A hundred billion pounds! Think, Minister, what that could have done in the health service or in our armed forces.

This must be the most incompetent measure introduced by any Government in the last 100 years. Can we have a national day of mourning for it?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I recognise that there are differences of opinion. Let me clarify my earlier reference to the Liberal Democrats: I meant that I resent seeing what is said in party by-election literature while the party as a whole supports this project.

I respect the hon. Gentleman’s point, as I respect points made on both sides of the House. As I say, opinions differ, but mine is absolutely firm. I believe that this country—the entire United Kingdom—deserves a high-speed train line. I believe that there will be benefits to the economy and to levelling up, with homes and jobs becoming more accessible for the whole of the UK. Of course, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, and I look forward to joining the hon. Gentleman when those trains roll and we see the benefits overall.

Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Independent, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

HS2 is turning into the predictable generational financial black hole of which many warned at the outset. Scotland and Northern Ireland are protected because they receive full Barnett consequentials, but, as we heard earlier, Wales is given a 0% rating. As a result, our Department for Transport comparability factor currently starts at only 36.6%, which means considerably less money for the Welsh Government to spend on transport. Is not the reality that unless this issue is addressed in one way or another—by devolving the responsibility for funding Network Rail to Wales, if that is what it takes—Welsh transport infrastructure faces decades of further under-investment, and Welsh taxpayers are being thoroughly swindled?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I think I got the gist, Madam Deputy Speaker. The reality is that the control period will see more than £40 billion spent on renewals across England and Wales, but, as I said earlier, Scotland has to find that funding for itself, and that is where the Barnett consequentials come in. There are no plans in the foreseeable future to change the manner in which we fund the network in the way that the hon. Gentleman described.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

By its very nature, HS2 is a strategic project from which everyone in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland can gain some benefit. In 2010 it was expected to cost £33 billion, but that is now expected to soar to some £71 billion; meanwhile, there are reports of more delays and persistent congestion in areas such as Camden. Can the Minister reassure me that phase 1 is still on track to be completed by 2029, and that any further delays will be minor and will have no impact on the completion date?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

As I said at the outset, the intention is to deliver the trains from Old Oak Common to Curzon Street Birmingham by 2033. There is a window between 2029 and 2033, and our commitment to delivering in that timeframe remains.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the situation involving Euston, and I am obviously aware of the disruption that has been caused. I was heartened by a conversation I had with the leader of Camden Borough Council, who talked about the opportunities that that timeframe would afford for us to work together to try to find better solutions that will benefit the whole community, and I am absolutely committed to doing just that. I say to anyone, across the community, who wants to improve the HS2 project, “Get behind this, support it, and help me to sell the merits of HS2.” I think it is a fantastic opportunity—and, if that was the last question, I want to thank everyone who is working on HS2. I have full confidence in them, and I am sure the House does as well.