High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:10 pm on 14th April 2016.

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Photo of Lord Rowe-Beddoe Lord Rowe-Beddoe Crossbench 3:10 pm, 14th April 2016

I have the report in my hand and, obviously, I have studied it. I repeat my words: it did not address the recommendations that our committee made.

I was asking whether the alternatives had been fully examined and quantified. I refer to the work, for example, of the organisation High Speed UK. This company believes that it has a credible proposal to achieve connectivity and provide the higher capacity, on a like-for-like basis, at a lower cost of some £20 billion. If that is make-believe, somebody say so; if it is not, should it be looked at? Environmentally, this proposed route entirely avoids the Chilterns—that is quite interesting, and certain Members of your Lordships’ House have talked about that today—and would reach Birmingham by building a 12-kilometre tunnel. Further, it is believed that through comprehensive intercity connectivity and increased capacity, there would be a major change in the road-rail relationship, which could significantly reduce transport CO2 emissions.

Finally, let me turn to the Euston station rebuild. I acknowledge the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, and his expertise in this area. There appears to be no strategy to divert commuter flows away from Euston. This central part of London will be greatly affected by the current plans, which will have an enormously adverse impact on the travelling public and the community during a lengthy period of construction—the demolition of some hundreds of homes; the relocation of thousands of graves, as alluded to by the right reverend Prelate; and the closure and complete disappearance of a street. However, there is no apparent plan to divert commuter flows. Your Lordships’ committee was interested in the Old Oak Common solution, which was referred to again by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw. It would connect Crossrail to the west coast main line, thus enabling more commuter services to be moved from Euston, which could enable the current footprint of the station to be maintained while all the work is going on, without the necessity to expand into Camden.

I realise that this Bill was passed without amendment last month in the Public Bill Committee of the other place, and subsequently on the Floor of the House without Division. Nevertheless, I firmly believe that if a cost differential of some £20 billion—remember, these are 2011 prices—can be tested rigorously and verified independently, we should pause for a moment and request the Treasury to so do.