Moved by Lord Rosser
4: After Clause 58, insert the following new Clause—“Consultation with residents and stakeholders in relation to Phase 2a of High Speed 2 and associated works(1) Before
Amendment 4 in my name and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, requires the Government to consult the affected people of Shropshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire on how the construction works for HS2 phase 2a will impact on their communities and the natural environment, and whether there is sufficient transport provision to enable passengers to connect to phase 2a of High Speed 2, including whether the construction of new railway stations, improvements to railway stations and reopening of lines is necessary and needed.
The Government would be required to produce a report before the beginning of May next year on the outcome of the consultation, and lay it before both Houses of Parliament with a statement to both Houses detailing any steps that would be taken to implement its findings. The amendment does not seek to tell the Government what their response to the consultation should be, simply that they should consult further on the issues mentioned and produce a report to Parliament.
I thank the Minister for her letter to me of
On consultation, in their response the Government will almost certainly maintain that they have engaged with those impacted by the works. Residents along and close to the line of route do not always seem to share that view about engagement, which at times appears to have been sparse and has left many feeling that it happened only as part of a tick-box exercise. It is easy to regard consultation as an exercise in telling people what is going to happen, rather than listening to their views and concerns, and seeking to address or mitigate them.
We are aware of one community meeting in Shropshire where the HS2 representative who attended seemed unaware about even which county the community concerned was in, when he said that HS2 had been in contact with Staffordshire County Council about relevant issues. We have heard and received comments, fair or unfair, that the independent construction commissioner has not appeared keen to engage and that the point of contact with HS2 for local communities keeps being changed. In one case, we heard about a community that has recently been transferred to its fourth official. The provision of information has too often been sporadic or not forthcoming, including on such basic issues as how long disruption is likely to last.
Many in Shropshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire will see no material benefit from the opening of HS2, and many close to or relatively near the line of route will have significant disruption to their day-to-day lives.
In Committee, I asked the Government if any lessons on consultation had been learned from phase 1 and, if so, what they were and whether they had been or were being applied to phase 2a. I did not receive a clear answer, so have assumed that the approach to consultation for phase 1 did not provide the Government with any lessons learned. In this case, I suggest that we continue to have a problem.
Despite the new HS2 line straddling the Shropshire-Staffordshire border, there does not yet appear to have been any real effort made to ensure that the people of Shropshire reap some benefit from the new line. Much of the county still has no easy access to rail services. As I have mentioned before, Oswestry has a population close to 20,000 but no station. While a group is attempting to open a heritage line, its first priority is not connecting to the main line at Gobowen, and the heritage line has also been turned down for funding by the Government. Other towns in the north of the county, such as Ellesmere, are similarly without a rail link, and Ellesmere has also been singled out in national reports for its underinvestment in bus services. As for roads in the county, parts of the A5 are in urgent need of dualling to improve connections from the county to elsewhere and, one would hope in the future, to HS2 phase 2a.
Likewise, in Staffordshire, phase 2a will also have significant consequences for many residents, but many will see no direct benefits. Newcastle-under-Lyme, for example, has a population of around 80,000, but no railway station and poor bus services for a town of its size. In north Staffordshire, rail services are infrequent, particularly on the Crewe-Derby line, and in the town of Leek there are calls for the reconnection of the railway to Stoke-on-Trent.
There have also been calls for improvements to rail services in Cheshire. Again, some parts will be heavily impacted by HS2 construction works, but with no material benefit resulting. Local towns see little benefit to them from the HS2 project, and there have been calls for better services on the mid-Cheshire line and for improved frequencies.
My amendment also refers to the “natural environment”. While it is inevitable that an infrastructure project on the scale of HS2 will have implications for the natural environment, any negative implications must be minimised. Local residents and expert stakeholders must be engaged and consulted about how the works will impact ancient woodlands and the effectiveness or otherwise of the mitigation measures being proposed. Those within the towns and villages along the route will best understand the impact the project will have on their environment, and only with their engagement on a continuous, meaningful and regular basis can the project be best delivered.
We have previously heard from the Government about new cross-departmental groups that are now in place to keep a tighter control at ministerial level over the HS2 project, not least in respect of costs. We have heard from the Government about the impact the new post of Minister for HS2 will have on the project and its progression. One role for this new cross-departmental group and the new Minister should be to make sure that consultation with local communities is effective, ongoing and directed to seeking to address—or to mitigate as far as possible—the concerns being raised. It very much needs a hands-on approach at a high level to make sure this happens.
This amendment, with its requirement for further consultation and a subsequent report to Parliament on both the impact of the HS2 works and the possible benefits that could accrue to local communities in the form of improved transport links, providing connections to HS2 to enable them to benefit from it, will enable that much-needed hands-on approach, led or closely overseen—one hopes—by the new Minister, to happen in a productive and positive way for all concerned. Whether I seek a vote on this amendment will be dependent on what is said, including by the Government, during the debate. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have an entirely different point to make, which I believe the Minister will need to take into account as HS2 progresses: the question of the stations at the northern end, be they at Leeds or Manchester. I believe it has now been decided that the Manchester station should be capable of dealing with through-trains. At Leeds—I now speak in the name of the late Lord Shutt of Greetland, who was very strong on this issue—the idea of a terminal station that is a dead end is anathema to most railwaymen.
In order to get connectivity through a system, it is ideal to have platforms that allow through-trains to serve the larger stations because these are not the terminal points to which people want to go; they want to connect on further, and, in the case of Leeds, it will obviously be a desire to go on to Newcastle, York and, possibly, Scotland. I imagine that, when you get to Manchester, you will want to go on to Bradford and then to Leeds in the end.
In supporting this amendment, my plea is not about the small issues of connectivity, to which the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has referred in his remarks, but about developing a network that is able to connect through to other places itself so that we maximise the possibility of HS2 and of it connecting with tram and express-bus systems, which are really needed to provide the integrated transport network that many people want.
My Lords, the only comment I wish to make on this amendment is to express surprise that some of the issues were not brought to the attention of the Select Committee by one means or another. We carried out a visit and saw some of the nature of the problems that could arise so far as road traffic was concerned, but it seemed to us, as the report indicates, that these were things that were being actively examined by HS2. We also felt that the lead on getting what was felt to be necessary for the benefit of local people should be taken by the local authorities. We were disposed to believe that they had some slack to take up in relation to addressing the real needs.
On extra stations, I think that, while it is inevitable that some people will say, “Well, if we have got this splendid new railway, can we not connect to it?”, every connection will add to journey time, of course, unless the extra stations should really be serving the lines that are being freed of the traffic by the construction of HS2. The idea that we should report to Parliament with the kind of frequency suggested means that people will be spending an awful lot of time doing that rather than, perhaps, getting on with negotiations to try to achieve the maximum amount of local understanding and support.
My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of the Woodland Trust. I support Amendment 4, in the name of my noble friend Lord Rosser, particularly where it seeks to ensure that the Government listen and learn from
“the views of residents and stakeholders … in regard to … the impact of the works on the natural environment, including but not limited to the impact on ancient woodland”.
In future amendments, we will discuss, with increasing depth, the issues of ancient woodlands and the unacceptably high impact of HS2, so I will not ask the House to listen to me going on and on about it several times—the Minister is already pretty fed up with hearing about it. I simply say that I support this amendment, which would not only help reduce environmental damage but, absolutely vitally, would examine the priorities of local people, which is inadequately done in these major infrastructure projects.
My Lords, I question whether this amendment is appropriate for this Bill. My noble friend Lord Rosser talks about the inadequacies of the transport system in various terms, with examples including Oswestry. With respect to him, HS2 phase 2a, which is what we are supposedly discussing on this Bill, does not go anywhere near Oswestry. I point out to him as gently as possible—I do not want to upset him, as I know that he is a former railwayman—that the more stations that you put on a high-speed line, the less high-speed the trains become. The whole purpose of a high-speed line is to connect from city to city. While I have every sympathy with those who are affected by HS2, those of us who served on the committee did our best, as the noble Lord, Lord Haselhurst, said, to listen to people adversely affected or who felt that the road network in their immediate area was adversely affected by the forthcoming works, but again, as he said, surely those are matters for the highways authority. With the best respect to all noble Lords, we are not really qualified to make decisions about the impact of the work on HS2 on the road network in a particular town or village. That is for the local authorities. Those of us who have served on local authorities will be aware of the concern that people often express about traffic difficulties and alterations to the road network. Again with respect to my noble friend, I do not think it is for those of us in this House to make those decisions.
Perhaps the Minister can help me on procedure. My understanding is that if we pass this amendment, for example, the whole Bill will have to go back to the other place to be looked at again. I might be wrong about that, but if it is the case, again, I do not feel that it is appropriate for us to agree amendments such as this at this stage of the Bill’s passage.
It is a similar story with connectivity, the subject of Amendment 8. My noble friend Lord Rosser will know, as I do, that timetabling is an enormously complex procedure. I have great admiration for the Minister and the way in which she has conducted the Bill’s passage but, as I think she would agree, she is not really qualified to get involved in the future timetabling of trains and the impact of HS2 on existing rail services. Those are all matters for the future. With due respect to both my noble friend and the Minister, I do not feel that these are appropriate matters for the Bill.
My Lords, I had better declare an interest because I am sitting here in south Shropshire. South Shropshire is unknown to the people who run Shrewsbury and north Shropshire. They think that we are in another world. As far as I am concerned, the biggest transport issue in Shropshire is the A49. It needs to be dualled from top to bottom. I can understand why people at the margin, particularly on the boundary between Shropshire and Staffordshire, might have an interest, but, to be honest, the way that this amendment is drafted—I have no personal criticism of anybody—I do not intend to vote for it. It is almost a wrecking amendment, as shown by the provisions of proposed new subsection (2). So, having declared my interest and made my case for better transport infrastructure in Shropshire, and partly rubbished the amendment, I am content to leave it there.
My Lords, I have some sympathy for this amendment given my experience as a member of the HS2 committee. The representations that we heard from petitioners were basically very local: they were individual petitions—people who had particular grievances and concerns—and, to the extent that there was any collective representation, at the parish council level. It is a pity that broader questions of whether the county council, highways authority and those responsible for transport locally had looked at how the impact of HS2 could be mitigated, given that we do not want to stop it or change the line of the route, did not come up at our committee. I therefore have some sympathy with Amendment 4.
My Lords, this is an interesting amendment. I shall just concentrate a very few remarks on proposed new subsection (2)(c) and (d). The first thing to say is that I do not think that anybody is serious in expecting them to build extra stations on phase 2a. Crewe is a very good junction and it must involve, possibly on other lines, building extra stations if it can be justified.
As part of the Oakervee review, I also, with the team, visited Crewe. I think the Select Committee went there as well. It brings into focus the fact that the Select Committee quite rightly looks at local things and people’s concerns, but who looks at what one might call the regional connectivity? I will give one example. We were sitting in the office in Crewe talking to HS2 and Network Rail representatives and it became quite clear that the design of HS2 to go through Crewe station was effectively preventing even an hourly service from Shrewsbury through Crewe to Manchester because of the point layout. I got the impression that HS2 did not care at all about that. Network Rail said, “You’re stopping us doing even what we can do at the moment with difficulty”. I do not know where that should be discussed, or whether it should be in a report, as the amendment proposes, but there ought to be an opportunity to discuss it. It is not a matter for petitioning, but I will be interested to hear what the Minister will say about it.
My Lords, I have added my name to Amendment 4 because HS2 has come in for criticism about the quality of its consultation with local residents. Although it has impressed on us how much it has improved, I am sure that there is probably still some way to go. I am particularly concerned about the impact of the construction process, which may not be obvious to either HS2, or to local residents, before it starts. Construction of a project of this size and this kind is not a transitory process, in that it will impact on some communities for years. It is not like your next-door neighbour building an extension, where it is bad for a few months but then the disturbance goes away. This could last for years.
The amendment specifies traffic and the impact on the environment. Although both issues were raised in Committee, we still need some answers from the Minister. We have heard a lot, and will hear more today, about the impact on ancient woodlands, but other aspects of the environment are of equal importance, for example wetlands. The amendment also includes an important reference to new links to HS2 itself. I am not suggesting—it never occurred to me—that that means stopping on the way, as that obviously would be a very slow way to run a high-speed railway. Treated properly, HS2 will be the catalyst for a widespread upgrading of our existing Victorian railways. I was taking this amendment to mean improving links into HS2, to the stations that have been specified.
Amendment 8, which is in my name, is also in this group. It specifically refers to that aspect. It provides for an annual review of connectivity in our rail network and the impact of HS2 on that. I have already spoken this afternoon about the importance of using HS2 to unlock capacity to allow more intensive use of existing lines by commuters and for other local journeys, as well as to provide room for the transfer of freight from road to rail. The northern powerhouse and Midlands Connect rely on that. I suggest that progress on this needs annual review because the Government—any Government—need to be kept under pressure to maintain the momentum for change. The review is to be laid before Parliament within six months of its completion. Once again, that is to avoid backsliding.
There is also a provision so that the impact of the pandemic is taken into account. This is specifically to address the impact on demand for public transport, which has clearly fallen sharply in recent months, largely because people are worried about safety, although public transport providers have made huge efforts to ensure it is safe. However, demand will return, albeit maybe in a different pattern which providers will have to adapt to. Anyone who thinks that we will suddenly not want to travel has misjudged human nature and failed to take the lessons of history. I am keen that above all we encourage people back to travelling by rail. There has been a lot of discussion about building back better, and part of that is ensuring that new services are fit for the future, and ensuring that HS2 is the catalyst to enable future UK Governments to deliver on climate objectives, by taking cars and lorries off the road and replacing planes with trains.
My Lords, I will address these amendments, how they are worded and what their consequences would be, because I am not sure that that fully came out in this debate, which was much shorter than I had anticipated. When I first looked at this speaking note on Saturday, it had 2,585 words. This is not to suggest that I intend to bore your Lordships into submission but to illustrate that there has been a huge amount of consultation, and that there is a huge amount to say about it.
The amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, would mandate just one more round—like one more wafer-thin mint—as if it might yield what? Would it yield different results to previous consultations, when works have not even started, and impacts are not yet being felt? I agree with what I think lies behind the noble Lord’s amendment: that HS2 Ltd must engage with and consult local communities, not once, not twice, but on an ongoing basis, before, during and after the project. I have condensed 20 minutes of words into something slightly less, but I warn noble Lords that there is still a fair amount to say.
I have a huge amount of respect for the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, who is exceptional in his diligence and one of the hardest-working Members of your Lordships’ House, but I was saddened that just a few examples were being used to show that the entire consultation process therefore has not worked. That is not the case. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, also said something like, “Well, I hear reports that consultation hasn’t gone brilliantly.” If there are specific concerns about lack of engagement, I encourage any noble Lord to bring them forward to Minister Stephenson. We will build this project successfully if engagement happens before, during and after the project. We have a way forward, and therefore the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, is not needed; nor would it even be helpful to the progress of the Bill, I am afraid.
Ten years ago, there were consultations that led to the initial identification of the preferred route. Five years ago, further consultation carved out phase 2a as a separate project to bring the benefits of HS2 to Crewe sooner. That led to the further round of consultations. In spring 2016, HS2 Ltd undertook a consultation on the scope and methodology to be used in producing phase 2a’s environmental statement and equalities impact assessment. In September 2016, HS2 Ltd launched consultations on the phase 2a working draft environmental statement and the working draft equalities impact assessment. At the same time, the phase 2a design refinement consultation was conducted by the Department for Transport. These consultations were open to everyone, including the people of Staffordshire, Shropshire and Cheshire, and were publicised widely by letter, email, notices in local newspapers, posters in doctors’ surgeries and libraries, press releases to local media and, of course, social media.
The consultations included information about the impacts on the natural environment, including ancient woodland. They included information about construction routes and road diversions and closures, so that people could understand what might happen to their local roads and transport infrastructure. They included alternative options and asked for feedback. The consultations closed in November 2016. The responses were collated, taken into account and, where relevant, design changes were made. The report on all that work was published alongside the deposit of the phase 2a Bill in July 2017. It took over a year, but that is not all.
In July 2017, when the Phase 2a Bill was laid, it was accompanied by the environmental statement and the equality impact assessment. These two documents were also open to consultation and covered agriculture, forestry and soils; air quality; climate; community; cultural heritage; ecology; electromagnetic interference; land quality; landscape and visual assessment; socioeconomics; sound, noise and vibration; traffic and transport; waste; and water resources. In the final documents, these topics were presented on a route-wide, area-by-area and community-by-community basis. There were engagement events, in which local people had the opportunity to meet experts to discuss all these matters. A huge amount of written material is available for people to read if they wish, and summaries in plain English. The consultation on the environmental statement deposited with the Bill received 16,768 responses.
The Bill itself, including the design of works, was also open to scrutiny by those directly affected by phase 2a and their representatives, such as local authorities, local interest groups, and parish councils, as well as environmental and transport NGOs. They were able to bring their concerns directly to a Select Committee in the other place. I might skip over this bit, as we have done Select Committees, but noble Lords will know that a huge amount of scrutiny goes on. Environmental reports and statements are prepared for any provisions added by the Select Committee, and an enormous amount of consultation has happened as a result of those environmental statements.
There has not been a lack of consultation to date; nor has that consultation failed to deliver a particular response—that surely people want X, Y or Z. Perhaps the concern posited by this amendment is that now the Bill is near to being finalised, local communities will not hear from HS2 Ltd again or be able to have their say. That is not the case. This Bill gives certainty to those who are directly affected, and we do not want to delay it. It is certainly not the end of the engagement story.
This Bill provides only deemed planning permission for the scheduled works. Further approvals are still needed from elected local authorities. Various processes are outlined in Schedule 17. Local authorities have all sorts of powers to approve or request conditions on a range of works, including construction arrangements, lorry movements and design works. Local communities will get very involved in that, and HS2 Ltd has also committed to engage with local communities on design features such as viaducts, tunnel portals and maintenance bases, and on developing standards for road bridges, foot bridges and noise barriers, and will engage on local environment management plans and local traffic management plans.
I could go on. There is a hotline, there are two commissioners and the HS2 Minister, to whom people or their MPs can write. We must draw the line somewhere. While I am fully in favour of constantly communicating and engaging with people, I am not sure that asking them similar questions again and again is particularly productive.
There is also the point on timing. I noted earlier that previous consultations had taken well over a year to do properly. They took up a huge amount of resources and effort, and they were well worth it, because they were good consultations and produced good outcomes. However, to produce another environmental consultation that was worth the paper it was written on, deliver it, analyse it and then provide a considered response by
I would like to point out that I was saved by the noble Lord, Lord Snape, who made some excellent points on why local transport connectivity is an issue for local people and local authorities, with of course government stepping in to provide guidance, funding and the regulatory framework where needed. I am the Minister for Roads, Buses and Places. I know how to fund a road, but the reality is that I do not come up with a blueprint deciding who gets which road. People come and ask me because the local people want a road in a particular area and it makes sense to have one. Therefore, I do not think that the Government should interfere in local transport connectivity studies. Those are for pan-regional bodies such as Midlands Connect. We will certainly do what we can on roads and buses—we have the bus strategy coming out—and local authorities will look at how to put together integrated transport plans, as indeed is their role.
I turn quickly to the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, on connectivity. Connectivity is one of the fundamental aims of HS2. The Government are not willing to accept the amendment, but I thank the noble Baroness for it. The Bill before your Lordships’ House today concerns just 36 miles of track from Fradley to Crewe. Crewe is a key rail gateway. It was opened in 1837 and linked the Liverpool and Manchester railway with the London and Birmingham railway, and Crewe station became a major hub. We believe that it will be able to build back even better from the huge heritage that it has. There will be extra rail capacity, which is envisioned to transform Crewe. The growth strategy of the Constellation Partnership, made up of a group of two local enterprise partnerships and seven local authorities, has developed plans to deliver a significant number of jobs and homes across the whole of Cheshire and Staffordshire, and I urge the noble Baroness to look at that.
There are all sorts of ways in which we can take the railway forward, but providing an annual report on a railway on which construction has not even started and which will not be operational for some time is possibly not the best way to do it. However, I reassure the noble Baroness that the Government are doing many reports on connectivity on an ongoing basis, and I encourage her to respond to the union connectivity review, which is being led by Sir Peter Hendy and is currently open to calls for evidence. I have difficulty in seeing merit in the amendment from the noble Baroness and I trust that I have been able to satisfy her.
I have received one request to ask a short question from the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. I call the noble Lord to ask a short question for elucidation.
I think that the Minister has demonstrated how much consultation there has been over the years. I do not want to go into that, other than to say that most of it has been good. However, I go back to paragraphs (2)(c) and (d) proposed in the amendment of my noble friend Lord Rosser. Once the Bill receives Royal Assent, people will start to think, “Okay, it’s being built. What’s going to be the end result?” I can see my noble friend’s concerns: it gets built but the connections to it by rail, with or without extra stations, either have not been thought through or nobody will know who is responsible for them. Will that satisfy the consultees? I am not sure that having an annual report is the right thing, but I hope that the noble Baroness will consider what should be done to satisfy people that, when the line opens in 10 years’ time or whatever, all these things will have been addressed. If there are changes that people think are desirable, they could have started so that there is not another 10-year gap before something happens.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for raising that point. It is really important, so I will ask my honourable friend Minister Heaton-Harris, the Rail Minister, perhaps to write to him setting out his ambitions for rail nationwide, particularly how his ambitions for rail interact with the ambitions for HS2 and how that then produces greater rail connectivity.
I thank the Minister for her response and indeed for her kind words. I also thank all other noble Lords who have participated in this debate.
My amendment calls for further consultation, seeking the views of residents and stakeholders
“who may be impacted by the scheduled works”,
including on whether there are
“sufficient transport provisions for the purposes of passengers connecting to”
HS2 so that they can benefit from it, with a report on that consultation to Parliament. Clearly, from that, the references are not to additional stations on HS2 itself but to whether there is a case for any additional stations, reopening of lines or improvements to stations associated with improving connectivity to and from phase 2 of HS2 for the people of the three counties mentioned in the amendment—namely, Cheshire, Shropshire and Staffordshire.
As one can see from the wording of the amendment, it is not about having another consultation on what the route should be or anything like that; it is about the impact of the works and about looking at transport links to and from HS2—that is, all transport links, not just rail links. The amendment specifically refers to “transport provisions” to enable better access for the residents of the three counties.
The amendment would not tie the Government’s hands to any specific course of future action or policy; nor would it delay progress on phase 2a of HS2, as it does not stipulate that there should be no further progress until the consultation has been completed and the report put before Parliament. The issue is that there is a need to make sure that local residents affected feel that their voice is being heard by HS2 and that their views are being listened to. They should not, as I said, feel that consultation is something of a tick-box exercise in which they are told what is going to happen rather than being engaged on a continuous, regular basis. They should feel involved in decisions affecting them and be aware of what is happening and when.
The Government appear satisfied with the consultation that has taken place with local residents on phase 2a of HS2. I have to say that that is not the message that I get. I do not think that the Government should be satisfied with what has taken place to date, albeit it may have been extensive. It comes back to the question of whether people feel that they are being told what is going to happen, as opposed to them having an impact on decisions affecting their lives.
I hope that he will not mind my doing so—if he does, I apologise in advance—but I refer to the words of the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, who said the following in Committee on
“HS2 does not listen to the concerns of NGOs, Members of Parliament or ordinary members of the public. As an example, when I ceased to be the Member of Parliament for Uxbridge, I was succeeded by no less than the current Prime Minister, but he has just as much trouble getting answers out of HS2 as I did.”—[Official Report, 9/11/20; col. GC 376.]
Clearly, if the Prime Minister cannot get answers out of HS2, what chance do the residents of Shropshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire stand without the help of this amendment and the helpful role that it will enable the new Minister for HS2 to play in ensuring that there is proper and continuing engagement by HS2 and progress on ensuring improved transport links in the three counties to and from HS2 phase 2a? I have listened carefully to what has been said, but I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Ayes 276, Noes 259.
My Lords, we now come to the group beginning with Amendment 5. I remind noble Lords that Members other than the mover and the Minister may speak only once and that short questions of elucidation are discouraged. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division should make that clear in debate.