For the record, would the new panel introduce themselves to the Committee? In particular, I ask Geoff Inskip to tell us a little bit about his organisation.
Geoff Inskip: In that case, perhaps I can start. My name is Geoff Inskip and I am the director general for Centro, which is the transport authority in the west midlands. I also am the lead director general for rail matters, in particular for high-speed rail, for Pteg, which is the passenger transport executive group representing all the metropolitan authorities.
Sir Richard Leese: I am the leader of Manchester City Council. Although I am speaking on its behalf today, I am also the vice chair of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, which is an enthusiastic supporter of high-speed rail, and the chair of English Core Cities, comprising the eight large cities outside London, all of which are enthusiastic supporters of high-speed rail.
This is a question to all three members. What capacity and connectivity challenges do you face in relation to Manchester, the west midlands and, indeed, Staffordshire, and do you think that those will be addressed by this new line? What contribution will it make?
Geoff Inskip: Capacity issues are already with us, certainly in the west midlands. If we look back at the timetable changes that took place in December 2008, we put in more services to London, but those were at the expense of local services. Therefore we had worsening of service frequencies at local stations and loss of direct local services between, for example, the black country and Birmingham airport and Coventry. There is always a compromise to be made. We have a mixture of both fast and slow services on the current west coast line; it is that mix of rail services that causes the capacity constraint. It certainly is our view that the only way in which we can alleviate those capacity constraints is by building a new line. If that new line is to be built it should be built with current technology and therefore at high speed.
Sir Richard Leese: On the current and projected capacity issues for Manchester, at the moment we have inadequate space for commuter services, which at the very worst are running at 190% capacity. We have inadequate pathways for inter-city services, and intermediate services. There is a demand for freight access to double over the next decade. There is not the capacity for that. Although, for the bulk of the week, there is capacity on the existing west coast main line services to London, there are already times of the week, particularly Monday and Friday peaks, when there is already a lack of capacity.
If we are to look at the position worsening over the next 15 years, which it very much will do, we see that the only route to deal with those capacity issues is through a completely new network, wholly integrated with the existing classic network. That would allow us to maintain growth in services to Birmingham, London and other cities; to increase our number of commuter services; to have better services to Stoke, Stafford, Preston and so on, and to double the amount of freight that can be taken off roads and put on the railways through Manchester. That has to be coupled with other work, and I make particular reference to the work that will be taking place over the next control period dealing with what used to be called the Manchester hub, and is now called the northern hub. It is aimed to free up congestion in the heavy rail network around Manchester and will, in itself, improve the potential for connectivity between northern cities.
Speed, which is often referred to, is not the primary issue from a Manchester point of view for the bulk of the services, although it takes almost as long to travel from Manchester to Birmingham as it does from Manchester to London at the moment, and a high-speed network will help correct that imbalance.
Mark Winnington: A slightly different message from Staffordshire: we have good connectivity. We have a lot of work being done within Staffordshire. Network Rail is just starting a scheme in the millions to take out the last pinchpoint on the west coast main line. We have 18 trains a day. They are not superfast but, from Stafford to Euston, we came up this morning in one hour and 20 minutes. I am really concerned that we are starting to find economic benefits, because we have such good connectivity. As portfolio holder for the economy, if that service is denigrated, we will start to lose the business that is coming from London back into Stafford again now.
Listening to what has been said, I am more concerned about the capacity east to west than down to London. The two previous speakers have just said that London to Manchester and London to Nottingham are quicker than going east-west. We have a bigger problem that way than we have up and down.
We clearly have a slight problem, which is almost certainly due to a mobile phone switched on and being too close to the microphones. If you can deal with it, that would be good.
I am sure you are aware of alternative packages put forward, particularly by opponents of the new line. Will those alternatives tackle the capacity problems described particularly in Manchester and the west midlands?
Sir Richard Leese: I have seen the alternatives put forward. Manchester and the north-west went through a 10-year, £10 million upgrade programme for the west coast main line. We never wish to repeat that. It was verging on disaster. All the proposals that I have seen on things like taking out pinchpoints, making trains a little longer and reducing the number of first-class seats—a lot of which Virgin west coast is already doing—will have only a marginal impact on capacity. They might succeed in deferring the requirement for a new network by a few years, but they will do no more than that. I have not seen any alternative that will realistically meet the capacity requirements that we are looking at, really from the middle of the next decade. A lot of proposals are based on existing capacity requirements and are not doing the projection about what we will potentially face by 2025 when the expectation is that, although we can never be certain, the problems will be significantly greater than those that we currently face.
It is very rare to have two successive Governments planning our transport requirement so far in advance, and I have to say it is very welcome.
Geoff Inskip: We looked very long and hard at a number of proposals, including things such as four-tracking at Coventry, which has been on the cards for some time; it is something that we have wanted. Having gone through all the options—we looked carefully at them, including upgrading of the current west coast main line and so on—we came to the conclusion that the only real way to bring us the capacity we need on the railway is a big step change: building a new line or new lines. Those new lines have got to be built in a way that will release capacity on the existing system, otherwise—again—it does not work. It is about the local services and freight as well as inter-city services.
The commuter railway is very important. The commuter railway in our cities has been a big success for everyone; but the demand is for greater services on our commuter networks and at the moment we are not fulfilling that demand, because of the constraints around either rolling stock or services. We need longer trains, but getting them into the space is the biggest difficulty we have.
Our conclusions from the study we did were along the lines of saying we must have a high-speed rail network and it must be a new network. Just to confirm from a west midlands perspective, it was actually making sure that we built the full Y network, not just the Birmingham-London bit, but that we did the Manchester as well as the Leeds. Also important in this regard was the issue around hybrid trains and allowing high-speed trains to run on the classic network to give benefits to other parts of the UK that currently would not benefit directly from the high-speed rail line. So this is a whole package of measures that needs to be looked at, including the impact on local and commuter services.
Mark Winnington: Again thinking slightly out of the box, we are spending £97 million on superfast broadband. We are talking about technology. In 10, 15 or 20 years’ time, I wonder whether we will need people chasing up and down the country or whether we will be in a virtual world. I would prefer a lot of this money to be spent on strengthening the network that we already have. It does work, but it needs strengthening. I am concerned that we will spend £50 million-plus on HS2 to the detriment of the infrastructure that we have already.
One of the arguments in favour of HS2 is that it spreads economic benefits and growth throughout the country. This is a question for all three of you, but I will start with Sir Richard, who mentioned the Core Cities being very supportive of HS2. Perhaps you could expand on that. I am thinking of the opportunities that it brings—I represent the midlands seat of Loughborough—and the benefits that it can bring throughout the UK, rather than focusing economic growth, as we always do, on London.
Sir Richard Leese: If I talk from a north-west point of view, high-speed rail will give better linkage not only to London, but, if we get the linkages between High Speed 2 and High Speed 1, right through to mainland Europe as well. The two station locations in Manchester—Manchester Airport and Piccadilly stations—give direct linkages into the distribution services through heavy rail, light rail and bus networks, so it increases the access to high-speed rail over a very large part of the north-west and north midlands, going across into parts of Yorkshire and Derbyshire as well.
The estimates in the work we have done suggest that even places as far away from Manchester as Preston would benefit from significant productivity increases as a result of high-speed rail coming into Manchester. That will be repeated, certainly in Birmingham, Nottingham, Leeds and Sheffield. It will be more dilute on the Y network for Newcastle. Although the impact on Newcastle to London will not be that great, the links between Newcastle and other northern and north midlands cities will be significant indeed, so the Newcastle city region will have similar benefits as well.
The evidence that we have produced shows that if the stations are in the right places and have the right linkages, the benefits will be very widespread. Earlier, I heard reference to the potential site at East Midlands Parkway. As the owners of East Midlands airport, we might be very interested in that, but we suggest that Toton is a better place for the whole region.
Geoff Inskip: We have undertaken very detailed studies, because the issue for the west midlands is the allegation that everyone will go to London and not come to Birmingham and the airport. We feel that that is quite wrong. The high-speed rail connections through to Manchester, Leeds and London are vital for the west midlands, because they put it at the heart of the high-speed network.
The economic benefits in the work we have already undertaken show that just the link between Birmingham and London would create some 22,000 jobs. Those 22,000 jobs include the better local connections that would ensue as a result. We are now completing a study to look at the impact on the west midlands of putting in the Birmingham to Leeds and Birmingham to Manchester routes as well. We will publish that in the next couple of weeks. Once it is published, I will send it to the Committee.
Mark Winnington: As I alluded to earlier, I am concerned that HS2 may, particularly in the building stage, have a negative effect on the economy within Staffordshire. We are doing an awful lot at the moment on the economy. It is growing and the joblessness figures are good. We have got a lot of people in work. The build of HS2—this is why we are concentrating on mitigation and compensation—will have a big impact on Staffordshire, with very little economic impact. The A38 will be disrupted, as will the main roads all through Staffordshire. It concerns me that if we do not get it right, it will affect Staffordshire.
We have a lot of employers now saying that their employees are very choosy about where they move to. They want to move to a place with a lot of potential in itself and in terms of the environment and the leisure offer. One example is that next to the Cannock Chase area of outstanding natural beauty, there is a proposal to put a 2,000 metre long stretch of road on stilts, which will be visible from the area of outstanding natural beauty. There will also be a need to move canals and all sorts of things within Staffordshire. HS2 will impact on the county and it worries me.
On the compensation side of it, people cannot sell their houses, because as soon as HS2 was announced, that was it. We want to ensure that the compensation package is right, and that the compensation is fair and timely. We do not want people being compensated in 20 years’ time. I am concerned about the economic impact.
Specifically Mark Winnington, on that last point about the compensation package, I notice that in the points you put in writing to the Committee you said you believe the Bill is too widely drafted. It would seem to me that the wider the draft, the better, in the sense that that gives more scope for getting the compensation package right. Could you expand on the Staffordshire county council view of the Bill as being too widely drafted?
Mark Winnington: For residents of Staffordshire, there is no clarity. If you are a person who has a house in Staffordshire that will be impacted—whether it is directly on the line, or just off the line—there is no clarity about whether we will be looking at property bonds or direct payments, when those payments will be and what the mitigation in terms of the environment will be. If HS2 goes ahead, all those things will cause it problems.
With HS2 itself, we have found that trying to get answers from the company is difficult. It is almost as if there is an in-built resistance from the whole project to going forwards. We are a county that acknowledges the economic benefit, but we want to work with the Government if the project goes forward. There are big problems and your paving or preparation Bill is a point at which those problems should be sorted.
Although I acknowledge what you say about widening the parameters, there are certain specifics we need to get right to get the public on board. That is as simple as it is. We are all politicians; we know that we need to get the electorate on board.
Sir Richard Leese: May I take an opposite point of view? Prior to this preparation Bill’s being announced, we had had discussions with HS2 Ltd about how we could minimise planning blight issues, particularly around the Piccadilly station site, where there is some commercial property—about 250 houses—that will need to be demolished.
We have started talking with HS2 Ltd, Network Rail and other landowners about how we would develop a regeneration vehicle; rather than waiting 20 years, we want to start doing the necessary work now. We had a very positive response from HS2 Ltd to that, and we believe that this Bill will give us the scope to get on with that work. Perhaps unlike some of the previous witnesses, we would expect the city council to take the lead on that rather than HS2 Ltd. It is our place, not their place, and we would expect to be running that process.
We think that the response so far has been very positive. Although we would expect to lose around 250 homes, we have already consulted with those residents. They are not always necessarily that happy about it, but they accept the realities of progress. What they want us to do is to get on with sorting out alternatives for them, which we have committed to do. We expect to replace those 250 homes with 3,000 homes, and we will probably create 30,000 jobs around Piccadilly station alone, never mind the other impacts. We believe this Bill will allow us to get on with that process.
It appears that the main focus of people in the north and the midlands is on improved connectivity, going southwards towards Birmingham and ultimately to London, and—I suppose—in turn into Europe as well. However, I was pleased, following the question that Nicky Morgan asked, that you, Sir Richard, spoke about improving connectivity northwards; in particular, you mentioned Preston and Newcastle. What is your view about including Glasgow and/or Edinburgh in the Bill, and what benefits would you see from those improved links going north into Scotland, on the basis that, as Nicky Morgan said, this project must benefit the whole UK?
I put the question first to Sir Richard.
Sir Richard Leese: Prior to the last general election, I chaired a campaign group that included Edinburgh and Glasgow, the objective of which was to get all the major political parties to include a high-speed rail network in their manifestos. Since then, the group has continued to have discussions with the Scottish cities and with the Scottish Executive. The Scottish Executive are increasingly supportive of high-speed rail; the two cities always have been supportive.
If you take high-speed rail beyond Manchester to Glasgow and Edinburgh, the cost-benefit analysis continues to improve significantly. Yes, we are looking not just to London, but northwards to Scotland and southwards, beyond London, to near Europe and linking that to improved east-west connections in the north of England.
Let me be clear that current journey times between Manchester and Leeds, which are about 35 miles apart, are absolutely ludicrous and need to be improved drastically, but not by high-speed rail, because the places are too close together. A train will never reach full speed over that sort of distance, but those east-west links are important. We are looking at high-speed rail as part of an integrated transport network, not as a stand-alone project.
Geoff Inskip: Once the Y network was announced, we said, “Now Scotland”. We also have to think about the south-west. We should be building a UK network, not just the Y network. It needs to be integrated into Europe as well, so High Speed 1 services and High Speed 2 services need to have good connections. This is about building a full network; we should not be stopping here. I know people will start saying that £40 billion is going too far, but no, it is not. For the UK economy, we must build a very fast network that supports both Scotland and the south-west and Wales as well.
Mark Winnington: I went to a meeting on Thursday in Manchester about the Northern Rail franchise. If nothing else, I hope that it improves the connectivity east and west and further north. With regard to HS2 going further north, I think that that is one for the Government, because we are on £50 billion already.
Just to build on the economically positive contributions of High Speed 2, how do you think it will help the north of England economy, particularly Greater Manchester and the Leeds city region, and make a better contribution? There is lots of talk and evidence about the differences in the north-south economy. What will this do that cannot be done at the moment?
Sir Richard Leese: There are a number of things that connectivity is important for. I will preface that by saying that there is lots of evidence that there are two prerequisites for building a modern economy—one is knowledge and skills and the other is connectivity.
Notwithstanding the growth in high-speed broadband—although in this country it is not very high speed—all the evidence is that improved digital connectivity increases the propensity to travel; it does not reduce it. It is about getting people to work, goods to market and people to meet with each other and about the normal range of business activity, which, at the moment, we have limited capacity to do.
Apart from the positive benefits that will come out of that improved connectivity—our estimate is about £1 billion per annum in improved gross value added for the north of England—it is also what would happen if we did not have that improved connectivity. The alternative is that we would see increased congestion on the railways and on the M6 and the M62, which are pretty much full to capacity at the moment. It will be not a standstill for the northern economy, but a decline for the northern economy if we do not get that improved connectivity.
Geoff Inskip: Clearly, what global companies look for is that sort of big transport infrastructure investment. Connectivity comes in the top three priorities for them when they are looking to invest in any city. In this global economy, they can go anywhere they like, so what is important is that we are competing on an equivalent basis to other cities. That means we have to have good connectivity, both on an international and national level, to ensure that we can compete, otherwise those companies will not come here.
That is what High Speed 2 will bring. It will be a game-changer—of that there is no uncertainty, in my view. It will bring foreign investment into the country, and it will be a big stimulus for our big cities. I agree with Richard that it will not happen on its own. It is for cities to take charge of their own destiny in this regard. This is an opportunity for our cities, but they have got to react accordingly. That is why, if you look at all our cities now, we are looking to take massive advantage of high-speed rail and the connectivity it brings to both our cities and airports.
In Yorkshire, two authorities have come out very much against High Speed 2. You represent metropolitan authorities. What conversation is going on between the authorities who want to engage and think it is a benefit, and the Wakefields and Bradfords, which have come out against it?
Geoff Inskip: The issue for me is around the Coventry area, in a way. One of the things Coventry was saying at one stage is that it was not sure it would benefit from high-speed rail. The answer is that it is a game-changer. Look at UK Central, which has just been launched. It is massive; it is bringing in 60,000 jobs, which will come from places such as Coventry. UK Central will be a success because of high-speed rail and connectivity, but those jobs will be served by cities, and will be filled by people who are resident in places such as Coventry and Warwickshire. That is why it is a game-changer.
Things have changed; what people now want is a job. People will travel to their job, and we have got to make sure the jobs are in the right locations and are well connected. That does not mean you have to have the jobs in the particular cities you are talking about, which are not well connected to the high-speed rail network. But we come back to the point that all cities and all places need to be well connected. We need to make sure that we get those local connections into our cities, because it is local connections that will add to the value that high-speed rail will bring.
Sir Richard Leese: Could I add to my credentials and speak on behalf of the north-west, as chair of the North West Regional Leaders Board? All 10 local authorities in Greater Manchester are in favour of High Speed 2; all five in Merseyside are in favour; Lancashire is in favour; and the three unitaries in Cheshire are in favour. There is unanimous support among local authorities in the north-west for high-speed rail because they see the benefits.
This is a parochial question, so it is probably just to Geoff. First, I want to say how pleased we are with the investment currently going on in New Street station. It was hugely needed; there were huge issues with people with disabilities trying to use the service, and the investment will have a marked effect on that.
On HS2, there are two issues I want a bit of explanation on—first, the connectivity to New Street from Curzon Street, and how we deal with that, and secondly, the connectivity with the airport. If we are looking to put these sorts of resources back into the economy, both those issues need to be looked at.
Geoff Inskip: They do, and those particular issues are being dealt with. We are taking the lead in looking both at the stations in Birmingham city centre and the airport. For New Street, Curzon Street and Moor Street, we have got something called a one-station philosophy. We are trying to ensure that the access for people with disabilities and people with prams, buggies, luggage and anything like that works extremely well. Therefore, we have a one-station approach, and we are discussing that with HS2 Ltd to ensue that everybody can get round the city centre. The same applies to the airport. The airport and the interchange station are not close together, so we need a good people mover to ensure that access is given high priority.
May I ask all three gentlemen if they are aware that the Secretary of State for Transport, last October, announced that work will be looked at in respect of the business case—the viability—of possibly extending High Speed 2 to a third phase, to Edinburgh and Glasgow? On the important point that has been made, particularly by Sir Richard and Mr Inskip, that other parts of the country might get a high-speed network, the Bill takes that into account, so it is valid for the future. Looking at clause 1(2)(a), one sees that it says:
“The network referred to in subsection (1) is a network which…involves the construction of railway lines connecting”— and the crucial words are—
Then it lists a number of areas. The words “at least” allow for Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bristol, Liverpool, Cardiff—wherever—if the business case stacks up and there is a need in the future, so one would not have to come back to Parliament for another piece of legislation.
May I gently point out to Mr Winnington, who keeps saying in his evidence that the cost of High Speed 2 is £50 billion, that that is far from correct? It is £42.6 billion, of which £14.4 billion is contingency.
Sir Richard Leese: We have had regular discussions with the Secretary of State. We pressed him hard to have one hybrid Bill covering phases 1 and 2, rather than separate hybrid Bills, and for a faster delivery process. Although the Secretary of State did not agree to that, he did say that he would bring forward legislation—I think this is the legislation—that would give us at least some comfort that phase 1 would be followed by phase 2.
May I say to Sir Richard that he is absolutely right? One of the purposes of the Bill, among others, is that it cements the commitment to phase 1 and phase 2. He can rest assured that I am as anxious as he is that the legislative progress goes as swiftly as possible, so that we can get on with building this railway.
Minister, thank you for that question.
I have five names written down. We need to move at a pace now. I will let people ask one question, and I ask people giving evidence to be fairly brief and concise. We will keep going till the last second.
Geoff Inskip: We are fully engaged with HS2. We turned over a number of work streams. We have a work stream across each of the stations—that is two work streams—and have another work stream about the local connectivity package as well. And we are engaged, also, through the communications groups. So there is good communications and also good communications at the local forum level.
Mark Winnington: Again, we are engaged. We are trying to work with HS2 Ltd and the Government on this. In terms of the environmental draft Bill, we have had problems getting hold of certain information. If we want this to go forward, we have got to have full engagement and full co-operation on it, and that is not quite happening. I have written to the Minister about it, saying that we need full engagement so that, if this is going forward, we can do what we can to expedite the process.
You have touched on airports. My Committee colleagues may not know what UK Central is, but as the constituency MP for Birmingham airport I know that that is at its heart. Perhaps you could share with the Committee what impact you see from the running times from Manchester and Birmingham airports. Should this be connected to Heathrow?
Geoff Inskip: If I may begin on the question about Birmingham airport, HS2 and Birmingham airport are both very important. If you like, what is in it for Birmingham airport is almost as simple as north London becoming its catchment area, because it will be within 30 to 35 minutes of Birmingham airport. You could imagine that the whole of north London, instead of going to Heathrow, could come up to Birmingham airport and fly well out to all points on the globe. That is the benefit that we see coming into the airport. We should also ensure that that goes hand in glove with a connectivity package for the airport that brings people to and from the airport.
Geoff Inskip: Our view is that, as far as Heathrow is concerned, if you wanted to go to Heathrow, we would have good connectivity via Old Oak Common. The question is how many high-speed trains would go to Heathrow. It would probably be one an hour, or something like that. If you dropped off at Old Oak Common on all the high-speed trains, you could probably get to Heathrow much quicker on Crossrail.
Sir Richard Leese: I do not think that for any of the airports the amount of interlining between rail and the airports themselves would justify a high-speed rail station at any of them. That includes Heathrow. The case for the station at Manchester airport is largely based on the improved access that it would give to the network from the north midlands and some parts of the north-west—south Manchester, Cheshire and so on. The bulk of the usage would come from there, not from the airport itself, so the airport usage then becomes a bonus element. It would certainly improve the capacity of Manchester to act as an alternative entry and departure point for the UK, which it already does. However, from the evidence that I have seen, there is certainly not a case for a station at Heathrow airport based on airline passengers alone—it would have to be a broader case.
Mark Winnington: I think that if we are looking at HS2 being pivotal to the UK as a global player, it has got to be connected to airports, trains and buses. That is the important bit—it should not be a stand-alone project; it should increase. Simon Burns made the point about extensions forward. If it is going to happen, it has to be a network all across the country so that from your little house in Ranton, where I live, it is 25 minutes to wherever and then straight on to HS2, a plane or wherever. If we want to be a global player for the big economy, we have got to do it properly. It is no good doing half the job.
They have both emphasised the economic advantages of HS2. However, if Birmingham was given £10 billion of the £50 billion, and Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Liverpool £10 billion each, do you think that your first choice to improve things would be to club together to buy HS2?
Geoff Inskip: I do not think that option is ever going to come about, frankly, at one level. The serious point is that this is not an issue of either/or, but about both. We must have a very good rail network and a high-speed rail network that goes with it. They must be integrated and they must go together. We must not do what they did in France, which is put all their investment into high-speed rail at the expense of the local railway. For us to do that would be a big mistake. I do not think that the Government expect to do that, and I have not seen anything like that. I see the commitments put forward in control period 5 going forward for ongoing investment. That is obviously to be welcomed, and there will be CP5 and CP6 and so on. Our view is that we have got to have high-speed rail, but we must ensure that we get the right level of investment in our current local rail networks as well.
Sir Richard Leese: As for the question of whether local authorities are capable of combining in that way for mutual self-interest, I will give two examples where this either has happened or is happening. One is in Greater Manchester itself, where we created the Greater Manchester transport fund, and the local authorities are putting £1.2 billion of council tax money into the local infrastructure. The benefits are not evenly distributed across the conurbation, but the 10 districts see that the overall benefit justifies that.
The other example is one that Mark referred to. I chaired the meeting last week on the Northern Rail franchise, which is a process initiated by West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and Greater Manchester to make a proposal for the north of England to take over both Northern Rail franchises, with a willingness to take risk in that franchising process. Local authorities are capable of seeing big pictures, and capable of combining in order to achieve those bigger objectives.
Mr Winnington, you raised the important issue of mitigation measures, which you are laudably trying to secure for the route through Staffordshire. I wonder whether you have had an opportunity to consider the mitigation measures that were put in place for HS1 on its construction through Kent and London. Very similar concerns were raised there about noise and visual intrusion. Do you see that as an exemplar that needs to be followed for HS2, or does more need to be done?
Mark Winnington: I think that anyone who does not look at HS1 and what has gone on there, and try to translocate the lessons learnt to their own authority, would be insensible. That is probably the best way of putting it. Yes, there are a lot of good lessons to be learnt. As I say, we have areas. Another example is Staffordshire County Showground, which is not county council. It is a standalone. There is a big cutting going through it, and a tunnel or a covered tunnel would be the perfect answer there. It costs money but, as I have said before, if we are serious about HS2 and if it is going to happen, then let’s get it right. Let’s not have big scars on the countryside, and let’s get the residents on board.
Geoff, you mentioned the issues around Coventry earlier. Although the local authority now seems to be on board there are still concerns from local MPs, particularly about the impact of possible service reductions. Mark, in your evidence you talked about the impact of these possible service reductions. I ask all three of you what your view is on the balance between reducing existing mainline services, as proposed by HS2 Ltd, and providing the new services.
Geoff Inskip: From our perspective, clearly the new services are fine. The point about more local services is that really that is where we kick in. We want to see a devolved railway for the midlands, because we can then start taking an interest in ensuring that we get those local services put in place. That includes freight as well, by the way. We should not forget freight, from that point of view. We see it as an advantage, provided that you step up to the plate as a local transport authority and as a region, and ensure that you take advantage of these things. Things will not just happen; if you sit back and wait, bad things will happen. What you need to do, therefore, is step up to the mark and ensure that you actually take the benefit of the opportunity that is coming, such as rail devolution, to be able to put in more services and to take, as Richard said, the risk of going forward with those local rail services and ensuring that we actually provide services for our local people. The bottom line is that this is about passengers and making sure that we carry them around and ensure that they have a very good journey experience as well.
I have to say that on mitigation, I am not in favour of so much tunnel. From a passenger perspective, we live in a very beautiful country and it is nice to sit on a train and look out the windows and admire our countryside.
Sir Richard Leese: It is also worth saying that quite often people like looking at the trains as well. I think that the idea that a railway line is going to scar the English countryside is one of the most nonsensical things that I have ever heard. Even if you take somewhere like the west coast main line, currently going through the Lune Gap in Cumbria, it is not an ugly thing.
Sir Richard Leese: There are not sufficient inter-city and intermediate services serving Manchester. There are a number of local authorities that I talk to quite regularly as far away as Hull who would say that, in terms of their economy, their No. 1 objective would be to have more rail services to Manchester airport; there simply is not the capacity for that at the moment. What high-speed rail would do in the long term is ensure that we continue to have capacity to run those additional rail services. That does not guarantee that they will run, but if you have not got the capacity then you cannot even have a discussion about it.
Geoff Inskip: We have a West Midlands regional rail development plan, and that sets out our aspiration and ambition for the services that we would like to see in the future. The problem that we have got is that we do not see them having the impact that there will need to be in terms of our local rail services because we probably see greater demand than they do. That is because the ambition for our cities and our region is probably bigger than theirs.
I wanted to ask about stops and stations, but slightly different questions to different people. The question for Geoff with his Birmingham hat on and Richard in relation to Manchester is that both Manchester and Birmingham get two stations, whereas some places get none; how can that be justified, in your opinion? Geoff, with your Pteg hat on, what is your view of the stations that have been chosen? Are they in the right places? Mark, should Staffordshire have a station? If so, where should it be?
Sir Richard Leese: I am quite happy to start. In High Speed Rail’s draft proposals, Manchester would have only had one station, and it would have had a routing that would not have allowed for the airport station. In discussion with High Speed Rail and the then Secretary of State, we got agreement for Greater Manchester to construct a proposal that would justify the airport station. We did that and demonstrated very clearly the economic benefit that would come from an airport station and, clearly, that was accepted and is now in the proposed route. This is also perhaps a good example of, in this case, both DFT Ministers and High Speed Rail being open to proposals and willing to listen.
The point about the two stations in Manchester in comparison to other locations is that they are only about 10 miles apart. That means that the train has never accelerated while it goes from one to the other. The real problem with a high-speed network is that if there are too many stations, speeding up and slowing down become a problem. That is not an issue for those two stations in Manchester because the trains never speed up in the first place. They are very close together, and that closeness is what makes it work: if they were further apart it would not.
Geoff Inskip: From a Birmingham perspective, we are very happy to have two stations. The purpose for them was really that, looking at the first plans, they were always city centre to city centre. That was the Greengauge work, and it made a lot of sense: looking at that report, you will see that everybody was pushing towards a city centre to city centre model.
The question then is what to do about the airport. Birmingham airport in particular is well sited for services both from and to Manchester and Leeds. From the Midlands point of view, access going north to Leeds and Manchester is vital. Once the full Y network is built, it also enables us to have services that go from Birmingham city centre directly to London without stopping at Birmingham interchange because there are other trains coming in via interchange to get to London. There will be comprehensive services at interchange.
As for ensuring that we have good connectivity to other cities, that is when we come back to the hybrid trains. Even though we have the Y network built, we must have those hybrid trains. That is absolutely not optional; it has to be an absolutely essential part of the network at this stage to ensure that places such as Liverpool and Newcastle can take advantage of coming on the high-speed train on to the high-speed network itself. That will get faster services into London and to Liverpool as well, taking advantage of the Y network while they can. We have to ensure that the hybrid trains come so that other cities can take advantage of the network straight away.
Mark Winnington: A station in Staffordshire is something we have discussed in depth. A station would change definitely the economic case for Staffordshire. Taking Sir Richard’s point, the speeding up and slowing down of trains into stations would presumably be something that HS2 would have to take into account. On that basis, because we are doing the work with Stoke-on-Trent, and we have Cheshire East and Cheshire West up there as well, if there was to be a station the logical place would be in the north of the county. Again, we would still be asking for mitigation and fair compensation, but it would change the economic case. At the moment there is no economic case for it in Staffordshire.
Geoff Inskip: Absolutely. Totally. It is really important that we get direct services into Europe. At the moment, the link between HS1 and HS2 needs to be future-proofed as well, to make sure that we get double-tracking in there. It must not compete with other services along that particular path. I know that people will ask whether there is the demand to go into mainland Europe, but I think that once you provide the service, overnight it will be a massive success. Therefore we have an issue with providing it and providing it quickly.
Sir Richard Leese: You used the word crucial in the question. The case for High Speed 2 and the Y network stands up without the linkage with High Speed 1, so in that sense it is not crucial; however, if we wish to maximise the benefits, there needs to be a linkage with High Speed 1 and it needs to be better—that is, with the capacity for more trains per hour—than the current proposed link.
Sir Richard Leese: I was not aware of that. As previously stated, it is not £50 billion. Even in the £42 billion there is quite a large chunk of contingency. I was not aware of that. Adding whatever amount that is to the total cost would be good value for money. There is a lot of talk about how much money this is. We are talking about an annual expenditure by Government equivalent to what is currently being spent on Crossrail. We are talking about spending for a national network what is currently being spent on a little bit of local infrastructure for one city. I think the rest of us deserve something, too.
Thank you for that. If Members have no further questions for this panel, we shall move on to question the next panel. I thank the panel very much.