Maximising bringing in and removal of excavated and construction material by rail

High-Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 8th March 2016.

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(1) Throughout the construction of Phase One of High Speed 2, the Nominated Undertaker must seek to maximise the volume of excavated and construction material from the construction of Euston Station and approaches to be brought in and removed by rail.

(2) In discharging the duty under subsection (1), the Nominated Undertaker must have regard to the wider environmental impacts to the local community and on passenger services.—

This new clause requires the Nominated Undertaker to put in place a plan to deliver the maximum proportion of excavated and construction material by rail. The clause seeks to protect the Euston area from the impacts of dangerous and polluting heavy goods vehicles.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

This new clause’s clear objective is to put a provision in the Bill to address the very considerable concerns of Euston’s residents, so that everything that can be done is done to minimise the inevitable and significant disruption caused by heavy goods vehicles taking excavated and waste materials away from the site and bringing in construction materials. When I talk about excavation, I fully recognise that all the materials that will be extracted and excavated in respect of the tunnelling will be taken away by rail. However, it is the excavations outwith the tunnelling that concern me and which this new clause deals with.

We are talking about the development of a railway at and around the site of an existing mainline railway. That being so, transporting excavating materials and bringing construction materials by rail makes eminent sense and will go some considerable way towards mitigating the impact of construction on the community.

I refer again to the assurance document that accompanied the letter to Mike Cooke, the chief executive of the London Borough of Camden, from Roger Hargreaves, the director of hybrid Bill delivery. HS2 Ltd has clearly applied its mind to the matters I seek to address in the new clause, but while the assurance document speaks to those matters, I would like to hear from the Minister about what force of law is attached to those assurances. If none, I hope that he will consent to including these reasonable provisions in the Bill.

The environmental statement that accompanies the scheme was predicated on the basis of moving all excavated material by road, which, as the document describes, is the worst-case scenario for the purposes of an environmental assessment. We therefore start from a bad place. It seems that a great deal of the reduction from that unenviably high watermark of road movement will be left to the tendering process. Nevertheless, the promoter has offered an assurance that the Secretary of State will require the nominated undertaker to maximise, in so far as is reasonably practicable and within the existing Bill powers, the volume of excavated and construction materials from the construction of Euston station and approaches brought in and removed by rail, while balancing the wider environmental impacts on the local community and passenger services.

There is an awful lot in that, such as the qualification of “reasonable practicability”. Last week we had a long discussion about my proposal to introduce the concept that the Secretary of State should behave “reasonably” so that his or her powers would be constrained in any flights of fancy or maverick behaviours. I was assured that everything that the Government did was reasonable, and sadly the vote was lost. Here we have the word “reasonable” again, but this time it seeks to diminish or detract from an undertaking by introducing the caveat that it will apply only if reasonably practicable. That could leave a somewhat bitter taste and, while it may be understood why that qualification is necessary, such a get-out clause does little to allay the concerns of Camden residents that everything will be done that can be done.

There is a requirement on the nominated undertaker to engage with others to settle a plan for transporting excavations and bringing in materials, but the assurances do not set out any quantifiable measures on what proportions of materials will be transported by rail and what will be transported by road, and during which hours. There are measures that describe how waste and materials should be managed, but as far as I can see there are no specific numbers or targets against which success or adherence can be measured. The Minister may correct me on that in his response.

On page 14, paragraph 6.1.2 of the assurance document says:

The Secretary of State will require that the Nominated Undertaker during construction works, will ensure, insofar as is reasonably practicable that the impacts from construction traffic on the local community in the London Borough of Camden (including all local residents and businesses and their customers, visitors to the area, and users of the surrounding transport network) are mitigated by its contractors where reasonably practicable.”

However, all the contractor has to say is that it was necessary and unavoidable. The assurance in that document will not deliver one iota of additional and much-needed peace to Euston residents. I acknowledge that it is difficult to be totally prescriptive about quantities, but perhaps best industrial practices could inform the nominated undertaker in managing these issues. Can the Minister comment?

I know that the rumbling of HGVs is a big issue for Camden residents, and I am most interested in what the Minister has to say. Given that the new clause is at one with the assurances given by HS2, if those assurances are to be worth any comfort to Euston residents, it is entirely consistent that such provision appear on the face of the Bill. I have framed the new clause in a way that reflects the reality of construction and in no way interferes with the operation of passenger services, so I trust it can be favourably received. I look forward to hearing from the Minister.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 11:00 am, 8th March 2016

I fully recognise and agree with the sentiment behind the new clause. It is for that precise reason that my officials have already agreed a binding assurance with the London Borough of Camden that we will maximise, as far as reasonably practical and within existing Bill powers, the volume of excavated and construction material from the construction of Euston station and approaches to be brought in and removed by rail, while balancing the wider environmental impact to the local community and passenger services. For that reason, the new clause is unnecessary.

In order to determine the level of material that could be removed by rail, further work is required with rail partners, the London Borough of Camden and Transport for London. To that end, we have further agreed to develop a plan together with the London Borough of Camden, the Greater London Authority and Transport for London for the bringing in and removal of excavated and construction materials to and from Euston station by rail. The plan will include the consideration of options that will require separate planning permissions that may be granted by the London Borough of Camden or the Greater London Authority.

I can be more helpful than the hon. Gentleman possibly anticipated on excavated materials that will need to be transported. I have some figures which relate to Euston and Camden and the central London and metropolitan area. We anticipate that the excavated material will be transported by three means: by rail, public highway haul or site haul, which means utilising the line of route to transport goods, whether by conveyor belt, by dumper trucks that do not go on the public highways, or by the rail which will be placed on the line for its operation.

In terms of the central London and metropolitan area, site haul will be 56%, or 16.9 million tonnes; rail haul will be 31%, or 9.46 million tonnes; and public highway haul will be 13% or 4 million tonnes. As the hon. Gentleman can see, that has dramatically reduced the amount of material that will impact on people as they drive their cars or ride their cycles or are pedestrians in the London area. The figures for the total of the phase 1 route will be 70% by site haul, 24% by public highway haul and only 6% by rail haul given the network. I confirm that, unfortunately, there is no opportunity to use river or canal. I think the figures will soon be published in response to a parliamentary question, posed by Lord Berkeley, and become a matter of public information. I hope the hon. Gentleman is reassured that, where possible, we are doing what we can.

It is still early days for construction materials coming on to site. We have not yet awarded contracts and are not sure from where some of the materials will be sourced. However, we will be doing everything we can to maximise the amount of materials that can come in by rail, as this will limit the impact on people living in Camden. That will be a priority on the whole line to Birmingham.

All the hon. Gentleman’s points have been addressed, and I hope the proposed new clause will be withdrawn.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am grateful to the Minister, but he has not gone as far as I expected. First, he is basically saying, “the assurances and our intent entirely fit with the import of the new clause.” I cannot for the life of me see why the new clause simply cannot be embraced. Among other things, the new clause would send a positive message to the people of Camden that the Government take the issue extremely seriously. The new clause would not only set out in great detail the Government’s intent, as contained in the assurance document, but would do so in the Bill.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

We have been here before on the assurances that have been given. I make it clear that, as with all assurances, the Secretary of State is accountable to Parliament. If someone believes that an assurance has been breached, the recourse is through Parliament.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport)

That does not negate the simple and principled point that the issue should appear slap bang on the face of the Bill. The Minister knows that disruption and pollution, which we will discuss, are significant issues for the people of Camden. Although he has given us a helpful breakdown of the figures and the methodologies for removing excavated materials from the site, he says that it is early days for the construction element. There can be no specifications for the likely figures for construction materials. That being so, it leaves a glaring gap in our knowledge of what is likely to happen. I can readily accept that the intention is to reduce road use, but this new clause would put that beyond doubt. With respect to him, the new clause is entirely consistent with the Government’s position. I am trying to be helpful by perhaps gaining some credit for the Government with the people of Camden, not only that their legitimate concerns are being rightly recognised, but that the Government are prepared to go so far as to place that assurance and guarantee slap bang where it belongs—on the face of the Bill.

Unless the Minister has been converted and will simply accept the new clause, I ask that it be put to a vote.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 5, Noes 10.

Division number 8 Christmas Tree Industry — Maximising bringing in and removal of excavated and construction material by rail

Aye: 5 MPs

No: 10 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

New Clause 27