Clause 34 - Street works

High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 1 March 2016.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

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

The clause relates to street works and introduces schedule 24, which disapplies various controls relating to works in or near streets and highways. The schedule disapplies sections in the following Acts: the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1970, the Highways Act 1980, the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1986, the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 and the Traffic Management Act 2004.

The controls being disapplied include provisions that would require licence or approval from the relevant highways authority. For example, the need to obtain approval before certain works, such as the erection of scaffolding or the placing of a retaining wall near a highway, has been removed for works authorised by the Bill. A further example is that the power of highways authorities to direct when works that could affect traffic can take place will not apply for the authorised works. I must add that we are at all times engaging with communities and local authorities to ensure that we minimise the  impact of our construction. For example, we will look at routes into which lorries can be channelled to minimise the effect.

All works, once again, must be done in accordance with the environmental minimum requirements. The highways authorities have certain protections. There are protective provisions for highways and traffic in part 1 of schedule 32. For example, in exercising the powers under the Bill, the nominated undertaker is required to have regard to the potential disruption of traffic that may be caused and seek to minimise such disruption as far as reasonably practical. I have been involved in negotiations to ensure we can, for example, construct temporary routes so trucks do not have an impact on local communities. We will, as far as possible, use a line of route for transported materials to prevent having an impact on local highways.

The approval of the highways authority is required for bridges carrying a highway over the railway or the railway over a highway, or tunnels within 8 metres of the surface of a carriageway. The nominated undertaker must not alter or disturb any highways authority property without the consent of the authority. They are required to make good or compensate the highways authority for any damage to a highway resulting from the construction of the authorised works. I commend the clause to the Committee.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport)

On the issue of disruption, will the Minister say something about the timing of works in all areas, whether rural or urban? I am thinking particularly about Euston, where people are going to be subjected to very considerable works for a lengthy period of time. Will there be protected periods during which works will not be conducted so that people will be guaranteed some semblance of peace? We may deal with that when we discuss lorries, but will that obtain for the street works?

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

We are in negotiations with local highways authorities along the route to ensure that we minimise the impact on communities as we construct HS2. That might involve restrictions on the times when vehicles may be operated or, indeed, times when construction is not being carried out. We are absolutely sympathetic to the concerns that have been expressed and will ensure that, as far as possible, we can react to them. It is also about looking at the scheduling of the work. It is a difficult conundrum to know whether it is best to do an awful lot of work in a short time to minimise the time taken, or to string out the work over a longer period so that the frequency of trucks and, for example, the amount of disruption and dust is reduced.

Traffic management plans will be consulted on with local authorities, so they will have the opportunity to engage with us. Although we are disapplying some of the legislation, we will certainly be working closely with local authorities to ensure that the work is done as sympathetically as possible. Indeed, in some cases we have purchased properties because they will be unacceptably affected by construction. Although such properties do not need to be demolished for the construction of the railway, we understand that the level of disruption will be such that it would be neither sensible nor reasonable to expect people to remain in them. Of course, when the line is complete we will go to the market with those  properties to ensure that the taxpayer gets as much money back as possible. We might even make a profit on some properties during the construction .

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport)

Putting aside the profit-making element of properties sold during the construction, if the Minister turns his attention to the logistics and layout at Euston, he will notice that some of the tower blocks to the north and east of the development will be within metres of the works. Even at this stage, is the Minister involved in any discussions to explore whether additional blocks might be vacated and people offered alternative accommodation? Are people pressing for that? When I visited the area last Friday I was horrified by the proximity of the development to some significant dwellings where people’s lives will undoubtedly be made very difficult indeed.

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

It is certainly the case that, because of the impact of building the railway, we have procured some of the residential properties at Euston that the hon. Gentleman described as tower blocks. We went to look at a specific property with the leader of the council and I was very sympathetic to the concerns that were expressed. There might be an opportunity, perhaps during the periods of the highest construction activity, for people to be temporarily relocated from the relevant side of the building, but we concluded that it would not be in taxpayers’ best interests to procure the entire building and build additional provision for its residents.

Nevertheless, we understand the disruption. Where possible, particularly if, for example, people have disabilities so are in the properties 24/7, we will look at what we can do to try to mitigate any negative effects. HS2 Ltd is in discussions to find out how we can do something to temporarily alleviate such problems, where they exist.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 34 accordinglyordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 24 agreed to.