New Clause 40 - Exclusion of a Heathrow Spur

Part of High Speed Rail(London - West Midlands) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 8 March 2016.

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Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 4:15, 8 March 2016

The Bill contains measures that could have been used to make passive provision for a future spur of the railway to Heathrow airport. Passive provision is a little bit like when I used to play with our Hornby railway set. If someone puts a set of points in, they can join a new bit of line without disrupting the operation of the existing line.

On 9 March 2015, the Secretary of State advised, in response to a House of Commons written answer, that the spur would not be implemented as part of HS2 phases 1 or 2. Paragraph 155 of the Select Committee’s second special report of Session 2015-16 highlights that, following the update on 9 March 2015,

“there remains a risk of blight on properties on the trajectory of the previously envisaged spur. We direct the Promoter not to use the Bill powers to implement passive provision for a Heathrow spur.”

The report directs that the promoter

“should take immediate steps to ensure that relevant landowners and communities are fully informed of the change.”

I can confirm that we accept the Select Committee’s direction regarding the Heathrow spur and that we will not use the powers contained in the Bill to implement passive provision for a Heathrow spur. The assurance will be added to the undertakings and assurances register so the Secretary of State would be accountable to Parliament were that commitment breached.

I confirm that we have taken the necessary steps to ensure that relevant landowners and communities are fully informed of the change. Indeed, the connection from Old Oak Common to Heathrow via the Elizabeth line—the line that Her Majesty has graciously allowed us to name after her—will allow eight trains per hour with 11-minute journey times. It is quite clear that there is already a clear vision for a connection between Old Oak Common and Heathrow station.

If we were looking at the timetabling of HS2 with a Heathrow spur, it would be inflexible to have maybe one or two trains an hour to Heathrow when passengers could enjoy the flexibility of taking a train from Birmingham South or, indeed, from Euston towards Old Oak Common, to connect to Heathrow airport.

I believe that I have addressed all points made by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough and I hope that the new clause will be withdrawn. I hope that all those who may have been concerned that we were planning to build the Heathrow spur or, indeed, about the passive provision, will be assured that we have no intention whatever of doing so.