‘(1) The Secretary of State must prepare a report on—
(a) any disruption likely to be caused to cyclists and walkers by—
(i) the scheduled works, and
(ii) the railway; and
(b) steps to be taken to minimise or mitigate that disruption.
(2) The report must include specific consideration of—
(a) people seeking to cycle or walk adjacent to, or in parallel to, the railway;
(b) people seeking to cross the railway.
(3) The report must be laid before Parliament within one year of this Act being passed.’
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Ipswich (Sandy Martin) and for East Lothian (Martin Whitfield), who attended the petitions hearings of the Select Committee on the High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill as members of that Committee, and who shared with our shadow Transport team their concerns about how this route will affect active travel. As shadow Minister with responsibility for active travel—walking and cycling—I share those concerns, which is why we tabled the new clause.
It is inevitable that major construction projects will cause an element of disruption to journeys, and inconvenience to cyclists and, to an even greater extent, walkers, but diversions can have a real impact. If a car has to divert for a few miles to cross the HS2 construction site or the final HS2 line, that will add to its journey and its carbon footprint. If a cyclist does the same, it could add considerable time to their journey. It is worse for pedestrians; it could result in hours of extra time.
We tabled the new clause because we need to encourage active travel much more in this country; as was said, the Government are not meeting their targets for it. They have far more to do in this area. The new clause asks the Government to consider the factors further, and to report to Parliament within a year of the Bill’s passing into law. Subsection (2) highlights the need to have regard to not only routes that traverse the rail line, but those that run adjacent to it, which could also be affected. The Government missed a significant opportunity in failing to create a cycle path along the HS2 route. In many continental countries, major roads and rail lines have cycle paths parallel to them; once there is access to the land, it is an obvious choice to make.
Cycle routes are increasingly popular; they are the most direct route, away from car and lorry use. A segregated north-south cycle route adjacent to the line, but obviously some distance away from the line’s boundary, would have been an important legacy of the HS2 project. There would have been very little extra cost, in the light of the scale of this enormous construction project. Again, we ask the Government to show more concern for walkers and cyclists by considering the issue and reporting back to Parliament within a year of the enactment of the Bill.
Contrary to what the new clause suggests, I do not agree that we have not looked into or provided for non-motorised use. Let me give the hon. Gentleman some examples. On the particular part of HS2 that we are here to scrutinise, we have offered assurances to Cycling UK that some footpaths will be made more suitable for people who cycle or ride horses, so that local users of those public rights of way can seek, through the appropriate local planning process, to have those upgraded routes redesigned.
Yesterday, in response to the Transport Committee’s third special report on the Bill, we committed to working with Colwich parish council as it seeks funding from the recently announced £21 million Sustrans fund, and from funds that I announced last year. Phase 2a’s own £5 million community engagement fund and business and local economy fund are also available to improve towpaths, which will improve local walking and cycling facilities. I also announced the £6.5 million road safety fund, which provides even more money to support local initiatives for cycling and walking and for other non-motorised users.
Once again, I refer back to the environmental statement, because it covers most of the points raised. The report focuses on the impact of construction operations on cycling and walking. We have looked into the potential disruption in great detail in every area where it will occur along the phase 2a route. We have reported the likely effects and the proposed steps to mitigate those effects in the environmental statement. I refer the hon. Gentleman in particular to the community area report in that statement, which goes into detail on each part of the route. In that assessment, we included the likely effects on other non-motorised users of public rights of ways, such as horse riders, as is appropriate for works in a rural area, and steps for their mitigation.
There is a report, mitigations are taking place and there is engagement with local communities. The new clause is not needed and should be withdrawn.
I appreciate the Minister coming back on this issue. However, yet again the scale of ambition is very limited, and there is arguably far too little mitigation. A cycle path along the length of the HS2 route would have been a huge enhancement for the country at a time when we are failing to meet our cycling and walking targets; not having that shows a lack of ambition. I will press the new clause to a vote.