High-speed Rail

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:00 am on 8th December 2009.

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Photo of Greg Mulholland Greg Mulholland Shadow Minister (Health) 11:00 am, 8th December 2009

Of course I agree with the hon. Gentleman from that point of view, and we must accept that we have a very poorly integrated public transport system in this country. The rail network has never recovered from the disaster of the Beeching cuts. Perhaps we must consider high-speed rail as an opportunity to rectify that. I hope for an improvement in regional railways, stemming from high-speed rail.

The benefits of high-speed rail are many and well documented, and include improved inter-city links with the capital and the great cities of the rest of the United Kingdom. It reduces congestion by encouraging people, as the hon. Gentleman said, to move from the roads on to the railway, and it also reduces the demand for domestic flights. Most of the right hon. and hon. Members present for the debate represent areas outside London, and there are clear benefits of high-speed rail for areas such as Yorkshire, the north-east and the north of England. Overall what has happened on the continent has proved the possibility that high-speed rail in this country would do something to redress the historic economic tilt of the United Kingdom towards London and the south-east.

We have today had an extraordinary announcement on Heathrow, about the third runway apparently ticking the boxes for emissions targets-either that is wrong or the emissions targets are not worth the paper they are written on-but there is nevertheless a real environmental benefit to high-speed rail. That is particularly on people's minds at the moment because of the Copenhagen summit.