High-speed Rail

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:35 am on 8th December 2009.

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Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 11:35 am, 8th December 2009

First, I congratulate Greg Mulholland on securing this debate. High-speed rail is one of those things that almost everybody, whichever part of the country they represent, can happily sign up to as an attractive and valuable idea in principle. The trouble is that, unless and until we reach the stage where we are starting to debate particular route options and the problems and challenges that arise from each of them, we will not start to come to terms with both the benefits and the costs that are involved and we will not be able to assess the benefits and costs of a project of this ambitious scale.

We do not have a route yet. We have all sorts of speculation or informed leaks appearing in the media about what High Speed 2 will produce. We have a model of high-speed rail development that is rather different from Network Rail and we also have the other two proposals to which the hon. Gentleman alluded.

When the Minister responds, I hope that he will clarify one point, which is the timing of any announcement by the Department for Transport. My clear understanding is that HS2 is under an obligation to present its report to the Secretary of State for Transport by the end of the year. In an earlier intervention, the Minister talked about an announcement at the end of the year. My constituents and I want to know whether the Government are looking to make a public announcement at the turn of the year, as the Minister indicated in his intervention, or whether Ministers will study the report for a bit before they make a public announcement.