High-speed Rail

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:52 am on 8th December 2009.

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Photo of John Mason John Mason Spokesperson (Work and Pensions) 11:52 am, 8th December 2009

Mr. Fraser, I will restrict my remarks to a few points emphasising the environment. A lot of good things have been said, and I congratulate Greg Mulholland on securing the debate.

I use the train from Glasgow to London regularly and I enjoy my time on it. Taking the train is cheaper and better for the environment than other forms of transport, but it is certainly not faster. Environmental figures from the Association of Train Operating Companies show that rail transport produces 42 grams of CO2 per passenger kilometre, road 127 grams and air 144 to 304 grams. I accept that if initially we are to go to Birmingham, that is to do with capacity in south-east England, which must be addressed; but if we are talking about time and, linked to that, the environment, the savings are greater if we can get plane users to switch to rail, and that means running a line to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen much more than to Manchester, Birmingham or Leeds.

There was an interesting discussion yesterday at the all-party rail group about whether we should go for a network immediately, or for a step-by-step approach. I think Ms Smith was right to say that we need a strategic view, even if we build in stages. When the motorway was built from Glasgow to London, Scotland built it right up to the border but England failed to build the motorway to match it. We must not do that again. I urge real consultation from the start with whatever Scottish Government are in power. If it is going to take until 2025 just to finish the line to Birmingham, there will presumably be many different Governments here and in Scotland before it is finished. There is support from all parties, but there will also be opposition in all parties.