High-speed Rail

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 12:12 pm on 8th December 2009.

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Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport) 12:12 pm, 8th December 2009

I can see that as part of a network, but all I am laying out now is that, with regard to domestic flights and short-haul continental flights, we could take out around 63,000 flights. Whichever party is in power after the general election-I hope that it will be a challenge for a Conservative Minister-it will face the challenge of Air France wanting capacity on our High Speed 1, and we will see a further expansion of that.

Clearly, we must continue to make the case for high-speed rail, not as an end in itself, but because of the need for new capacity, the potential for huge environmental benefits as a result of modal shift and the potential for huge economic benefits through the shrinking of our country and economic zones. We must continue to make the case for a strategic network, wherever we start.

I readily concede that the Government have made huge strides, and Lord Adonis is to be congratulated on his desire for cross-party and national consensus on high-speed rail. That has been a huge change of attitude for the Government, and the message therefore from all parties is that we recognise the benefit to this country of high-speed rail. Sixty-eight miles of high-speed rail-0.007 per cent. of the continental European network-is something that we should be ashamed of and that we should all commit to change.

I hope that the Minister will clarify how the Government see high-speed rail developing in this country beyond whatever proposals come out of High Speed 2, and I would welcome a commitment from the Minister that he and the Government recognise that building a rail line to Birmingham should be only the start of a strategic high-speed rail network. Only if we have such a network will we get environmental, travel and economic benefits for our country.