I \V[!

9 JUNE 2010

Westminster Hall

[Vedllc.I'duv 9 June 20 J()

[M r CLlVl Bl:TIS in the Chair]

High Speed Rail

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MOli()Ji'm(/de, and Question p rop used, That the sitting be now adjourned ... ( Angela Watkinson)

9.30 am

Mark Lazarowlcz (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab!

Co-op): May I welcome you to the Chair. Mr Belts, and express my pleasure at having secured an Adjournment debate on such an important matter? Colleagues who were here before the election will know that this is not the first I ime I have spoken about high speed rail in Westminster Hall- -indeed, it is nor the first time I have secured a debate on the subject. High speed rail is a matter of particular importance to my constituency and my city, as it is to many other parts of the UK, which is why J am a long-standing campaigner for it.

As the years have gone by, the case for high speed rail in the UK has become stronger. In the past five years, the num bel' of passengers travelling 011 the rail lines has risen bv abo.u 40% and freight has risen bv 60';'" Given the urgent need to tackle climate change by encouraging travellers to shirt from air and road transport to rail, the case for investment in high speed rail becomes even stronger. The case for high speed rail relates not only to the new lines that it would create. but to the capacity that 11 would free up on existing lines.

I was greatly encouraged by the previous Government's ,1111101111Cemenl in March of a new line from London to Birmingham as the first phase of a network that would lend to Manchester and Leeds, and thereafter to Glasgow and Edinburgh. Members will recall that that was based on a report by High Speed 2 Ltd. which the Government established a veal' earlier. It was envisaged that construction would stan i1; 2017. following the completion of Crossrail, and that the network would be opened in phases from 2026. The estimated cost of taking the line as far as Manchester and Leeds was £:\0 billion.

\Ve seem to have reached a considerable degree of' political consensus on the development of high speed rail !11 Great Britain. That will obviously be necessary because of the long time scale over which anv such network will be developed. It will take many decades to build a complete network, which will obviously involve III any Governments and, no doubt, many political parties. [ welcome the fact that, along with the commitment from my party, there now appears to be a general political consensus 011 the need to develop a high speed rail network in the UK.

Malcolm Bruce (Gordon) (LD); I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securinz the debate and commend him for his support for high speed rail. Will he acknowledge thai, even 1Il the present circumstances, he and his constituents can travel from Edinburgh to London in about four hours, whereas the shortest journey time from Aberdeen to London, only a further 110 miles, is seven and a half hours? Docs he therefore agree that a

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high speed rail link must also ensure that there are fast links to connect to any high speed network that is developed?

Mark Lazarowicz: The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point. I do not want to intrude on matters that are the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament. but one of the important aspects of the debate on high speed rail is the need for discussions and eo-operation between the UK Government and the Scottish Government, to ensure that the network will benefit nor only the cities that it serves directly. but places further along the line, even if those places arc not part of the net work from the start. I will return 10 that point later. In due course the network should extend to not onlv the UK's largest cities, but 1110st major cities. I am- sure that Aberdeen would qualify as such.

Dr Andrew Murrison (South West Wiltshire) (Con):

Edinburgh is terribly important, but so arc the English regions. Docs the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a real risk, rumours of which the previous trains Minister did nothing to dispel, that money will be leached from regional and provincial rail networks to fund high speed rail? High speed rail should be welcomed, of course, but we must also remember the needs of rnanv of our constituents who depend on lesser rail networks,

Mark Lazarowicz: I am interested in the hon.

Gentleman's comments. I certainly did not hear those rumours, but his colleague the Minister will no doubt reassure him that she will be able 10 com bine her commitment to high speed rail with the interests of his cons li t uen ts.

I welcomed the fact that the Conservatives declared in their manifesto that

"a new uovcmmcnt will begin work immediately to create a hiah speed raTlline connecting Lo-ndon and Heathrow with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. This is the firs! step towards achieving our vision of creaung a national high speed rail network to join up major cities across England, Scotland and Wales. Stage two will deliver two new lines bringing the North East, Scotland and Wales into the high speed rail network."

That was an unqualified commitment to sian work immediately, not just as soon as possible, I welcome the Minister to the debate and connratulate her on her appointment. I know or her commitment to high speed rail. Indeed, so unqualified was her manifesto's promise that I am almost surprised to see her here today, as she might have been out on the building sites with a hard hal and a bulldozer, starling work on the line immediately

The Liberal Democrats were, somewhat out of character, a little more cautious about their spending comrr.itmcnts 011 this issue. Nevertheless, they vowed to set up

"a UK Infrastricture Bank to invest in public transport like high speed rail."

In the coalition agreement, the two parties stated:

"We wil; establish a high speed rail network as pan or our programme of measures to iulfi] our joint ambiuons for creating a low carbon economy. Our vision is of a truly ll<lllc)llai high speed rail network for the whole of Britain,"

However, the agreement then stated:

"Given financial constraints, we will have to achieve this in phases."

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I Mark lrr arowic: J

The prospect of work beginning on high speed rail is not so immediate now, it would appear. By the time of the Queen's Speech, we were promised a hybrid Bill in due course,

To be blunt. one of my purposes in securing this debate was to lest the strength of the coalition Government 's commitment to high speed rail. I have no doubts about the Minister's commitment, but we need to know whether the coalition agreement means what it says. Did the coalition parties mean what they said in their pre-election mani.csros. or was i I just pre-election bluster'! Will they really push it with the determination and leadership needed. or will ihcv find excuses to delay it until some long-distant date?' If the Minister gives the type of commitment that she gave before the election, she will certain I y have s up port across the House fo r t he development of proposals to introduce such a scheme, although the details may of course lead to debate,

I therefore have several questions for the Minister, which I hope she will be able to answer t otlay. There arc quite it few, but there are none that she should be surprised to be asked, so I hope that she will have answers today or at least some time soon. When do the new Government envisage brinainc forward the necessarv legislation for High Speed 2~) 1 a7n not suggesting thit the Minister should give an exact date, but a hybrid Bill could take years to go through Parliament so we need some idea of how it will fit into the Government's programme. Does she agree with the previous Government's assessment. as set out in their document on High Speed L produced earlier this year. that

"Iormul puhlic consult.niou on the Govcrumcm's proposals Cor speed rail in the light of j-lS2 Ltds recommended route for a lllle ,hould begin III the autumn"?

Does the Minister agree that HS2 Ltd should now begin similar detailed planning work on the routes from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds, to be completed by summer 20 II with a view to consulting the public early in 2012') What steps do the Government intend to lake to establish a company or other mechanism to deliver the project? What is their target date, in broad term:" for work to stan on a new line')

Are [he Government still committed to a high speed network That will serve the whole UK. including Edin burgh and Glasgow? I certainly hope that they are. If they are committed to that, do they have any views on the route that such a line should take. and when do they envisage that the line will reach Edinburgh and Glasgow') It will be unacceptable if there is nor a commitment from the start that the line will reach Scotland, because high speed rail will bring real economic benefits to the cities and recions alone the route, and those cities that are either l~ot directlylinked or [hat have indirect links with the network would certainly lose out.

IVlr .Iohn Leech (Manchester, Withington) (LD): r COIH!:ral ulate the h on. Gentleman on securing the debate. He ~ugge5ted the need for a commitment that the high speed network would run to Edinburgh, but I do not recall ever hearing that commitment from the previous Labour Administration before the general election.

Mark Lazarowicz: The previous Government made it clear from the outset that high speed train services would reach Edinburgh and Glasgow in due course. As the hon. Gentleman ;hould know. I have been pushing

High Speed Rail

for high speed rail for some time. I pushed the previous Government, and I intend to push this Government as hard as I pushed the previous one. If he wants high speed rail to go to places north of Manchester, 1 hope that he will put the same kind of pressure on his Government as I used to put 011 mine, I believe that we all want high speed rail to serve the nations and regions of the UK, so let us try to keep up the consensus and the pressure.

As I said, there are real economic benefits tor all the communities and cities along the route of a high speed line. Research shows that cutting the journey time between Birmingham and London from 84 to 49 minutes would increase Birmingham's annual economic output by .£1.4 billion, or about 6[1.,. The economic benefits of high speed rail would be more than .£l 0 billion a year for the north-west and about .£ 19 billion [or Scotland. In total, 64,000 additional jobs would be created as a consequence.

There is an overwhelming case for extending the line [0 Scotland, to increase the number of business and tourist passengers travelling not just to and from London. but from the north of England to Scotland. Prosperity would spread much more than if the line were restricted to the south and south-east of England. and the UK as a whole would benefit as a result.

Mike Crockart (Edinburgh West) (LD): I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising this important subject. He will know that my predecessor John Barrett also worked tirelessly on this matter. and I intend to contmue his support for it in this Parliament. Does the bOIL Gentleman agree that the greatest argument for extending the high speed rail line is an environmental one? For example, if we manage to drive London [0 Edinburgh journey times down to two hours 40 minutes, which is eminently possible, there would be a similar switch from air to rail. as happened when the M adrid to Barcelona line opened. That resulted in a SO(VO, reduction in the number of flights between the two cities. If the same happened with Edinburgh and London, there would be 700.(1)0 fewer air journeys between them.

Mark Lazarowicz: The hon. Gentleman is correct.

Indeed, there has been increased use of the Manchester to London service as a result of [he upgrade to the west coast main line, and we have seen the same with the London to Paris and Brussels services as well.

The point that the hen. Gentleman made about the benefits from reducingjourney limes particularly applies in respect of cities that are further away from London. The greatest journey time reductions will allow the greatest benefits in environmental and economic terms and. indeed. in terms of convenience to passengers. That is why I hope that the Government will give a definite commitment to extend high speed rail IO the north of England and to Scotland.

As the hon. Gentleman said, environmental benefits will be particularly important. Transport currently accounts for more than 20'/0 of UK carbon emissions, so high speed rail has a role to play in that respect as well. Reducing journey times from London to Edinburgh to just over two hours could result in 80% of the current travel market between Scotland and London being captured by high speed rail. Even at three hours, with it partial high speed rail network, 67'/;, of the travel bet ween

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Scotland and London could be captured by high speed rail, so there are certai nly environmental and transport benefits as well as economic ones.

In ihat respect r have two other questions that I hope the Minister will address today or at another time First what is the Government's \:iew on whether the li;l~ should run to Heathrow or a connector station at Heathrow, or simply of Tel' a connecting service, as the previous Government advocated? I am aware that there were criticisms of that decision, and I believe that she shared them. Certainly she made such criticisms before she was a Minister, so I would be interested to hear her current view on whether the line should serve Heathrow directlv

T would also like to hear the Minister's views 011 whether there should be a link from a new high speed line north or London to the existing line from London to [he south-east. France, Belgium ;nd beyond. If there were no link- ... I hope there will be one····· passengers from Scotland and the north would be less like lv to use the high speed rail line tor journeys to the continent, and travellers from the continent would be less likelv to use it to travel north, Clearly, if there were no di;'ect link, there would be less use of those services as well,

r hope thai today the Minister can give some indication or how the Government will take the plans forward, and to answer the questions in their entirety, or at least loa great extent. I would like to hear a reiteration of the commitments that were given before the general election, [ hope that today we will not bear from the Government any excuses that. because of the financial situation they claim to have inherited we had all those excuses vesterdav m the debate on the Queen's Speech they cannot make any further commitment to high speed rail at this stage.

I hope that we will not get that line later this morning.

It would be unacceptable for several reasons. First, it should hardly surprise the Government parties that a high speed line would req uire major expense, If they did not realise that, they should not have made such sweeping promises in their manifestos. Secondly, the spending on high speed rail would, 0[' course, be some time in the future, There will be many years of preparation involving planning, legal and parliamentary approval and so O1L We are talking about commitments that will last for 10, 20 or 30 veal'S, and r do not believe that anvone ' not even those in the Government parties who" make the most pessimistic forecasts would suggest that the current economic circumstances will last lor 10, 20 or 30 years.

Thirdly, the commitments, although large in their totality, are not actually as substantial as many other Government commitments. The cost of a line from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds is estimated at no billion spread over 10 years. Compared with many other Government commitments. that is not as expensive as might be thought at first And, of course, there arc 1 he Wider economic benefits that 1 have already set out and the fact that the costs of high speed rail do not all have to come from public subsidy. Some or the public subsidy would be recouped from commercial income from passenger and goods traffic if the traffic projections and estimates are reflected in reality,

On the extension to Scotland, there are issues around the role in linking up services and the financial commitment from the Scottish Government as part of the devolution arrangements. I would be interested in hearing from the Minister about what discussions the coalition and her

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Department are having with the SCOI[ish Government on how high speed rail could be funded in Scotland, and on how it would link lip with existing rail services in Scotland.

Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton) (Lab):

My hon. Friend makes a powerful case, and I look forward to the Minister's reply, The economic, transport and environmental benefits of a working high speed system are well known, but the gap between transport investment in the south-east and London and that in the rest of the country bas been growing. It is not just that there is a gap but that il has been growing. Does he think that there is a case for starting to invest in the system not in London but much farther north, and then building south, rather than building north from the south?

Mark Lazarowicz: My hon. Friend makes a good case and raises valid points. He is right to point out that there has been a concentration of transport. investment in the south-east of England. The Scottish Government have a role to play in developing services beyond Edin burgh and Glasgow, but, bluntly, it would be wrong lor Scotland to pay for the bit from the border northward because. after all, it is part or the same UK-\vide service. The same would apply to Manchester and the regions of England as well.

In this debate. I have avoided getting too involved in the exact details of routes, apart from the i mportant exception of Heathrow, and exactly when and where they will start, because the case 1'01' high speed rail as a whole is in danger of being undermined by discussion of some of the detail. However, r accept my bon. Friend's fundamental point: there is no reason why work should start from London and move northward. or whv it cannot start from some other citv at the same time. Clearly, phasing would allow benefits (0 be brought to other places en route, and I would be interested to hear the Minister's views on that in due course.

The method of securing funding for a new line also has a bearing on another important issue in this debate, which is the environmental case to which the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Mike Crockart) referred. By itself, high speed rail does not guarantee substantial carbon reductions. Certain arguments and research make that clear. Carbon reductiC:;ls depend partly on the energy source providing the electricity, how the route is to be constructed and. to a great extent, on the degree to which there is a modal shift from air and road to rail as a result of high speed rail services being developed.

A modal shift can be encouraged by shifting expenditure from new roads to high speed rail, which I support. and by using transport taxation to encourage that shift and raise the funds for public investment in high speed rail, The Liberal Democrat wing of the coalition suggested in its election manifesto that it would raise an extra £9 billion a year from airline and passenger taxation, and if that is taken forward in the agreement between the coalition parties it could providesubstantial funds for high speed rail. I am interested in bearing the Minister, or any Liberal Democrat colleagues, respond to that point.

I am sure that the Minister is not surprised that 1 have asked a lot of questions. 1 hope that she will respond as far as she can. I pay tribute to her commitment to high

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speed rail before the election. Like ali Ministers, she will no doubt have battles to fight in her Department and beyond to keep high speed rail firmly on the top of the Governrnents agenda. and I am sure that she expects me and other colleagues to pursue these matters vigorously If she does not. I hope that she gives us good news today -reaffirms the Government's commitment (0 high speed rail and tells right hon. and hon, Members how she will bring it about.

9.51 am

TOllY Baldry (Banbury) (Con): It is good to see my right hnn Friend the Minister of State for Transport. who \\i11 respond to the debate. 1 hope that she will forgive me, and that hon. and right hon. Members will do so too, if I am unable to Slay for the winding-up speeches. r am stand ing for the chairmanship of an all-party group, the annual general meeting of which is being convened this morning at a time to suit colleagues in another place.

The comments made by the han, Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz) and my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh West (Mike Crockart) demonstrate and reinforce a point about high speed rail that Lord Adonis made to me before the general election, which was that evervone wants the stations but no one wants the track vic will all have to manage that in bringing about a commitment made by both Government parties in their manifestos at the general election and in the coalition agreement, which is in the Queen's Speech and is expected to be delivered.

I shall not repeal any of the sensible questions asked by the hen. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith, which I am sure my right hou. Friend the Minister will be able to answer, I wish to ask three specific questions on various points.

Fnst. may I suggest to my right hon. Friend the Minister that it would help if, at some point in the near future. she wrote a "Dear colleague" letter to every colleague in the House, setting out in straightforward terms the legislative process and the timetable thai the Government intend to pursue, so that we call share them with our constituents') It is a pity that the previous Government brought the project forward just before the general electioll. We all understand why: the previous Prime Minister wanted to make what he thought was a decent press announcement . he went to Birmingham to make it but that meant that the process got rather confused. It would help if hon. and right hon. Members were able to share the relevant information with our constituents.

Secondly, on speed, Eurostar goes at 300 kph- ···136 mph and those or us who have been on it know that that is pretty fast. High Speed 2 is due to go at 400 kph, which is 250 mph and considerably Caster than Eurostar. More suaigh 1 [rae k is needed for a very fast train, which means less opportunity for mitigation or variation of the route to accommodate set tlernents, towns or important topographical features. I hope that, at some stage, there will be an opportunity to have an informed debate about what are the cost-benefits of a very fast train as opposed to a fast train, and what is the real benefit of 250 mph over 1 % mph. so that we can consider the options between them.

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Thirdly, on community engagement, my right lion.

Friend the Minister will not be surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom), M r Speaker, whose constituency adjoins our constituencies, and I will be working together with our local communities, which are concerned about the possible impact of the route on [hem. The route runs close to the sizeable town of Brackley in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire. Will the Government consider complete alternatives to the routes in the consultation, to what extent are they willing to consider mitigation or variation of the existing route, how will thev enzauc with the communities and bow can that debat~ be informed')

It is important to put on the record what the Campaign to Protect Rural England has made clear:

"We welcome the vision of [-IS2 as a low carbon backbone of a sustainable transport system. By removing fast train, from the overcrowded lines north of London, space will be created lor local passenger and freight services too."

Even campaigning groups such as the C:PRE recognise that there are considerable benefits to be had from HS2. However, such organisations have long experience in engaging with Government on issues of this kind. It would help if Ministers said how they intend to engage with our constituents and communities on the impact of the track on individual communities and constituencies.

I understand that mv right hon, Friend the Secretary of State for Transport proposes to walk the route later in the summer, which seems sensible. Will my right hOI1. Friend the Minister give an undertaking that, when that happens, my right hen. Friend the Secretary of State will engage with colleagues so that we can ensure that. in respect of each constituency or groups of constituencies, there can be positive. constructive engagement between him and local communities on comments people have to make about mitigation or variation of the route')

I would like to emphasise a point made forcefully by the CPRE. It is evident that people are keen on the stations, because those will make linkage between pans of the United Kingdom much quicker and obviate the need for a third runway at Heathrow. There are all sorts of self-evident benefits. However. the benefits are not so self-evident for those who have the I rack going through their parishes or back gardens.

The benefit to people of a motorway going through their county or area is that it is part of the local infrastructure, and they can join and leave it. There will not be a station between London and Birmingham, so those living in that area will have limited direct benefit from HS2. However, there may be other ways in which communities can be compensated so that damage might be mitigated=-for example, undergrounding exi:;ling electricity transmission lines on the HS2 route, creating new 10c;1 rail services and reducing noise from existing roads,

The CPRE suggests:

"Some of the spa.e cnpacity lrecd up on rail lines could be used to create new cross-country passenger SCf\'lCCS",

such as a High Wycombe-Aylesbury-Northampton route. It is important that when my right hon, Friends the Secretary of State and the Minister 01' Slate engage with local communities on the route of HS2 across England they consider the benefits that the initiative and project may have for local communities, so that we see not just

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clear mitigation, but it clear and immediate local benefit, rather than just a contribution to an initiative for the betterment of (he country as a Whole,

JJ we engage constructively and sensibly in dialogue during [he coming months and if we all have a clear understanding of what we are trying to achieve, that will assist the Government and substantiallv reduce the risk of numerous judicial reviews, As In); right hon. Friend knows, nothinsr is more frustrating when timinz it Government project than various parties feeling fi'ustrated by the process and that they need to go to judicial

review.

I welcome my right hon. Friend to her post and hope that, following our questioning today, she will write to LIS all in the not-too-distant future with a clear explanation that we can share with our constituents, who are, understandably, worried about the process,

!0.1 am

Sir Peter Soulsby (leicester South) (lab): I congratulate mv hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh North and L~ith (M ark Lazarowicz) on obtaining this~timely debate on an undoubtedly important issue. Those of LlS who use the midland main line .. ·] know that you do, Mr Betts arc well aware of the enormous success of High Speed 1, not least because when we arrive at St Pancras we must fight o ur way through the crowds disgorged from trains from Paris and Brussels.

The prospect of another high-speed line in the United Kingdom is exciting, and I join my hon. Friend in welcoming (hal prospect and the fact that the new Government have picked up the previous Government's commitment to construct such a line. However, as the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) said, it will have an environmental price, and he was right to remind us that there will be a trade-off between speed and the environmental damage that that might cause. I urge the Government to examine that trade-off carefully, and to consider whether there are prospects for using existing transport corridors to achieve the same results at a lower environmental cost.

My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh North and Leith referred to the difference between this Government's proposals and those of the previous one for the service to Heathrow. There are serious doubts about whether it is sensible to use Heathrow as a terminus Ior the high-speed line instead of somewhere t hat is well served with a link to the high-speed line, It is unlikelv that someone travelling from London to Birmingham or 1VI an chester would want their journey to be diverted via Heathrow. That would not make much sense to them. The benefits of serving Heathrow may be achieved in another way by ensuring an adequate link to the airport instead diverting the line.

[ want to lake this opportunity, when welcoming the Government's commitment to high-speed rail, to press them for an assurance that construction of such a line in phases at some time in the future who knows when It will be constructed? should not be at the expense of continuing investment in the existinz classic or conventional network. -Parts of that network ;re undoubtedly under desperate strain and people who travel on it .... -often those who commute dailv .. · .. must stand for much of their journey. Much could be done to relieve their suffering with continued investment in rolling stock. on

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which the previous Government had made a commitment, and in longer platforms and a generally better service

Graham Stringer; My hem. Friend is going to the nub of the debate on future investment in the rail service, Given the time required for the development of high-speed rail, I do nut believe that it is a threat to regional services. Docs he agree that the real choice before the Government and the country is whether to continue wi th Cross rail or with regional services, and that we simply cannot afford Crossrail at the moment')

Sir Peter Soulsby: Having served [or some 13 months on the Select Committee that considered the Crossrail Bill, I have a personal commitment to its completion. My hon. Friend argued earlier that invesuucnt in rail has been slewed towards London and the south-cast at the expense of other parts of the country, but that is not an argument for ditching what is an important part of the transport infrastructure in our capital city.

There is concern that high-speed rail may be seen as a panacea. It should not be built at the expense of the investment that the Association of Train Operating Companies argued for to open lines that are unused or used for goods, and the opportunities that would be generated thereby for reconnecting to the rail network communities that are currently unconnected. Above all. it should not be used ([5 a pretext for not continuing the investment in electrification of the main line network.

Like you, Mr. Betts, I am keen that electrification of the midland main line should be completed as soon as possible. It is already electrified as far as Bedford, and completion of electrification through to my city of Leicester and to Derby, Nottingham and your city of Sheffield, Me Beus. will provide considerable positive cost benefits to rail users, and to the economics or the east midlands and your area of south Yorkshire. with a boost to the economy and general environment of those areas. I am worried that even if the second high-speed link is ultimately achieved and goes to somewhere in the east midlands, it will be of little benefit to those who are currently served by the midland mainline if electrification of that line has not taken place and there is no link 10 St Pancras J nternational and High Speed I.

I doubt whether anyone would oppose investment in further high-speed rail in the UK. There are doubts about whether its fares will be affordable and attract a significant proportion of air passengers who would otherwise pass through Heathrow. My real concern is that it should not draw funding that would otherwise go to the conventional network. It must not lead to postponement of electrification of the existing mainline network. it must not leave rail commuters standing in unacceptable conditions on their daily commute to work, it must not leave unconnected communities that could be connected to the network. and it must not leave passengers and the environment with the prospect of old and smellv diesel traction for manv years to come when relatively environmentally friendly ~lectririca(ion is a real possibility.

III brief, users of the existing network are unlikely to be impressed by half-promises of high-speed rail in phases, perhaps a decade and a half away, while they continue to struggle to use an existing network that is overstretched, ov';~lsed and in desperate ~1eed of continued investment.

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Lorely Burt (Soli hull) (LD): I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz) on an informative speech, particularly about the benefits of high-speed rail. I shall look up some of his statistics in Hansard for my own use. My constituency is in the west midlands and includes Birmingham International airport and the national exhibition centre. I shall take account of the comments made this morning. but I shall confine mv remarks to the first phase of I~igh Speed 2. for which i am a strong advocate.

Passenger numbers have risen by 40'1." and freight has increased by 60'/;, over the last five years. Clearly, there is a big appetite in this country for high-speed rail and the benefits that it can bring, which were so ably outlined by the han. Gentleman, We need a dedicated high-speed rail line that is independent of [he creaking Victorian network. although that network bas served us well in the pasl and continues to do so. [ take on board the point made by the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) that any improvements or new rail services must not be made at the expense of the existing network We must ensure that the service improves for those who currently use our creaking commuter network, which should not be neglected in favour of high-speed rail.

We have the prospect of being able to travel from Euston to Curzon Street in Birmingham in 49 minutes. According to my figures, the train speed is 225 mph. although the hon. Member for Banbury mentioned 250 mph: either way. it is fast. We hope there will be a Crossrail interchange at Old Oak Common and we support the idea that Crossrail must go ahead; it is hugdy important. Funding for Crossrail and High Speed 2 can be imaginatively secured, with a large proportion or investment coming from private industry or from some Conn of national infras: ructure ban k. as recommended bv the Liberal Democrats before the general election. I am sure that it can be done and that [l,e benefits can be proved.

\VC expect this phase of HS:: to start in 2017. and to have passengers on the trains in 2026. That is a long time, and I have a lot or sympathy with the hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer), who intervened earlier to ask where we should start. If we can get the funding, perhaps we should start at both ends or the line so that it does not lake such a long time (0 complete the network. I am sure [he Government will look at that.

It is not all good news. There are many planning considerations and much of the investment in the first phase of HS2 will go on existing railways lines such as the Chilrern line. which will track the A413. I have a particular concern for parts of the Warwickshire countryside in the west midlands. People must be consulted properly, which, [or me, means that there is no foregone conclusion otherwise, it is not a consultation, There must be proper compensation for anyone who suffers as a result of these plans. \Vhen a second runway at Birmingham International airport was proposed, it terrible bl igh! was created which in some cases still hanus over residents in the local area. It is important to avoid that blight. as it puts people's lives on hold and creates more miserv than is necessarv On the bright side, according to !es·~arch by the Dep-artment for Transport, which 1 read this morning, every reduction of I minute to a

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commuter journey adds £1,000 to the value of a house in the relevant area. Somebody will benefit, although I am not sure who that will be in the west midlands.

The justification for HS2 must be that it is part or a wider strategy. Like the previous Government. this Government are committed to a strong carbon reduction programme. We must show that we will shift people away from the roads and the air and on to rail. The 110n. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith mentioned the Liberal Democrat plans, and part of the coalition agreement was that we will move from passenger charges on planes to a charge per plane. That will help in the reduction of carbon.

Mark Lazarowicz: I am grateful for the hon. Ladvs kind comments about my Zpening speech. I am aw,;·re of the Liberal Democrat and Conservative policy of moving away from individual taxation. However, I think that the Liberal Democrat manifesto also suggested a potential increase in duty, which I welcome. Is that part of the coalition policy?

Lorely Burt: I am afraid that it is above my pay grade to comment further on that. The coalition Government will be working on this issue, and the Minister may wish to refer to it in her remarks.

Increasing people's ability to travel is a bit like Boyle's law demand expands in relation to the existing capacity. We have seen that with the motorway network. Every time new roads are built or a motorwav is enlarged, traffic increases more than would be expected under normal predictions. We must be careful about that. During the three weeks the Minister has spent in her job, I do not know whether she has given any thought as to how Vie can make it easier for people to travel less. That must obviously be an aspiration.

I will conclude by considering some of the economic benefits that HS2 would bring to the west midlands. In terms of employment, we have probably been the hardest hit of any region, We have a strong manufacturing base, but that has also been hit hard by the recession. On behalf of people in the west midlands. I am looking forward hugely to the airport link. The extension of" the single runway at Birmingham International airport will mean huge inward investment, and along with the highspeed rail link to London and the north, that will make the west midlands a central economic hub, which I welcome.

The national exhibition centre will benefit h uaelv from the fact (hat High Speed 2 will stop there befor~ moving on to Curzon Street in Birmingham. It IS important to get on with this scheme. I am sure that we can use our imagination and ability so as not to damage the existing rail network, which we must work on and improve. High Speed 2 is a wonderful thing, but it is not everything. We must look at the whole picture and ensure 1 hilt the experience or the rail traveller whether on High Speed 2. or on local railways- -is a good one.

Mr Clive Betts (in the Chair): The hen. Member for Carrnarthen East and Dinefwr (Jonathan Edwards) is the last speaker who wishes to be called in the debate. Let me advise him that I intend to start with the contributions of the Front-Bench speakers at 10.30 am.

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10.18 am

Jonathan Edwards (Carrnarthcn East and Dinefwr) (PC): I congrarulare the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz) on securing ti~is debate on the Important subject of high speed rail. It is an issue that affects both his constituents and mine due to likelihood that under the current proposals, it will have no impact on them whatever. Historically, UK Governments have failed Wales on rail. and the refusal [0 provide a timetable for the development of a high speed rail link hac; put us on the hack burner once again.

The last UK Government agreed to electrify the Great Western line to Swansea because of the hard work of the Transport Minister in the Welsh Government. When the previous UK Government announced the scheme. it was supposed to go only as far as Bristol, and only alter the intervention of the Welsh Government did they agree to electrify the line as far as Swansea. I understand that the Conservatives have always been coy about slicking to that agreement. Will the new UK Government confirm that that electrification will take place"

Will the Government also confirm that the electrification will go further in Wales, as par! of their commitment to support further electrification of the rail network'! That would include, Cor example. the north Wales coast line. the valleys lines and the Severn tunnel diversionary line, as recommended by Railfuture Wales. In Europe, Wales i~ alongside Albania and Moldova in not having more than a 111 ile or electrified rail track. What more proof do we need that the UK Government are leaving us

behind') -

More than just electrification of the railwav lines. we need a concrete timetable for high speed raif in Wales. The proposal for a Wales high speed rail connection was first put forward by First Great Western in 2005. as part of the package of suggestions that it was making for improved rail services, linked to its bid for the ne\~ Great Western franchise. However. we are no closer to having such it connection now than we were then"

The former shadow Secretary or Slate for Transport, who is now the Minister of State, said only in March:

"Our ph\ll, \0 take higb speed rail to the North will boost iobs ,\nd illl'CSlllkn!. right across the country and bring purticularly s.rong bcnefus [0 the regions. We believe it is essential that the Nonh is not short changed and left out of high speed rail and the major regeneration opportunities it will generate."

Nat urally, J agree with every word about the benefits that high speed rail will bring to those regions, but it cannot be right that Wales does not share in those benefits. At the moment, high speed rail is an England-only project that will be funded from UK money. That cannot be right.

A genuine High Speed ~ network needs to include Scotland and Wales and connect with the south-east of England and the continent, bringing us closer to major international markets and them closer to us. giving us major business opportunities and helping to tackle climate change by reducing short-haul air travel. Otherwise, the UK Government should just admit that high speed rail is really for Enuland only and zive us a Barnett consequential, 50 th';;,1 we UU] get o~ with the job of developing our own network in Wales.

Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): The hon.

Gentleman is painting a strong picture of how we need a countrywide net work, including Wales and Scotland.

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Is he aware of the High Speed North proposal by the Harrogate-based engineer, Colin Elliff? That is a real vision for a nationwide network something that the previous Government did not properly consider. I hope that the new Government will properly consider it.

Jonathan Edwards: I was not aware of those proposals. but I imagine that the UK Government should be examining them closely, because the key point is that if we are to go for a high speed rail network based on a UK Treasury spend, the benefits should apply to all the nations and regions of' the state"

We would like a timetable and costings to be developed for a high speed rail link between south Wales and London, preferably as part of the current scheme but even as part of High Speed 3. Perhaps as a mat ter of good faith, the work on that could begin at the south Wales end. That would certainly be the l:u cheaper part of the development. Diolch yn fawr iawn,

10.22 am

Mr William Bain (Glasgow North East) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member Cor Edinbunzh North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz) on securing this crucial debate on high speed rail. He spoke witl; real authority on behalf of many businesses and rail passengers in his constituency. and throughout the UK. who recocnise the transformative effects th~u investment in high sl)eed rail will bring: a stronger economy with the creation of new jobs in the construction and maintenance or the new high speed lines; a modern transport infrastructure to match those in the rest of Europe; improved business links between London and the other major cities in the UK; and increased tourism and environmental benefits, with many more journeys being made by rail than by short-haul aviation.

Let me also praise the contributions of the other hon.

Members who participated in the debate. incl udinu my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester South (Sir Pct;r Soulsby) and the hon. Members for Banburv (Tonv Baldry) and for Solihull (Lorely Bun). who spoke eloquentl, about the need for consultation, There was a passionate contribution from the hon. Member for Carmarthen East anci Dinefwr (Jonathan Edwards) on the need for a UK perspective on high speed rail and its extension to Wales.

This is a project of genuine national importance, and our task in the coming vears will be to work across this Chamber to ensure t1{at High Speed 2 is completed on schedule. The aim of Opposition Members is to fulfil the vision in the Command Paper published this springw start with construction of the high speed line between Euston and Birmingham and then to extend it to Sheffield. Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds. As my han. Friend the Member for Edinburgh North and Leith said. we see great advantages in expanding the high speed rail network to Edinburgh and Glasgow in clue course, subject to consultations with the Scottish Government. as it would involve significant capital expenditure from that source.

In my first appearance as Opposition transport spokesman, [ welcome the Minister of State to her position in the Department (or Transport. I look forward (0 our discussions here and in the main Chamber over the coming months. They may be robust at times, but

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the) will never be intemperate. J n opposition. she demonstrated a keen commitment to the principle of high speed rail and if that continues in government, she will have our support in the negotiations that she undertakes with the Treasury to secure the financing to make High Speed 2 a reality. on time and on target.

r have had an opportunity to consider "The Spending Review framework" published yesterday by the Chancellor or the Exchequer. and [ note that all Departments will be asked to assess and justify their spending priorities agamst nine criteria. which include the promotion of economic value. In the Opposition's view, even when those criteria are applied. HS2 is a project of national economic necessity. which must escape the Chancellor's programme for fiscal consolidation.

I place on thc record our appreciation for the work done by former Ministers Paul Clark and Chris Mole, who, sad ly from our perspective, were not returned to \ he [-louse t o represent the constituencies of Gillingham and Rainharn and of Ipswich respectively We wish them well for the future, The shadow Secretarv of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan), will hold the Government to account on their transport pledges in the coalition agreement and continue to advocate the causes that he advanced while in government.

I also pay tribute to my noble Friend Lord Adonis, who was one or the most visionary Secretaries of State for Transport that Britain has had in the past 60 years, with a powerful commitment to the role of a revived railway network in boosting economic growth, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and, through his strategic support lor HS2. building the modern transport infrastructure that a decent, just society requires.

In the Command Paper published in March by the previous Government, we sought to avoid some of the problems in the consultation process for the first domestic high speed link, from central London to Ashford, by consulting on a single preferred route between Euston and Birmingham. rather than the choice of five routes in the ilrs[ high speed rail consultation process. No route in a project of this significance will be without controversy, which is why there must be adequate consultation of the affected communities, together with consultation on the exceptional hardship scheme for those whose properties may be affected by proximity to the preferred route, \Ve note that the Government have slightly extended the period for consultation on the hardship scheme until 17 June and have introduced a shadow scheme [or immediate introduction, We would support both those measures,

There has been strong support from rail passengers, business and local government in the cities covered bv I he proposed new high speed rail network, because they recognise the real benefits that high speed rail will bring (0 their cities, For example, journey times from London 10 Birmingham will come down to 49 minutes, and I hose from Leeds to Canarv Wharf will come clown to 9() minutes, Even with reg;lrd to the first part of the network, my constituents in Glasgow would immediately benefit. with a reduction in the journey time from Glasgow to Euston to about 3 hours 30 minutes, That

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makes high speed rail genuinely competitive for business, passengers and tourists compared with short-haul flights from Scotland to London airports.

Some 10,000 jobs will be created in the construction of the high speed line, with a further 2,O()O permanent jobs created in line maintenance and operation, There are great environmental benefits, given that high speed rail emits between eight and II times less carbon dioxide than air travel. There will be an increase in the freizht capacity available by rail. There will be a bOOSl [0 the west midlands economy to the tune of:!::)'3 billion it year, and to the north-west economy of £10,6 billion a year. If extension of the network to Scotland proceeds, there will be a benefit of nearlv £20 billion to the economy there. As the work of [-IS2 Ltd made clear, every £ I spent on high speed rail yields £2 in economic benefit to the nation.

I would appreciate it if the Minister or SLate clarified several points, Will she confirm the Government's priorities and intentions on the route set out in the previous Government's Command Paper') Will Ministers commence the consultation on that route, which the previous Government planned to start in October? Are the Government committed 10 the Yshaped network that HS2 Ltd proposed in the Command Paper or is that being abandoned for an alternative structure?

Will the Minister outline the time scale that the Government envisage for the commencement of the construction of the first part of the network') My party's plans were predicated on connectivity with Crossrail and Heathrow Express, with an interchange station at Old Oak Common and fast links to Heathrow airport. Canary Wharf and beyond. The proposed connectivity between Crossrail and I-IS2 meant that we wanted to complete the construction of Crossrail by 2015 and to commence the construction of the London to Birmingham high speed line in 20 I 7, Do the Government ;lgree about the need (0 link Crossrail with High Speed n Are their plans based on the completion or Crossrail in2()15?

In opposition, the Minister was committed to plans for a high speed rail hub at Heathrow airport. Are th ose the Government's plans now') Docs the Minister propose to alter the terms of reference or the time scale of Lord Mawhinney's review into the practicality of a high speed rail station at Heathrow airport?

Can the Minister give a pledge that none of the cities thatthe previous Government proposed to link through the new high speed network will be left behind or left out') Specifically, does she agree in principle that we need a network that serves the major northern English cities? Does she plan to begin talks With the Scottish Government over possible network extension to Scotland in due course?

Has the Minister's Department begun work on preparing the hybrid Bill that would need (0 be presented to Parliament to make the new network a realitv in this Parliament? Will she give a pledge today that the Government will commit to the long-term investment required to make the project a success?

The high speed rail project is of genuine national significance, and the Opposition will not play petty or partisan politics with it. I hope [hat we will be able (0 work across the House to secure a rail link worthv or a

great country entering the 21st century. .

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lO.32 am

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mrs Theresa Villiers): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, M r. Betts. I join others in congratulating the hO[1. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Mark Laznrowicz ) on secunug it debate on this important topic. For many of' the reasons that he so articulately set out 111 opening the debate, the issue is significant for the future of our transport system, our economy and our environment.

I can assure han. Members that high-speed rail plays a core role 111 the new Government's vision for the future of travel in the United Kinudom. I am therefore grarefu] for the strong support th~t has been displayed across the parties in the debate, and particularly by the new shadow Minister. the han. Member Cor Glasgow North East (Mr Rain). That support has been rene~ted 111 many speeches this morning, and I welcome the contributions from not only the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith. but from the hon. Member Cor Leicester South (Sir Peter Soulsby), my han" Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) and the hall. Members for Solihull (Lorely Burt) and for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (Jonathan Edwards). I shall address a number of the issues that they raised. As well as supporting high-speed rail. my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury reflected 011 some of the issues for local communities that might be affected once a route is chosen. I will come to that later.

The Conservatives championed high-speed rail in opposition. \Ve transformed debate 011 the issue in October 2008. when we pledged to start the long process of building a national network. At the time, the Labour Government had dismissed high-speed rail as an option, and their 30~year strategy for the railways contained no place for It. Nevertheless. I very much welcome the change of heart that occurred after our announcement and with the appointment of Lord Adonis. I echo the comments 01' the hon. Member for Glasgow North East in welcoming and paying tribute to the work that Lord Adonis did on the issue,

The change of heart from the previous Government signalled the emergence of' a broader cross-party consensus on the principle that high-speed rail is essential for Britain's transport system" The new Government's support for high-speed rail was clearly and explicitly included in the coalition agreement. Our programme for government includes the creation or a high-speed rail network. Our ambition is the creation of a genuinely national high-speed network, although we recognise that that will have to be achieved in phases over a number of years. However, in answer to the questions about that national network, let me say that a genuinely national network of course embraces destinations in the east midlands. Scotland and Waies the areas that have been specifically highlighted this morning.

Let me take this opportunity to emphasise that the Government's ambitions for high-speed rail do not stop at Birmingham. Although the previous Administration had a change of heart Oil high-speed rail. their focus was still just on detailed plans for a route to Birmingham. It is manifestly clear that we will not reap the full benefits of high-speed rail unless we go much Iurr her than the west midlands, important though a link to the west midlands obviously is. \Ve want to make progress

9 JUNE 2010

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as rapidly as possible towards the creation o1;argiatioomLaw LLP net work that connects to the rest or Europe via th;:!)olicjlors channel tunnel. 10 The Quadrant

In opposition, both coalition partners empl~fHI!>ru{jl (VI 2EL the importance of taking high-speed raill®~bo:t;h\llila~ 1;t655 3l8I is clear in the devolution settlement that theF&:c9il4sYp25 8573 Government are responsible for rail infrastructure nOlwlIDx· 11200 of the border. Delivering cross-border high-speed raiWVENTRY services and a cross-border high-speed rail::fli~w j}H~H}Wlawcouk therefore obviously require close co-operat~fulf,!.itl!:ofi\Slavv.co uk joint working between Holyrood and Westminster on a

range of issues, including, of course, funding, That is

why, in my role in opposition, r visited Scotland for constructive talks with John Swinney on how that co-operation might go forward, There are extensive and

close contacts between the Department for Transport

and its counterparts in Scotland, The Secretary of State

also looks forward to working with his Scottish counterpart

in developing a high-speed rail strategy that incorporates Scotland.

Issues relating to the timetable were at the heart of the questions from the hon. Member (or Edinburgh North and Leith. The Secretary of State is considering the timetable set out by HS2 Ltd. He is also considering questions relating to the integration or Heathrow into the high-speed rail network, which I will come to in due course. He will report to Parliament in due course on the timetable and on how things will be taken forward. However, the intention is to go forward with the consultation as promptly as possible, after that statement to Parliament.

The Government intend to present a hybrid Bill during this Parliament. We also intend to stan enabling work by 20 IS. That is a somewhat more aggressive timetable than that set by the previous Government. but we are determined- .. the hon. Member for Edinburch North and Leith questioned me all this to take t11e process forward promptly, Further work is already under way on lines beyond Birmingham. We will also continue to assess the appropriate delivery vehicles.

Mark Lazarowicz: I thank the Minister for her answers so far, but may r be clear about one point? She said thai she envisaged work starting in 2015, but what kind of work does she mean? Such work would be welcome, but 20IS is quite soon, so perhaps she will elucidate.

Mrs Villiers: As I said, the intention is for enabling work to stan in 201 S. Given that there wi II be a detailed and expansive consultation process before decisions are made on a route, it would not be appropriate or realistic tor me to say exactly what type of work we would intend to start by 2015 and in what locations.

Sir Peter Souls by: The Minister has talked about a route going beyond Birmingham, and about Scotland. Do the Government remain committed to the Yshaped link that was part of the previous Government's proposals')

Mrs Villiers: The previous Government talked about a line north of Birmingham, but had no clear commitment. It was the Conservatives who championed a national network that would bring the benefits of high-speed rail to a wider range of areas than was envisaged in the core part of the previous Government's proposals.

The hon. Gentleman also mentioned fares, and it is important that the high-speed rail line should be affordable for ordinary families. The analysis done by the Conservative party in opposition and by HS2 Ltd under the previous

Sarginsons law lLP is a Legal Disciplinary Practice Rcg;srcred address 10 The QUilGlallL CovenlcJ (VI 2EL. Registered In England and Willes number 0[342188 Soliotm tv1embus~ 13n COt:, Sirnon 130011'1, Oms Galley. Nor1-S0rIGWI bAernbEI': Lynne Robson (Partners.hip Managed Consultanr Solicitor David Sarginson Regu;ared by the So'i[ltor, Reguiallw Authority. registered number 499737 Serving the local community since 1876

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Government makes it clear thai the line will be affordable and deliverable with a contribution from future fares revenue. even with fares that are reasonable and broadly in line with existing levels on existing services. We can deliver the line without necessarily assuming that the fares will be unreasonable and out of the reach of ordinary families.

Sir Peter Soulsby; I I hank the Minister for her response on fares. but she did not respond to my question about the Y~shaped 11l1k. I am interested in the link not north but east ()f Birmingham. serving the east midlands, south Yorkshire and. of course, the north-east.

Mrs Villiers: As I have made clear. our ambition is a national network. and we believe that it is vital to make progress promptly and to ensure that we achieve the benefits of high-speed rail as widely as possible. We have also made it clear that merely going to Birmingham :, not enough. We need to ensure that other parts of the connrr, share in the benefits of high-speed rail. We shall publish details or the timetable in due course.

Greg Mulholland: I welcome the Minister to her new job. She is aware that [ have been heavily involved in the lobbying campaign for a direct high-speed link to Yorkshire. working with you, M1' Betts, and with the hou. Member 1"01' Shipley (Philip Davies). ill a cross-party campaign with the Yorkshire POST its "Fast Track to Yorkshire" campaign. The Y shape is not the only way to create a direct link j 0 Yorkshire and the important cities of Sheffield and Leeds. which are the economic hubs of their areas The High Speed North proposal merits further consideration. May we be clear. and have a commitment that the Government will, when the relevant phase happens, create a direct link to Yorkshire- -not a link via Manchester, which does not make sense?

Mrs Villiers: I have made it clear that the ambition is 10 create a national network, and it is 01' course vital that the north of England. Manchester and Yorkshire should be included in that network. In due course. decisions will be taken about the exact route to be selecteriH owever, as I have emphasised, there is a long process to be undertaken before final decisions are made on the route for new high-speed rail lines.

The case for high-speed rail is undeniable. It has the potential to make a huge contribution to the long-term prosperity of the country and the efficiency of its transport system. and it can play a crucial role in achieving the goal of a lower-carbon economy. 111 the next 20 to 3() years. key inter-urban mutes are likely to become increasingly congested. with negative consequences for our economy and quality of life, High-speed rail could provide a massive uplift in capacity. as well as dramatically reduced journey nrnes.

We have been discussing the areas to be served directlv by high-speed rail, but wemust not lose sight of the fa~t that a high-speed network also relieves pressure and overcrowding on existing railways. It allows more space for commuting and freight services, so it produces significant benefit s for passengers and the economy even in areas that are not directly served by a line or station. It will create huge benefits in growth. regeneration and jobs,

Sarginsons

High Speed RaiLaw

which will be felt far more widely than in the 8elgiiolltio$liaw LLP directlv served bv new lines and services. I believe that i()oliCitors will provide val {table help in addressing long-sl<\lJl(~~ngQuadiant prosperity differences between the south-east a(u:verlt~ CVI 2EL rest of the country, and thus create a m~ltepfib1f;telE()~1%5S 3lS1 balanced economy. Fax: 024 7625 8573

To return to some of [he issues raised by the hd'I'IDX: 11200 Member for Leicester South, of course it is vital. il~OVENTRY parallel with taking high-speed raillorwardEt1lBtloinf.iJ(i1J:€law.CDuk a programme of work on upgrading andvi'tM'fl.1'i:91fgi~ctJhiiaw co.uk existing rail network.

Sir Peter Soulsby: On that point, r would be very grateful if the Minister gave way again.

Mrs Villiers: I would rather make a little progress. have been very generous in giving way, so I will proceed with my remarks for a moment.

We all acknowledge that there is a downside to the proposals the impact on the environment of the localities through which new lines could go. As my hon, Friend the Member for Banbury explained, hon. Members have understandable concerns about the potential impact of high-speed rail on their constituents. The Government of course recognise [he gravity of those concerns. There will be a detailed and inclusive process before final decisions are made about our approach 10 high-speed rail overall, and the route it should follow. I am happy to engage with colleagues and hon. Members during: the process. It goes without saying that reducing and mitigating the local environmental impact of high-speed rail will always be a high priority for the Government in advancing the project. It will inform our decisions on the selection of the route.

I am happy to take on board my hon. Friend's ideas on benefiting the communities that may be subject to the environmental impact of high-speed rail lines. Ideas are already under discussion about the possibility of burying power lines, and the new Government's commitment to high-speed rail has already brought about a benefit, because it has enabled us to say with confidence that we strongly oppose a third runway at Heathrow. The fact that it will not go ahead provides Significant benefits for some communities that may be affected by high-speed rail. because there will not be the massive uplift in aircraft noise to which many or them might have been subjected had the election gone a different way and if a Labour Government had been elected and proceeded with their plans. As to existing transport corridors, in assessing the route, the potential benefits of their lise will be fully considered. However. that approach is not a panacea. It cannot provide the answer in all cases, but it is worth considering.

We made it plain before the election that we reserved our position on the rome that HS2 has recommended. The process of formal consultation on the hybrid Bill will provide extensive opportunities for people to make their voice heard and have their point of view properly and fairlv considered before a route is finalised. We also recognise that concerns in that respect arc not confined to fears about the future. In some places, the impact is being felt today in the instability of local property markets.

A key goal for the new Government is to press ahead expeditiously, taking on board the continuing consultation, with the finalising of arrangements [or an exceptional

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hardship scheme, so that we can swiftly and equitably give assistance to those who most need it. The consultation is due to end in a week, and we shall look with great care at the respondents' suggestions in deciding how to proceed.

As pan of" the work thai we are doing to reconsider and review the lIS? proposals on the route, we need to rind the right option for connecting Heathrow to the new network. As we made clear in opposition, we believe [hat it IS vital 10 integrate the country's only major long-haul hub airport to the high-speed rail network that we propose to build. Lord Mawhinney was asked by the previous Government to assess the alternatives, His review was established against the background of Labour's policy of supporting a third runway at Heathrow.

In answer to the question asked by the hOD. Member for Glasgow North East. one of the first acts of the new Secretary of Slate was to agree with Lord Mawhinney an amendment to his remit, to reflect the approach of the coalition. The new Government strongly oppose a new runwav at Heathrow, as the Prime Minister confirmed and reiten{ied in one of his first actions on taking office. Heathrow needs to be better, not bigger. A key part of our programme for improving it is to integrate the airpun into the proposed new high-speed rail network. Thai would improve public transport links to the airport, and help to relieve the problems with air quality and congestion in the area by encouraging people to switch from road to rail when travelling to Heathrow.

In response to questions on the subject, we are obviously carefully considering whether high-speed rail could be iu.ecrared With Crossrail. As a number of colleagues said: il1iegralingHeathrow should also facilitate a major shin from air (0 rail. Experience in Europe shows that high-speed rail provides all attractive alternative to short-haul flights, For example, Air France has completely Slopped nigh ts bet ween Paris and Brussels, choosing instead to charter carriages on the TGV rail lin L

Maximising the scope for switching from air to rail is an important goal in environmental terms, as high-speed trains emit siznificantlv less carbon than aviation. Indeed, the gap between the" train and the plane is likely to widen as we proceed with the vital task of cleaning up our electricity generation sources. A further benefit of the air-to-rail switch would be to free Lip space at Heathrow by providing an alternative to the thousands or short-haul flights going in and out of the airport, Thut is how we plan to relieve capacity pressure.

Higl: Speed Rail

We believe also that it is essential to have a di reel link bet ween the new domestic line and existing international services on HS I. and we have asked HS2 Ltd uruentlv to assess the best way to deliver that. It would- be :\ mistake to consider j:ail only in relation to domestic aviation when it is clearly a viable alternative Cor travelling to a number of important near-European destinations such as Brussels, Paris. Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

in conclusion

Sir Peter Soulsby: Will the Minister give way?

Mrs Villiers: I am sorry, but I am going to conclude.

There is a huge task ahead of us as we contemplate delivering an infrastructure project as big as any since the 19th century, when the Victorians revolutionised our econornv and our society with the nation's first railway network. It is worth remcmberinu that Britain's first, and so far only, 68 miles of high-speed track owed much to the unlikelv combination of John Prescott and Michael Heselriue. "As we press forward with realising this great ambition, I hope that we can continue to count on cross-party support.

Sir Peter Soulsby: Will the Minister give way')

Mrs Villiers: I have given wav on a number of occasions.

I am now going to c~nclude .•

Sir Peter Soulsby rose-

Mr Clive Betts (in the Chair): Order. The Minister is indicating that she will not give way.

Mrs Villiers: I have no doubt that there will be difficult times ahead, not least in relation to decisions about the route and how we mitigate and reduce as impact on surrounding communities and the landscape, However. I firmly believe that future generations will thank us for displaying determination and persistence in delivering this crucial upgrade to our transport system, We need to inject some of the long-term thinking that transport policy has so often lacked in the past. The new Government are determined to rise to that challenge and deliver the high-speed vision lor Britain's rail network-one that could have a trans formative impact on our transport system, our economy and our quality of life.

10.53 am

Sitting suspended.