Tuesday’s HS2 additional provisions debate was about two sets of amendments: the first set relates to changes at Euston and elsewhere in the London borough of Camden, and the second set to changes along the rest of the route. From Hansard
Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill): Before I start, may I welcome the hon. Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood) to her post as the shadow Secretary of State in the new Politburo—sorry, shadow Cabinet? She is already on record as continuing to support HS2, which will be music to the ears of her Labour colleagues who run our great cities in the west midlands and the north. I look forward to working with her. Indeed, many of the momentous decisions facing us will have implications for our infrastructure for many years to come.
On the Petitioning fee:
Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn) (Lab): I agree that constituents should be allowed to petition, but there is a fee for petitioning. Will the Minister consider getting rid of that fee to allow easy access for those who might not be financially able to petition?
Mr Goodwill: The £20 fee is a matter for the House. I can reassure colleagues that anyone who has already petitioned will not be asked to pay a second fee. I do not believe that a £20 fee is prohibitive in this particular case….
Overview of the changes:
First, let me turn to the proposals in relation to Euston….However, the supplementary environmental statement that will accompany the additional provision, if this motion is passed, describes the environmental effects of the revised plans for Euston, to ensure that those affected are fully aware of the details of our proposals. In addition to the Euston station-related changes, the additional provision includes other minor changes in Camden, such as additional parking for London Zoo, the provision of space to allow lorries to turn and the inclusion of some listed buildings within the relevant schedule to the Bill.
The most notable changes are: first, in response to the Select Committee’s recommendation, an extension of the northern end of the Chilterns tunnel past South Heath…; secondly, the relocation of a recycling facility known as a “bottom ash plant”, from a site in Castle Bromwich to a site off the route in Tyseley in the west midlands, delivering on an agreement with Birmingham City Council to avoid any interruption in service; thirdly, the relocation of a school in Water Orton in Warwickshire, as agreed with North Warwickshire Borough Council; fourthly, the relocation of vent shaft works from Salusbury Road to Canterbury Works, both in the London Borough of Brent; and finally, the provision of extra track at Greenford railway station in west London to support the transportation of excavated material from the scheme by rail—something we wish to see wherever possible.
Mr Spellar: I thank the Minister for the comprehensive explanation he has given of the changes and the two tranches. Will he also tell us what the Department’s outline estimate is of the additional costs of these changes?
Mr Goodwill: Some of these will be less expensive—indeed, that is one of the purposes of some of the changes we have suggested—and other changes will be within the budget that we have outlined, so there will be no need to have an overall increase in the budget. HS2 Ltd did, however, make provision, when planning for this project, for some changes that it expected the Select Committee may propose. I might expand on that a little later in my comments…. Those include changes such as improved noise mitigation at Wendover and mitigations of the impacts on Bechstein’s bats—a species of vesper bats—in Sheephouse Wood in Buckinghamshire. The Bechstein bat is a particularly at-risk species and it is important that we protect the woodland habitat it uses.
The overall phase 1 budget is not expected to increase as a result of those changes, including the Euston proposals. Many of the changes come at no additional cost, some actually produce small savings and others are absorbed by the contingency set aside at the outset specifically for the purpose of addressing petitioner issues…
From the new Shadow Transport Secretary:
Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab): I thank the Minister for his kind words and for providing advance sight of his statement…
As a supporter of HS2, I am glad to have the opportunity to speak for the first time in my new role in this debate. I extend the gratitude of my party, and I am sure of the whole House, to my hon. Friends the Members for Bolton North East (Mr Crausby) and for Preston (Mr Hendrick) and the hon. Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) for stepping up and joining the Committee. It has now heard several hundred petitions and there is general agreement that it is making both swift and fair progress. It is performing a vital role, improving and refining the project, and its work would not be possible without the professionalism of the Clerks and the contributions of petitioners, including Members of this House. They all deserve our thanks.
Lilian Greenwood:…I want to put some questions to the Minister about the revised proposals for Euston station. They can only be described as a partial proposal for redevelopment. It is clear that the Government and Network Rail have yet to develop an integrated plan for Euston which is, as I am sure Members on both sides the debate will agree, restricted by its inadequate design and compares poorly with the neighbouring terminal stations of King’s Cross and St Pancras. Yet last year the Chancellor said:
Does the Minister believe that these proposals live up to those aspirations, or is this another case of the Chancellor’s rhetoric on rail being rather better than the reality?
The Minister said that it is for Network Rail to bring forward proposals on the development of the remaining station, yet Network Rail’s capacity to plan and deliver major upgrade projects is under exceptional scrutiny, not least in connection with the eagerly awaited Shaw, Bowe and Hendy reviews. What assurance can he offer the House that Network Rail is in a position to fulfil the function that he has set out today, and that it will not be blown off course in the coming months as a result of Government or regulatory action?
It is difficult to see how a high-speed extension to Euston can be planned in a manner that provides the maximum assurance for taxpayers’ money if there is no corresponding plan for the existing station. Surely we need an integrated solution for Euston. I would be grateful for an assurance from the Minister that the plans debated today will in no way inhibit the later replacement of the 1960s station.
On Jeremy Corbyn’s views:
Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con): The hon. Lady started by saying that she supports HS2, but can she confirm, for the House’s information, whether the new leader of her party is, because he has voted against it in the past?
Lilian Greenwood: My right hon. Friend the Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) has said that he supports investment in high-speed rail, and so do I. I am sure that Members on both sides of the debate would agree that the specific proposals can be improved further. Indeed, that is the subject of today’s debate.
…Furthermore, and incredibly, this is the fourth proposal for Unison—[Interruption.] The fourth proposals for Euston, I mean.[Interruption.] It was a Freudian slip. That is along with all the uncertainty that this situation has caused for local residents. The situation is clearly inadequate. It is vital that the Department, Network Rail and HS2 Ltd work as closely as possible with Camden Borough Council and campaigners to find a solution that works both for the railway and for local residents. Speaking as an observer of previous discussions over the past three years, I am not convinced that every effort has been made to date.
On Phase 2:
Lilian Greenwood:…When the House debated the second set of additional provisions in June, I cited the Committee’s pre-election report, which stated: “The incoming Administration should make an early decision on whether to proceed with Phase Two and, if it decides to proceed, quickly finalise the Phase Two route.”
Some three months on, the Government’s position is no clearer. We have been told that they will set out the way forward on phase 2 later this year, but of course that is not the same thing as confirmation of the route. I urge the Minister in the strongest possible terms to return to this House, I hope before the end of the year, to provide some clarity on phase 2 and the introduction of the relevant legislation…
Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con):…The parliamentary process for High Speed 2 is both lengthy and confusing. The petitioning and consultation processes are time-consuming and very arduous for my constituents and others who give evidence to the Committee, who have busy and demanding lives, and have not chosen to be affected by this project.
The additional provision process is another example of how opaque our procedures are here. There is a lack of information on additional provisions 3 and 4. While that is not entirely helpful to colleagues, it is certainly confusing to constituents, who want it explained to them why a motion like this can come before the House and be voteable on, yet the inherent details that will come with the major announcements from the Department are not available. I understand the intricacies of the House, but it is hard to explain them to constituents.
….Many of my constituents will be affected by the proposals in AP4, particularly the changes that will provide for extra tunnelling. I encourage the Government to make sure that the dates for the release of the supplementary environmental statement, as well as those for petitioning and the deadlines for consultation responses, are published as widely as possible. As the Select Committee is hearing from petitioners in the Chilterns, it is crucial for my constituents to be able to plan their evidence accordingly and be as fully prepared as possible. In particular, the prompt release by HS2 Ltd of all the relevant noise data for the South Heath area would be appreciated, as people will be “directly and specially affected”—to use the legal terms—by the extra tunnelling. They may also, as I know the Minister acknowledges, wish to return and petition on the additional changes.
The constituency of the right hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) is also affected by the provisions. Some landowners in the constituency have been affected by multiple additional provisions in the past. With each AP in which more land is taken, the impact on the landowner’s business increases. As such, would not it be right and proper, once all the additional provisions have been published and the true aggregate impact is known, for those affected landowners to be afforded an opportunity to present to the Select Committee again, in order to summarise the overall impact? The right hon. Gentleman also feels that there is a limited explanation as to why additional land is required. One affected landowner who has seen the additional provision knows he is going to lose more land, but claims he has had no explanation as to why. I hope my hon. Friend the Minister will take that into consideration….
From the new MP for Holburn and St Pancras – his entire speech is worth a read:
Keir Starmer (Holborn and St Pancras) (Lab): I obviously support the motion because it is important for my constituents to have the chance to petition the Select Committee. That does not, however, mean that I support the proposals or HS2. I oppose HS2 on cost and on merit: it will not achieve its stated objectives….
We have had plans, amended plans and further amended plans for Euston, but the only sensible plan is to abandon the project altogether. Far from being an improvement on the other plans, this plan is the worst of the lot. It leaves my constituents with all the pain and none of the gain. I want to focus particularly on the phased approach.
The plan offers and sets up decades of blight with no assurance about when the project as a whole will be finished. I will spell that out, because this is what it means for my constituents. Phase 1 will take up to 2026 and phase 2 will then go up to 2033, while the development of the eastern side of the station has no start or finish date. That amounts to 16 to 20-plus years of works and blight, so we can see why my constituents are coming to me daily and why they are so concerned.
Under the proposal, we will have half a station, but it will take twice the time. I will have children born in my constituency who will grow up and probably leave school knowing nothing other than construction works at what is likely to be the biggest construction in Europe. I have people at the other end of the scale who will retire in the next few years and probably spend their entire retirement with the construction works going on.
…I pose the following questions for the Minister. First, the hybrid Bill was premised on a new station being delivered at Euston by 2026. What is now proposed is half a station by 2033. How did HS2 Ltd get its planning so hopelessly wrong that we are in that situation? Secondly, why is HS2 Ltd no longer able to build a new station at Euston by 2026? Is it the cost, the impact on existing users or some other reason?
Thirdly, and I would like some detail on this, what is the current budget for the new station at Euston? How do the current costs compare with the estimated costs in March 2010, when the route for phase 1 was announced, and November 2013, when the hybrid Bill was deposited in Parliament?…
Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): I am glad that we have clarified the purpose of this debate. When we debated AP2, some of us believed that we were to consider the detail of the proposals, but no detail was available. I understand from the Minister’s letter of 8 September that this is simply a permissive motion to allow debate in the Bill Committee, and that there will be an opportunity to challenge matters there.
We were promised an environmental statement to deal with matters of detail, but I am afraid that the statement on AP2 did not exactly do that. It was written in a peculiarly liturgical style that was highly repetitious and confusing, and did not clarify matters. It took several meetings and correspondence with HS2—HS2 now responds promptly and with courtesy, although it did not used to—before such clarification was possible. Where significant proposals affect the route, I ask that the technical details be expressed as clearly as possible so that we and our constituents can understand them.
I will not pass judgment on the Euston scheme or vote against the motion, but I will raise some notes of caution. This is not the first significant change to the proposals for Euston, but it is a significant change. When I put it to HS2 that seven extra years will be required to complete the scheme, it said that a long time had been allowed for the rebuilding of Reading station, but that was completed 18 months early. All that says to me is that these time frames are notional, and for the building and rebuilding of the station we are looking to 2033—a very long time….
On oversight of the project
Who is in charge of these projects and who will ensure that they function properly? Euston and Old Oak, which is in my constituency, are by far the two biggest projects within this huge project. Euston will have 22 platforms, 11 of them new, and Old Oak will have at least 14 new platforms, including Crossrail and the Great Western main line, not to mention overground and underground services. These are massive and complex schemes that will take place in very built-up areas… Fewer residents will be affected, I am pleased to say, around Old Oak than around Euston, but—as my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Dr Huq) has said—if they will be affected, they will be mightily affected and for many years.
I suspect, however, that the Euston scheme will receive more scrutiny because it is a landmark site in the centre of London. In Old Oak, we are in danger of getting second best, such as a sort of industrial warehouse environment rather than something more prestigious—although having seen the design for the entrance to Euston, I have to say that it looks like the entrance to Le Grand Macabre: I am not sure that the designers have got it quite right yet.
I urge the Government to turn their mind to the operational and logistical configuration at Euston and Old Oak. The rumour is that the two will be joined together and the mayoral development corporation will be extended to include Euston. That is not a sensible idea….
I agree with what the leader of Camden Council said about insufficient integration between what Network Rail is doing with the existing station and what HS2 intends to do. Exactly the same could be said about the integration of Crossrail and HS2 at Old Oak. …Who is taking these decisions? Who, in smoke-filled rooms—probably not smoke-filled rooms in the health service these days—is making decisions about major infrastructure projects, looking decades or more ahead, without democratic input, without the input of local residents and businesses, and without the proper scrutiny of us in this House and of local authorities?…
Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn) (Lab): … I should make it clear that my overall stance is to oppose HS2. I have been campaigning against it for six years. I was a councillor for the Regent’s Park ward, where more than 300 council homes will be devastated and demolished. I sat through many a HS2 meeting in which HS2 Ltd was severely incompetent as regards taking forward the wishes of the community and listening properly to the grievances outlined….
On changes in Hampstead and Kilburn, including laundry facilities:
The second item I am worried about is the disruption of a grade II listed building on the Alexandra Road Estate. The situation changes with the amendment at hand today. It does not alter the builders’ plans and no new people will be affected—just to be clear—but it constitutes an admission that the listed buildings legislation can be contravened and that they will now have the right to exercise their powers to override it, as enshrined in the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill. That is potentially an important admission and opens the way for questions about how the listed building will be protected while building works are taking place. I would be grateful for any reassurance the Minister can give me about the listed building.
The Minister is well aware of the loss of the launderette. Indeed, he mentioned it earlier. The residents live in apartments that do not have washing machines. This issue has been raised in my surgeries and in the public meetings I have attended. I would be grateful for any reassurance I could pass on to residents that the launderette will exist, along with the shops on that road. They are a lifeline for a lot of people who live in the area, many of whom are disabled and cannot venture any further on to Finchley Road.
Finally, this is the part I am most concerned about: the proposed moving of a vent shaft to Canterbury Road. This is in one of the most deprived areas in my constituency. It is being regenerated and the residents have been living in the middle of a building site for nearly 10 years, and now a vent shaft is being proposed right in front of the school. My worry is that a proper feasibility study has not been done to assess the impact on the students travelling in and out of the school, and on students inside the school.
I reiterate that south Kilburn is the most deprived area of Hampstead and Kilburn. People in the area, such as Pete Firmin, Liz, Ladi and Councillor Rita Connelly, are campaigning to ensure the removal of the vent shaft.
The Secretary of State’s summing up:
Mr Goodwill: On phase 1, the line of route is certainly becoming much closer to being confirmed, but on phase 2 there is obviously a lot more work to be done with local authorities and leaders of the great cities of the north, as we call them, to ensure that we get that right. Some criticism has been voiced today that we keep coming back with new change proposals, but it is important that we react to the points that people make, as the Committee reacts to petitions, for example….
My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) mentioned the supplementary environmental statement. Let me repeat that for Camden it will be available from tomorrow for consultation until 6 November, while the consultation period on the AP4 area will commence in mid-October—I cannot give an exact date—and will run for six weeks….
As I mentioned in an intervention, Old Oak Common will become one of this country’s most important stations—it will be as well known as King’s Cross, Victoria and Waterloo. Indeed, at least 30% of the passengers will alight there to get on to Crossrail and then to a number of locations around London. As for other areas where it might be quicker to go through Euston when the line is complete, passengers will be able to use Old Oak Common as a connection. To come to Westminster, for example, it will take only three minutes longer via Old Oak Common than it would be via Euston. Many people may get used to Crossrail and like to use the new facilities….
The hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras also asked why the whole station would not be ready by 2026. If we look at the project—phase 1 to Birmingham and phase 2, the Y section—we find that capacity will not be needed until later for additional trains coming from Leeds and Manchester, and many other trains will start their journey further north in Scotland….
On over site development and the Euston Arch:
The hybrid Bill does not take powers for over-site development, which will all be subject to the normal local planning process, so it will need to conform to the local planning strategy. I am sure that there will be tremendous opportunities at Euston for other development in the area, which will capitalise on the new station.
Finally, I come to the Euston arch. I can tell Members that the Secretary of State is very keen to see the resurrection of the Euston arch. We think we know where the bits are. The Euston Arch Trust aims to re-form the arch, and it is for that trust to bring it forward through a local planning application. We have a location for the new Euston Square gardens for the arch to come forward. Personally, I wonder whether a holograph might be even better, but I can certainly confirm that the Secretary of State is very keen to see the arch resurrected.