The following is a cross between a summary and a transcript of the Westminster Hall debate. There were lots of other things said as well, but for a proper record, you will need to check out Hansard later.
9.30 Steve Baker opened the debate, saying that UK’s railway system is the oldest in the world and developed from a “patchwork” of systems.
9.41 Steve Baker talked about the suggested benefits to the nation.
If the benefits are only marginal, then it is in no one’s interests. It has not been demonstrated that HS2 have these benefits.
He ran through some of the arguments about HS2
- benefits overstated
- people work on train
- alternatives eg rail package 2
- do have fast national railway network
Another speaker compared typical train journey times in the UK v other countries
145 minutes in the UK
155 minutes in France
244 minutes in Germany
Manifesto point – in Bucks, Tory candidates said they would oppose HS2 during election
Demand on foreign HS lines is not saturated: China’s latest line less then half capacity – eonomically irrational but based on prevailing orthodoxy in rail industry
Better results from selling off the assets of the railways
Frank Dobson didn’t like damage to his consittuency, but also said other aspects “daft” eg goes to Euston and has no connections to Heathrow. Why not go to Paddington? Is it because Birmingham trains have always terminated in Euston?
HS1 was a success. HS2 needs to be connected to HS1
Whole system vulnerable if whole system goes through one leg into London perhaps could have an H shaped arrangement, connected to HS1.
Major railway schemes went bust/fraud etc in nineteen century
Rugby services have been reduced: Rugby rail users see that HS2 will help restore these stores.
But in France, services from some stations cut completely during the day because of the TGV
Effects on existing railway must be assessed.
Regional GVA per head diff across the UK – unlike in other countries
Infrastructure spending important
Optimistic passenger forecasts.
Business case does not include economics of modal shift/carbon.
A Yorkshire MP agrees with last speaker but will both legs be built at the same time?
Case for new rail route, but “far from convinced” that the current route is right with details.
“We have one shot at making this succeed.”
Strategic argument – would be better to use some of the money for WCML upgrades? Probably not, said the MP speaking.
There are pinch points in network at the moment.
Could use Crossrail to link HS1 and HS2.
Has it been considered as part of an airport strategy, linking different airports together?
Why not more intermediate stops? Bucks has all pain, but none of the gain.
France TGV have intermediate stops – some trains are stopping – not all.
Doesn’t need to be ugly and unslightly eg Forth Bridge, “if done properly” could enhance the countryside. Use it to showcase what Britain can do
One shot at it, so lets be positive at the Inquiry
Not an either/or equation
50% of passengers would shift from less energy intensive railways and 27% are new journeys.
Underestimates impact of long-term plan and connections with Scotland (and Wales/SW)
For long distane routes, air travel drops rapidly after introduction of a HS network.
Q Isn’t air travel already in decline?
A I often took the team on flights to Edinburgh
Heathrow interchange – not important
EHS scheme doesn’t cover Londoners who are over tunnels
Need a democratic planning process, but difficult with a long railway route.
CPRE point out that HS1 runs through Kent, because earthmounds
– and no local benefits
– trundling of freight trucks v whoosh of fast trains
10.30 Daniel Byles
Need to make sure it is an issue elsewhere.
Devesting in N Warks, with one junction in his constituency.
There is much blight and devastation – will his constituency have the Y shaped junction?
Need to know where Y-shaped junction will be as soon as possible.
Uncertainty blight worse then actual blight, because not covered by EHS scheme.
Can minister look in detail at acceptances – some refusals because of previously unknown conditions of the scheme. It’s not working.
Compensation sums are dwarved by the cost of the railway: don’t be cheap
Local councils need to be briefed by HS2 Ltd, who are refusing to come.
HS2 overdominated by engineers
10.38 Calder Valley MP – Yorkshire
Imagine the economic benefits to the area of HS2!
HS1 is useful to economics of SE – can get from Kent to foreign capitals faster then Yorshire to London.
HS1 has pushed North/South divide further south
Yorkshire needs the same access to London as Kent has from HS1 to abroad
Nottingham needs to be on the route, both to connect to London and Yorkshire.
Need to move freight
Segragation of HS and classic lines
Journey time savings would be significant
Through services at 3.5 hours.
Andrea Leadsom – possibility of spurs to local stations?
Need to be mindful of effects on local areas.
Must have meaningful consulations with local communities
How detailed the consultations?
Q about EHs
Q about getting high speed network available to rail freight
Q about link to Scotland
Q about consultation
Q about hybrid bill
Theresa Villiers – 10.52
Grateful for cross-house/country support
Recognise need to think about the local environmental impact.
Engineering measures can really minimise enviro affects
inclusive, wide-ranging and comprehensive consultation – will be 5 months
Business case “we are confident of the very significant benefits” of the London to Birmingham strecth and think they will be replicated elsewhere.
Strong local support in much of the country
Want to look the whole country so taking to Scotland
HS rail is a lower carbon option then flying.
No ‘realistic alternative’.
Andrea Leadsom – “does she not accept there should be greater consdieration to using existing transport corridors”
Theresa Villiers: it’s not possible
Will shortly publish a package for consultation
HS rail will free up services on other lines
Improving connectivity has potential to change “economic geography” of the country.
Recognise blight to some areas.
TV prev not aware of difficulties of specific cases in EHS
Report has been published on northern sensitivities
And now time for next debate…