The transcript from Justine Greening’s meeting with MPs about HS2 is now available on the Department for Transport’s website. Download it here.
This was a session for the MPs to put their views on HS2 to the Secretary of State: she said she was unable to respond to any substantive points, because the 55,000 consultation responses were still being analysed.
A range of views was expressed by MPs from around the country, both against HS2 and in favour of high speed rail.
A number of MPs raised concerns about the economic case, including John Redwood, and Tony Lloyd from Manchester Central.
John Redwood (Wokingham) said:
“The business case set forward for HS2 does not make good reading. The rate of return is disappointing, even allowing for the very high value placed on time, which people think can be used on the train suitably by those travelling. Clearly, the railway will be heavily loss-making, which would add to the burden on railway financing, were the project to be completed, and the taxpayer would have to stand behind it.”
Chris Pincher (Tamworth) asked why the DfT were using the “Passenger Demand Forecasting Handbook 4.1, which has a rather short-term elastic model of demand that even Sir Rod Eddington says is questionable”, when the later 5.0 version is now available, with a different and “more reasonable” change in demand on the WCML.
There were concerns that money would be spent on building the London-Birmingham part of the route, but that the second phase from Birmingham to Manchester and Birmingham to Leeds would be delayed, possibly even by decades, or not get built at all.
Several MPs suggested – like the Transport Select Committee earlier – that there should be clarity on the whole Y route before the government made their decision. This included the proposed link to Heathrow.
There were also suggestions if the reason for building HS2 was to improve the economy in the north, it might be better to spend it on projects to improve connectivity between northern cities for instance between Manchester and Newcastle. The possibility of starting in Manchester or Leeds and building south was raised. There was also the issue – brought up by Brian Donohoe, (Central Ayrshire) as to how the plans related to Scotland.
Several MPs pointed out that the HS2 proposal was not the only way of designing a high speed railway.
Jeremy Wright, Kenilworth and Southam
“The first is my constituents will require clear proof that if we are proceeding with high-speed rail that we have also picked the very best way of delivering high-speed rail. There are a number of alternative ways of delivering high-speed rail, which, if the Government is going to dismiss, it needs to explain clearly why it has done so.”
These concerns about the design parameters included the choice of speed: Michael Fabricant pointed out that other countries have found that ultra high speed railways, of the type proposed by HS2, have more wear and tear, meaning more downtime for maintainance.
In addition there were specific concerns: such as the difference between the HS2 documentation which said the number of trains from Coventry would be reduced from 3 trains to London per hour to only one per hour, whereas Philip Hammond had said Coventry services would improve.
Noise mitigation was brought up by several MPs: Christopher Pincher said he and Dan Byles had gone to Kent to listen to HS1 and found it was demonstrably louder than the sound projections at the HS2 road-shows. In addition the projections at the road shows did not include examples of some of the more problematic areas for sound mitigation, such as in Dominic Grieve’s constituency, where the HS2 design included a viaduct over still water.
Property blight and compensation was brought up by several MPs, including supporters of HS2 from off the route. There were several different factors here. The existing Exceptional Hardship Scheme was described as “random” where compensation was given to some people who are unable to sell their house but not to others with homes closer to the proposed route. There was also criticism of it as unacceptable way of compensation for the longterm, as it was restricted to a limited number of reasons for moving home. In the longer term, the Land compensation Act was described as “not fit for purpose” for a scheme like HS2 which has “no benefit to people living along the route of HS2”.
There were also concerns that the property blight had not been included in the business case. For instance the business case did not include the loss of stamp duty tax revenue, which would be received the Exchequer from the sale of houses which had lost value due to HS2.
Stop HS2 will be looking in more detail about the issues raised at the meeting.