The transcripts from the Public Bill Committee on the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill 2013-14 are now online: and can be downloaded here.
One of the overriding impressions was that witnesses from Manchester, Birmingham and Nottingham, where stations are being planned, were determined not merely to keep that station, but also to argue against other areas getting stations.
For instance, when asked whether Heathrow should have a station, both Richard Leese, with a station at Manchester airport, and Geoff Inskip, with a station near Birmingham International, argued against it. (It’s worth noting that later on Ralph Smyth from CPRE pointed out that the cost of the Manchester station was £400 million according to the Manchester local authorities, but HS2’s figures say that that will provide 400 jobs so each job created would cost £1 million.)
On a similar vein, Jane Urquart a Nottingham City councillor, argued strongly against moving the HS2 station out of Nottingham to either Derby or the East Midlands Parkway.
On the other hand, Sarah Hayward, leader of Camden Council was very concerned about the plans for Euston. As she pointed out, rebuilding Euston was a once-in-a-generation opportunity, but the plans currently proposed by HS2 Ltd would mean that the Euston area would lose homes and jobs.
She said these revised plans
“came to us completely out of the blue, with no prior discussion… HS2 Ltd had said that it had massively underestimated both the costs and time it would take to have a comprehensive approach to Euston station. It had originally budgeted £1.2 billion for a comprehensive station, and is now budgeting £1.6 billion for the very slimmed-down scheme. The original scheme cost proposal was £1.2 billion for a comprehensive station, but High Speed 2 had massively underestimated it. It said to us that that was its reason for coming back, with the smaller scheme estimated to be £400 million more than the comprehensive scheme. It just got its numbers extraordinarily wrong.”
She also pointed out that the current plans would have a devastating impact on the Camden Town area, a major tourist destination, where bridges over 8 major roads would have to be rebuilt or strengthened, with a devastating effect on the tourist industry.
The afternoon session started with an agressive series of questions to Joe Rukin (Stop HS2), Martin Tett (51M) and Emma Crane (HS2AA). There was quite a bit of discussion about the way the 51M optimised alternative would meet capacity needs.
There was also a question about the competence of HS2 Ltd staff. Joe Rukin spoke for many when he said he wouldn’t trust them to guard a lamppost, and that it is difficult for individuals who are affected by HS2 to get answers. As Sarah Hayward had said in the morning session, Joe re-iterated that the cost control from Hs2 Ltd was exceptionally poor.
When the issue about jobs was raised, Joe Rukin pointed out that the job creation figures bandied about are from relocating jobs from other parts of the country. A study that was quoted by several West Midlands witnesses said that the West Midlands would gain 22,000 jobs, but only Joe pointed out that the same study said high speed rail would lose Wales 21,000 jobs and the West Country 47,000.