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MS5: High Speed 2

Amanda Stockley

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With permission, Mr. Speaker, I’d like to make a statement about the proceedings of High Speed Two. Following the passage of the High Speed Rail (London to West Midlands) Act 2017 earlier this year, the government has begun implementing the basis of the new HS2 line. When Labour first envisioned HS2 through the High Speed Rail white paper in 2010, it did so in the understanding that there was great need for the people in the Midlands and the North. This new project, the largest in rail for a generation, rivals the ambition of the HS1, that connected London with the rest of Europe. Now, HS2 is planning to do the same for central England. 


But, Mr. Speaker, as we all know the timeline has shifted. After delaying the HS2 bill from 2013 to after the 2015 election, the last administration passed at last the legislation that would allow us to start Phase A of HS 2. Connecting London to Birmingham is crucial to relieving the West Coast Main Line, which is under increasing stress from overloading and low speeds, but also to make travel by train more attractive than by car, lowering congestion on the important M1, M6, and M46 roads at the same time.


Mr. Speaker, let me be clear: Labour fully supports the continued development of HS2. There is a strong strategic case for it, that has been undertaken with the advise of experts in the field, stakeholders, and partners, of which I shall highlight a few, as not to take up all of the House’s time: first of, it reduces journey times between London and many major cities, and even between those cities themselves. Through phase 1, it can reduce travel time between London and Birmingham by almost 40 minutes. Between London and Manchester: 26 minutes. London and Liverpool: 28 minutes. And London and Crewe: 22 minutes. In due time, the shorter journey time for phase 2a and 2b will be laid before you as well.


Secondly, it will improve connectivity: through our latest estimates, it can support 300 thousand journeys each day. Connecting HS2 to stations such as Euston, the new Birmingham Interchange, and Curzon Street, will also create opportunities for investment in station areas, with an emphasis on leisure, tourism, and retail. Birmingham Interchange, in particular, creates a direct link to Birmingham International Airport. With this comes inevitable economic growth as we provide economic power to the Midlands and the North. 


Lastly, and perhaps something that the party opposite will support: the mere project of HS2 will create new jobs, in constructing it, in operating it, and in maintaining it. We are hiring no less than 25,000 employees for constructing HS2, and more than 3,000 operators for when it is complete. The direct job creation is not the only one: the reduction in journey time and increase in connection will create at least 100,000 new jobs through the growth of the stations areas. Again, Birmingham Interchange has the potential of becoming a leisure and tourism destination, through its connection to both the airport and the NEC. 


If the consideration is taken for costs of the project, then it is true that there has been an increase of spending over the past few years. But I can assure the House that for every pound spent, we receive 2 pounds back. The current spending for HS2 will stand at 55 billion pounds. If we take the purely benefits of fares, the initial opposition is tangible and perhaps warranted. But we must look beyond the costs and income from fares: there will be much more benefits coming in than we will spend on HS2. The new connectivity will create jobs, which will increase GDP and lead to further economic growth. The bulk of expenses of HS2 is in the stations, as is predictable. But what opponents must understand is that these stations are surrounded by areas of huge potential: regeneration of areas by creating new leisure and tourism jobs for thousands of people. Curzon Street, for example, has been coupled with an investment fund of 724 million to create an area of 150 hectares for the building of 4,000 homes and more than 36,000 jobs. And similar development will take place around London Euston, the new Old Oak Common Station linking HS2 to CrossRail, and Birmingham Exchange. In phase 2a, this will also extend to Crewe Station. HS2 also relieves the West Coast Main Line: this opens it to using released capacity for freight transport, lowering lorries on M1, as well as increasing local services by expanding train fleets there. In the end, our 55 billion investment will be returned over time by 92 billion pounds in benefits. And almost 74 billion of that comes directly from our increase in GDP. And as an added benefit, this benefit will come from economic growth in the West Midlands and Greater Manchester: moving away from South East England where the bulk of economic power resides and unleashing the potential of the north.


Labour remains committed to completing HS2 on time, with Phase 1 being completed in 2027, and starting phase 2a with our High Speed Rail (West Midlands to Crewe) Bill in this session, completing that in 2028. We also remain in touch with stakeholders and partners about Northern Powerhouse Rail. Another statement will be forthcoming regarding this project. I have heard from the people opposing HS2 completely: The honourable member from Stone, the honourable member for Lichfield, the right honourable member for Wycombe, even the right honourable member for Chesham and Amersham - despite the rail moving directly through or past  their constituencies - have made arguments against them. I hope to say that their concerns will in time have been duly resolved, for they will see that HS2 will have revitalised their constituencies in particular by the increase in freight customers, jobs, and tourism. 


Mr. Speaker, the government’s commitment is clear. After dithering and delay by the party opposite to deliver the high speed network which Britain needs, Labour will deliver on this historical project that will create huge potential in our economy, our net-zero strategy, and our communities. Connecting London, the West Midlands, and Greater Manchester, is not only good for our future generations, it is also good for our jobs and our environment. And for that, I commend this statement to the House.

Labour MP for Manchester Blackley (1970-present)

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Shadow Secretary of State for Energy, Infrastructure, and the Environment, Rishi Sunak

Mr Speaker,

I rise to thank the Right Honourable Member for Birmingham Perry Barr for her statement. I know from my discussions with the Conservative Mayor of Birmingham, Andy Street, just how essential this scheme is to the economy of the West Midlands and in connectivity for the British people up and down the United Kingdom. I would like to offer my full and unequivocal support and that same support from my party.

Mr Speaker, many of the concerns of my learned colleagues on these benches spring from the environmental damage caused by HS2, the destruction to wildlife and habitats. Given the Secretary of State's recent statement on biodiversity I would be grateful if she could outline how her department will address the issues of the construction, noise pollution, and other concerns which have led green lobbyists to condemn this project in its entirety?

Furthermore Mr Speaker, one of the great advantages of HS2 is the connectivity it provides to the North of England and to the South of Scotland. Can the Right Honourable Lady outline for the House what steps she is taking to ensure that Northern Powerhouse Rail is greenlit as soon as possible and what steps will be taken to ensure that the construction of HS2 does not harm the construction of NPR and vice versa? Equally what support can she offer to the good people of Wales who will not be part of the UK's new 3-part High Speed Rail Network?

Mr Speaker, in summary I thank the Right Honourable Lady for her statement and pending her response to the questions raised would like to offer her my full, if cautious, support as the Government enact the long-standing Conservative Party plan for High-Speed Rail in the United Kingdom.

Arnold J. Appleby

MP for North Bedfordshire (1979-Present)
Shadow Foreign Secretary

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Mr Speaker,


I thank the shadow secretary for his support of this historic project. Altough I would like to disperse his idea that it was a Conservative Party plan: Labour first devised it in 2010 in the High Speed White Paper, and the previous government actually put the whole plan on the shelf in 2013, to be done only after the coalition government broke apart. And let us remind ourselves that the party opposite also delayed with HS1: their first act in 1987 was unfunded, their 1996 act was failing until a Labour government brought in a government rescue plan. Even when Railtrack was threatening to go under in 2001, Labour stepped in to reorganise and keep the project going. It was this party who delivered HS1 after so long delay from the party opposite. And we will do so again.

But I digress, mr Speaker. There have been asked some questions by the party opposite. I know that the concerns voiced by his colleagues on the opposite benches stem from their concern of environmental protection. It is true that this project has huge implications for the state of our environment. As of current, there will be need for a total of two tunnels of a total of 18.4 miles in length: the Chiltern and Northolt Tunnels. Beside that, the Colne Valley Viaduct is another big infrastructure part. These projects as part of the HS2 overall track will, as the member opposite rightly said, give noise pollution and emissions, that is inevitable. Our department takes constant and vigilant review in all those aspects. I can assure the benches opposite that we will continue to do so.

In particular in the case of Colne Valley, we are taking steps to reassure activists that we will lower our emissions as much as possible by utilizing low-carbon alternatives such as electric TBMs, in-situ solar generation, and recycling materials. In regards to noise pollution: we are ensuring that actions such as evictions and compulsory purchase remain the final approach. Colne Valley is property of Hillingdon council: we remain in talks regarding the sale of that land for a sum that is amicable to both parties, and which in its agreement has certain commitments by this government regarding noise pollution and emissions.

We remain committed to our biodiversity goals, and I am glad that the benches opposites supported my Biodiversity bill in that matter. For that matter, we want to increase the use of renewables as a requirement for projects on HS2. We are supporting them with the funds from our net-zero white paper. We plan for our HS2 trains, stations, depots and rail infrastructure to use zero carbon energy: that includes during construction. This will be accomplished by the combination of in-situ solar generation and offshore wind energy connected to the project. We plan to make the first diesel-free work site available by 2020; all remaining sites will follow suit by 2025. Even our offices and our vehicles will be utilizing our net-zero goals by using renewable heating and diesel-free fuels. Using local workforces, for example at Old Oak Common, we can also ensure local consent. Also, whenever eviction and compulsory purchase becomes inevitable, we will enact our compensation claims schemes generously and provide equal or better housing in the local area of residence.

We also have numerous regeneration schemes planned for HS2: the Green Corridor, as it is called, will see the planting of more than seven million trees and shrubs on the side of the track. We are planning to invest 12 million pounds in the planting of new woodland and improving current woodlands all along the tracks as well. What is truly unique is our habitat monitoring goals we want to envision for all of HS2: together with 50 million pounds reserved for local environment projects, and 4 million especially for biodiversity. HS2 shall furthermore become a line which shall utilize route-wide partnerships with environmental organisations, using the special HS2 Biodiversity Partnership Program.

On the subject of noise pollution, we are also ensuring that workplace restrictions are strong and in compliance with local consent: working which can end by 22:00 hours in urban areas will be stopped when requested. Wherever necessary, we will inform the local population of work activities well ahead of their actual commencement. Furthermore, where possible, workplaces will be located outside of residential areas.


Mr Speaker, on the subject of NPR I will submit a separate statement, and I do not wish to pre-judge that statement. Rest assured that the House will receive it on short notice, for I concur with the honourable member opposite that this is a project that is under review of the department and has a strong business case. I also understand the concerns of the shadow secretary regarding its collaboration and perhaps hindrance by HS2. I can assure him that we will keep such concerns under review and that where possible, we would wish to prevent a duplication of services where NPR or HS2, whichever it is, would be a better alternative.


On the subject of Wales I would direct the shadow secretary to the same answer...I am aware that our high speed projects are not going directly to Wales. But HS2 will through phase 2a connect to Crewe, which is directly connected to the North Wales Coast Line as well. This will reduce, for example, the travel time between Conwy and London by 35 minutes. Furthermore, I would also remark that the department has projects under review for Welsh rail, which will see it upgraded and expanded to better reflect the growing Welsh mobility needs as well. The same can be said for Cornwall and the South West, where separate projects are under review.


Thank you Mr. Speaker.

Labour MP for Manchester Blackley (1970-present)

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