Written statement to Parliament

Higgins review

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Government response to Sir David Higgins' HS2 Plus report.

Sir David Higgins has today (17 March 2014) published proposals to build HS2 better and bring the benefits to the north sooner. The government strongly supports this ambition and welcomes his report. HS2 is vital for the economic health of this country and our international competitiveness.

It was in this context that I asked Sir David Higgins, when he became Chair of HS2 Ltd, to undertake a review on maximising the benefits of HS2 and managing costs. Given his experience on delivering the Olympics, there was no one better equipped for the role.

Sir David has carried out a robust and rigorous review of the cost estimates for constructing Phase One and confirmed they are right. He proposes to use any savings to protect the contingency at this early stage in the parliamentary process and the project as a whole. The government supports that.

Sir David’s report also proposes to deliver benefits, particularly benefits to the Midlands and the north, more quickly. The report sets out a clear proposal to accelerate construction so that the Crewe section of Phase Two would be completed by 2027, not 2033, and to build a new integrated hub station at Crewe. Therefore, I am commissioning HS2 Ltd and Network Rail to undertake work to allow both these proposals to be considered in detail as part of my consideration of the public consultation responses to Phase Two.

Sir David also makes recommendations about connectivity in the midlands and the north. He says the key to improving this is to integrate decision making on HS2 with Network Rail’s decision making for improvements to the existing network during control period 6 (2019 to 2024). I am, therefore, commissioning HS2 Ltd and Network Rail to make recommendations before our response to the Phase Two consultation.

Our priority must be to get the benefits to the midlands and the north as soon as possible. Our proposals must stand the test of time and we must put our money where it will do the most good. Sir David is clear that he does not think the existing proposals for the HS2-HS1 link meet those tests. His report concludes that the link proposed in the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill has not secured a consensus. The link requires too many compromises in terms of impacts on freight, passengers and the community in Camden. I, therefore, intend to take the necessary steps to remove the link from the Bill and withdraw the safeguarding of this section of the route as soon as possible. I will also commission a study into ways to improve connections to the continent that could be implemented once the initial stages of HS2 are complete.

I also agree with the report that more can be made of Euston station. It is a significant opportunity to maximise the economic potential of the line and regenerate a site that has been neglected. It is also a significant opportunity to generate private sector investment that can reduce the overall burden on the taxpayer. I will, therefore, ask HS2 Ltd and Network Rail to develop more comprehensive proposals for the redevelopment of Euston, working with the rail industry and the local community. This work should include proposals for the Euston arch which should never have been knocked down and which I would like to see rebuilt.

HS2 is a project that will be built over many parliaments and will serve people for many generations. We must design it carefully and build it correctly. The government is keen to rise to the challenge and we hope that hon members on all sides of the House will do the same.

Copies of Sir David’s report have been placed in the libraries of both Houses.