Speech

HS2 opening speech

Concerns the second reading of the HS2 Bill and outlines the powers government is seeking to proceed with plans for Phase One of the route.

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

Houses of Parliament

Mr Speaker, I beg to move that the HS2 Bill be read a second time.

It is 120 years since we last built a mainline railway north of London.

And it is even longer since - in 1833 - this House voted to start what is today known as the West Coast Mainline.

The line wasn’t meant to be a national route.

It became one almost by accident.

A railway built with twists and turns, to placate landowners.

For slow steam trains pulling open-top carriages.

It is worth recalling that in 1832 Parliament rejected the initial bill because some people objected.

They argued that canals were all you’d ever need for long-distance travel.

Today, we ask too much of this line.

If we were talking about roads, it would be as if all traffic still had to go up Watling Street.

As if the M1 and M6 had never been built.

And we tried to solve our transport needs by just patching up old roads.

A roundabout here. A bridge there.

As if incremental change could make all the difference.

Well, we tried that when we spent £9 billion upgrading the West Coast line a decade ago - and most of the work didn’t even get south of Rugby.

Cities and towns in the midlands and the north deserve better.

Scotland deserves better.

Britain deserves better.

And that is why I stand at this despatch box today (28 April 2014) to support High Speed Two.

A new north-south railway line.

I do so with much humility and not a little trepidation.

But also confidence.

Because whilst I wholly understand the concerns of those Hon members whose constituents are affected by the route.

I also know that this is a decision we cannot duck.

We have waited long enough.

The West Coast Mainline can take no more.

It is increasingly full.

But more than that: London and the south east are also increasingly full.

They are caught in a circle of rising house prices, some of the most expensive commercial rents in the world and transport congestion.

While cities in the north want to grow.

It is time to help break that cycle.

Time to connect great cities like Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool.

Time for better links north-south.

And east-west.

Time to connect to world markets to make the most of their skills and talent.

Time for HS2. Time for a new north-south line.

Today you can get a high speed train from London to Lille - but not to Leeds.

From London to Brussels - but not to Birmingham.

That has got to change.

But of course our investment plans must also run much further.

Over £38 billion is being invested in the existing rail network between 2014 and 2019.

Including around £16 billion of government support.

That is part of our plans to invest £73 billion between 2015 and 2021 in all forms of transport.

We are trebling the budget for our major road schemes to £15 billion between 2015 and 2021.

We are investing £14 billion in local transport schemes between 2015 and 2020.

And next year the Davies Commission will propose options on future airport capacity.

We need to do all this because to support our economy we need our infrastructure to work.

Two years after the Jubilee line reached Canary Wharf in 1999, 27,000 people were employed in the area.

By 2012, that was over 100,000.

We begin, it is true, with the advantage of our Victorian inheritance.

But others are catching up.

At the start of 2007, China didn’t have a single high speed rail line.

Today it has over 6,000 miles in service.

By 2015 that will be 11,000 miles.

France and Germany have been reaping the benefits of a high speed rail network for decades.

While we have just 67 miles, from London to Kent and the Channel Tunnel.

Of course, we have a good current network and we need to improve it.

Upgrading Britain’s rail infrastructure is a key part of this government’s long-term economic plan.

In the south and south west of Britain the Great Western line is receiving more investment over the next 5 years than any other route.

This will bring huge benefits to hard-working people in the region.

We will also see better east-west links - with faster electric trains between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle.

And a reopened railway between Oxford and Bedford.

And of course in London, Crossrail and the Thameslink upgrade.

Two schemes which between them cost £21 billion.

That is about the same as the first phase of High Speed Two.

A scale of spending on London which has brought about amazing transformations at places like St Pancras and Kings Cross stations.

In the 20 years that I have been using those stations they have become places you’d want to visit - destinations in their own right. Places we can be proud of.

And this necessary investment in London should not come at the expense of the rest of the country.

Because demand for travel is growing everywhere.

Twice as many people travel by train every day as they did 20 years ago.

More people drive and fly, too.

There’s a reason for that.

In a better-connected world, our horizons broaden.

Digital links don’t replace travel. They fuel it.

Smartphones and broadband aren’t an alternative to things like HS2.

They are part of the same growing links between people and businesses.

And this pressure is felt acutely on our north-south rail corridors.

Even on moderate forecasts, services will be increasingly full by the mid-2020s.

If we don’t create extra capacity, people at stations such as Milton Keynes and Northampton will have to queue to get on a train to get to work.

That’s despite £9 billion of disruptive work on the West Coast Mainline in recent years.

More upgrades like that will not provide the extra capacity that we need.

A new north-south railway line is the right answer.

From day 1, it will improve journey times and train services to Manchester, to the north-west and Scotland - because HS2 trains will continue on to the existing network.

It will free up more space for commuters and freight on existing routes.

Places up and down the country will benefit from more services and seats.

While it is too early to talk about precise timetables, Milton Keynes could get 11 trains to London an hour, compared to 6 now.

And places like Rugby would get more non-stop journeys.

Today’s (28 April 2014) debate is about Phase One.

But when complete HS2 will be a wider network.

We have consulted on Phase Two.

And I know that many Hon members have a strong interest in making sure we get those plans right.

Including serving cities on the eastern leg through the East Midlands, Sheffield and Leeds as well as the north-west.

So we will set out more details later in the year.

Because of course we have to design HS2 well and build it carefully.

And that means making sure our young people have the skills to get the engineering jobs it will create.

So we’ve announced plans for the first new FE college in 20 years - backed by HS2.

Soon we will announce the winning location for the central facility and also a network of outposts.

I know many places are keen to take part like the Aylesbury College, Manchester and Birmingham.

Because one of the things I think matters most about HS2 is the huge opportunity it offers the next generation.

2000 apprenticeships. Not just one-off jobs building the line, but a career.

The numbers involved means that we will be taking the skills base in this country to a new level.

So the country will not just be better connected.

It will also be better trained with the skills we need to compete, not just in transport, but across a whole range of industries.

This is not just an investment in steel, and rolling stock.

It is also a huge investment in our people right across the nation.

Of course, we must get that investment right.

That is why I welcome Sir David Higgins’ recent report, which he called HS2 Plus.

He took a hard look at the plans.

He proposes a better development at Euston. Getting services to the north sooner.

Integrating HS2 more effectively with the existing rail network.

Working with local authorities and businesses across the midlands and the north to make sure they get the right railway for their needs.

And the government supports him in all this.

It is also right, of course, that the project is built on budget.

And that is a central part of the task we have set Sir David.

In his report, he says the current £21.4 billion budget for Phase One is right.

But goes on to warn that time is money.

He cannot reduce the contingency budget of around £6 billion at this stage, while legislation has not yet been passed.

In short, he throws a responsibility to all of us in this House.

A responsibility, yes, to consider this bill properly.

But not to delay it needlessly.

Sometimes people ask me: why are you rushing HS2?

Sometimes, they ask: why on earth is it taking so long?

The answer is we are doing it properly and we are doing it on the timetable set out by the last government in 2010.

So that the first services can run in 2026.

But the final choice lies with Parliament.

Last year, we passed the paving Act which prepared for a new high-speed route to the midlands and the north.

With support from government and opposition, this House voted for the Act by 350 to 34.

Today (28 April 2014), the bill before the House will provide the detailed authorisation.

And as Parliament considers this bill for Phase One, we will prepare our proposals for Phase Two.

Responding to the Higgins challenge to accelerate it and improve it, so that the most can be made of this investment.

A commitment to get high speed services to more towns and cities in the midlands and the north.

And - crucially - to make sure we get the most out of the economic opportunities that will bring.

I thank the Commercial Secretary for the work he has done leading the growth taskforce, developing proposals for maximising the benefits of HS2.

Alongside senior industrial, trade union and city leaders.

And that task matters because work on the project is already underway. Designing. Planning.

And construction is set to begin in 2017.

That’s just 3 years away.

Firms right across the country are bidding for contracts.

Places from Penzance to Edinburgh can benefit.

Engineering students, currently sat in classrooms in our towns and cities, will be the ones shaping and delivering this scheme.

And pupils who are today in secondary school will be using it.

Now, let me now turn to the content of the bill.

Put simply, Parliament is being asked to grant planning permission and other powers needed for the first phase.

A number of motions have been laid to facilitate the passage of the bill. Most of these will be debated tomorrow.

Tonight (28 April 2014), the House is being asked to vote on the principle of this bill.

That there should be a high speed railway between Euston and a junction with the West Coast Mainline at Handsacre.

This railway should include a spur to Birmingham Curzon Street and intermediate stations at Birmingham Interchange and Old Oak Common.

If agreed tonight (28 April 2014), this means it cannot be re-aligned or extended as part of this bill.

The proposed link to High Speed One will be removed from the bill.

It is not part of the principle of the bill.

Instead we are working on proposals to improve connections between the rail network and HS1.

But, of course, projects of this size do not come without negative impacts.

Rather than shy away from these challenges, we have been transparent.

Parliament, as the decision maker, has a duty to ensure that this government has met its legal obligations.

We have carried out the largest environmental impact assessment of a major project ever undertaken in the UK.

We have considered the alternatives.

We have invited the views of the public.

And we have presented an environment statement to parliament alongside deposit of this bill.

We will observe all the European requirements.

Taking measures to protect species.

To avoid harming special areas of conservation.

And to comply with the water framework directive.

But it’s not only about meeting our obligations.

It is about ensuring that we balance carefully progress of the scheme with the impact.

It is right that those directly affected by the scheme will have the opportunity be heard by the select committee.

But I believe that our proposals strike the right balance.

Over half the route – is in tunnels or cuttings.

More than two thirds of the line’s surface sections will be insulated by cuttings and landscaping.

No grade 1 listed building is affected.

Only around 100 homes will be demolished in the nearly 100 miles of the rural part of Phase One.

And the line is designed to be secure against flooding.

Indeed, it is notable that while the weather affected many rail lines this winter, the HS1 line in Kent ran as normal.

We have also consulted and changed.

A longer tunnel in Northolt. A new tunnel in Bromford. A by-pass for Stoke Mandeville.

We have worked hard on state of the art noise mitigation but if there is more we can do by spending the budget for this better, then I will make sure it happens.

Because of course I understand the depth of concern the line has caused in some places.

And that is why I have made it clear to my officials that there is no place for talk of luddites or Nimbys in the department or HS2 Ltd.

We must respect people and try to help meet their concerns.

Of course we must also get property compensation right.

I have announced an enhanced property compensation package.

And I wish to consult quickly on further proposals.

But I also want to do more.

So we will introduce a need-to-sell scheme.

I want this to be easy to understand and work fairly.

It is more than just a re-labeling of the previous exceptional hardship scheme. It will be more generous, too.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Now, let me outline the powers that the government is seeking in this bill.

The bill provides:

  • the authority to undertake the works required for the construction and maintenance of Phase One of HS2
  • deemed planning permission for the railway
  • the power to compulsorily purchase land required for the Phase One route as well as for business relocation and regeneration
  • modification of existing legislative controls that are not designed for hybrid bills – this process is based on that used for HS1 and Crossrail
  • the ability to nominate a person or organisation to deliver Phase One on behalf of the Secretary of State

Mr Speaker, the bill before the House today (28 April 2014) has the power to change our nation profoundly and for the better.

Yes - HS2 is ambitious.

Yes - it will take a great deal of investment.

Yes - it will take time to complete.

But so did the canals, railways and motorways which previous generations left as their legacy.

Our age can achieve something just as great.

I’m from the Midlands. Born in Staffordshire, I represent Derbyshire.

I know the potential of Britain.

And I know that built right, on time and to budget, High Speed Two can help our great cities thrive.

The choice comes down to this.

Do we invest in modern transport links to make sure every part of Britain can compete for the best jobs?

Or are we really happy for London and the south-east to power ahead while the rest get second-best?

Put like that, the answer to me is clear.

Yes - the project deserves careful scrutiny.

The processes are in place to ensure that.

But it also deserves to go ahead.

Britain needs it to go ahead.

Tonight (28 April 2014) I hope we will make good progress towards that.

Published 28 April 2014