HS2 in Hansard 29/10/2015

High Speed 2

4. David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): What
progress the Government have made on finalising the
route for phase two High Speed 2. [901865]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State forTransport
(Mr Robert Goodwill):
We have committed to setting
out the Government’s plan for the HS2 phase two route
in an update to the House before the end of this year.
David Mowat: I thank the Minister for the time he
and his officials have spent with me recently to discuss
the Golborne link. The initial justification for the link
was a proposed depot inWigan, but that depot will now
not be located in Wigan. The only justification that
remains is the 10 minutes saved by train journeys north
of Wigan.Will the Minister confirmthat if that standalone
link north of Manchester goes ahead, it will be subject
to a separate business case so that we can examine its
business case review?
Mr Goodwill: We are certainly considering all the
recommendations made by Sir David Higgins in his
report, “Rebalancing Britain”. Sir David believes that
the link to the west coast mainline is needed sooner
rather than later. The alternative, which would mean
linking to the west coast mainline at Crewe, would
mean upgrading the west coast mainline to take on the
additional services. That could be costly and disruptive.
Indeed, itwould incur those dreadfulwords, “Replacement
bus services,” for many weeks.
Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op):May
I beg the ministerial team for a moment of sanity on
HS2? The latest evaluation says that, with the hidden
costs, the cost will rise to £160 billion for a country that
cannot even keep its national health service running. Is
it not about time that we look at this in a ruthless
manner and tell Lord Adonis, who calls himself the
godfather of HS2, to get his act together? Let us stop
this nonsense and invest in things that really work.
Mr Goodwill: That is not what Lord Adonis was
saying when he was Secretary of State for Transport. I
am very pleased that Lord Adonis is engaging with this
Government in delivering massive infrastructure
improvements. The question the hon. Gentleman needs
to ask himself is: what is the cost of not progressing
HS2? It is about the capacity and the great cities of the
north, which are crying out for that additional capacity
and the wealth it will bring to the north.
Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con):
Of course, HS2 should have started in the north. On
phase 2,may I also appeal for sanity fromtheGovernment?
Will they review the hybrid Bill process and the cruel
and unfair compensation scheme? The hybrid Bill process
for phase 1 has been convoluted, impenetrable, protracted
and painful, not just for the MPs on the Committee,
but, more importantly, for the people affected by the
project. It is ironic that we are using such a snail-like
process for something that is supposed to be high speed.
The hybrid Bill process is not fit for purpose.We should
modernise it and bring it into the 21st century.
Mr Goodwill: I pay tribute to those Members who
have doggedly sat on the hybrid Bill Committee and
listened to petitions in such an admirable way. Many of
the petitions did not reach the Committee, because we
managed to reach agreement beforehand. On the question
of building HS2 from the north first, it will still end up
in London, whichever end it starts at. It is between
Birmingham and London that the capacity is needed as
a matter of urgency.
Maggie Throup (Erewash) (Con):Willmy hon. Friend
meet me and a delegation fromErewash Borough Council
to discuss its proposals to mitigate the impact of the
route for phase 2 of HS2 on local residents and businesses,
especially in and around Long Eaton?
Mr Goodwill: We have not finalised the route, so it
might be premature to have that meeting. As I have
said, we will update the House before the end of the
year. At that point, it will be very appropriate to meet a
number of communities up and down the line of route.
Public Transport Accessibility (Disabled Passengers)
5. Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): What
recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of
his Department’s policies on increasing access to public
transport for disabled passengers. [901866]
11. Chi Onwurah (Newcastle uponTyne Central) (Lab):
What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness
of his Department’s policies on increasing access to
public transport for disabled passengers. [901873]
TheParliamentary Under-Secretary of State forTransport
(Andrew Jones): We have made significant progress on
increasing access. By the end of the year, we expect
around 75% of rail journeys to start or end at a step-free
487 Oral Answers 29 OCTOBER 2015 Oral Answers 488
station. That is an increase from around 50% when the
Access for All programme started. That programme
will deliver 151 step-free routes at stations this year. On
the buses, only 57% met accessibility regulations in
2009-10. That number is now nearly 90% and rising.
Susan Elan Jones: I know that every Member of the
House will want to congratulate the friends of Chirk
station on their sterling work and the Labour Welsh
Government for the massive investment in that station,
which means that it will be totally accessible to disabled
people from the end of next month. Many of us are
very concerned, however, about the slashing of funding
for the Access for All programme by 42%. It is a basic
programme that provides ramps, lifts and the like. Will
the Minister tell us why the Government are doing that
and why they have not changed their mind?
Andrew Jones: I am aware of the installation of the
newfootbridge at Chirk station,which will vastly improve
the facilities there, but I do not recognise what the hon.
Lady says. The Access for All programme has been a
great success. We are building on the success of the
programmethatwas launched by the previousGovernment.
So far, £386 million has been spent and about 1,200 stations
have benefited from smaller-scale improvements. To
build on the success, a further £160 million of funding
has been allocated in the last year, which will extend the
scheme to a further 68 stations.
Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab): I
am sure that you, Mr Speaker, and the Minister will join
me in congratulating Northumbria University on its
new chancellor, Baroness TanniGrey-Thompson. [HON.
MEMBERS: “Hear, hear.”] Thank you. To get to Newcastle,
the chancellor has to propel herself up the impossibly
steep footbridge ramp at Eaglescliffe station, which is
treacherous in difficult weather. Network Rail says that
it cannot afford to put in a lift. Is that the result that the
Government expected when slashing the Access for All
grant by 42%?
Andrew Jones: Baroness Grey-Thompson is an extremely
impressive figure and the university will benefit from
her involvement.
Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): Not if she can’t get
Andrew Jones: Of course she has to get there and I
will look into the case of Eaglescliffe station.
The point remains that the Department for Transport
is committed to ensuring that disabled people have the
same access to transport services and opportunities as
other members of society. That is why we are fully
backing the Access for All programme and rolling out
more disability access to buses. That is a measure of its
success. The programme has generated a positive response.
Research at stations that have benefited fromthe programme
has found that passengers with mobility impairment
have a better travelling experience as a result, and that
goes up among those who have wheelchair issues.
Mr Speaker: We are all now better informed.
Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab): The Minister
will know that about 60% of disabled people live in a
household without a car and that disabled people use
buses 20% more than others. He will also know that
since 2010, 70% of local authorities have cut funding
for bus services.We know that more cuts are on the way,
like those that were announced in my county this week.
Does he understand what impact those cuts will have on
disabled people? What proper assessment has he made
of the potential impact on disabled people?
Andrew Jones: First, I welcome the hon. Gentleman
to his place. I am acutely aware of how important buses
are for disabled people, as well as for other communities.
That is why I have been a great champion of the bus
industry. Of course, the implications for all bus users
are considered when budgets are planned.