High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill
Committee (1st Day)
Relevant document: 7th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee
The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Geddes) (Con)
My Lords, it is now 3.30 pm and, as is usual at this time, I must advise the Grand Committee that if there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting the Committee will adjourn as soon as the Division Bells are rung—or as soon as your Chairman sees that they are being rung—and resume after 10 minutes.
Clause 1: Power to construct and maintain works for Phase One of High Speed 2
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 10, after “with” insert—
“(a) a spur from Old Oak Common in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham to a junction with the West London Line south of North Pole Road on the boundary between the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea; and(b) ”
Baroness Randerson (LD)
My Lords, I shall speak to the amendments in my name in this group. I start by assuring the Minister that we are not seeking to rewrite the Bill. These are very much probing amendments, which I want to use to reveal some of the reasoning behind the government decisions on links between HS1 and HS2 and, most importantly, to gain some assurances on future plans.
Amendment 1 reinserts into Clause 1 the concept of the link between HS1 and HS2, which was dropped during the Commons debates. We acknowledge that there are practical difficulties associated with providing that link which would make it difficult and therefore costly. There are, however, huge practical difficulties associated with the proposed—and very costly—Euston development but that does not seem to have deterred the Government or HS2 Ltd. Ideally, when HS1 was built a box should have been built at Stratford. The idea was there originally but it was abandoned to save what was actually a small amount of money and it would be very difficult to do that now with an operating system.
I acknowledge, too, that surveys some years ago showed that the number of passengers wanting to travel directly from the north of England to the continent was not really large enough to justify major investment. Things have changed since then, however. Rail passenger numbers have soared and the Government have committed themselves to the development of the northern economy. Nevertheless, I recognise that Brexit, particularly a hard Brexit, will probably impact on passenger numbers to the continent, which will be lower than they would be in other circumstances. Surely, however, whatever those circumstances, the numbers will be considerable, so their needs should be considered.
The West London Line Group has proposed a short double-track link between Old Oak Common and the West London line north of Shepherd’s Bush. This would provide more choice all round of routes across London and further afield. There is an important point of principle: this would reduce the number of changes that people have to make. More than one change and you probably go by car instead, rather than choose to take the train. The proposed link would not only connect areas north of London to the continent but improve links with southern England generally. We are interested, therefore, to hear the Minister’s explanation of exactly why the idea of a direct HS2-HS1 link was dropped. As a result of that decision, one assumes passengers will now have to walk from Euston to St Pancras. I say that one assumes they will walk rather than be carried in any sort of transportation, but maybe the Minister can provide that information.
Euston Road is already very congested and if you have walked along it recently you will know that it is quite difficult to get down. I believe the committee’s report said that 61,000 passengers are now arriving at Euston per day. We are talking about only a proportion of those passengers but that is still a significant number and those travelling from HS2 to HS1 will, almost by definition, have luggage. Factoring in the points at which you alight from the HS2 at Euston and get on to the HS1 at St Pancras, the distance is more than a mile. The distance between the front entrances is 0.6 miles. Although my noble friend Lord Bradshaw will speak more about this issue, our point is that without a clear, comfortable, speedy and weatherproof interchange, the use of HS2 and HS1 as a route from north to south, or from the north to the continent, will be seriously undermined. So, I ask the Minister to provide us with details of the plans.
My noble friend will also say more on the use of Old Oak Common as an interchange into London but I want to underline its strategic importance, and thus the importance of developing it in a robust and flexible manner that will ensure it withstands the test of time. Many passengers will decide to leave their HS2 train at Old Oak Common rather than travelling on into Euston, and they will be able to take Crossrail from there, for instance. Indeed, it will be situated in a spider’s web of railway lines and will be very intensively used, so it needs to be up to the job and its regenerative potential for the area in which it is situated must be maximised. I ask the Minister: why were the original plans to link HS1 to HS2 dropped and, importantly, could they be taken up again if demand was at such a level that that would be justified; what firm plans exist for the trek along Euston Road; and can he assure us that Old Oak Common will be built with maximum capability and flexibility for expansion? I beg to move.
Lord Bradshaw (LD)
If I may just follow up a few of the points made by my noble friend, we have discussed before the question of a link between Euston, St Pancras, and King’s Cross. When I was deputy general manager at Euston back in the far-off days, it was being discussed—it is one of these projects that seems always to be under discussion but is never carried out. I am looking for something like the link you get between terminals in airports; that is, a wide, well-lit way of getting between the two stations with a travelator or similar device for your luggage. I am not looking for some form of futuristic railway, just a convenient, out-of-the-weather way for moving you and your luggage between the two places.
There will be a lot of time to think about this, because there will be a long period when Old Oak Common will be the London terminal for HS2. There can be dispute about how Old Oak Common could be used, but there will be six platforms there and the trains from Birmingham, which will take only 38 minutes, can almost be described as commuter trains. They will not require huge amounts of servicing at Old Oak Common, it will be possible to turn trains back there very quickly, and Euston may well not be needed until after phase 2A of HS2, so there is plenty of time to think about it and get it in place.
My noble friend commented on connections to HS1. I know that people in the south of England feel that it is very difficult for them to use it: they have to make a big journey. That will be alleviated if the Government could—again, they could work on this contemporaneously with the work on HS2—strengthen the link along the south coast between Brighton and Ashford. There are bits of that railway that need sorting out. I hope we can get some sort of assurance about what the Government intend to do.
Those are questions, not things that we will have disputes on, but we want to know what the Government envisage that they will do, in the long term, about the problems here.
Lord Berkeley (Lab)
My Lords, my Amendment 9 is grouped, although I am not sure it is closely connected to what the two previous speakers have been discussing. It would delete one of the amendments that the Select Committee proposed in its report. Let me make it quite clear: I do not criticise the Select Committee on this issue; I am sure its amendments are just what is needed. I ask the Minister, however: is it not a bit unusual for a Select Committee’s amendments to be incorporated in a Bill without debate? I had assumed that they might have been tabled for debate today, and we could have debated and no doubt approved them, but it was surprising that a new issue of the Bill was published in the past week as a result of the amendments being included. This may not be a question for the Minister—it may be a question for the Chairman of Committees or someone else—but it is something that we should debate. Perhaps it will be different next time, if there are to be more committees such as this.
While I am on my feet, the Minister kindly briefed us on progress just before we broke up for Christmas. One question that many asked him was: were the Government going to respond to the excellent report from the Select Committee? It would have been nice to have their response before Committee today. We have not had it, but can he assure me that we will receive it in good time for Report?
Lord Snape (Lab)
I support the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and her colleagues. There are few benefits in old age but I am told that one is that one’s long-term memory improves, sometimes at the cost of one’s short-term memory. I suspect that I am the only Member present here today who served on the original Channel Tunnel Bill, and I well remember the promises made at the time about the connection between HS1and HS2. Even back in those days, there was lots of criticism about the apparent devotion to expenditure on railway and transport in the south of England at the expense of the rest of the country. Assurances were given at that time that there would be genuine benefits from the Channel Tunnel and the associated high-speed lines that would spin off to both the Midlands and the north.
Indeed, we went further. Trains were ordered to provide a service between provincial cities in England and into Scotland, and depots were built. If noble Lords take a Pendolino train to Manchester from Euston, they will see on the downside of the track at Longsight, just outside Manchester, an enormous depot marked “Eurostar Depot North-West” or something equivalent to that—certainly, “Eurostar” still appears on the depot signage. There was a genuine intention on the part of government at that time to deliver on the promises made that the Channel Tunnel Bill and associated high-speed rail links would benefit other parts of the country. Perhaps the Minister could tell us when decisions were made to rescind those promises and whether it is still possible at this late stage to reinstate that link so that it would be possible, for example, for those of us who live in Birmingham to get to Paris by train if we so desired.
Noble Lords on both sides of the Room will need no reminding of how unpleasant air journeys are between our respective countries. It is difficult to envisage the business of getting undressed for security purposes as one passes through airports lessening in future years, so there would surely be an attraction for passengers from cities such as Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds to travel directly to the continent if it was possible. As the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, reminded us, the only way of doing that under the existing proposals would be to make that journey into Euston—whether the rebuilt Euston, which we will hear about in due course, or the existing one—and then the journey to St Pancras. I do not think noble Lords on either side of the Committee would consider that journey of a few hundred yards attractive if one is to spend any time away from the United Kingdom. Neither the Victoria line nor Northern line are immediately accessible from the mainline platforms if one is carrying luggage when one arrives at Euston, and the journey between the King’s Cross St Pancras combined Underground station and the international terminal is not one that one would embark on with lots of luggage unless one was particularly keen on that mode of travel.
So there is surely an argument still, as there was 30 years ago, for through trains between this country and various capital cities in Europe. I again put it to the Minister that those promises were made, much expenditure was embarked on, trains were ordered and depots built, yet we have this farcical situation where the only way one can get, for example, from Birmingham to Paris by train is by negotiating the distance between Euston and St Pancras International by London Underground. No other country in the world would say that that was a sensible way to travel. Indeed, I believe we are becoming the laughing stock of the railway world—Europe-wise at least; there is a slight contradiction between the world and Europe, but the Committee will know what I am aiming at when I say that if this is the best we can do as a nation, most other countries would say that it is not good enough. The Minister should look again at a proper connection between the two high-speed lines and justify the amount of taxpayers’ money from the Midlands and the north being spent on the completely new stretches of railway line. For reasons that the Minister can no doubt outline to us, that would be money wasted without the connection as outlined earlier by the noble Baroness. I give way to my noble friend.
My noble friend did not mention the chord that received permission under the HS1 Bill, built between the London end of High Speed 1 and the North London line. It is there, with tracks and electrification. It has no signals, so it would need a couple of those. We could run trains on the west coast main line from HS1 to Birmingham tomorrow. I do not know how much it cost, but it was a lot as it is quite a complicated piece of construction. It was built as a result of lobbying from the north-west in particular, led by a man called Ken Medlock, who is still alive aged 102 and still very interested. The problem is someone needs to run trains on it.
I bow to my noble friend’s expertise on the geography of this stretch of railway line. I was aware that it was a single track; there was much mocking at the time because it was and it led to the North London line, with the consequential speed restrictions and additional traffic. There was concern that this was not an adequate link, but it is a link nevertheless. I am not blaming the Minister for having the line built—I might blame him for various other decisions he has taken—but perhaps he could tell us whether it is feasible to add signals to this line and give us some connection. Surely the Midlands, the north-west and north-east of England, and perhaps Scotland, deserve better for their taxes than to be told when they arrive in Euston, “Put your bags under your arm and catch the Northern line if you wish to proceed further towards Europe by train”. Surely the Minister and the country can do better than that.
Lord Adonis (Non-Afl)
My Lords, I declare an interest as the Secretary of State who started HS2, and as a member of HS2 Ltd. I apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for missing the beginning of her remarks. I know the whole Committee will want to pay tribute to the Select Committee, which put an astonishing amount of work into the Bill. I cannot think of a more onerous duty that Members of your Lordships’ House take on than being members of hybrid Bill Committees. At the very least they require some kind of parliamentary medal for endurance, which I hope will give them some special form of extended life that ensures they will definitely see the opening of this line all the way through to Manchester and Leeds in 2033. That is the least they deserve.
There are two different issues here and it is important not to mix them up. The first is through trains from Paris to the great cities of the Midlands and the north, which my noble friends Lord Snape and Lord Berkeley rightly said was envisaged in the original scheme for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. The trains were built, but the services were never run. The second is the lamentable connections between Euston and St Pancras. The two issues are separate for this reason: with the best will in the world, the economic case for running through services from Paris and Brussels to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds is very weak indeed.
If I may detain the Committee with a story, when I was Secretary of State I tried to persuade Eurostar to run services to Birmingham once the upgrade of the west coast main line had been completed, which would have made it possible to run a service once that and the High Speed 1 line to St Pancras had been completed. It ought to have been possible to run a service from Paris to Birmingham in three and a half hours, which I thought would have been competitive with the plane and played a very big part in changing the whole mentality of people in respect of high-speed rail and connections with the continent. I simply could not persuade Eurostar to run even one service a day without public subsidy because the traffic projection figures were so low.
If noble Lords stop and think about what has happened on that line, it is not so difficult to fathom. Although HS1 has been a great success in engineering terms and has played a useful part in linking two of Europe’s great cities, it is way off all the projections of traffic between London and the continent. I do not think it is yet even at half the level of the projections of what the traffic should have been. There is still only one service an hour between London and Paris for most of the day. Often those services have quite light loads. The London to Brussels service, which is also about hourly, is often barely half-full. Eurostar told me that there was not enough traffic to fill even one train a day between London and Birmingham and it would do it only if I was prepared to give it a very large subsidy. I had so many other parts of the railway I was seeking to subsidise, including many of the parts that my noble friend Lord Snape has mentioned because the lines in the Midlands and the north require great subsidies to be maintained, that I simply could not justify a public subsidy to do it.
It is important to be frank about this because everybody pays lip service to the benefits of linking HS1 and HS2. On the face of it, it seems absurd that there is not a connection between the two but because the service would be so intermittent—with the best will in the world, only a few trains a day would run on that service—I very much doubt it would be taken up in any big way. While we have cheap airlines that offer very frequent services to Manchester and Birmingham—both are highly successful airports, which are expanding and have significant capacity that they can make available to flights to the continent—it is unlikely that such a line would be viable.
As a footnote, it is always the unexpected in life which changes the course of events, including in transportation. The big unexpected event of HS1 was the massive development of domestic services on the high-speed line—all those Javelin trains—which has made the whole thing much more viable than it would otherwise have been and was not expected on anything like that scale. The other great unexpected gain of HS1, which nobody projected at the time—and who knows what the unexpected gains of HS2 will be?—was the Olympic Games. When the decision was taken to give the Olympics to Stratford, a critical part of the decision was the connectivity that the Javelins provided going out of St Pancras. I am not criticising the decisions to build HS1 or the Channel Tunnel, which were visionary and historic decisions, but unfortunately a link between HS1 and HS2 would be hugely expensive —running into many billions because it would have to be tunnelled. The economic benefit would be limited without massive subsidies. Given the huge costs already in the HS2 scheme, it would be hard to justify those expenses.
My noble friend Lord Snape referred to the plan for a kind of patch-and-mend link between HS1 and HS2 using the North London line. There was a plan for that in the original HS1 scheme, linking to the conventional lines. There was also initially from HS2 Ltd a plan for it in respect of the HS2 line. It has to be said that nobody much liked this. It would have been a very slow connection, weaving its way up to the North London line, across and down, which would have made the line even less competitive with the airlines. When the trains were running, it would have used a lot of capacity on the North London line, which, as noble Lords will know, is now an integral part of the Overground service and a major freight artery. That would have been highly inconvenient. Even that required the building of a substantial single-bore tunnel at a cost of more than £1 billion. The view was taken that rather than expend a large sum of money on a very unsatisfactory patch-and-mend link between the two, which would barely be used in any event, it would be better to wait until some point in the future when our relations with Europe reach a new and glorious period, in which traffic between the major European cities flourishes on a scale never seen before and might then make it economically viable to construct a link between HS1 and HS2.
However, only a tiny fraction of those people who wanted to connect between Euston and St Pancras would have been using direct services to the continent in the first place so the issue of connectivity between Euston and St Pancras, which I think everyone will accept is still highly unsatisfactory, is there in any event. There is a long-term solution: Crossrail 2, which will have a single station serving Euston and King’s Cross St Pancras, and will connect the two underground. That will make it much easier to get to them; it will give big dispersal capacity at Euston when phase 2 of Crossrail is completed in 2033, which is hugely important; and, as I say, it will connect the stations because the entrance at one end will be at Euston and the entrance at the other will be at King’s Cross St Pancras.
Although this degree of work has not yet been done, my assumption with the planning of Crossrail 2 is always that it will be possible to use it also as a pedestrian tunnel with a travelator for getting from Euston to St Pancras. The transport planners are not wildly keen on that idea because it will add to the cost of Crossrail 2 and they want a more limited scheme that has access only for transport users. But it looks patently obvious that if you have a Crossrail 2 station serving the two stations, and you have this underground link, putting in a simple travelator and making it possible for people to connect between the two stations underground must be sensible.
However, that is still a long way away, and does not deal with the first phase of HS2—the period between 2026, when the service to Birmingham is opened, and the construction of Crossrail 2. There will be very significant further traffic flows coming into Euston, including passengers who will want to transfer to St Pancras—for example, to the Eurostar and Javelin services—but there is no adequate link. A lot of discussions have taken place about—and plans been put forward for—a travelator between the two of the kind that I think the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, had in mind, which would offer an airport-style connection. However, that is very difficult to do because of space constraints on the Euston Road itself. It would have to be done on streets further in, and it is not easy to do there either, because of the Crick centre and the other uses that that land has been put to.
It has to be said that, at the moment, this issue still does not have a satisfactory resolution. It would be well for the Committee and the wider House to note that by the time we get to 2026—of course something less than a travelator does not require years of planning—there will at least need to be an improved walking link between the two. Passengers cannot be expected to put up with the current state of connectivity between Euston and King’s Cross St Pancras. It should be incumbent on the Government, the mayor, TfL and HS2 to see that there are better links for that period between the opening of HS2 at Euston and the completion of Crossrail 2. As I say, that is the only long-term solution to this issue.
Lord Rosser (Lab)
I will just make one or two relatively brief observations. I add my thanks to those already expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, to the Select Committee for the work that it did. I know it took up a considerable amount of its members’ time, and I was extremely grateful that I was completely disqualified from sitting on it, for more than one reason, and so was never faced with any request that I should do so.
Clearly, the discussion that we have had, and the amendments that we are considering, have homed in particularly on whether, at some stage, there will be a link between HS1 and HS2. I hope when the Minister comes to respond that he will address the specific terms of the amendment that has been moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson. It has a specific proposition in relation to the creation of a link between HS1 and HS2 which is different from it simply going as far as Euston and St Pancras, in that it provides opportunities for interchanges in south London. I hope the Minister will address that point when he comes to respond.
Most speakers, including the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, in a sense raised this point. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, made the case that there would not be sufficient demand to run through trains—or that was the basis of one of the key points he made—but under the proposals as they stand we face having not only no through services but also no easy interchange between HS1 and HS2, precisely because one is coming in at one station and departing from another, further down the Euston Road. It would be helpful to hear from the Minister in his response what the Government’s intentions are on improving the interchange link between HS2 and HS1, if they are not looking at going down the road of running through services.
In London transport in recent decades—it is has not happened overnight—we have seen an increase in the number of lines going through and across London, which we used not to have. We have seen Thameslink and the West London line; Crossrail is coming in and Crossrail 2 is projected; the DLR manages to cross the river and go from one side of London to another; there are improvements on the London Overground and the East London line. Improving transport links between one side of London and the other has been a feature of recent decades. It does not appear that this will be repeated with high-speed services.
I have one or two questions about Old Oak Common, which will clearly play a pivotal role in HS2. There are some proposed links to what one might describe as the classic network but, as has been said, there are quite a large number of suburban lines around the Old Oak Common area. Presumably, one of the advantages of HS2 in improving transport links would be good connectivity between those suburban services and HS2 at Old Oak Common. Are the Government looking at improving connections between HS2 and other suburban lines in the vicinity to improve access to HS2 for people in a much wider area of London as a result? As has rightly been said, one thing that attracts people to a service is either not having to change at all—you can run through from A to B—or, if you do have to change, it is straightforward and easy. Will the Minister comment on that aspect as well?
Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, referred to the Javelin trains—I hope I am not misinterpreting what he said—and the commuter network that has built itself up around HS1. I have always thought that one of the reasons for so much opposition to HS2 is that there are no proposals whatever for any stations in a large number of the areas it runs through. People therefore see the line as a fairly negative factor. It runs through their suburban area or part of the countryside but they do not get any access to it. I appreciate that the Government are not contemplating it at the moment but, in the longer term, do they intend even to consider whether in time there may be a case for additional stations on the HS2 route? I do not profess to be an expert on this, so I may be wrong, but my understanding is that since the high-speed line opened in Taiwan, more stations have opened on the line. I am not starting from the stance that the Minister should be standing up now and announcing new stations all over the place, but is this something the Government will be looking at in the longer term, in the light of what is happening with Javelin trains and what is happening in another part of the world which has seen a relatively recent development of high-speed services?
I appreciate that the Minister has already been asked this question by my noble friend Lord Berkeley, but I too would like to know precisely when we will get the Government’s response to the report. There are recommendations and urgings—if I may use that expression—in it and it makes debate and discussion a lot easier if we know which of those the Government are picking up and which they are not. The sooner we know, the better it is.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con)
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. Before I go any further, on behalf of the Government I join the noble Lords, Lord Adonis and Lord Rosser, in thanking the Select Committee. Members of the Select Committee did some incredible work and showed great dedication and devotion to the cause in terms of the petitions that were heard. I want to put on record my thanks and those of the Secretary of State and the Government as a whole for their work in that respect. I tuned into some of the sessions from afar, from my office at the DfT, and some very robust discussions took place in the committee.
The amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, goes to the very heart of the Bill. I thank the noble Baroness and acknowledge that these are probing amendments, seeking further clarification. As she rightly articulated, at Second Reading in the other place the principle of the Bill was agreed, and that did not include a spur such as the one being proposed. I empathise with her views and the views of those who support the amendment. I know that this is not the intention behind the amendment but if it was carried, it would have the result of re-hybridising the Bill. I am sure that is not the intention of the noble Baroness or those who spoke in support of the amendment.
The question of hybridisation and additional provisions came up many times in the committee. The promoter wrote to me several times—this is one of the things I will talk about later—saying, “You cannot have an additional provision because it would have to go back to the Commons”. We knew all that but what nobody said was that there is a precedent for adding small works using the Transport and Works Act approval process. The argument that you cannot do something because it would turn it into a hybrid and send it back with additional provisions should not be used. If Ministers wanted to make a change, as they did with the HS1 Bill, when they added Stratford station under the Transport and Works Act, that would be a perfectly acceptable way of doing it. I hope the Minister will agree.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
I was alluding to the intent behind the noble Baroness’s amendment. I agree with the noble Lord inasmuch as the detail is something that we have debated before. I am sure that we will return to this this afternoon and, if we continue, on Thursday.
Turning to the nub of the proposals, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, separated the issues very well. I would separate them further. There is the issue of having a rail link between HS1 and HS2, and then the link between Euston and St Pancras. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, articulated some ideas. The noble Baroness is correct that there were considerable practical details and environmental impacts in linking HS1 and HS2. However, notwithstanding the recent growth, the benefits of such a link, compared with the costs and impacts, were not considered to make the proposal viable. I will come back to that point in a moment.
There are some international comparisons. In France, for example, the TGV network functions effectively without direct links between the high-speed rail lines in Paris. I was a bit perplexed when the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, started talking about Taiwan; for a moment I thought we were going to get a very imaginative proposal for linking it to Euston—thankfully it did not come to that, but who knows what the future holds? Our perspective on the building of HS2 is certainly that all solutions for linking it to HS1 were considered. Indeed, an international connectivity study was also conducted on improving the potential rail links. One of the issues that arose was around cost. Some of the proposals ranged from about £610 million to £6 billion and it was therefore felt that they did not provide value for money.
The issue of the link to the North London line, which was also in the contributions of the noble Lords, Lord Berkeley and Lord Snape, and that of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, who commented specifically on this, was again looked at and I have alluded to some of the costs. Construction costs would have been around £610 million and our analyses showed that this would not have offered good value for money. We also looked at providing passive provision for a link but this was also associated with significant challenges. Noble Lords may well be aware that TfL have also undertaken a study of a range of options for an enhanced walking route between Euston and St Pancras, which are currently being actively considered by the London Borough of Camden. The Government have, I believe, already offered the borough £3 million for enhancing that link.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, also asked specifically about the Select Committee’s proposals to amend the Bill. My understanding is that it is entirely normal procedure for a Select Committee to amend a hybrid Bill; indeed, it is a key part of its function and when setting up it we granted it that particular power. The noble Lord also asked, as did the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, about the Government’s plan to publish their response to the Select Committee’s recommendations. Noble Lords will recall that just prior to the Christmas Recess I convened a pre-briefing on HS2 at which I said that while we would not be able to respond before Committee, we would endeavour to do so in advance of Report—indeed, I very much hope we will do so next week. While it may not be within the formal procedures of the Bill, I would also like to re-emphasise my offer, if it would be helpful, to hold a briefing session on the Government’s response to the Select Committee’s recommendations in advance of Report. If schedules and diaries allow for it, I am keen to facilitate such a meeting.
Coming back to the London Borough of Camden, let me assure noble Lords, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, in particular, that we are working very closely with it on provisions for linking these two key stations while not ignoring the practical difficulties that presents. As I said, the Government have put money behind exploring these proposals further.
The noble Baroness also suggested a junction between the West London line and Old Oak Common. As she may well be aware, the West London Line Group appeared in front of the Select Committees of both Houses to talk through the benefits of its proposals. Neither committee saw fit to grant the group locus to have its petition heard, but at the locus standi hearings it was able to set out the merits of their proposals. Additionally, DfT officials have met with the group to discuss its proposals further, and those discussions will continue.
Several noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Snape, and the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, who shared his experiences of HS1, asked about the future. I fully accept that HS2 will create a host of opportunities for additional connections to other parts of the rail network, and I am sure that over time many of those will be capitalised on.
As we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, opportunities arose after the building of HS1 that were perhaps not envisaged at the time of its construction. HS2 opens up new opportunities, but we must be focused and not look to this Bill to be a panacea to all such proposals, whatever their relative merits may be. By opening up such doors, I fear we would delay the construction of this vital project.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked about future provision, particularly TfL proposals. I have already alluded to the proposals from TfL for additional stations on the West London line, which would improve interchange possibilities and I hope that those proposals are brought forward in due course. The noble Lord asked specifically about additional stations on the route of HS2. We need to proceed with the current proposals but, as I have said, what the future holds in terms of opportunities opened up after the HS2 line is constructed perhaps cannot be forecast at this time.
I again put on record my appreciation that the noble Baroness’s amendments were intended to be probing. While we evaluated various proposals, we felt them to be too costly and not to offer value for money. However, we are looking at how we can effectively link Euston and St Pancras to assist pedestrians. Several noble Lords have spoken of the importance of connections which ensure that every passenger can go from point A to point B in the most efficient manner. As a father of three children who are 10 and under, I know all too well the challenges of interchanges, whether here in the UK or elsewhere in the world. However, having outlined some of the challenges, I hope the noble Baroness accepts the assurance I have given that we are working on the ground with Camden to come forward with solutions and that she is therefore minded to withdraw her amendment.
Before the Minister sits down, may I press him for on connectivity between HS1 and HS2? I presume he agrees with my noble friend Lord Adonis that there are problems with envisaging the number of passengers—let us say passengers between Birmingham and Paris—who would use such a link, but is there not something uniquely English about us having an existing link between the two lines that is not used? My noble friend’s argument was that there is no market for passengers between Manchester or Birmingham and Paris. How do we know that if there is not a direct link? The Minister has made it plain that he has three children. The last thing he wants to do is change between different modes of transport. I have every sympathy with him; I have only two and they are adults, but the last thing I would want to do is take them on such a trip. We have an existing link that is not signalled and not used, yet my noble friend, to whose work on this scheme I pay tribute, says that there is not a market for those passengers. If we do not run the services, how will we ever know? Only in England could we have a link, unsignalled, between two high-speed lines—one of them a prospective high-speed line—and say that we are not going to use it. On the economic arguments in respect of passengers taking a through journey, if the Minister moved from the wilds of Wimbledon to Birmingham, would he not find it more attractive to take his three children to Paris on a through train rather than using Euston and St Pancras, no matter how the two were connected?
When were the economic arguments made that there is not a market for the sort of travel that I am envisaging? They obviously did not occur until we had ordered the trains and built the depots. There must have been some feeling that there was a market when trains were built. If I recollect rightly, the Nightstar trains were virtually given away to the Canadian railways. I know that there is a big difference between Canada and our country, but they managed to find a practical use for them—so they should; they got them at cut price; the British taxpayer paid for them all. When did those economic realities first impinge on the decision not to have a link between the two? Will the Minister at least consider looking again at signalling that single line just to test the water and see whether we can have through trains connecting those taxpayers in Birmingham and Manchester, who are contributing to the cost of this whole thing, with Paris and Brussels—to name but two destinations?
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
I appreciate the sentiments behind what the noble Lord says, and as I have already articulated, the Government did look at connectivity. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, made a very valid point that before you build something, you have to look at the business case and the viability of it. I do not know what the future demand may be for links from other parts of the UK to the continent, and that may well be looked at on a future date. As I have already alluded to, building HS2 opens up doors of opportunity, in terms of the infrastructure connectivity and of course the speed of the link that it provides. I am sure that at some future point those will be looked at again. However, various reports have been conducted. I believe the Higgins report in 2014 advocated abandoning the link between HS1 and HS2, specifically on the issue of costs. That really underlines the Government’s thinking.
Finally, I thank the noble Lord for suggesting that I go from the wilds of Wimbledon up to the Midlands and that perhaps my children would want to go to the continent from Birmingham rather than from London. If I relied on the intention of my two younger boys, we would be chugging along on the Thomas the Tank Engine, which would not provide the kind of high-speed rail link the country desires, but I note what the noble Lord said. As I said, the Government have explored this during the various processes behind the planning of HS2 links, and various reports have been conducted. I have already indicated that the different links that were looked at were deemed not to provide sufficient benefits and not to be viable in terms of cost. I hope that provides, if not total reassurance, at least some answer to the noble Lord’s concern. With that, I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.
I just intervene to correct the record. I did not say there was no market—there clearly is a market, as Birmingham, Manchester, Paris and the other great cities of northern Europe are substantial cities. The problem is that the market at the moment is almost entirely taken up by the cheap airlines, and there is simply no way, unless there is a significant change in the economics of the transport sector—which may happen at some point in future—that you could justify the investment, based on the return from a very limited rail service. A wildly optimistic figure of £600 million has been mentioned, but once you start to tunnel around Euston and St Pancras and build connections with the North London line, you are really looking at many billions. I cannot emphasise enough that the single biggest threat to this project is cost overruns in building the core of it, between cities where there is massive traffic—namely, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and London. It would not be a sensible use of public resources at the moment to add in—on a wing and a prayer, because for sentimental reasons we think it would be nice to have one or two trains a day that start off from Manchester and have “Paris” on the front—the commitment to many billions further of public spending.
My noble friend may be able to make a case for it if something dramatic happens to the cheap airlines. I know that through his other connections he is very close friends with many of the operators of those airlines. If they cease to operate their services between Birmingham and Paris, or between Paris and Manchester, where they are offering seats for £10 or £20—sums which we are not remotely going to be able to offer by high-speed rail—then of course the whole thing may change, and at some stage we may be able to build these services. Meanwhile, this is why connectivity is so important. Provided that you have a good connection between Euston and St Pancras, you will get some passengers who do not want to fly who will connect between the two. What the Minister said about investment in resources to get a better walking connection was very welcome. As I say, at some stage there will need to be a fixed connection, and when that comes, it will also facilitate traffic between HS1 and HS2.
My Lords, this has been a very interesting debate. As well as the fount of most of our information, the committee’s excellent report, we have had the benefit of background information from the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, as well as the Minister’s response.
I will briefly refer to a couple of issues. The noble Lord, Lord Snape, referred to the fact that promises were made about HS1 and HS2 links. That was fundamental to the case for HS2. Plenty of people still think those links will happen. When you tell them that they will not, they are very disappointed. I appreciate all the practical issues; I couched my comments to make that clear. Notwithstanding the comments about cost by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, I fear that our successors, sitting here in 30 years’ time, if this House continues to exist that long—I bear in mind we have been trying to reform it for more than 100 years—will probably sit here and say, “Of course, it would’ve been much cheaper if they’d made that link at the time”.
We now have to accept that that link will not take place in the short term. Therefore, we have to concentrate on the obvious link—the trek down Euston Road. I am disappointed that the Minister did not come up with a full answer, but I appreciate entirely why he did not: there is no full answer. My fear is that people are saying that it is too early and this is something for later on. That has been said this afternoon. The trouble is, decisions made about the purchase and demolition of buildings and the reconstruction of Euston Station will be made without factoring in the answer to this problem. They will be based on the principle that people will walk up and down Euston Road.
I have real concerns about disability issues here, not just families with children and a lot of luggage. I have real concerns about how people with disabilities will make the link between the two stations. I also fear that because, as the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, pointed out, a number of players have responsibility for this, we could end up with a group of organisations none of which will shoulder the responsibility alone, quite understandably. Therefore, it might be difficult to make progress.
I remain dissatisfied on the link between the two stations. I look forward to the Crossrail station, which it appears will provide the tunnel in some point in future, but in the short term there certainly will not be a satisfactory thought process to produce a really good link. I will continue to show an interest in this. Having said all that, I beg to ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
2: Clause 1, page 1, line 11, at end insert—
“( ) Construction work otherwise authorised by this Act may not begin until— (a) the nominated undertaker has published an up-to-date estimate of costs for works authorised by this Act, broken down into geographical and system elements;(b) that estimate has been examined, reported on and approved by an independent expert panel appointed by the Secretary of State for that purpose; and(c) the report of the panel has been published.”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 2 in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, I will speak to Amendments 3 and 4, which are in my name. I am getting very concerned about the costs of HS2. The reason for that is, as many noble Lords will know, that I with two experts, Jonathan Roberts and Michael Byng, came up with a scheme to provide a cheaper and more effective station at Euston for the end of HS2. I appeared with them in front of your Lordships’ Select Committee and, along with colleagues, pay tribute to the way that the members of the committee listened and took an interest. Frankly, I congratulate them on staying the course. If we ever get further such committees in both Houses, I hope that the House of Commons committees will learn something from the way that your Lordships’ committee operated, because it was really good.
I will not go into the detail of the scheme. We had a lot of support from people privately within HS2, Network Rail, TfL and Camden, but many of them are restricted from saying publicly what they felt. I believe it would work. We could never get a cost for the HS2 scheme out of HS2, so we ended up costing it ourselves with Michael Byng, who is a real expert in railway costing and has written the textbook on costing railway works for Network Rail, which is being implemented—not before time, I would say—and has a lot of credibility. We ended up demonstrating that we could probably save the Government £1.8 billion by putting all the trains into Euston and giving the west coast main line services a new station on top, so to speak, alongside the HS2 station. On a like-for-like comparison, the saving was £3 billion to £4 billion. Interestingly, HS2 never challenged any of the costs in the committee, which surprised me.
The reason I tabled Amendment 3 was to suggest that, before the Government embark on construction work on the ground, they need a comprehensive, up-to-date and independent cost estimate of the section between Old Oak Common and Euston. Having got some further information from HS2 since we appeared in front of the committee, we understand that it will cost £8.25 billion at 2014 last-quarter prices. This includes contingencies, risk compensation and everything else one might want.
The problem for me, and perhaps for the Minister, is that in a Written Answer he gave me on 21 December, the equivalent cost for the whole phase 1 scheme was £24.3 billion, on the same basis. That means that the section from Old Oak Common to and including Euston is about 34% of the total cost. That leaves £16 billion for the remaining 200 kilometres of line.
I am sure that this is not how it has been thought about, but one sometimes gets the feeling that, “Well, London’s expensive to build in, but when you get north of the countryside in Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire, it is quite easy”. The Committee should be aware that this is a line connecting the two major cities in this country. A tunnel has been proposed through the suburban areas in London, but not for the Birmingham area, from Water Orton to Curzon Street. It has to cross three motorways and several major railway lines and rivers. In fact, 40% of the total length is in either tunnel or viaduct, so it is a complicated structure. It will probably need new signal boxes and more power supply: my colleagues have calculated that the power needed for these high-speed trains is equivalent to half a Hinkley Point, when phase 2 is finished. It is a very big project.
We have got £16 billion to build 204 kilometres of line. Mr Byng has priced this, on the same basis that he presented to the Select Committee, pointing out that the cost of land acquisition, permanent and temporary, and disruption in the open areas is very expensive. We talked once to Professor McNaughton about the amount of compensation that was needed around Euston alone exceeding £1 billion—that was just the compensation. The costs are obviously very high. Mr Byng has now come up with an estimate, on the same basis, that the total cost of phase 1 of HS2 would be £53.6 billion, which is about double the figure that was in the Written Answer. Jonathan Roberts, who is a very experienced railway man, has compared those. I am not a cost engineer, but I respect the view of these two people. The costs when we started off at Euston have never been challenged. I want this scheme to happen, but I worry that there is no way that any bit of phase 1 can be completed at the price of £24 billion quoted in that Written Answer.
I believe that HS2 has spent about £1 billion on consultancy since it started, but why have they not done any credible costings on it? It is a very complicated route, but why have they not done it. We get back to the issue of value for money and business case, which my noble friend Lord Adonis mentioned earlier. Noble Lords will be aware that the chairman of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, Andrew Tyrie, wrote to Chris Grayling in the last week or so asking why they had increased the passenger number estimate, and whether it was just to improve the business case. I have not seen any answer, but I expect there is one. If one is going to increase the capital cost by anything approaching the figure I have given, that does not do a lot of good for the business case, because it goes down the other way. What can be done, because I do want this to happen? The first thing is to get a credible estimate by independent experts. I hope that Ministers will avoid the temptation of shooting the messenger, because it is important to get the figures right.
What can be done in a more positive way? As noble Lords have already said, one thing is to slow the trains down a bit, because the running costs of going at 400 kilometres an hour, or even 360, are extremely high, as are the capital costs of the trains and the track. Does it really matter if it takes two minutes longer to get to Birmingham? My view is that it does not, especially when you have got to walk 20 minutes from the new Curzon Street station to New Street, though that is a separate issue. You could leave out everything from Old Oak Common eastwards, as the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, mentioned earlier. He said it would work and I agree. Or we could adopt the cheaper scheme that we proposed for going to Euston. You could leave out the Handsacre link, which is not so expensive—maybe £1 billion—which links the top end of phase 1 to the west coast main line. It is a particularly worrying design because you have got six tracks coming together into three.
Beyond Handsacre, going towards Stafford, there is a section of the west coast main line that is not four tracks but three. I am not quite sure why it is only three; I think that somebody who had a large estate did not want his land built on. Anyway, it has a serious effect on the capacity of the line. If you did not put in the Handsacre link and you carried straight on to Crewe, which is where it is needed, people in Stafford and Stoke-on-Trent might not be so happy; on the other hand, if the west coast main line is to operate well, as it does, they might be happy. That is another way of perhaps saving £1 billion.
We will talk about the Wendover tunnel under a future amendment, but I am told that that could save about £750 million. If that does not happen, the only solution is to stop the line at Crewe or Nottingham, not to do phase 2 at all or for the Treasury to give double the money, although I cannot see that happening. Politically, if we stopped the line at Crewe or Nottingham, what would our friends who live north of that in the northern powerhouse think? They are already feeling pretty miserable about all the expense in the south.
I will not go on. I think that I have set out the reasons for tabling these amendments, but I urge the Minister to undertake this independent cost analysis and everything else that goes with it before the construction starts. Otherwise, in a couple of years, whoever is the Minister will say, “Sorry. It’s going ahead and we’ll need more money”. I can see Ministers in this Government and probably in any other Government saying, “Well, if you want more money, you’d better find it from the other railway budget”. That would be a complete disaster. I beg to move.
I support what the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has said. The scheme as envisaged is extravagant, and this is not a time when we can afford extravagance. There is a good case for having an independent assessment of the costs, particularly to consider such things as how long this railway can terminate at Old Oak Common, which would set aside a considerable sum of money. If a connection has to be made to Euston, how can that be done in the most economical way? I do not believe that that issue has been addressed. We are not talking about small sums of money; we are talking about billions of pounds.
One thing that I was told about the Bill was that people had made assumptions about the time it took to turn round a train from the north that was heading in the direction of London. I have run a lot of London stations. I can assure noble Lords that, with the number of trains that it is proposed to run from Manchester to Old Oak Common, it would be quite easy, given the six platforms there, to turn the trains round. What one has to factor in is the capacity at Old Oak Common. That means that there has to be a sufficient number of people to service the trains. Special attention also needs to be given to the access to and from the platforms.
I rather agree with the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, about the Handsacre link, which seems to cost a lot of money. I certainly agree on the issue about speed. There is a complete misapprehension of the value of journey time savings when we talk about savings of two minutes or less, yet that structure holds up the whole of our transport evaluation, whether in road, rail or anything else—the biggest factor to be taken into consideration is the value of the small time savings, which are all added together and form a colossal sum. However, people making a journey do not take into consideration whether they are going to be two minutes quicker, because in lots of modes of transport unpredictability is a much bigger factor than the journey time saving.
I also want to probe—to push very hard—on the time savings. We should be very careful about speeds which go much above 125 miles per hour, possibly up to 150. It costs a lot once you push speeds towards the upper end of the limit. I am happy to join the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, in his call for independent costings, but there is also a need for re-evaluation of the economic basis on which the line is to be built.
Lord Framlingham (Con)
My Lords, we have dealt with only two amendments so far, and any member of the public sitting listening to the Committee will be asking themselves: “Why on earth are you going ahead with this project?”. All we have are problems, which seem to me almost insurmountable; we have no answers to them. When we ask about the trek from St Pancras to Euston, the answer is, apparently, offer £3 million to the local authority as a prize if it can come up with the answer. That does not sound to me like much of a solution.
I know that this is not Second Reading, but we must ask ourselves whether there is any sense in going ahead with this whole project. We have not yet dealt with the environmental problems, which will be huge and last for years. We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, whose amendment I support, that the whole scheme is not properly costed and nobody knows what will happen in the long run.
The Minister described it as a vital scheme. It is not. The money could be much better spent on all sorts of things: hospitals, schools, or Liverpool-to-Hull transport. If we pursue it, I think we will regret it for a long time. As this matter proceeds, I hope that your Lordships’ House will think it through very carefully and perhaps have second thoughts about proceeding with the whole scheme.
Baroness Mallalieu (Lab)
My Lords, I support all the amendments in this group, particularly Amendments 5 and 6, tabled in the name of my noble friend Lord Stevenson who, I understand, cannot be here today but will be here to make some remarks if Committee continues on Thursday. These amendments call for further things which need to be done before work starts on the project, the first being the cost-benefit analysis of the environmental impact of the work and the second being the traffic management requirements.
I apologise to the Committee: I was unable to speak at Second Reading and should therefore declare my interests. I lived in the Chilterns for 36 years, not in an area directly affected. Further along the proposed line, I know personally every one of the villages mentioned in the amendments on the Marshalled List today. Quainton, Twyford, Chetwode, Mixbury and Barton-Hartshorn—I know them all and have known them for 50 years. I do not just know the villages, their names and the roads; I know the farms, fields, the woodlands and some of the people still living there, and I have seen the devastating effect that the Bill is already having on their lives and their communities. The environmental, not to mention the social impact, is enormous. I know that I am not allowed to make a Second Reading speech, although I did not make one before, and I shall strain every sinew not to do so.
The Government tell us that the public have a right to require value for money, and I totally agree. The cost changes each time I see a figure, but £57 billion is the latest one, and no one with the slightest grasp of reality believes that it will stop there. This House, in the detailed report of the Economic Affairs Committee, chaired by my noble friend Lord Hollick, has already drawn attention to the need for a number of the central questions to be answered. Those questions were posed and not adequately answered by the Government’s very flimsy response in July 2005; nor do I believe they have been since, although I know the Minister said at Second Reading that he thought they had been. Where is the answer to a key question in that list, as to whether HS2 is the best way to spend £50 billion—although I up that now to £57 billion—to stimulate the UK economy?
One thing that has not been done is that the environmental impact has not been subject to any cost-benefit analysis. Surely the public, who are going to have to pay for this project in so many ways and relatively few of whom will see any actual benefit, are entitled to a proper cost-benefit analysis before our countryside is destroyed. As for the pressure to carry on with this project without a cost-benefit analysis, I will come to how it was conceived in a moment, but I understand from the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson, when he spoke in this House on an earlier debate on this topic, that the Labour Cabinet was searching for a legacy project and someone suggested that China and France had high-speed railways. I do not think the pressure for it comes from the rail users on Southern, from the commuters standing on trains day after day coming into London or even from those whose businesses in the north of England are hampered by the absence of a good trans-Pennine rail link. We are told there is going to be a lack of capacity, but it is not visible to me as I stand on the excellent Chiltern line stations and see an excellent service at present—not overcrowded —from London to Birmingham. What about spending money on capacity which is really urgent right now, as we have all been seeing in the last few weeks and indeed right up to today?
The reality is that, in choosing that legacy, scant consideration was given to the devastating environmental damage which will inevitably result to a very special piece of English countryside. My noble friend Lord Stevenson was going to talk about the Chilterns, and I will just say a few words about it. It is a unique area of beech wood but has also become, in the 36 years I have lived there, the lungs of London. Anyone who goes down to the Chilterns on a weekend will see people pouring out of London to walk and enjoy the peace which reigns over most of it. Beyond that, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire—the area I know well—is not tourist country. It is not even really walkers’ country but it is old England—the England that we ought to preserve and celebrate. If we destroy those things and take them away from the public, at vast expense and for relatively little benefit to very few people, without making a proper cost-benefit analysis of what we are doing, I do not think we will be forgiven. Indeed, not having such a cost-benefit analysis would be pure vandalism, and I hope the Minister will say that the Government will address all the things set out in the five amendments in the group before anybody starts work with the bulldozers and the concrete and does damage that can never be repaired.
My Lords, my noble friend who has just sat down started her speech by saying she was not going to make a Second Reading speech and then, if I may say so, did exactly that. We can all make the sort of Second Reading speech that the noble Lord opposite made too, but we are supposed to be talking about particular amendments to the Bill. Thirty-something years ago, I made a speech in the other place in favour of the Channel Tunnel. The response, largely from my own side of the Chamber, was that there were lots of other priorities that we should spend our money on, such as housing, social services, hospitals, et cetera—the sort of speech that the noble Lord opposite has just made. It was Dennis Skinner who objected to my advocacy of the Channel Tunnel, so the noble Lord opposite has now become the Dennis Skinner of the Conservative Party—not a label I would have thought that he would go out to seek normally.
I understand that this is not the place to make a Second Reading speech but we are entitled to talk about the value of these amendments in the whole scheme. What is being highlighted is that there are no solutions and that is very important.
Again, with respect to the noble Lord, I do not mind him speaking about the amendments; procedural matters are not for me, anyway. But he said, in effect, that the money being spent—whether that is £50 billion as my noble friend said or whatever—would be better spent on other things. That, I have to say, is a Second Reading speech, and the question, “Why are you spending money on this rather than that?” could be asked in either Chamber in relation to any matter under the sun. As for my noble friend’s contribution, while I had better be careful that I do not make a Second Reading speech myself, I am somewhat sick of hearing about the enormous damage that is being done to an area of natural beauty by a two-track railway line.
Lord Jones of Cheltenham (LD)
What about the tunnels?
I will come to the tunnels in later amendments—my noble friend should not distract me just yet; I will deal with them in a moment or two.
As it was said, the garden of England, Kent, was not destroyed by High Speed 1, although I sat and listened for months on end to petitioners telling me that it would be. I am glad to say that was the last hybrid Bill I served on; I do not want to do another one after that experience. The destruction never happened, and, indeed, the economy of various parts of Kent has been boosted enormously by HS1, as we heard earlier. I do not know where my noble friend was when the M40 was being built. There are of course no tunnels on it, but I presume that it is a great asset to the Chilterns. I would have thought that objections to it, such as they were, would have been somewhat muted by the convenience to the objectors of getting their motor cars back to London from the lovely parts of the Chilterns in which they lived or were visiting.
I accept what the noble Lord says about the building of a two-track railway, but surely given the size of this project he will concede that every possible effort should be made to ensure it has a minimum impact on the countryside. Given that huge size—£55 billion—even reasonable amounts of money should be given, without much discussion, to make sure the damage is kept to a minimum.
I am immensely sorry to refute the noble Lord’s assertions but we spent a long time looking into this project and a considerable amount of money has been and is being spent trying to meet some of the objections that he outlined.
Those who, like my noble friend, were against the project denounced it for costing some £50 billion, yet with every speech they want to add to that cost because there is something in their area that they wish to preserve. I pay tribute, as others have, to the Select Committee, and note that my noble friend Lord Adonis has joined us. It spent months listening to various petitioners, many of whom were against the project, but all anxious for more public money to be spent on the bit they objected to. We could go on like this for ever and not build anything at all. Presumably that was the objective behind the speech of the noble Lord opposite. For my noble friend to pray in aid my noble friend Lord Mandelson by describing it as a vanity project—this from the man in charge of the Dome, a vanity project if ever there one—is, in addition to the other Second Reading speeches that have been made, of no great service to the Committee or the project.
I am fascinated by the agreement between my noble friend Lord Berkeley and the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw. My noble friend wants to extend the line from Hanslope to Crewe. I am not sure how much that would cost. He also wants to build a four-track railway to replace the short distance of three-track railway from Hanslope Junction—as he will recall, there is another three-track railway going north from Rugby. Although it is neither in the Bill nor his amendments, it should not be too great a project to build that replacement. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, meanwhile, wants to reduce the other end of the line to Old Oak Common. Yet they say they are in agreement with one another—by the sound of it, they both want to redesign the whole project. I am not quite sure how much that would cost, either.
I do not know whether there is any great merit in these amendments. I know that my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, spent a considerable time behind the scenes in the attempt to redesign Euston station and I am sure that we will come to that issue under a future amendment. However, it seems to me that this Committee will not make much progress if those who were against the project in the first place make similar speeches on every set of amendments between now and whenever the Committee adjourns later today or on Thursday.
My Lords, I rise to make a short point following the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Snape. I recently went to the railway museum in Swindon, where I read all about the predictions of disaster for Brunel’s Great Western Railway and the huge opposition to it. In fact, the towns that accepted a station in their centre prospered; those that rejected a station did not prosper as much. We nowadays look on railways as an environmentally friendly way of travelling. I simply want to point out that I do not believe that amendments that question particular aspects of the Bill undermine the Bill; in our case, they are designed to strengthen it. Wanting to monitor the spending of money is a sign that we want the project to succeed. I want to make it absolutely clear that putting down an apparently critical amendment does not mean any lack of support for the concept of the project as a whole. We want it to succeed.
I hope the noble Baroness will accept from me that I am not making that accusation. I am saying that I do not quite understand the agreement between my noble friend and her noble friend Lord Bradshaw on this group of amendments, but I am sure that they will explain it. I appreciate that there are genuine and legitimate concerns inherent in their amendments. My objection is to speeches that are meant to sabotage the whole project. We have had these debates on umpteen occasions. My noble friend mentioned the Economic Affairs Committee report, which was torn apart on the Floor of the House. I am not saying that my contribution made any difference, but the approach that was taken was enough for me. If we are going to judge every project on so-called value for money, no project would ever meet the criteria laid down by those who were against that project in the first place. Whatever you did, they would say, “This is not value for money”. As the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, said, some of the objectors to Brunel’s railway were thought quite credible. They gave evidence to a House of Commons Committee saying that trains passing through Box Tunnel on the Great Western main line at faster than 60 miles an hour would asphyxiate those on board. They were not particularly credible then, although they were listened to, and some of the objections that we have heard to this project are not particularly credible now.
My Lords, we have had a wide-ranging Second Reading debate. I sympathise completely with the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, and all the communities that are affected. The golden rule of any construction project is that people would rather it happened somewhere else. The golden rule of high-speed rail is that people want the stations but they do not want the line, but the line unfortunately has to go somewhere. Every time that this has been looked at, still more of the line going through the Chilterns has gone into a tunnel to mitigate the impacts on the local community. None the less, the construction work will be a major inconvenience for local communities and I in no way underestimate that fact.
The House and successive Governments have had to address themselves to a particular issue. My noble friend referred to the Government to 2010, in which I led the work. I can tell her that it was absolutely not the case that this was generated as a vanity project. It was generated by looking at the options of further upgrades of the west coast main line. Noble Lords need to understand that the last upgrade of the west coast main line, which was completed in 2009, cost £10 billion —of course, inflation would make that figure much larger now. That was a modest upgrade to provide very limited additional capacity compared with what HS2 will provide. Unfortunately, there is no free lunch. We definitely need upgrades to parts of the Southern network —particularly the London to Brighton line, though if the trains were operating on that line at the moment most of the immediate concerns would be met. Upgrades are needed to most of the commuter lines coming into London. However, we are also going to need significant additional intercity capacity. My noble friend said that this is a line that very few people will use—these are the major conurbations of the country. Almost half the output of the entire country is generated between them by London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. It is simply not conceivable that we will not need very significant additional transport capacity between those conurbations over the next generation. We will clearly not be flying lots of planes between them. We do not want to build new motorways: I know my noble friend will have views on the impact the M40 had on the Chilterns.
The only option is a significant increase in rail capacity and that can only come in one of two ways. It is not the case that this has not been examined; it was looked at exhaustively in the work that I and the subsequent coalition Government did. It can come from radically upgrading the existing lines. Options for this have been looked at, including four-tracking the Chiltern line—the impact of which on the Chilterns would be greater, out of all proportion, than HS2—and significant upgrades to the west coast main line. The sums required to conduct those upgrades would be approaching the levels we would spend on HS2. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, referred to Brunel. The London to Birmingham railway, linking the two major cities of the country, is not even a Victorian project; it is pre-Brunel. It was opened for the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838. There are only four miles of the entire line going to Manchester which are straight, because most of it was built to get around the estates of many Members of your Lordships’ House. Building significant additional capacity on that pre-Victorian railway, including the required resignalling of almost the entire line, the relaying of the junctions for longer trains, and the rebuilding of the stations—starting with Euston, which is operating at twice the capacity for which it was built in the 1960s—are vastly expensive projects.
The question to which Parliament must address itself, and have a consistency of purpose on, is not whether something needs to be done—there would be a massive betrayal of our national economic future, particularly post-Brexit, if we do not have sufficient transport capacity between the major cities and economic centres of the country—but what should be done. Taking a longer-term view of investments will produce a step change in capacity between these major cities, rather than more patch and mend. Producing incremental increases in capacity will not be sufficient, including on commuter lines because the building of high-speed lines releases significant capacity on existing commuter lines.
The noble Lord is making a much better non-Second Reading speech than I did. Does he agree that any upgrade of the existing railway lines could not be done at the same time as running the present intensive service? The short-sighted nature of debates in this House and elsewhere means that alternative routes have long since been closed—since the 1960s—so we would paralyse the west coast main line for a decade or so ahead while not having the benefits of any diversionary routes.
My noble friend is completely correct. Of the £10 billion spent on the last upgrade of the west coast main line, £1 billion was spent on compensation to train companies for not running services. The easiest way to make money if you are running a train service on the existing rail network is to have major upgrade work taking place, which means you get compensated. You get a huge and reliable source of funds for not running any services at all.
I do not want to go through these big arguments again. I come back to the Chilterns. The villages and settlements my noble friend Lady Mallalieu mentioned would not be the successful, vibrant settlements they are without the Chiltern line itself. It was the construction of the Chiltern line that put life-blood into many of these communities. Two sets of decisions were taken at the end of 2009 in respect of these lines, one of which has been hugely controversial, and will continue to be until it is open, when people will wonder what all the controversy was about, which is the construction of HS2. The other big investment that I authorised, which also took some persuading because there were alternative uses of the money, was a significant sum for the upgrade of the Chiltern line, which I assume my noble friend welcomes. That upgrade now enables services on the Chiltern line to run at 90 miles per hour. As my noble friend mentioned, it provides an economic alternative route to Birmingham, which was not possible before. We have just opened the new services going to Oxford, which will transform the connectivity of that area, including the construction of a great deal of housing.
All this is being made possible by significant investment in a major transport artery, including one that goes through an area of outstanding natural beauty. We cannot have successful communities and a thriving economy unless we have decent connectivity. The Chilterns knows that better than anywhere because it has one of the most successful and fastest-growing railway lines, in traffic terms, in the country in the Chiltern line. It is vital that we do not deprive our great conurbations and all those who depend on them, which are the life-blood of the nation, of the essential benefits of connectivity into the next generation.
What we need to do—huge attention has gone into this—is reconcile those big investments and the big projects with the amelioration necessary for the local communities. Nowhere in the history of the planning of railways has seen greater investment in tunnels to ameliorate the impact on the community than what is taking place in the Chilterns. A huge amount of work is going into ensuring that the impact of the construction work is reduced too, but it is important not to confuse these two essential points. The continuing work that needs to be done, which HS2 Ltd should do and which my noble friend is quite right to continue to press it on, is seeing that the impacts of the construction work on the communities affected are minimised. Equally, we as a Parliament need the resolve to see that we have the essential connectivity between our major conurbations in the next generation, without which our economy would be severely damaged.
I do not wish to make a Second Reading speech, but I simply say that at Second Reading we indicated our support for the Bill and the project. That is where we stand. Likewise, we accept the point made that that does not prevent amendments being tabled and debated to discuss issues of outstanding concern.
I wish to raise only one point in the context of my noble friend Lord Berkeley’s Amendment 3 referring to routes east of Old Oak Common. Do the Government intend now, in this debate, to address the point made in the Select Committee’s report in paragraph 178, or is their intention not to respond to this issue at this time, but when they produce their formal reply to the report? The issue I refer to is the point about the comprehensive redevelopment of Euston and this comment in the Select Committee’s report:
“The new station which will eventually emerge after so much expenditure of public funds and so much misery endured by Camden residents, ought to be a world-class railway station, and the splitting of its design into two different operations seems unlikely to assist in the achievement of that objective. We earnestly urge the Secretary of State to ensure that funding is provided for the second planning stage to proceed as soon as possible”.
What will the Government’s response be to that, and, indeed, to the views of Camden Council on this issue of ensuring the design and development of Euston as a coherent whole? Will they respond when they reply to Amendment 3, spoken to by my noble friend Lord Berkeley, or does the Minister—I would obviously accept this—wish to indicate that that will be covered in the Government’s response to the Select Committee report when it comes out?
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
I again thank all noble Lords for their contributions. On the final point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, I have already alluded to the fact that the Government will look to publish their response to the Select Committee report next week, which will certainly cover the two questions that he raised.
On the amendments, the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, talked about shooting messengers. It is certainly never the intention of government to indulge in such activity. We fully accept that there are challenges. There have been thorough reviews of the proposals behind such a large infrastructure project. I fully accept, too, that strong sentiments are associated with large infrastructure projects such as this, in their building and in the challenges posed in ensuring that we mitigate impact on the environment. As several noble Lords have said, such challenges should be looked at practically to see how best they can be addressed. Without such an approach, as the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, well articulated, many an infrastructure project, and perhaps our railway as a whole, might not be present today. I was once told by a Parisian that when the Eiffel Tower was being constructed Parisians at the time strongly objected to such a monstrosity appearing in the middle of the capital city. I wonder what they would think wherever they are now. Nevertheless, I note the concerns that have been expressed and will address some of the issues that have arisen.
A number of the amendments that have been tabled for this Committee stage of the Bill have been fully considered by Select Committees of both Houses and look to alternative proposals for aspects of the Bill scheme. I am sure noble Lords will appreciate that two Select Committees have already spent a combined period of more than two years hearing evidence and considering all aspects of the proposed Bill scheme and alternatives to it. Those committees received representations from more than 3,400 petitioners and made their conclusions having explored all the relevant issues. As we move through the different stages of the Bill, it is important that we draw a line under such considerations.
On a review of the costs for phase 1 of HS2, I assure noble Lords and, in particular, the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, that the costs have already been subject to intense analysis and review over several years and will continue to be reviewed for many years to come, and indeed during construction. Several noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Framlingham, raised the issue of costs. I assure him and others that both the Public Accounts Committee of the other place and the National Audit Office, a body that already has a statutory function to examine proper allocation of public expenditure, have produced several publicly available reports on the costs of HS2. I am sure both bodies will continue to examine those costs as we move into the detailed design and construction stage and as more detailed costs information becomes available.
As noble Lords will be aware, an updated cost estimate for the project is also published at each new iteration of the business case, with the next such iteration due this summer. The project as a whole, including its cost estimate and business case, is subject to regular independent review by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority and the Commons Public Accounts Committee. I therefore do not believe or accept that further independent review is necessary at this time. The Select Committees and other committees that I have referenced have looked at the costs associated with the project. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, that we have produced high-level cost estimates for our Euston proposals as well, but we have to be mindful that we need to keep certain detailed cost figures commercially confidential as we go to market for the construction work. I am sure the noble Lord will acknowledge that officials in my department and the team at HS2 have sought to work with him and given time to listen to the proposals he has presented.
I also fully endorse the point that was well made by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, that those who may be suggesting alternatives or being critical of certain elements of the construction of HS2 are not against the scheme as a whole. Indeed, I know that the noble Lord accepts that part of the reasoning behind building HS2 is the economic case in terms of addressing issues of capacity. I know that he, as a great champion of the freight industry, also accepts that once we see the extra passenger capacity on HS2 it will release extra capacity for freight on existing lines.
I assure noble Lords that we have produced various costs for both the Select Committees, including funding costs and costs for key elements, but we will provide more detail as we move forward. It is also worth noting that an independent review of the HS2 Ltd cost estimate of a bored tunnel through the Colne Valley has been undertaken. The outcome of that independent cost review, undertaken by the lead non-executive director for the DfT, Ed Smith, has been published and concluded that the HS2 Ltd cost estimates were both reasonable and consistent. Other than delaying the railway, and in doing so adding additional cost, it is not clear to me what benefit the amendment would bring.
With regard to the alternative routes into Euston and the associated request from the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, to consider a route east of Old Oak Common, I do not believe that this amendment is necessary or appropriate. The noble Lord knows that I respect his commitment to this subject. I know that he appeared before the Select Committees in both Houses to make the case for an alternative solution at Euston. Neither Select Committee saw fit to recommend his alternative solution, nor a value-for-money review as the amendment proposes.
Given that it is the role of the Select Committee to consider such matters and that both Select Committees, having considered all the available evidence on these issues, did not believe any further cost reviews were necessary, I do not believe that the amendment is appropriate at this stage. It would serve only to delay the beginning of construction once Parliament had authorised the project. Clearly, such a delay in and of itself would add additional and unnecessary costs to the delivery of the scheme, which I am sure is not the noble Lord’s intention.
The link to the west coast main line at Handsacre was also considered by the Select Committees of both Houses, which were the most appropriate forum for any subsequent amendments on this issue to have been made. It is also important to note that the link at Handsacre serves a dual purpose. It will allow services to run north following the completion of phase 1 but, following the completion of phase 2A, it will also allow high-speed services to continue serving Stafford, something that the people of Staffordshire value very highly.
As I said, the Select Committee of the other House spent considerable time hearing evidence from parties wishing to promote alternative environmental mitigation proposals, including tunnel options in the Chilterns. The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, spoke with great passion on this issue. I assure her that this work included reviewing the cost-benefit analysis of the various options. Ultimately, the Select Committee of the other place requested a 2.6-kilometre extension to the Chilterns tunnel, at an additional cost of £47 million, and recommended a 100-metre extension of the Wendover Green tunnel, at an additional cost of approximately £15 million.
However, the committee was clearly of the view that the environmental benefits of further tunnelling did not warrant the significant additional cost. The cost of the other proposed tunnel options ranged from £82 million to £485 million. While I am sure that those who favoured an extended tunnel in the Chilterns will continue to be dissatisfied that their proposals were not supported, I hope that they—including the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, who could not attend this afternoon—would concede that the process allowed them to have their say and that we should now respect the outcomes of the process even if we do not always agree with them.
I fully appreciate the concerns of noble Lords in relation to traffic management, but I believe that Amendment 6 is also unnecessary. The nominated undertaker is required by the code of construction practice to prepare a route-wide traffic management plan. This will be developed in liaison with relevant highway and traffic authorities and the emergency services. It will also cover all traffic management issues in relation to HS2. In addition to the route-wide plan, the code of construction practice also requires the appointed nominated undertaker to prepare local traffic management plans in liaison with the relevant local highway and traffic authorities and emergency services.
Let me also assure the noble Baroness that we have looked to mitigation in a series of areas. For example, we have provided more than 50 assurances to Buckinghamshire County Council to further mitigate the impact of the new rail line. This includes 21 assurances on traffic and transport, a fund of £3 million towards additional environmental enhancements in the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty, a fund of £3 million towards additional mitigation in the Colne Valley, and a £1 million fund for additional mitigation and engagement on detailed design with stakeholders in the Calvert and Steeple Claydon area. In the area of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, we have provided half a million pounds for Great Missenden, a £1.2 million enhancement to the link road roundabout, and a further half a million pounds to provide a new school car park.
I also assure noble Lords that once contractors have been appointed, they will be required to communicate regularly with parties affected by the works. Local residents and businesses will be informed appropriately and in advance of dates and durations of any closures of roads or public right of way, and will be provided with details of diversion routes at least two weeks in advance or when final details are available. Advance warning signs of road closures will be provided for users of roads and public of rights of way.
I therefore hope that noble Lords recognise that sufficient protections already exist in the commitments that have been made, and that the Government have sought to listen in addressing and mitigating issues of both noise and the environment. Any further requirements are unnecessary and will serve only to delay the start of construction on what most recognise as a vital infrastructure project. Furthermore, I believe that this House should respect the decisions of the Select Committees, whose members, as we have recognised, spent many hours considering many of the issues that have been discussed this afternoon in detail with the evidence in front of them before they came to their reasoned conclusions. Therefore, with the assurances that I have provided, I hope that the amendments will not be pressed.
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this short debate. At one stage, I felt that I had really put the cat among the pigeons in an unacceptable way, but we have come back to the text of the amendments, and I am grateful for the Minister’s response. I want the scheme to go ahead. It is needed for capacity, as my noble friend Lord Adonis said. My worry is to do with the costs. As the Minister knows, I have been meeting senior officials of HS2 and his department, probably for two years. In connection with the Euston scheme, it was clear to me that there was no cost estimate for the AP3 scheme, as it is called; that is why we decided to price it for them. The figure came out at £8.25 billion. Because it was so high in relation to the total cost of phase 1, I thought it was very likely that there would be a serious cost overrun for phase 1, which could put the project at risk, which I do not want to happen.
If HS2 or his department have figures for costs, is the Minister willing to share them with us? We have a big schedule here of the costs of the whole project from railway control systems, train power, enabling works and building works to signalling. If we have got it wrong, I would like to know about it. We have a blank screen at the moment. Could we have a meeting on this before Report when we could share these costs with his officials?
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
If there is anything that we can assist with between different stages of the Bill I would welcome meetings, either directly with myself or with officials, and if schedules allow we will arrange them. On the cost of the Euston AP3 scheme, an estimate of expense was deposited in September 2015, as required by Standing Orders, and I hope that the noble Lord is aware of this.
I am grateful to the Minister. Perhaps we can follow this up afterwards. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 2 withdrawn.
Amendments 3 to 6 not moved.
Clause 1 agreed.
7: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“Benefit and cost review of a Wendover Mined Tunnel
(1) The Secretary of State shall commission a review of the potential benefits of constructing a Mined Tunnel at Wendover, Buckinghamshire.(2) The review shall have regard to possible alleviation of High Speed 2 construction and train operational noise, and to alternatives for such alleviation.(3) The review shall include estimates of the costs of construction of a Mined Tunnel and other relevant costs.(4) The Secretary of State must lay a report on the outcome of the review before both Houses of Parliament—(a) within three months of the passing of this Act; and(b) before commencement of any High Speed 2 construction works necessitating the movement of more than 24 heavy goods vehicle through Wendover per day.”
Viscount Astor (Con)
My Lords, my amendment—and possibly those that follow—may rehybridise the Bill. However, as this is Grand Committee there are no votes and that is not likely to happen today. I have tabled them to elicit a response from the Minister. While rehybridising and recommitment does not often happen, it is not unprecedented. As a Minister in a long-past Government, it happened to me on a Scottish transport Bill. Lord Burton put down an amendment about badgers and otters crossing roads—a subject which your Lordships would get rather worked up about. My speaking notes from the department at the time said: “Resist at all costs”, which I gamely tried to do. However, I was somewhat undermined half way through the debate by the noble and learned Lord who had chaired the Select Committee standing up and saying that there was an omission that the committee had failed to debate or look at. He therefore supported Lord Burton’s amendment that it be looked at again, whereupon I had to retire hurt. It did work, and the Bill finally came forward with Lord Burton’s amendment.
These amendments are important because the Select Committee had a very limited remit when it looked at the Bill. It could not stray from its rather narrow route. That said, it produced a good and admirable report. It made some general points about the promoter engaging in effective and timely public engagement and noted that it found the complexity of the process difficult for petitioners to understand. Petitioners sometimes also found the documentation provided by the promoter, “arcane, opaque and unhelpful”. They were also sometimes unfairly treated by late replies after months of silence, suggesting that their concerns had perhaps been met. I am sure the Minister will be the opposite this afternoon: clear, helpful and responsive.
In its report, the Select Committee noted the issues that surround Wendover and reported that it had directed a longer Chilterns bored tunnel, greater noise protection for Wendover and better construction arrangements in Hillingdon. It did not comment on the evidence presented on the proposed mined tunnel further along the route. It could not consider changes that require an additional provision without a direction from the House. We have the opportunity at a later stage of the Bill to give that direction for it to be looked at via a transport works order. The initial longer, mined tunnel was rejected by the promoter on grounds of cost. Although it is obvious that a longer tunnel is more costly and complicated, the promoter did not fully take account of the possible savings on the compulsory purchase of land and housing and the effect on the environment. There were two experts and, as we all know, experts on both sides of the argument hate being proved wrong. Those who wished for a longer tunnel provided an expert—described by the Select Committee as a credible witness—who disputed the costs. Indeed, those costs were not greater but actually a saving on the promoters’ costs. That is because the mined tunnel would be 4.2 kilometres long and it would save just over a kilometre of viaduct. As we know—as the experts tell me, anyway, and I think they are right—viaducts are expensive to build and maintain. There could be a saving on property, there could be a saving on costs, and it would solve noise issues. Mined tunnels are cheaper and have been done before. The area is virtually the same type of chalk as the other Wendover tunnel. Indeed, the water table does not present an insoluble problem.
I am no expert. I hesitate to say who is right between tunnelling and rail experts. I leave that expertise to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, who does know about these things. But I do know that this is an issue that should be re-examined as there is clearly a difference between acknowledged experts. In the overall scheme of timing and costs, it is actually quite minimal but for the people of Wendover it is extremely important and there is no excuse for the Government and the promoters not to get it right. Those affected by the route have a right to have their case heard and their petitions properly scrutinised, not rejected out of hand for the convenience of the process. I have tabled this amendment to ask the Government to look again at the issues of cost and to ask the Minister whether he will consider having a short, quick, independent review into whether this is feasible. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support the noble Viscount’s amendment. It appears that this provision was not in fact looked at by the Select Committee. It is a provision which, unlike the concerns that were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Snape, is likely to save money rather than cost more—
“My noble friend”.
My noble friend, I am sorry. On the face of it, it will not require any delay either. The Select Committee was not able to look at it. It was told that the proposal that was then before it was additional provision.
The end result is that Wendover, which I think members of the Select Committee will remember is the village from which they had the largest number of letters, received the benefits, I suppose you could call them, only of a rejection of any sound barriers, which, although they were thought by the committee to be effective, would have been visibly intrusive. It was told that the donation to the church of £250,000 was generous. It is a very musical church which is going to have great difficulty in continuing as the centre for various concerts and performances. A new cricket pavilion was to be provided by the promoters on an alternative ground. That was the end result of Wendover’s concerted effort to bring about some changes in the proposals.
This proposal—if it is right, and I have no means of knowing whether it is—would appear to be one that would have the support of that community, would go a considerable way towards helping to ameliorate some of the worst parts of the line and, as I said, would result in some savings and no delay. Surely it would be possible for the Minister to say that this is one of the proposals that, respecting what the committee has said, was not before it and should be looked at before it is rejected out of hand.
My Lords, I do not necessarily oppose the amendment, although I listened with interest to what my noble friend said about how this would save money. I am not sure what costings the noble Viscount has carried out. There has been some criticism of the costings so far as the whole project is concerned, yet we are told by the noble Viscount and my noble friend that this will actually save money. Perhaps, for the clarification of the Committee, they could tell us how their conclusions have been arrived at. I am no expert. My noble friend Lord Berkeley might tell me. I am not quite sure what a mined tunnel is and what differentiates a mined tunnel from a normal railway tunnel.
As I understand it, a mined tunnel is where you use a digger to make a hole, as opposed to one of those circular machines that makes a round hole. Apparently it is a cheaper way of doing it than the other way, but I am not an expert.
Though he is not an expert, the noble Viscount has done extremely well. I am enlightened.
Maybe I can help. My noble friend at some stage probably came down the Channel Tunnel while we were building it. We had boring machines boring the tunnels, but there were two caverns for crossovers, which were mined using something called the new Austrian tunnelling method, which involves more or less what the noble Viscount said. It is a big digger on tracks with a revolving arm and cutters that stick out. Something then gets the spoil that goes underneath it, then you spray concrete with re-enforcing mesh on it and put in in situ or precast concrete later. It is supposed to be a lot cheaper; you do not need a boring machine. My colleagues have looked at the costs and they reckon that there is about £750 million to save. It is a very good scheme.
I am replying to an intervention on my speech. I will of course give way to my noble friend in a moment, but first of all I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Berkeley. He was very clear indeed. I have become an expert now on mined tunnels. I give way to my noble friend now.
I simply wished to make a point to the Minister. My understanding is that it is not correct to say that the Select Committee did not consider this issue of a mined tunnel at length. My understanding is that it spent a very considerable amount of time listening to the arguments. I find it inconceivable, with all the expertise my noble friend Lord Berkeley has been able to give us this afternoon, that we could substitute our judgments in the course of a debate of half an hour, or an hour, or an hour and a half for the huge attention that the Select Committee gave to this over many hours, as I understand it, seeking a very wide range of expertise. If it is the case that the Select Committee considered this and that my noble friend Lady Mallalieu was incorrect in suggesting that it was not considered, I cannot see that there is much point in us continuing this debate in the form that we are.
I am rather sorry I got involved in this whole thing now. I make one plea on behalf of the train passengers, who will pay a substantial amount and a bit more besides as a premium. Part of the pleasure of taking a train journey is looking out of the windows. This obsession with tunnelling everywhere through the Chilterns means we will perhaps be denied the sight of my noble friend galloping across the rolling hills of the Chilterns in pursuit of the uneatable. Surely these are sights that people enjoy when travelling by train. Rather than confine train passengers in tunnels for miles on end, would not the noble Viscount be satisfied with some sort of noise barrier, rather than insisting that train passengers on this proposed high-speed line spend their lives in semi-darkness to avoid my noble friend and her colleagues?
Lord Young of Norwood Green (Lab)
My Lords, I hesitate to come into this debate, but I confirmed with my colleagues that I was not suffering from post-traumatic High Speed 2 Select Committee delusion. We spent an inordinate amount of time, quite rightly, looking at possible alternatives and at costings. We did not just take the promoter’s word for it. Whenever it put up its experts we looked at whether we could ascertain whether there was an independent corroboration of the costings. Indeed, the Minister confirmed that this was the case earlier when he talked about the possible tunnelling in the Colne Valley area. That was independently assessed. It was proved that the promoter’s costings were right. There were not any savings to be made, although there were lots of assertions that there were savings to be made.
I appreciate the thanks we have had for the amount of time we spent. There were times when I remembered the old Army adage, “Never volunteer”, but, despite that, for the most part we enjoyed it because it was expertly chaired. We ought to pay tribute to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe, who carried out the task, in our collective view, skilfully and carefully.
On the final point in Amendment 7, there are no heavy goods vehicles going through Wendover. It was asserted on many occasions that there are alternative routes. Like my noble friend Lord Adonis, I am not trying to pretend that this project will not cause problems in its impact during the construction phase, but we at least ought to be accurate if we are putting down an amendment. I hope that that has helped noble Lords.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. After the interventions by the noble Lords, Lord Adonis and Lord Young, I feel that there is little left for me to say except to clarify that they are both correct. It is important to underline that point for the record.
I will start with the amendment in the name of my noble friend. As he recognised, the issue would lead to a rehybridisation of the Bill. He talked of his own experience and I fully accept that it is procedurally possible for this to happen, but we need to think long and hard about whether such amendments should be made. I reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, that, as we heard from a member of the Select Committee, this was given a fair and detailed hearing by that committee, as well as in the other place. Despite not being able to consider changes that would require an additional provision without a direction from the House, your Lordships’ Select Committee nevertheless heard further arguments on the case for a mined tunnel at Wendover, on the supposition that an order under the Transport and Works Act 1992 could be used to enable further powers to be secured if needed. After that extensive and exhaustive review, neither Select Committee felt the need to recommend that additional work be undertaken to investigate the merits of or provision for a mined tunnel—we all know what that is now—at Wendover.
I reiterate that we have provided a range of additional assurances for the residents of Wendover, which, as well as the ones that I have spoken about, include noise barriers on the Small Dean embankment, an assurance relating to noise mitigation measures at Wendover Campus School and funding for a bespoke package of noise insulation at St Mary’s Church, Wendover, to allow it to continue to function as a concert venue. I have already talked about the 100-metre Wendover tunnel extension and the noise barriers that were secured in the other place. I have also alluded to the independent review of costs—the noble Lord, Lord Young, also mentioned it—conducted by the non-executive director, Ed Smith. I reiterate the hope that the noble Baroness will reflect not just on what I have said today but on the appropriate sections of the Select Committee report, which also considered this matter.
While I continue to recognise the valid concerns that my noble friend raised about remaining impacts on Wendover, the area has been given many commitments to manage the impacts of the new railway. I believe that this House should respect the decisions of the Select Committees in the House of Commons and in your Lordships’ House.
I apologise for interrupting, but I just want to be clear about this. I am looking at the relevant section of the report—120—and it appears that the committee looked at a bored tunnel but not at a mined tunnel. If I am wrong about that, I would be grateful if I could be corrected. Notwithstanding the fact that the committee was in some doubt about whether it should look at it, it looked at a bored tunnel, whereas the proposal that is now being made by the noble Viscount is a somewhat different project.
Lord Young of Norwood Green
I can assure your Lordships that we looked at all the alternatives at great length on many occasions. Although I did not always enjoy the repetition, it was important that we heard the arguments. We heard from experts on both sides, so if there is one thing this Committee need not worry about, it is whether these alternatives were given a lengthy and fair hearing.
My Lords, I am grateful to everybody who has spoken. I particularly enjoyed the idea from the noble Lord, Lord Snape, that a four-kilometre mined tunnel would put HS2 passengers in darkness. If I have got right the speed that the train is going to go, in a four-kilometre tunnel, you only have to blink three times and you have missed it.
I am sure that is right, although I am not sure whether it would stand up mathematically in a courtroom, but we are not talking about just this particular tunnel—there is lots of tunnelling through the Chilterns, which has come about as a result of demands, including semi-hysterical demands from a then member of the Cabinet, which in the view of many of us who have taken an interest in the project has added unnecessarily to the cost and makes travelling by train less pleasant. A lot of the people that the noble Viscount represents are against the project as a whole—a point that we have made time after time.
I am not going to get into that debate with the noble Lord, but I think I am right I saying that the purpose of HS2 was not to give travellers better views of the countryside but to get them somewhere more quickly and more efficiently, although I am sure it is an added bonus if they have a better view of the country.
To come to the point, there is a difference of opinion among experts. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, does not like to see any criticism of this project and regards the promoter’s and the department’s experts as necessarily right. I do not know whether they are right. I did not say who was right; I said that during the Select Committee hearings there were a lot of conversations between experts that show there is a difference of opinion, as there have been since its report. All I am saying is there is an opportunity for the Minister and his department to look at this again. That is all I am asking. I am not saying who is right and who is wrong, but that there is an issue. It will not delay the Bill or the process. It is about whether the Minister’s department will look at the evidence and see whether it addressed all the concerns and issues.
I was not seeking in any way to say that one set of experts should be more highly esteemed than another. I was making the factual point that my understanding, which has been confirmed, was that the Select Committee heard experts on both sides. Indeed, it engaged its own experts because it was not going to take the word of one set of experts against the other. It spent many hours reviewing the case and reached its judgment. I was simply making the point that if that is established as a fact, I cannot see how we would be in any position to substitute our own judgment for theirs.
The Select Committee came to a conclusion, which may be right or wrong. But its members are not rail experts. I admire its distinguished report, but even they would not say they got everything right on every single issue. What I am saying is that during and since the committee, issues have arisen, and there has been further debate and work done on cost. My request to the Minister was whether his department would look at it without in any way holding up the process. Perhaps my noble friend might give this some thought between now and Report. Would that be possible?
The noble Lord said that this mined tunnel would not, in effect, make much difference as far as the journey is concerned. Would he be interested in knowing—I have just been assured by an expert that these facts are correct—that out of the 210 kilometres of the high-speed line, no less than 47 kilometres are already in tunnels? If he does not mind me saying so, that is more than enough.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Snape, again for sharing facts. During the debates we have had this afternoon—
It does not happen often.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
I am always grateful for the noble Lord’s interventions.
My noble friend talked about analysing and reviewing evidence. Let me reassure him that the Select Committees of both Houses have looked at this in detail and that it was an exhaustive process, as we have already heard from one member of your Lordships’ committee. It was not looked at only for a few seconds in passing—a blink and then you are through the tunnel, so to speak. This is the view of the department, the Government and myself, and we have to respect the decisions that have been reached by not one but two Select Committees on a process which they themselves—notwithstanding that there were additional provisions as part of the proposals—looked at. They considered the opinions and views of experts from both sides, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Young, and their conclusions after that exhaustive process need to be both reflected on and respected.
I have listened to what my noble friend said and will consider it carefully. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 7 withdrawn.
Clause 2: Further provision about works
8: Clause 2, page 2, line 14, at end insert—
“( ) change the landscaping and other works, including shaping bunds to maximise the noise attenuation of the bunds by including steep sides, noise attenuation fences and trees, to mitigate any adverse effects of the construction, maintenance or operation of any of the works and of the operations of the railway authorised by this Act;( ) change the works for the benefit or better protection of property, people, farm animals in yards, woodlands, habitats or wild species affected by any of the works or the railway operations authorised by this Act;( ) reduce the extent of farm land taken for biodiversity where there is demonstrable equivalent local biodiversity capacity and considerate estate management and farming practices;”
My Lords, Amendments 8, 25, 26 and 27 have nothing to do with tunnels—I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Snape, about that. They are designed to make the route even more pleasant for those travelling on it and to protect those living alongside it.
My first amendment is perhaps more general, although it particularly affects Buckinghamshire which, as your Lordships know, is a county with exceptional areas of outstanding national beauty. It does, however, have a dense population at the same time as having a wonderful countryside, and has some motorways and roads but also narrow lanes. One group that have been concerned throughout this whole process but have felt excluded are the parish councils. Some of them do not have the funds to enable them to take part and some do not have the expertise, and while there were community forum area meetings they did not always work or address all the issues. They certainly did not have some of the expertise that they required to make a good case. Local communities have knowledge of local traffic flows, school runs and public transport, and know what the effect of disruption is. If there was one noticeable point made in the Select Committee’s report, it was that the promoters had failed adequately to understand the long-term disruption, noise and pollution during the building stage of HS2. This amendment asks whether during this process adequate attention will be spent on these issues.
The next three amendments are more specific. Amendment 25 concerns the proposed Calvert infrastructure maintenance depot. The depot requires a large site that will serve as a base for the maintenance of the railway and for infrastructure projects. In the original plan an accommodation bridge was included as a substitute for a user-worked crossing—not being an expert, I had to ask someone what that was before I felt able to speak to your Lordships. The accommodation bridge has now been removed by the promoters, as stated in a recent letter that was received after your Lordships’ Select Committee’s petitioning stage, and so was not able to be considered. The alternative user-worked crossing was instead proposed. I do not know whether this late change was intended to be an improvement or was a cost-saving exercise but the result is that the effect on Doddershall has not been properly reviewed—certainly its residents do not think it has. HS2 at this point follows the Bletchley to Bicester to Oxford existing railway, which will form the new upgraded east-west line. That upgrade will be an added complication. The present ameliorating effects of the route will result in a much longer and expensive journey for farm traffic crossing in and out of Doddershall. As it is not clear why the original accommodation bridge was removed, will the Minister look at this, see why it happened and whether it makes sense? It is a detailed point but it has been put to me by those who feel that they have an important concern that was not able to be addressed because their letter was received after the Lords stage
Amendment 26 concerns the route and, again, local traffic problems. I have given the Minister notice of what I am going to say because this is a complicated local issue. He may wish to write to me with a detailed reply. It is about configuring the local roads between Quainton and Waddesdon; otherwise, an estimated 1,200 people will have a much longer, more difficult journey between the two, adding to traffic complications. It is a local issue and I am sure there are many local issues along the route and it would not make sense to bring up every single local concern about HS2. I have brought it up today because people in the area feel that the promoters changed the effects that this was going to have after the Select Committee process. Therefore, they were not able fully to address the issues.
Finally, Amendment 27 asks a question about the alternative route that was developed by Arup for HS2 and was presented by Twyford Parish Council in Committee in the Commons. It is a route that would save the demolition of houses. The promoters believe that it is straighter and less costly. Again, I am not an expert. I do not know. They also believe that it would remove noise issues along the route and the disruption to local residents and farmers would be much less. My point to my noble friend the Minister is: this is a local issue. It is not the biggest issue that affects HS2, but it is important to the people who live there. I have tabled these amendments to ask the Minister whether he will consider these representations to see whether they can be addressed to help those who are affected by HS2. I beg to move.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for tabling his amendments. I appreciate that he is seeking further clarification. I will take each amendment in turn.
First, the provisions set out in Amendment 8 replicate the powers already in the Bill under Clause 2(3). With respect to reducing the amount of land take, we are already under a general duty to minimise the amount of land we are taking for the railway if it is possible to do so without compromising the construction and implementation of the project in a timely and economic manner. Furthermore, we have given a general assurance to the National Farmers’ Union and the Country Land and Business Association that we will aim to further minimise the loss of high-quality agricultural land where there are opportunities to do so through the detailed design stage of the project. I therefore hope that my noble friend will feel reassured in that respect, and I am sure those discussions will continue during the design phase.
My noble friend also raised the issue of changes or alterations, referring to the area between Calvert and Doddershall. I inform him that the Bill scheme has not been altered in this area, as he suggested. The accommodation bridge to which he referred is part of the East West Rail scheme and not part of HS2, and as such will not be subject to this Bill. He mentioned a particular letter that was sent by concerned parties. I have briefly checked with officials and I have certainly not seen it. If it is available and he would like to forward it, I will respond appropriately to the matters raised in it.
Amendment 26 suggests a revised road layout in the Quainton area. As my noble friend may know, this issue was considered in detail by the Lords Select Committee, having been the subject of a petition and an evidence session. My view, which I reiterated in the debate on the previous amendment, stands: it is not appropriate to revisit here issues that have been discussed at length and in detail by the Select Committee. The considerable time that the Select Committee spent on those issues needs to be respected.
I also appreciate that this issue could be delivered outside the Bill powers, in which case it is certainly does not require further consideration here. My noble friend recognised that but, as the requested road layout would require new land to be acquired, objections to the change would be expected, in particular from the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre due to the adverse impact on its operations and land use. I assure my noble friend that these are issues have been fully explored by the Select Committee, which ultimately did not see merit in making a recommendation of the kind being sought by the amendment. It would create a requirement for significant works to the existing Station Road, where the proposed road layout would need to be raised to pass over HS2, taking land from the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre overflow car park and thereby restricting access to the adjacent industrial premises. It would also require substantial temporary diversion works to Station Road during the construction of the revised road alignment.
Amendment 27 seeks a review of the route alignment. Although I respect and appreciate my noble friend’s commitment to refining the scheme, as he notes in the amendment, the “route C” alignment was an option considered in 2010 as part of the appraisal of route options consulted on at that time. It was the subject of detailed consideration, but ultimately was not selected when the Government announced the route in 2012. At this late stage in the progress of the Bill it is inappropriate to suggest that we disregard all the previous work that has taken place. I respect the fact that my noble friend has sought clarification by tabling these amendments and I hope I have been able to provide it, at least in part. As I said, if there is a letter that has yet to be answered I will ask my officials to look at it and we will respond accordingly. I hope that, on the basis of the assurances I have provided and the clarifications I have given, he will be minded to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for his response, particularly to Amendment 8 which is very helpful. I will indeed write to him on Amendment 25 and the correspondence that has been received. I have one point to make about the Select Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, the Minister and the noble Lord opposite talked about it as though whatever comes out of it should be written in stone and never questioned, looked at or judged again. They forget, however, that the Select Committee had a very narrow remit; it could not look outside that very narrow route. It was restricted and could not look at lots of different possibilities because the remit under which it was set up did not allow it to do so, even if it wanted to. That was the issue that affected it. My noble friend has been enormously helpful. I am very grateful and do not wish to detain the Committee. However, although I understand why the committee had restrictions—otherwise the petitions would have gone wider and wider and wider—these prevented it looking at some of the issues that affected the route. I give way to the noble Lord.
Lord Young of Norwood Green
I did not want to intervene again, but I feel I must correct the impression that the noble Viscount is creating that we did not consider these issues. All the issues raised by the amendments were considered in depth. We were not restricted. We heard numerous petitions on the possible alternatives. In his opening contribution, the noble Viscount suggested that we somehow did not listen to parish councils. I assure him that we listened to them on many occasions. Inevitably, some were better than others. After some of the legal representation that we heard, I would have much preferred to hear from the parish councils again. The idea that because they did not have high-powered legal representation they were unable to make their case is not true. I just wanted to correct the impression that the Committee should look at this again because it was not given a proper searching examination by the Select Committee; it was.
All I can say to the noble Lord is that some of those involved in parish councils felt unable to present in the way that they should have; I quite respect what he said.
I am sorry to speak again, but I am beginning to wonder what we are doing. If the Select Committee has done everything that needs doing and the Minister will not accept any of the amendments, I am not sure how this Committee will contribute much to the process.
I do not know whether my noble friend wants to answer that, but perhaps I may finish responding to the noble Lord. He is quite right that there were a lot of petitions, and I am not in any way criticising the Select Committee or any of the work it did, but the petitions affected the route as proposed. The committee was unable to look any wider into some of the other issues. That was the point I was trying to make. I was not disagreeing with the noble Lord, but I was pointing out that the Select Committee was under certain restrictions. Having said that, unless my noble friend wishes to say anything, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Clause 2 agreed.
Clause 3 agreed.
Amendment 8 withdrawn.
Clause 4: Power to acquire land compulsorily
Amendment 9 not moved.
10: Clause 4, page 3, line 15, at end insert—
“( ) In subsection (6), “the deposited book of reference” means the book deposited in November 2013 in connection with the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill in the office of the Clerk of the Parliaments and the Private Bill Office of the House of Commons.”
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
My Lords, the amendments in this group in my name are merely corrections flowing from the passing of a new set of consolidating regulations for the environmental permitting regulations and the need to update the relevant references in the Bill. There is also a correction to clarify the date on which Clause 66M—the vocational qualification reporting duty—will come into effect, and a clarification of a reference resulting from a change made by the Select Committee. I beg to move.
Amendment 10 agreed.
Clause 4, as amended, agreed.
Clauses 5 to 11 agreed.
11: After Clause 11, insert the following new Clause—
“Phase One of High Speed 2 property bond scheme
(1) The Secretary of State must establish a property bond scheme in relation to the scheduled works.(2) Where—(a) the value of an interest in land is depreciated by the presence of any of the statutory nuisances listed in section 79(1)(a) to (h) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (statutory nuisances and inspections therefor); and(b) the nuisance arises from the construction or operation of the scheduled works,if the person entitled to the interest (“the applicant”) makes a valid application within the prescribed period, a property bond for that depreciation shall be issued by the nominated undertaker to the applicant.(3) The Secretary of State must make rules governing the making and approval or rejection of applications for property bonds under this section, including—(a) the contents of an application,(b) the evidence of open market value that is required to be provided,(c) the evidence of depreciation that is required to be provided,(d) any fee for making an application,(e) the process for assessing and deciding the open market value and the depreciation of the land, and(f) any minimum depreciation that is required for an application to be valid.(4) When the interest in land is sold the owner of that interest must decide whether to— (a) redeem the property bond and sell the land for its depreciated value, or(b) sell the property bond with the land and sell the land for its open market value.(5) If the owner of the interest in land decides to sell according to subsection (4)(a) the owner must serve notice on the nominated undertaker of the owner’s intention to sell the land together with details of the property bond at least one month before selling the land.(6) If the owner validly serves a notice under subsection (5) then the nominated undertaker must pay the difference between the depreciated and open market value of the land to the purchaser of the land at the date of completion of the sale whereupon the property bond is redeemed.(7) A property bond shall be a local land charge until it is redeemed and for the purposes of the Local Land Charges Act 1975 the nominated undertaker shall be treated as the originating authority as respects such a charge.”
My Lords, my noble friend might have expected to be back by now, but my understanding is that it is accepted that he has other amendments which will be discussed on Thursday. Without wishing to move this amendment, he will speak on the subject then. For that reason, I do not seek to move the amendment on his behalf. He may address this issue in the context of amendments to be moved on Thursday.
Amendment 11 not moved.
Clauses 12 to 19 agreed.
Amendments 12 and 13 not moved.
14: After Clause 19, insert the following new Clause—
“For protection of Park Village Limited
(1) The Secretary of State shall make compensation to Park Village Limited and its successors and assigns in respect of any loss or damage (including, but without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, loss of profits and damage to tenant’s fixtures and fittings and stock in trade) which it may sustain to its business, being the business now or hereafter carried on at No. 1, Park Village East, London NW1 7PX by reason of and during—(a) the exercise by the Secretary of State of his or her powers under this Act; and(b) the execution of works connected therewith by statutory undertakers being road works within the meaning of the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991.(2) Nothing in subsection (1) shall preclude the making of compensation under any other enactment or rule of law but compensation shall not be made in respect of the same loss or damage both under that subsection and that enactment or rule of law.(3) Any dispute arising on a claim for compensation under subsection (1) above shall be determined by the Upper Tribunal.”
Lord Hunt of Wirral (Con)
My Lords, my colleagues will know that I am a very strong supporter of this imaginative and important project. I proposed this new clause to highlight the unfairness of the compulsory purchase compensation code, which does not provide an adequate means of addressing the very real and present unfairness and inadequacies concerning the lack of access to compensation or suitable redress, in particular for small and medium-sized businesses greatly affected by the extent and duration of public works—in this case, phase 1 of the HS2 project as set out in the Bill—but which do not necessarily have any property interests. I believe it should be the promoter’s objective that no business is financially disadvantaged by significant loss of income or business as a direct result of the severity of impacts arising from construction activity.
I take this opportunity to say how strongly I believe, in the absence of such adequate compensation generally, that the promoter, in pursuit of fairness, should either agree a regime of compensation for the reimbursement of business and consequential losses in special cases where construction impacts are likely to be most severe, or accept a protective provision in the Bill for special cases.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
Lord Hunt of Wirral
My Lords, there is a case for ensuring adequate compensation in special circumstances, and one such case is outlined in the proposed new clause. I understand that the company, Park Village Ltd, is and has always been acknowledged as a special case but is not necessarily being treated as such. It is a matter of public interest that this issue should be addressed during the progress of the Bill.
I am satisfied that Park Village Ltd is seriously under threat from the HS2 works. No adequate solution for the company’s plight has yet been agreed following the appearance of the company before both parliamentary Select Committees. I was very pleased that the Select Committee of this House referred to its sympathy so far as the company was concerned, but I am pleading for more than just sympathy.
The company suffers the dual misfortune of being sandwiched directly between the proposed utility and construction works in the street directly facing the premises and the demolition, excavation and construction works for the proposed new tunnel portal, head house and barrette wall, making it potentially the single most affected business in the street, in Camden and perhaps ultimately on the entire HS2 route. Without assessing any blame, I believe there has been a failure to grasp the seriousness of the impact of the extent and duration of the HS2 works on the viable operation of this distinctive and exceptionally sensitive business, which relies on the special character of the property and its peaceful and accessible location.
Compensation proposals put to the promoter in the event that mitigation cannot adequately resolve the impact of the HS2 works on the viability of the business have so far been ignored, leaving the company effectively at the mercy of HS2. There is the very real possibility that this exceptionally renowned family business will be unnecessarily lost to the scheme unless special measures are put in place to ensure its continuance.
Let me explain. Park Village Studio is a valuable local asset with a business that has attained international recognition for its exceptional work, but it is nevertheless a family-run, father-and-son business with only limited capacity to withstand externally undermining impacts on its viability brought about by the HS2 works. The studios provide an accessible, high-quality, characterful, tranquil and creative environment where films can be made in necessary peace and quiet, notwithstanding the proximity of the existing railway, which is in deep cutting.
The highly intrusive and lengthy programme of demolition, street utility diversions and construction works proposed by HS2 on virtually all sides of the property, including impacts above and below, will cause the business to suffer significant noise, vibration and pollution impacts. Of particular concern is the proposal by HS2 to deny vehicular access for months at a time to either or both of the studios’ main access doors from Park Village East, which will render the studios incapable of use or hire. No compensation is offered from the promoter.
Indeed, this sort of problem has already arisen. HS2 I understand has subcontracted Thames Water to carry out a major utility diversion now. Park Village Ltd has already lost business before the Bill has even been passed. In essence, the statutory compensation code compensates for the loss of property value, but not for the loss of business income or damage caused to business.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
Lord Hunt of Wirral
Where, as in the case of Park Village Ltd, no land is taken, albeit that the property may be immediately adjacent to HS2’s major construction works with resultant significant impacts, the position is different. The only compensation ordinarily payable comes after completion of the works—in this case, perhaps in excess of eight years and then only in respect of some aspects of the operation of the project—not their construction. Paradoxically, greater loss can be suffered by being adjacent to works than by being in their way.
Relocation of the studios on a temporary basis for short periods of time at HS2’s cost remains a possibility but it is highly unlikely that the promoter or the company would be able to find a comparable location offering the distinctive qualities of the Park Village Studio. Just to give an example, the dry hire business would be lost, for which there would be no compensation; nor would there be any compensation for the disruption to the in-house production part of the business.
The assurances offered to Park Village Ltd set out a regime in which mitigation, but not compensation, might be taken forward, but then only on a conditional basis. What has been offered provides no guarantee that the business will be able to remain in the property on a viable basis. More especially, the company remains rightly concerned that in the event that its expectations are borne out and any mitigation that might be provided fails to enable it to carry on its normal activities and continue to attract custom as now, there is no right of redress or recompense. The promoter now needs to act to ensure that, in the acknowledged special case of Park Village Ltd, this business can continue to operate viably throughout the lengthy period of works.
The special report of the House of Lords HS2 Select Committee states at paragraph 196 that,
“the owner-occupiers of Park Village East are among those who will be most severely affected by the works, and to whom we recommend that the Secretary of State should provide further compensation going beyond what is at present proposed”.
I believe the same should apply to the business at 1 Park Village East but this is not currently the case. In the absence of sufficient consideration being offered by way of an agreement that provides for the reimbursement of business and consequential losses arising from the impacts of the HS2 works, a new clause giving such protection should be included in the Bill on a similar basis to the protection provisions given to businesses in similar circumstances in another example of public works. I have done some research. I found Section 16 of the London Transport (Liverpool Street) Act 1983, which is an example of what I am arguing for. Parliament considered it necessary to do this then; it is open to Parliament to do it again.
Through no fault of its own Park Village Ltd, which is a highly reputable and respected company within the UK’s film and recording industry—it is on its own at the top; it is not in a dead heat with anybody else: it is an incomparable and outstanding company—may unnecessarily become a casualty of HS2’s works and the inadequacy of the compulsory purchase compensation code to provide sufficient remedy should mitigation fail.
If I can go back into the history books, having been a Minister for 16 years without a break and without ever having been sacked, I have immediately to stress that I believe the Government’s reluctance to depart from the statutory compensation code is understandable, but they should nevertheless be willing to deal fairly with a recognised special case. When the Bill was first introduced the then Transport Minister said that compensation should be full and fair. More recently, the current Transport Secretary said:
“Where compensation is due, it’s right that we pay, and that we are generous”.
Park Village Ltd is asking only for fair treatment through me, not generosity. For these reasons, I plead with the Minister to acknowledge properly and substantively that Park Village Ltd is a special case. It is a very important provider of jobs locally and significant on the international scene. As no adequate fallback arrangements have been offered, please would he agree to this proposed new clause, because it would give the company the protection it needs and deserves? I beg to move.
Lord Sharkey (LD)
My Lords, I will say a few very brief words in strong support of the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral. I live in Camden. I know the location of Park Village very well. I can quite see how the works associated with HS2 would effectively put the company out of business. That is quite apart from the disfiguring of a particularly attractive corner of what is not always the most attractive borough.
I have also worked with Park Village over two decades or so. My companies and their clients have been enthusiastic users of the studio, which plays an important part in London’s creative industries. It generates significant revenue. It has an international reputation. It contributes to Camden’s creative life and its stock of jobs. London is quite rightly seen as the leading creative city when it comes to advertising and perhaps photography. Park Village Studios is part of this. It would be a very bad idea to lose the studio. It would be a bad and quite unjust idea to lose it without appropriate compensation.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
My Lords, before I continue there is one point I want to clarify from my noble friend Lord Framlingham that came up in a previous debate. He asked about the purpose of the Grand Committee in relation to the work of the Select Committee. In general terms, a Select Committee in consideration of such a hybrid Bill normally looks specifically and primarily at private interests raised by petitioners, which gives it a very exhaustive opportunity to look at the different options. The role of the Grand Committee is what it traditionally is: to consider the public law clauses of a Bill, not the specific details of a private petition. We have certainly discussed those and I hope my noble friend feels that the issue has been clarified. I thought it was important to clarify that point.
Turning to the amendment, I apologise to my noble friend: I know he has written to me on this issue. I am assured by officials that a letter will be on its way shortly to address the specific issues he has raised in his letters. I hope that what I say will, if not totally, partly reassure him with regard to the concerns he has raised. As my noble friend acknowledged, this issue was considered fully by the Select Committees of your Lordships’ House and the other place. It received lengthy hearings. A number of assurances have already been given to the proprietors of Park Village Ltd regarding the compensation of losses.
Those assurances set out in detail that the Government will aim to avoid or reduce any impacts on the operation of the business and, if it becomes necessary to do so, will compensate losses suffered by the business under a number of scenarios. This compensation, which my noble friend referred to, will be determined in accordance with the compensation code, which, as I believe he acknowledged, is a tried and tested method of establishing such losses. This system has developed over many years and seeks to address the very concerns he has raised.
Notwithstanding those comments, during the recent Lords Select Committee hearings, the Government gave further assurances to the proprietors of Park Village Ltd to manage the impacts from construction works at Euston on the business. Additionally, we will keep open the possibility of relocating the business should that become necessary. In its recent report, the Lords Select Committee noted that the best course was for the proprietor,
“to work with the promoter to find ways of continuing to carry on the business where it is. Only if this proves unworkable should relocation, at least on a temporary basis, be considered”.
This matter is on the Government’s agenda and the Select Committee had specific views on it. I hope that my noble friend is partly reassured by what I have said and the fact that in the determination of the Lords Select Committee on this matter it has been aware of the challenges that the business is facing. Based on those reassurances, I hope my noble friend is minded to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Hunt of Wirral
My Lords, it will come as no surprise to my noble friend that his reply to my points raised more questions than answers. While I recognise that he quite rightly quoted from the report of the Select Committee, he did not actually quote the point that the Select Committee made when it said:
“We are sympathetic to Mr Webb”,
but he did raise the point about relocation.
The problem, as I understand it and the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, also mentioned, is that sadly it is not possible to transport this business easily to another location. Although the Select Committee may well have hoped that it would be possible, I understand now that it is impossible without very substantial cost and expense to a company that could not possibly manage that cost and expense. As the noble Lord pointed out, it has a marvellous location, offering jobs and a business that has been built up and is of international repute. Therefore, there is a need to revisit this issue. I hope my noble friend will agree to hold some further discussions in an effort to find a solution.
With the latest action of Thames Water, the business is effectively going to have to close. Before we allow that to happen, there should be some way of negotiating a solution, and I once again plead with the Minister to see me, Park Village and other noble Lords who have already indicated to me their support for this amendment, to see if there is a way through before this goes back to the other place.
No doubt the local Member of Parliament, Sir Keir Starmer, who has already taken up the cudgels on behalf of Park Village East, will want to be involved in any such discussions. There must be a solution, and perhaps before I move to a decision my noble friend the Minister could indicate whether his door is open.
Baroness O’Cathain (Con)
One of the problems with this whole Committee today is that there are only four or five of us here who know exactly what happened, what exactly the atmosphere was and how we dealt with particular circumstances. This was certainly one which we spent a lot of time on. It might help take some of the heat out of this question if people actually read through the verbatim report of that day, which I am sure is available. It is just an idea, but I feel as though we are being accused of doing down—
Lord Hunt of Wirral
There is the suggestion that we should have come up with a solution. But we came up with the only practical solution at that stage and did not rule out there being another practical solution. When it comes to the tenor of the conversation, I am sure other members of the committee will agree with me when I say people should not be too harsh. It happened on one or two occasions earlier in this meeting today and I decided not to talk about it, but I think we were all really striving to deal with this, and I am sure the people from Park Village East realised that. I just wanted to make that point.
Is the noble Lord aware of proposals for altering the routes of the tunnels under Park Village East to try and avoid that awful birdcage structure, which I believe can be done without an additional provision? I have heard that they are looking at it. I do not know enough about it to know whether that improves the situation or not, but I know there are moves afoot, because that birdcage is a very tricky structure to build and could put all those houses and Park Village East at risk due to settlement, because it is a tricky piece of construction.
Lord Hunt of Wirral
I am very grateful to the noble Lord for the suggestion he makes, which rather reinforces my plea to the Minister for an assurance that his door is open.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
I say to my noble friend and indeed to all noble Lords that doors are always open. My noble friend Lady O’Cathain made a very appropriate and pertinent point in this respect. I deliberately listened in to the live deliberations of the committee and the tone that was set on certain issues, including this one, was not just sympathetic but—I have used this word repeatedly because I have seen it in action not just in writing—exhaustive when it came to considering the concerns raised by petitioners. The Government fully acknowledge the areas of concern that the Select Committee raised. If we can explore other areas further in discussions or meetings with appropriate parties without impacting any of the additional provisions, I am of course willing to listen and hear more—as I say during the passage of any Bill.
I do not want to give false hope that I can give any new commitments, but I reassure my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, who also raised concerns, that we are live to the issues of this particular business—other petitions have been raised as well—and we will, as I articulated in my response to his amendment, be looking to ensure that we not only minimise and mitigate the effects but seek to work with the company to address any issues on an ongoing basis. This is not a fait accompli in the sense that the decision has been taken and there is nothing more that can be done.
I reiterate that we will continue to work with the company to ensure that its concerns can be addressed head-on. I asked officials briefly about the issue around Thames Water which he raised and I will seek an update on that. I have yet to sign the letter: perhaps we can reflect on those comments in it as well. I fully accept that my noble friend will not be totally reassured by what I have said, but I hope that at this juncture he will be partly reassured by the fact that the Government are live to this issue and respect the conclusions and recommendations of the Select Committee in this regard.
As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, has already said, the comments are contained in paragraph 197 of the Select Committee’s report. This follows 196, which deals with a different issue—the owner-occupiers of Park Village East—and recommends that,
“the Secretary of State should provide further compensation going beyond what is at present proposed”.
When the Government respond to the report they are, presumably, going to address the comment the Select Committee made in paragraph 196. In view of what has been said in the discussion about Park Village Studio, and the fact that the Select Committee included a paragraph on this issue, when the Government respond to the report will the Minister also be responding to what is in paragraph 197?
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
That was also a reflection of the issues raised by the report about residential properties that are impacted. As I said, if the noble Lord will bear with us, the Government’s response will be available in a week’s time.
Lord Hunt of Wirral
I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister and to my noble friends who sat on the Select Committee. The solution they were hoping for has not proved to be possible and that is why I am so pleased that not only is the Minister’s door open but he is determined to find a solution to the problem that I raised. This will come as a great relief to all those in the area. Perhaps we can now look at all possibilities and, however big his office is, ensure that everyone who is affected is able to hear from him directly on the sort of solution that he would propose. Those of us who are raising this are very strong supporters of the project and I am grateful that the noble Lord who is a director of HS2 has been here listening to the discussion. I would have thought that HS2 itself would want to ensure that a case as special as this is not ignored. In the light of the Minister’s kind agreement to take this further, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 14 withdrawn.
Clauses 20 to 31 agreed.
15: After Clause 31, insert the following new Clause—
“Duty to have regard to minimising number of gantries
In exercising its powers under this Act, the nominated undertaker shall have regard to the desirability of minimising the number of gantries to be installed to provide power to the railway, in particular in areas of outstanding natural beauty designated by statute and in other areas of particularly high environmental value and sensitivity, and shall consult local communities when designing plans for gantry installation.”
Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
I will move Amendment 15 in the name of my noble friend Lord Stevenson who, as the Committee has heard, could not be here today and speak to my Amendment 28 which is grouped with it. I declare my interests as chairman of the Woodland Trust, president of a local wildlife trust, vice-president of RSPB and a former chairman of the Government’s wildlife adviser and regulator.
Had my noble friend Lord Stevenson been here I am sure he would have waxed lyrical about gantries and the need for the undertaker to ensure that gantry selection is as sympathetic as possible. I shall not try to emulate what he would have been saying so lyrically. I will instead focus on my amendment, Amendment 28, which is about ensuring that the nominated undertaker deals with the commitment made that HS2 phase 1 would result in no net loss of biodiversity, and particularly dwell on HS2 Ltd’s approach to the impact of the project on ancient woodland.
As the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, pointed out, HS2 is an extremely important infrastructure project—that is my only Second Reading remark—but ancient woodland is pretty important too. To refresh the Committee’s memory of why, ancient woodland is defined as woodland that has existed since 1600. Some ancient woodlands are tens of thousands of years old and they are an irreplaceable resource of undisturbed soils, biodiversity and community that have existed for many centuries. They are redolent with history as well as biodiversity, and they are irreplaceable, as cathedrals are irreplaceable—they are the cathedrals of our natural world. Yet, more than 600 of them are currently under threat from development, and we are now down to less than 1% of the land surface of this country, which used to be substantially covered with wild wood, now remaining as our ancient woodland.
The impact of HS2 phase 1 on ancient woodland is considerable. It damages 34 ancient woodlands directly and 29 are further affected by noise, light or construction impact; there is more than 30 hectares of total loss. HS2’s commitment to no net loss of biodiversity is impossible, because any damage to ancient woodland is irreplaceable, so the Select Committee in the other place directed the promoter to identify an independent arbiter to review the methodology for assessing no net loss, and suggested the Government’s nature conservation adviser, Natural England, which has a statutory role in that respect. Natural England did the review and submitted its report at the end of July. Unfortunately, ongoing discussions with the Department for Transport meant that it was not published until 9 November, which did not leave the Lords Select Committee much time in which to consider it.
The Natural England review had three key conclusions. The first is that ancient woodland is indeed irreplaceable and that the ancient woodland calculation should be taken out of the metric on no net loss. I would applaud that.
Secondly, where loss of ancient woodland is unavoidable, the terms of compensation should be 30 hectares of new woodland created for each hectare lost. That is in line with Defra’s draft biodiversity off-setting metric, which was developed in 2012. That sounds like a huge scale, but it is necessary due to the irreplaceability of ancient woodland. These are hugely rich areas, with their complex networks of biodiversity both above and below the soil level. Providing brand-new wood, which will be thin on biodiversity, not have those complex networks and take decades—centuries even—to come to a respectable level, means that you must provide an awful lot more that you have destroyed to be in even remotely the same ballpark for compensation.
Natural England was absolutely right to have that high ambition, based on the evidence which it had used to help Defra deliver its original off-setting metric in 2012. Apart from that, it would be apposite for HS2 to provide a positive legacy for the natural environment communities along the route. Alas, the current compensation ratio proposed by the promoter is less than five hectares for every hectare destroyed.
The third recommendation from the Natural England report and review was that compensation planting should be not just within the line of route but enabled to be outside the limits of the corridor designated by the Bill. This is partly to avoid a wood that would be 10 meters wide and 140 miles long, but it would also help to reduce the pressure on land around the route, which landowners are already feeling quite severely, by allowing through voluntary agreements—which have been demonstrated to be possible—the creation of more effective groupings of woods across a broader part of the landscape over a wider area. This would ensure that woods are connected to each other and that they show enough scale and scope to be resilient for the future, and, indeed, to deliver best value for money. I am delighted that the Country Land and Business Association, which expressed worries about the pressures on land within that corridor, would welcome such an approach, which would take pressure of land immediately adjacent to the line, provide more flexibility, and reduce the impact on landowners worried about their most sensitive land.
I was dismayed when your Lordships’ Select Committee dismissed the compensation proposals outlined in the Natural England review as not being evidence based. The report had 71 pages, was based on the best evidence available, had considerable expert input, and contained six pages of reference to other sources. I urge the Minister to seriously consider the complex work done by Natural England, which is ultimately the Government’s own nature conservation adviser and made up of experts in the field. I very much look forward to the Government’s response to its report, which I hope we will see before Report, and I thank the Minister for his offer on a discussion of that response beforehand.
The Government have a commitment to halting the overall loss in biodiversity by 2020 and to being the first Government for a very long time, if not forever, to hand on the natural environment in a better condition than they received it. I welcome those two commitments and in the light of them would like to ask the Minister three things: first, for a thoughtful response to the Natural England review that takes full account of the fact that it is the most expert body and the Government’s statutory adviser; secondly, to accept Amendment 28, which requires the undertaker to take account of the Natural England report and indeed to take its advice throughout the construction of the railway; and thirdly, to ensure that the lessons that have been learned from the way ancient woodland protection has been dealt with in phase 1 be taken on board effectively for phase 2. I beg to move.
Baroness Pidding (Con)
My Lords, in the unavoidable absence of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, and with his permission, I will speak to his Amendment 15, which I support. I must first declare two interests. First, my partner is a Lloyd’s underwriter and is part of the tendering process for the insurance provision for the construction of HS2. Secondly, we live in an area affected by the project.
The amendment raises the issue of the design for the gantries being used in the Chilterns AONB from the point at which it emerges from the bored tunnel and proceeds on the surface to Wendover. My appeal to the Minister is that the promoter and the nominated undertaker should think very carefully about the appearance of these intrusive overhead power lines. In particular, they should explore the possibility of removing as much as possible of this unappealing infrastructure to compensate for the imposition of the railway on the sensitive landscapes of this precious part of our countryside. There is, I accept, a design panel and I am sure it will do what it can to mitigate these unwelcome intrusions of which I speak. But we must all do what we can to protect this rural environment.
I look forward to hearing my noble friend the Minister’s response and hope that he has it in his power to give undertakings: that sensitivity will be used in design; that local people will be consulted; and that all efforts will be made in the Chilterns AONB to conceal power lines, which currently, on the design presented by HS2, will be attached to towers twice the height of the existing pylons. Of course, the ideal solution would be to bury overhead power lines associated with this project in the AONB underground. Will he indicate whether this would be a possible solution?
My Lords, I follow my noble friend’s example. While I fully support her wish to have woodland preserved, I do not know much about it. I think it is a very good idea and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response. I hope that it will be in the response next week. However, I have problems with Amendment 15. Overhead power lines for railways are a necessary part of making the trains run, unless you use diesels. Diesels are not only polluting, they are very heavy and they do not really like going as fast as is planned for HS2.
Noble Lords may be aware that when the east coast main line was electrified—before my day, but perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Snape, was around then—it was done on the cheap and the wires do come down with depressing regularity. Network Rail, in electrifying the Great Western, have therefore gone to the opposite extreme and put up some pretty hefty towers, supported on piles in the ground, and the wires will be so strong that they will probably resist a good hurricane. But then the people of Bath said that they did not want wires on the railway going past the beautiful city of Bath. When Bath was built, there was not a railway, was there? But a railway was put through it so that the good people of Bath could get to Bristol and London and other places. They did not want a catenary at all; they wanted a third rail because you would not see it. It would have cost billions to develop a special train to go just there so you would not see the wires. The later idea was that the people of Goring, somewhere between Didcot and Reading, did not like the look of these posts and so they are taking legal action, I believe, against Network Rail to have the posts redesigned.
If we want to move around in a modern way, we need electric wires to move the trains. The further apart you put the posts, the more the wires are likely to come down when there is any wind. There has to be a compromise. Yes, we have railways going through AONBs and other places but if you go to places such as the Swiss Alps, the Austrian Alps or other beautiful parts of the continent, all the lines are electrified and the wires just blend in with the rest of the infrastructure. I would strongly resist HS2 being told to have special architect-designed posts for a particular area. It will not work. It will cost an enormous amount of money. These things will fit in with the surroundings quite well. Frankly, when 40% of the line is in a tunnel anyway, you are not going to have too many posts around to look at.
I want to make just one or two comments about Amendment 28, to which my noble friend Lady Young of Old Scone has spoken. Obviously, I am aware of the comments that have been made by the Select Committee, which was not, let us say, fully enamoured of the report by Natural England. Equally, as I understand it, it was a report that Natural England was asked to produce in relation to this issue. As my noble friend has said, it has made its recommendations. The Select Committee took the view that it did not feel the reference to a scale of 30:1 was evidence-based. Before I go any further, I accept that I was not a member of the committee and therefore do not know everything that was said when evidence was taken. I do not doubt in that sense that the committee had good reason for making the point it has.
I hope the Government will look sympathetically on the amendment. Certainly, I, too, wish to hear what their response is to the report and the review by Natural England. If their view is that they do not feel they can go down the road of that report, I hope they will set out very clearly what their reasons are and perhaps whether they have alternative propositions to those that have been made. I hope the response will be, at least in large measure if not in its entirety, that they would be willing to accept what was in the report that Natural England was asked to prepare.
Baroness Buscombe (Con)
I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. I begin with the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, and supported by my noble friend Lady Pidding. I immediately declare an interest. My full title is Lady Buscombe, of Goring. Therefore, the reference the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, made to gantries affects me directly and is one of the reasons why I was very keen to speak to the amendment on behalf of the Government.
As the noble Lord said, we are dealing with an engineering issue that is largely based on safety. While I completely empathise with my noble friend, the number of gantries needed is based on a strict engineering and operational specification. Most of my friends and neighbours in Goring have come to terms with this now, because the reality is that if you have too much distance between each gantry there would be a slack of the line, which can be whipped up by the wind, as the noble Lord said. There would therefore be a genuine safety issue. That is something we have sought to take on board. Any variation in this specification would introduce reliability issues on the railway.
The ability to reduce the number of the gantries is therefore limited. However, the project is committed to mitigating the visual impacts of the railway through, for example, providing screen planting along parts of the railway to help obscure the overhead line equipment where it is likely to cause a significant visual effect. The phase 1 route has been developed specifically to minimise its impact on landscape and visual amenity, and, where possible, to make a positive contribution to it. This includes the decision to keep the railway as low in the landscape as is reasonably practicable. That is something we did not achieve with Network Rail through the AONB known as the Goring Gap. This is a huge step forward in mitigating the sight of the gantries. The use of earthworks and tree planting will help integrate the railway into the landscape and obscure features such as gantries. I hope what I said will reassure my noble friend such that the proposed amendment is unnecessary. I therefore hope that it will be withdrawn.
With respect to Amendment 28, proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and supported by other noble Lords, I very much empathise with what she said, but I hope that I can persuade her that this amendment, too, is inappropriate, as it seeks to impose a requirement whose merits were fully examined and rejected by the Lords Select Committee. As noble Lords are aware, toward the end of last year, Natural England produced a report, referenced this evening, that reviewed the Government’s proposed metric to achieve no net loss of biodiversity. The primary recommendation of that report, which was markedly different from its previous standing advice, is that where new woodland planting is used to compensate for ancient woodland losses, 30 hectares should be planted for each hectare lost, as the noble Baroness said.
However, the Lords Select Committee considered this issue and ultimately did not agree with the conclusions of the report. Let me explain why. The Select Committee noted in its report that it was,
“not persuaded by Natural England’s opinion … to create new woodland on the scale of 30:1”.
The Select Committee went on to note:
“Having emphasised … that changes should be evidence-based, the report seems to have plucked this figure out of the air”.
Indeed, Natural England itself accepts that there is very little evidence to support this ratio. It is for this reason that the Government did not accept the recommendation. Providing 30 hectares of new woodland planting for each hectare lost would be the equivalent of providing approximately 45 football pitches for every hectare of ancient woodland lost—an immense amount of additional land take. We have moved past the stage where we can add in additional land requirements to the Bill and we must be mindful of this project’s objective to minimise, wherever practicable, the total amount of land take.
We will be providing over 5 hectares of woodland for every 1 hectare of ancient woodland we have to take. Overall, we will be planting more than 650 hectares of new woodland between London and Birmingham as part of the first phase of HS2. The Government have also established an additional £5 million fund to create new native broadleaf woodland and enhance existing ancient woodland. This is on top of the package of compensation for ancient woodland lost during construction measures already in place. As part of the fund, £1 million has already been made available to the Forestry Commission to support projects that will help restore, enhance and extend ancient woodland on private land or in partnership with multiple landowners. This could support projects similar to the restoration of Chalkney Wood in Essex, which has successfully removed all the conifers from an ancient woodland to restore it to native species.
We have also recently awarded a contract to Crowders Nurseries in Horncastle, Lincolnshire, to grow and provide HS2 with 7 million trees and shrubs. I hope noble Lords will agree this is great news for a UK family-run business and for the people of Lincolnshire, as Crowders also aims to create 13 new apprenticeships over the duration of its 10-year contract, giving a skills boost to its workforce and providing new opportunities for people looking to develop their careers within the horticulture industry. This is an important example of the wide benefits that HS2 will bring, beyond the simple—albeit extremely important and, we believe, crucial—benefits on the line of route.
HS2 is doing more than any other major project to protect the environment and leave as little trace as possible. The new woodland will be managed for up to 50 years so that the trees are protected and communities will be able to enjoy it for hundreds of years to come. For all those reasons, I hope your Lordships will agree with me that this amendment is inappropriate and unnecessary and should be withdrawn.
Baroness Young of Old Scone
My Lords, first, I apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Pidding, for stealing her thunder in moving Amendment 15 and apologise for the fact that, under the conventions of the Committee, I now cannot speak about my own amendment but have to reply on Amendment 15, if I understand it correctly. I am sure that had the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, been here, he would have been disappointed at the Government’s response to the amendment on the number and style of the gantries, as I am sure the noble Baroness, Lady Pidding, is.
I thank noble Lords who spoke in support of both amendments, and the Minister for her thoughtful response, although I look forward to the Government’s response to the Lord Select Committee’s report and hope that, in the intervening period, there may be further consideration of whether there is any scope between the 30 times and the five times compensation ratio for something as important as ancient woodland. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 15 withdrawn.
Clauses 32 to 34 agreed.
16: After Clause 34, insert the following new Clause—
Schedule (Traffic regulation) contains provision relating to traffic regulation.”
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
As noble Lords will know, traffic regulation orders, or TROs, are a mechanism for local highway authorities to make temporary or permanent restrictions on the use of highways in their area to control traffic. They can include stopping up roads, restricting roads to one-way operation or restricting roads so that they cannot be used by lorries. Such orders could frustrate the construction of the railway by, for example, putting lorry bans on a road that is needed to reach an HS2 phase 1 construction site or point. We have already seen one example of a road in London that we intend using for construction traffic being made one-way, despite our intentions being in the public domain for more than three years.
The new clause and schedule will ensure that local highway authorities consulted the Secretary of State for Transport before making any orders that affected either specific roads identified for use by HS2 or other roads related to HS2 construction works, thereby avoiding this problem. It also allows the Secretary of State, if required, to make TROs, and to and prohibit or revoke TROs that unnecessarily hinder the delivery of the railway. The Secretary of State already has the ability to prohibit TROs under specific circumstances, but this power will make that process less convoluted, which is necessary to ensure we do not create unnecessary bureaucratic delays and associated costs in the delivery of the railway.
Clearly, we hope that the regular meetings taking place with local highway authorities to consult on, agree and monitor local traffic management plans will ensure that there will be no need to rely on this provision. However, given the impact such TROs could have on the overall construction and delivery of the railway, we feel that it is both prudent and necessary for such a power to be included.
While a power in relation to TROs has not been required for previous hybrid Bills, given the scale of the project and the risk of issues that could arise during construction, we believe that it would be prudent for the will of Parliament and its approval for this project to be constructed not to be thwarted by a TRO. Therefore, I beg to move the amendment.
Lord Brabazon of Tara (Con)
I am grateful to my noble friend for having explained the new schedule, which extends to four-and-a-half pages of quite draconian powers being asked for by the Secretary of State. It is most unfortunate for it to be introduced now, after the Bill has been through the hybrid Bill committee in both Houses, therefore denying the highway authorities the opportunity to petition against it, which I think I can say authoritatively that they would have done. I have been briefed by Camden Council, which says that it would have petitioned against the new clause, and I think the same can be said for Transport for London and various other highway authorities along the route, notably Buckinghamshire County Council.
It is most unfortunate that my noble friend should be introducing four-and-a-half pages of such a draconian new schedule but not allowing the people involved to petition against it. I would also like to know whether the Minister has actually consulted on the new schedule with any of the highway authorities that are likely to be affected by it. My understanding is that no consultation has taken place so far. I also rather wonder what the purpose is of HS2 information paper E13, which deals with the management of traffic during construction and how much of it is now being negated by the introduction of the new schedule. I hope my noble friend will consider whether it is really necessary or whether he might not just drop the whole thing and rely on the powers that the Government already have.
My Lords, I echo the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon. I have had communications from Transport for London, Camden Council and the West Midland Transport Authority, all expressing serious concerns about both the procedure being used and the practicality of what is proposed. In his opening remarks, the Minister said that the size of this project was unprecedented and therefore all these special regulations were needed to make sure you could get along the road. It is bigger than HS1, but not that much. Crossrail, going all the way through London was a pretty major project, too, and had many traffic issues. I was vaguely involved in both of them. As the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, said, that begs the question of why, if this legislation was thought necessary, it was not in the original Bill so that local authorities could petition.
In terms of consultation, I have a letter here from Transport for London, dated 6 January, to the Department for Transport expressing concern that it had a meeting before Christmas where the consultation consisted of bringing up this draft regulation under AOB and that was it. It states that the discussion focused on the removal of vehicles and did not cover the amendments. So there was no consultation. Camden, in particular, must be worried about lorries: the latest figure for the borough is 1,500 per day. We shall probably come to that in a later amendment. It is no good HS2 trying to ride roughshod over TfL’s Safer Lorry scheme or using bus lanes for its heavy commercial vehicles. For a bus user, why should HS2 trucks get in the way of buses? London has to continue to operate. The cycle superhighway network—which I love, of course—is apparently going to be affected. None of these organisations appears to have been consulted.
There is a way forward. All these organisations—and I am sure Bucks county council and others are the same—want to consult and find a solution. I urge the Minister to withdraw the amendment and organise some far-reaching and comprehensive consultations so that, if there has to be legislation, a new draft can be brought forward on Report. If he does not withdraw the amendment, I shall oppose it.
My Lords, I share the serious concerns that have been voiced around the room this evening. The way in which this is being attempted undermines trust in the whole process. We just heard the noble Baroness go to great lengths to reassure us about the care and concern that has been taken over an issue such as ancient woodland, and we are all very pleased to hear that. However, then to hear that the lives of thousands of residents and many thousands of drivers could be seriously affected by the introduction of changes to traffic regulations that have been subject to virtually no scrutiny and are contrary to the wishes of the local councils and traffic authorities means that the whole approach is unbalanced. I urge the Minister to think again, to reach out and discuss it with the authorities concerned and give them an opportunity to put their case. Some form of compromise can probably be reached. At least they will have been properly consulted. If that is not done, it feels a bit like sharp practice. I dare say that it is the result of people thinking about the need for this rather late, but I also tend to think that it is an overreaction and probably is not needed. As the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said, other big schemes have managed without it.
My Lords, I will be extremely brief. I agree with the sentiments expressed on both sides of the Committee. My question to the Minister is: why this particular schedule, and why now? I served on the Crossrail Bill. As my noble friend said, many roads in the centre of London were affected. Any of us who have travelled between Westminster and Euston will know the years of dislocation caused by all the Crossrail work at Tottenham Court Road, yet we seem to have coped reasonably well during that time. Now, out of the blue, after a protracted parliamentary process, this draconian measure is put before us. Surely, under his existing highway powers, the Minister could act against any deliberate attempt to forestall proposed works along the route of HS2. If he goes ahead with this, I suspect there will be a further long debate on Report. I cannot forecast the future, but I suspect the Government will lose.
Lord Jones of Cheltenham
I add my voice to those who are asking the Minister to think again. Having served on the Select Committee with colleagues who are now friends, I must say that there was no hint of such a late intervention into traffic management. People should be consulted before it goes ahead.
My Lords, I add my support the views expressed. Frankly, it does not look as though we will go much further with this because my noble friend Lord Berkeley has indicated that he will object to the amendment and, as I understand it, if the question is put, a single voice against an amendment causes it to be negatived in proceedings in Grand Committee. My noble friend has made his position quite clear, and I must say that I support him and so many others who have spoken, significantly including members of the Select Committee, who are clearly less than impressed by what has happened. I do not think it is misrepresenting the position to say that the Select Committee faced a number of people who were less than impressed by the way that HS2 itself had conducted some of the consultation processes and sought to address some concerns.
The question has been asked why the amendment has come late. I am sure other Members of the Committee have also received the letter of today’s date which has been sent from HS2 by Mr Roger Hargreaves to the leader of Buckinghamshire County Council. He writes: “The need for these proposed amendments arose late in the Bill process, and I am sorry that this did not leave time for the level of engagement with the local highway authorities that we would have liked … Parliamentary convention is that government amendments should be moved at the Grand Committee stage, which unfortunately left little time”. Unfortunately, if the Committee does not like what is happening and one Member chooses to object, that negatives the item. I finish by saying that I sincerely hope that the Minister will take the fairly strong hints that have been given to him during this debate and agree to withdraw the amendment, hold the consultations that have been referred to—which, as I understand it, is what people are really seeking—and come back with it on Report or at Third Reading.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
My Lords, I have always been very respectful of views that are expressed in your Lordships’ House, and today is no different. The Government have outlined their position, which I articulated in my opening remarks, on their concerns about project delivery being held up unnecessarily by a TRO. However, I have listened very carefully to the views of my noble friend who served on the Select Committee in particular, and to those of other noble Lords, and without prolonging debate on this point, I will reflect on the comments that have been made. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 16 withdrawn.
Clause 35 agreed.
Committee adjourned at 7.51 pm.