High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

7  Conclusions and the way ahead

The case for HSR

118. We believe that there is a good case for proceeding with a high-speed rail network, principally because of the substantial improvements in capacity and connectivity that it would provide, not only for services to and from London but also between the major cities of the Midlands, the North and Scotland. There would also be substantial benefits to passengers and freight on the classic network from the released capacity that would result. Its development should be closely integrated with plans for the classic rail network and other major transport infrastructure.

119. Although the impact of HS2 on regional economies is harder to predict, we note the substantial support for high-speed rail from businesses and local authorities in the regions. We note also the views of Professor Begg and others that, once implemented, major transport schemes have often proved to have had greater economic impacts than their pre-implementation appraisals predicted.[264] We believe that high-speed rail could have strategic economic benefits and should be planned on a strategic basis. It should be integrated with economic development planning.

A single hybrid bill?

120. We are clear that the case for HS2 depends on completion of the Y network—London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. In the longer term, we believe it should be expanded to include Scotland, Wales and other parts of the UK.

121. The Government has made it clear that it wishes to see the Y network completed, with high-speed lines to Manchester and Leeds. For practical reasons, however, it intends to introduce a hybrid bill for London-West Midlands only, with a second bill for completion of the Y network in the 2015-2020 Parliament. There are concerns amongst some, notably in areas north of Birmingham, that a second bill may not be forthcoming and that only Phase I would be constructed. Former Secretary of State for Transport, Lord Adonis, has argued at length that the Government should promote a single bill for the entire network rather than two separate bills.[265] Others have expressed a similar view.[266] Mr Hammond said that this would significantly delay the timetable and the start of construction. Moreover a single bill would be "massively indigestible" for Parliament. He offered instead to incorporate into the first bill whatever reassurance he could.[267]

122. We believe Lord Adonis's view has merit and, as a minimum, the Government must firmly commit to the Y network before seeking Parliamentary approval for HS2. It should also clarify those works that will be included in Phase I to enable Phase II to proceed, including any works to facilitate interim arrangements. We further recommend that the Government should include a purpose clause in the hybrid bill authorising the construction of the HS2 line from London to the West Midlands, which provides statutory force to its commitment to continue the high-speed rail network at least as far as Manchester and Leeds. We recognise that this would not bind a future Government but it might provide greater clarity and momentum. Our suggested wording is as follows: "This Act provides for the first phase of the construction of a national high-speed railway network, the second phase of which will involve the construction of lines from the northern end of the HS2 line to Manchester and Leeds by 2032." Work on a second bill should commence now so that, if necessary, the bills could be combined at the start of a new Parliament.

Government decision on HS2

123. Many issues about the Government's proposal for HS2 and about high-speed rail in general have been raised in the course of our inquiry. We have pointed to a number of areas that we believe need to be addressed by the Government in the course of progressing HS2. These include the provision of greater clarity on the policy context, the assessment of alternatives, the financial and economic case, the environmental impacts, connections to Heathrow and the justification for the particular route being proposed.

124. Twenty-five years after completion of the M25 and 30 years after the opening of the Paris-Lyon high-speed rail line, HS2 offers a new era of inter-urban travel in Britain. It will also create new demands for high-speed rail routes, connections and stations, as it has in France, Germany and elsewhere. Having raised expectations, the Government needs to be clear how it intends to manage future demands and balance these with the need for ongoing investment in other transport infrastructure.

264   Q 105 Back

265   Rail, Issue 676, 10 August 2011, pp 48-55 Back

266   For example,Liverpool and North West Chambers of Commerce, Ev w45. Back

267   Qq 533-540 Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 8 November 2011