Following the publication, of the House of Commons Transport Committee’s report on High Speed Rail, Michael Fabricant has written to the new Transport Secretary, Justine Greening, urging her to "think again" on High Speed Rail before she makes a formal announcement on the future of HS2 expected in December.
Writing on behalf of his constituents, Michael’s letter states:-
"…..In the light of the Transport Select Committee’s report on the subject, I do urge you to think again.
Although Philip Hammond was hugely helpful in altering the route around Lichfield, the truth is that HS2 will cut huge swathes through virgin countryside in Staffordshire as well as through other parts along its route. I urge you to consider Arup’s original proposals which would have used existing transport corridors so minimising the environmental impact and providing better connectivity with Heathrow. Ironically, this was the route that the Conservative Party originally favoured while we were in Opposition.
I also question the practicality of a very high speed rail service running at 250mph. Where it has been tried in Europe, the wear and tear on the track and wheels has resulted in high maintenance downtime. Such lines in France are now being run at reduced speeds as a consequence. Moreover, regular high speed rail (180mph) is able to follow existing routes such as motorways and is considerably quieter.
I would also strongly suggest that no announcement be made to proceed with HS2, if that is what the Government intends to do, until at least the full ‘Y route’ to Manchester and Leeds is known. Although the Government is committed to a service that connects London with Manchester and Leeds, a service that only connected to Birmingham would indeed become the ‘white elephant’ that campaigners have characterised the project as being.
Finally, while I recognise that even in the current economic climate, HS2 is arguably affordable, I do question whether the demand forecasts for travel on north-south rail routes are still legitimate. Will there be passenger congestion if there were a major slow down in the economy?"
THE COMMITTEE REPORT:
Meanwhile, commenting on the House of Commons Transport Committee’s Report on High Speed Rail published on Tuesday (8th November), Michael says:
"I know that the conclusions of the Transport Select Committee Report will disappoint many campaigners fighting against HS2. And to be frank, I am disappointed too. In my view, the Report’s recommendations are weak and vague.
"Despite the Report criticising the economic arguments for HS2 and the route of the line, it then broadly backs the Government’s proposals though it suggests that work on HS2 should begin in Scotland and the north of England working towards the south rather than the current way round.
"Nevertheless, hidden away in paragraphs 68 and 69 of the Report, the Committee express some clear concerns:
"It is possible however, that very high speed (250 mph) may have been given an undue emphasis as a result of the particular appraisal method used as part of the economic case. It may be that a high-speed line operating at less than 250 mph may offer greater opportunities for noise and environmental impact mitigation, as well as an opportunity to follow existing transport corridors. We are concerned that the decision to build a 250 mph line has prematurely ruled out other route options such as building HS2 alongside an existing motorway corridor such as the M40 or M1/M6.
"We conclude that it is disappointing that a major strategic scheme, with the potential to grow and rebalance the economy and to address major capacity issues, is being designed and assessed to a large extent on the basis of the value of travel time savings, which are not universally accepted. When HS2 Ltd provides the updated economic case to the Secretary of State for Transport later this year, it should provide a comparative assessment on the basis of reduced crowding, with a lower value attached to time savings. The implications for the scheme design should be made explicit. This should also be applied to any assessment of alternatives to HS2."
Michael adds: "It is in the light of this Report, that I have made my own views known immediately to the new Transport Secretary.
"Even at this late hour, I am asking her to think again."
The Government is expected to make an announcement in December regarding the future of HS2.
Michael concludes: "It is an uncomfortable reality for anti-HS2 campaigners that the majority of MPs of all parties who are not directly affected by the route of HS2 are generally in favour of the construction of this line. If the decision is taken, along with the full backing of the Labour and Liberal-Democrat parties, to proceed with the project, we must move on and shift focus to the detailed route and compensation available to those who might be affected by the line.
"It will be an imperative to maximise the compensation for the households affected along the route; to minimise the environmental damage; and to mitigate the visual impact and noise levels from the line.
"In all these respects, I aim to get the very best possible deal for my constituents."
BIRMINGHAM AND THE WEST MIDLANDS:
"I do recognise that Birmingham would be a beneficiary of High Speed Rail and I fully understand the position of both the Council Leader Mike Whitby and LEP Chairman Andy Street." says Michael Fabricant.
"But HS2 is just one solution to a High Speed Rail connection for Birmingham. There are many alternative routes and the original Arup proposal (the engineering consultants to HS2), as I point out in my letter to Justine Greening, gives greater connectivity between central London, Heathrow, Birmingham International, and Birmingham. I am confident that this alternative route would not only be more beneficial to the economy of Birmingham and the west midlands, but would also minimise the environmental impact along the route by using existing transport corridors, such as the M40."
Letter sent to Justine Greening, the Transport Secretary.