FABRICANT CHALLENGES McLOUGHLIN IN PARLIAMENT OVER HS2 VIADUCT WHILE TAMWORTH & STAFFORD MPs PILE IN TOO
Michael Fabricant challenged Patrick McLoughlin in the House of Commons Chamber this morning (Thursday 7th November) over HS2’s failure to include mitigation for the high viaduct that will pass by Lichfield. “I and a number of others from the constituency visited the Secretary of State and presented a proposal to lower the viaduct by tunnelling under the A38 and West Coast Mainline. The proposal was backed by HS2 engineers so we were all very disappointed and angry that HS2 senior management did not include the mitigation in their plans. This was sheer stubbornness on the part of HS2 senior management. We will now have to present these proposals again to HS2 as part of the environmental consultation and then again to the Bill Committee members as a Petition in the House of Commons in 2014 if the HS2 Bill is not defeated at a crucial vote in the spring, the ‘second reading’ referred to be the Transport Secretary.
“As well as me, other Staffordshire MPs weighed into the debate” The Hansard report of the proceedings follow below.
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): What procedures are available to communities to seek mitigation of the effects of the High Speed 2 route with respect to visual, aural and vibration disturbance.
The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Patrick McLoughlin): There has already been widespread consultation on phase 1. In addition, there will be a consultation on the environmental statement following the deposit of the hybrid Bill and the opportunity to petition the Select Committee established as part of the hybrid Bill process. For phase 2, the route consultation is currently under way and is due to end in January 2014.
Michael Fabricant: A few months ago, I and a group of people from Lichfield came to see the Secretary of State to discuss the monstrous 20-metre high viaduct planned for the HS2 crossing over Lichfield. He will know that this affects not only Lichfield, but the constituencies of my hon. Friends the Members for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher) and for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy), because of the height of the line. A plan for mitigation was developed together with HS2 engineers, and this has now been completely ignored. When can we have some hope that there will be any mitigation for us in Staffordshire?
Mr McLoughlin: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He rightly says that he never loses an opportunity to make clear his objection to this viaduct. It was part of a route realignment which was done initially to help mitigate some of the effects around Lichfield, but once the Bill is deposited and following Second Reading there will, of course, be an opportunity for those directly affected to petition the Select Committee.
Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab): Does the Secretary of State know of any other countries which, on building their second high-speed railway line, have chosen to connect it to the first via a single-track railway line with a capacity of three trains per hour?
Mr McLoughlin: The important thing is that there will be a connection between HS1 and HS2. That will allow direct access for trips right through Europe from places that at present do not have those connections. That is important. We believe the three trains per hour that will be able to go directly from Birmingham, Manchester or Leeds to Paris or Brussels or other European destinations is a very positive move.
Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): As my right hon. Friend knows, the preferred route for HS2 phase 2 goes straight through the village of Hopton in my constituency, as well as Ingestre, Yarlet and Marston and close by to Great Harwood. What measures can HS2 take to mitigate the effects on these communities, either through extra tunnelling or realignment of the route?
Mr McLoughlin: What I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) in my original answer was that the consultation for phase 2 is still ongoing and it would be wrong of me at this stage to pre-empt it. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) will be making strong representations through the consultation process, and I will consider them in due course.
Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con): Pursuant to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), I know that the Secretary of State takes these matters very seriously, but does he agree that where mitigations are small scale, such as those proposed by my constituents in the Knox Grave Lane community, HS2 should be able to move ahead with them quickly and not give conflicting messages to the community affected? I have written to him on this matter. Will he give the letter careful consideration?
Mr McLoughlin: Of course I will consider any points that my hon. Friend has written to me about. Consistency in HS2’s responses on these lines that directly affect people is very important. I am disturbed to hear that inconsistent advice has been given by HS2, and I will want to look into it.