Speaking in the House of Commons Chamber to the Secretary of State for Transport, Michael Fabricant said:
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): Once again, my constituents are faced with anguish as they have already faced with phase 1. Phase 2a starts in my constituency as well. I ask my right hon. Friend two specific questions. Will he give an indication of the timetable for the publication of the proposed route, so that my constituents can look at it and come up with suggestions, and when does he think the Committee stage and the petitions might begin? Is the Handsacre junction—the one that connects with the west coast main line, which also goes through my constituency—really necessary now, given that the connection to Crewe will happen six years earlier than planned?
Mr McLoughlin: The plans that I have announced and the maps have been published today, so my hon. Friend and his constituents will be able to examine exactly where the proposed route will go. That was part of the announcement made in a written ministerial answer this morning. I appreciate that there will be disruption in certain parts of his constituency, but he will know from his experience with phase 1 that beneficial changes can be made if a case is argued and the engineering is possible, as indeed has happened in and around Lichfield.
Michael now says “Unfortunately I now know that HS2 does propose to proceed with the link from Handsacre to the West Coast Mainline as they argue that will give accessibility to Stoke on Trent.
“As the Secretary of State has said, detailed maps are now available of the proposed route and they will shortly be available on HS2’s website. Legislation for HS2 Phase 2a is likely to start at the end of 2016 and will take at least two years to complete.
“Working with local councils and residents we can influence the route by suggesting alternative proposals to the proposed route and, if those are not accepted by HS2, interested parties can Petition the independent Committee that will be established after the initial stages of the new HS2 Bill are approved by Parliament. As Patrick McLoughlin said, changes to the route, including the lowering of the track and the avoidance of canals was achieved when the Parliamentary committee was petitioned.
“As with Phase 1, I advise all those affected by HS2 in Phase 2a to understand that this is a long legislative process and changes often can be made when there is consensus between local residents and district and county councils. However, I recognise the difficulty and stress that many of my constituents will now face if they are affected by the line. It is important that they have at least the same compensation as those along Phase 1 of the route.
“Meanwhile, I continue to oppose the legislation in Parliament as I believe the route of HS2 is fundamentally flawed. It does not link with the Channel Tunnel, it does not link with Heathrow, and the route is more environmentally damaging and costly than it need otherwise be” Michael adds.
There now follows the statement made by Patrick McLoughlin, the Secretary of State for Transport, before Michael asked his question.
The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Patrick McLoughlin): The Government are getting on with building HS2. Legislation to build the first phase to Birmingham is progressing well, and last week the Chancellor confirmed the funding. Today we are responding to the report published last year by Sir David Higgins, chairman of HS2. He recommended building the line to Crewe more quickly, so as to bring the benefits to the north sooner. I have therefore announced my decision on the section from Fradley in the west midlands to Crewe, now referred to as section 2a. We intend to accelerate the building of that section so that it opens in 2027, which is six years earlier than planned. That will bring faster journeys to Crewe, Manchester, and other cities in the north and Scotland, thereby supporting growth, jobs and the northern powerhouse. I have set out those plans in the Command Paper and supporting documents, copies of which have been placed in the Library.
The remainder of phase 2 will see the full Y-route built to Manchester and Leeds by 2033, and today I have set out my plans for the rest of the Y-route, ahead of a route decision next year. I am also asking HS2 to explore how we might best serve Stoke, including via a junction at Handsacre. Handsacre junction will be part of phase 1 and will allow trains to serve stations on the existing line through Staffordshire.
I want to ensure that those affected by the scheme are properly compensated. The Government are committed to assisting people along the HS2 route from the west midlands to Crewe. Today I am launching a consultation on a proposal to implement the same long-term property assistance schemes for phase 2a as we have for phase 1. As with phase 1, the Government propose to go above and beyond what is required by law, including discretionary measures to help more people. HS2 will deliver economic growth for this country, not just in the immediate future but for the long term, and that is why we continue to commit to this essential project.