The Third and final Reading of the High Speed Rail Bill (HS2) was passed in the Commons last night (23rd March) with 399 MPs – including Conservative, Labour, and SNP MPs – voting for the Bill and just 42, including Michael Fabricant, against: a majority of 357. The Bill now passes to the House of Lords.
Commenting on the debate and vote last night, Michael Fabricant says: “History will not say ‘This was the way to build a railway’. In my speech I compared it to my old Hornby Double O trainset which went round and round on the carpet disconnected from existing transport systems. So HS2 will not connect with Network Rail in Birmingham New Street or Heathrow and the promise that travellers will be able to board in Birmingham and wake up in Paris has come to nothing.
“Nevertheless, both the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, and the House of Commons HS2 Committee were very helpful in mitigating the worst effects of the route. But as I pointed out in interventions during the debate, many areas of outstanding natural beauty and ancient woodlands will be devastated by the line which could so easily have travelled up an existing transport corridor such as the M40.
“But with cross-party support for HS2, my rôle now as a constituency MP is to aim to reduce the damage caused by HS2 and ensure my constituents receive suitable compensation.”
Michael’s speech in the House of Commons (which was time limited) at Third Reading follows:-
I am not one of those who say that HS2 is a white elephant, or that there is no congestion on the west coast main line—indeed, today and everyday 5,000 people arrive standing on trains as they come into Euston because they can’t find a seat. I accept the need for an additional north-south rail corridor, and if that can be high-speed, then all the better because there is not that much additional cost.
Before I come to my main point, I wish to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr Syms) and all his colleagues for their work on the Committee, as well as the Transport Secretary who, given the structure of HS2, have been incredibly helpful to my constituents in Lichfield.
I do not believe, however, that I can support HS2, because it is not an integrated railway. I could not understand why it was so appalling, until I heard the hon. Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood, Shadow Transport Secretary) say that ‘HS2 is a Labour project’. Only a Labour project could be so unintegrated with the rest of the transport system. Labour’s last Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis chose a system whereby people arrive at Euston from Birmingham and then have to trek across London with their bags to get to St Pancras. The promises that were made—that people would get on to a train in Birmingham and wake up in Paris—have come to naught.
When people get to Birmingham, can they get on to network rail because the train arrives at Birmingham New Street? No. That would have been too obvious. This Labour project, so brilliantly designed yet so sadly duplicated by the Conservative Administration, instead goes into Curzon Street, and people have to schlep across Birmingham to get there, too.
It is about as integrated as my old Hornby 00 railway. I put that on the carpet and it went round and round, but it did not connect with the road or other railway systems, because it was a toy. I would not go so far as to say HS2 is a toy, but it is damaging and it could have been designed better. That is why I have to say to my hon. Friends the Whips that I will have to vote against Third Reading.