HS2 Service Cuts Raised In House of Lords

An interesting exchange today in the House of Lords on the issue which the backers of HS2 like to avoid the most-the £8.3 billion worth of cuts to existing services which are intrinsic part of the business case for the scheme.
Baroness Seccombe asked what assessment the Government has made of the effect of the construction of HS2 on the running of existing rail services.  The Under Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Ahmad) responded that the impacts have been documented in the ES and SES and that the DfT would “continue to work with train operators to minimise disruption throughout the development of [HS2]”.  The Minister also assured Baroness Seccombe that “HS2 will deliver extra capacity to places such as Coventry, Rugby and Milton Keynes”.  When questioned by Viscount Ridley regarding the £8.3bn of cuts to existing services which make up the HS2 business case the Minister ducked the question by responding “I think the economic case for HS2 is well made”.
Baroness Seccombe To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the effect of the construction of HS2 on the running of existing rail services.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport and Home Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con):My Lords, as part of the hybrid Bill and subsequent additional provisions, HS2 Ltd is required to assess the impact of the construction works on the operational railway. These assessments have been undertaken and are documented in the environmental statement and supplementary environmental statements. Our assessment also includes close working with the relevant train operators, and we will continue to work with them to minimise disruption throughout the development of the overall project.
Baroness Seccombe (Con):My Lords, on Monday of this week I travelled by train from Banbury to London and was dismayed to see that some people were unable to get a seat and stood for the whole of the journey, which is around 60 minutes. HS2 will cost tens of billions of pounds and the cost is obviously still rising. Surely it would be better, and provide greater benefit to the comfort and well-being of thousands of people, if the money were spent instead on other lines up and down the country and, indeed, across the country. That would mean that we could have longer trains, longer carriages and, if necessary, longer platforms, but the important thing is that people should travel in comfort.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:My Lords, I assure my noble friend that, as I am sure she is aware, HS2 will be getting underway, and we look forward to it beginning in 2017. I give her the added assurance that HS2 will also give the potential to deliver much better train services to large numbers of towns and cities. I am acutely aware of the challenges she has raised about not there not being enough capacity for people, but part of what HS2 will do is deliver extra capacity to places such as Coventry, Rugby and Milton Keynes.
Lord Berkeley (Lab):My Lords, I have read AP3—the latest additional provision from HS2, which he mentioned to the noble Baroness—and I can see nothing in it about the effects of construction, particularly the disruption which will be caused, around Euston and many other sites up the line, by construction lorries. I understand that, for three years during construction, there will be about 720 trucks a day leaving the Camden area with spoil. I declare an interest as chairman of the Rail Freight Group, but surely HS2 should look at moving as many materials as possible by rail.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:The noble Lord raises a quite valid point. We are looking at the issue of disruption from HS2. Again, there are lessons to be learned from places such as London Bridge, Blackfriars, Reading and Birmingham and they are being applied in the development of Euston to ensure that we mitigate whatever disruption there may be, not just to the rail and Tube networks, but to the surrounding local communities as well.
Viscount Ridley (Con):My Lords, could my noble friend confirm that the economic case for HS2, as published by HS2 Ltd in 2013, includes £8.3 billion of benefits that are actually cuts to existing services, under the phrase “released capacity”?
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:I think the economic case for HS2 is well made.

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