Blogs - 13 June 2013

Guest Blog – Lilian Greenwood MP: Staying on the Right Line with HS2

Lilian Greenwood

Lilian Greenwood MP, Labour MP for Nottingham South and Shadow Rail Minister

Regular travellers will be all too familiar with the problems on our rail network. Overcrowded trains and poor connections between our major cities are holding the East Midlands back – and only serious investment can deliver the improvements that the region needs.

HS2 may not be a panacea for all the rail industry’s challenges but it will address the coming capacity crunch on our existing main lines and slash journey times from our region. Much has been made about the improvements for London journeys – but it will also dramatically reduce the time it takes to travel to Birmingham, Leeds, and other core cities.

The long term benefits, combined with the boost to the local economy from infrastructure investment, fully justify the decision to invest in HS2. Cross party support for the project should have ensured rapid progress during this Parliament. Businesses, homeowners and local authorities need the certainty that legislation will provide.

The Government’s ‘paving bill’ – enabling expenditure on the project – was finally published at the time of the Queen’s Speech, and it will soon be debated in Parliament. However, we must wait until at least the end of the year before seeing the more detailed legislation covering HS2’s first phase to Birmingham. 

It would have been better to have legislation for the whole route, but enough time has been wasted and it is important that the project is not subject to unnecessary delays. So it was worrying to see Ministers dismiss the National Audit Office’s recent report, which called into question the Government’s ability to pass the hybrid Bill before the end of this Parliament. The National Audit Office raised real concerns over the Department for Transport’s ability to deliver the project, especially in light of the collapse in the franchising system, and D2N2 was absolutely right to warn against delays to HS2.

Any uncertainty at a national level must not detract from getting the details right locally – and there is some way to go in our region. We need a station that best serves the East Midlands as a whole. Good connectivity will be vital with an out of town location, and now that the Toton site has been chosen HS2 Ltd must explain how those connections will work in practice.

There are also questions over the future of the Midland Main Line. I campaigned to secure electrification, which should be completed to Nottingham by 2019, and significant investment is going into wider improvements for the line. HS2 will free up capacity and raise the possibility of some alternative services, but ordinary passengers must not be priced off HS2 by unaffordable fares. I am also concerned that HS2 Ltd has published plans for possible service reductions on the Midland Main Line without giving any details on connectivity or the fares structure for HS2.

These issues demonstrate why politicians, passengers and businesses need to work together to secure the best deal for the region. HS2 will bring enormous economic benefits to Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. The network urgently needs the additional capacity that HS2 will provide, and the local economy will benefit from the investment – and I look forward to working with businesses to make it happen.   

Lilian Greenwood MP

Labour MP for Nottingham South and Shadow Rail Minister

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