Robert Goodwill – 2014 Speech on HS2

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Below is the text of the speech made by Robert Goodwill, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, in the House of Commons on 28th April 2014.

This debate has highlighted, not only the need for HS2, but also the importance of getting it right.

This is a scheme that will play a vital role in creating the necessary conditions for economic growth.

But that doesn’t mean we should press ahead unchecked.

We must be clear about the impacts.

And we must act responsibly in addressing those impacts.

By providing appropriate mitigation for any adverse environmental consequences.

And fair compensation for those affected by the new railway.

Let me summarise how we are responding to these crucial issues.

Firstly, there is the question of cost.

Let me say that we have been clear about cost.

It is a considerable investment, but it is spread over 10 years.

Delivering benefits over decades.

Perhaps even centuries.

This is a project that will stand the test of time.

And it is not at the expense of other investment.

It is alongside high levels of investment in roads, in the existing rail network, and in local transport schemes.

This is one part of a rounded transport strategy.

It is, of course, incumbent on us to ensure this scheme sticks to its schedule and budget.

So that tax payers get value for money.

And they will.

To assist us, we have recently appointed leading experts Sir David Higgins and Simon Kirby to lead the delivery and construction of the scheme.

Following his recent review, Sir David Higgins confirmed that the scheme is on track for construction to begin in 2017.

Secondly, is the question of how we are addressing the impacts on the environment.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to construct a project like this without having some impacts on the environment.

However, since the very beginning, identifying those impacts and developing proposals for appropriate mitigation have been key priorities.

We have carried out environmental assessments.

And we have proposed mitigation measures.

We are committed to no net loss of biodiversity.

We are replacing habitats for wildlife.

We are generally tunnelling under, rather than travelling through, the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty.

We are integrating the railway in to the landscape, hiding much of it from view.

We are incorporating natural and man-made barriers to reduce noise and vibration.

And we have set binding commitments to control the impacts of construction.

On all this, we have consulted extensively. We have taken on board suggestions for improving the scheme.

And, prior to the Easter recess, the House has received an independent report, summarising consultation responses, to inform its decision tonight (28 April 2014).

Thirdly, let me turn to the measures to support those whose property may be affected.

People living near the proposed route are understandably worried.

They deserve generous assistance.

And they will receive it.

We have already helped over a hundred households under the current exceptional hardship scheme.

We have now launched an express purchase scheme for land safeguarded for Phase One – helping owner-occupiers sell quickly and with less fuss, regardless of whether their property is needed for HS2. They get the full unblighted open market value of their property, plus 10%, plus reasonable moving costs – including stamp duty.

Later this year we will launch an enhanced need to sell scheme to help owner-occupiers who need to sell their property, but cannot because of HS2 – there is no distance test to pass.

We will also launch a voluntary purchase scheme – giving owner-occupiers in rural areas up to 120 metres from the line the choice to sell their property and receive its full un-blighted market value. We will also consult on offering them a new choice of a cash alternative.

And we will consult on new home owner payments, for owner-occupiers in rural areas between 120 metres and 300 metres from the line, to help share more of the expected economic benefits of HS2 with rural homeowners –not just helping those who want to move, but also those who need to stay in their homes.

We appreciate that, for some, no amount of money or help will be enough.

And we don’t pretend that these proposals will satisfy everyone.

But we believe they are fair and represent the best possible balance between properly helping people and providing value for money for the tax payer.

Tonight the House faces a great decision, one of national importance that will profoundly affect the way our economy develops for generations.

The House must be satisfied of the need for HS2.

And it must be satisfied that the appropriate measures are in place to deliver this scheme in a sustainable way – both economically and environmentally.

HS2 will help drive this country forward.

It will create new capacity and enable better use of existing transport corridors.

It will join up our cities and strengthen our economy.

And as a result, it will help open up opportunities, currently held back by lack of investment.

And, along the way, it will be subject to careful, detailed scrutiny.

Tonight’s vote is an important step in taking HS2 forward.

And I urge Rt Hon and Hon members to support this bill for Phase One.