Gavin Newlands – 2023 Speech on the Revised Timetable for HS2

The speech made by Gavin Newlands, the SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, in the House of Commons on 14 March 2023.

I almost feel sorry for the Minister—almost. Mr Speaker, you will know that the north of England has seen cut after cut not just to HS2, but to any real modernisation of its rail network, with HS2 to Leeds cancelled and Northern Powerhouse Rail cut to the bone. We on the SNP Benches have supported HS2 because we believe increased sustainable connectivity is to all our benefit. However, what we have now is a gold-plated commuter line of just over 100 miles for two cities in the south of this island, costing nearly £50 billion, while the rest of the country is expected to fight for scraps from the table.

Combined with the announcement of slashed funding for active travel, which leaves England, outside of Greater London, receiving less than £1 per person per year—30 times less than Scotland—that makes it clear that the Government regard transport funding outside the M25 as nothing more than a rounding error. Thankfully, we in Scotland have a Parliament and a Government investing in our rail network, investing in active travel and taking transport decarbonisation seriously, so can the Minister tell me in which decade high-speed rail will reach the Scottish border?

Huw Merriman

The Government are plainly not committed only to delivery between London and Birmingham, because the entire plan is predicated on a two-year rephasing of the parts going up towards Crewe from the midlands. Beyond that, up to Manchester, the indicative timeline does not change at all. The Bill Select Committee remains in place, as does its brief, so that commitment is there. It is not a commitment just to the south-east, and the hon. Member has certainly got that wrong. The £96 billion integrated rail plan is based solely on the midlands and the north, and that shows this Government’s desire to level up across the midlands and the north, as opposed to spending money in the south-east.

Active travel is not part of this urgent question, but £3 billion will be spent by this Government on active travel during this Parliament. There are levelling-up fund bids that go toward active travel. We are absolutely passionate and committed to the delivery of active travel, and that will continue, as will our delivery of HS2.