The main chance for the Lords to debate legislation authorising further spending in preparation for the High Speed Two (HS2) rail network, in yesterday's (Tuesday 19 November) second reading debate.
Minister for Transport, Baroness Kramer (Liberal Democrat), opened the debate. She explained the bill was a ‘paving bill’ to allow expenditure in preparation for a second High Speed Rail (HS2) network. She set out the benefits to the economy and the UK’s rail network as well as the upper limit of the HS2 budget.
Many members welcomed the bill and supported the HS2 project. They said HS2 was needed to address the current and increasing capacity problems and improve journey times, not just to and from London but also between other UK cities for example from Birmingham to Manchester. HS2’s provision of relief for motorway freight and connections to other transport networks such as the new Crossrail network and the HS1 Channel Tunnel Tail Link were highlighted.
The debate also drew attention to HS2’s potential to encourage economic competitiveness and growth across the UK. Some members said that this was an opportunity for the UK to take a joined up approach to a major infrastructure project, that would coincide with the Crossrail project in London, and bring the UK in line – in technological and economic terms - with countries of a similar geographical and population size who have long-established high speed rail networks.
Members also raised concerns about the impact on communities and the landscape of the Chilterns and Camden, which sit along the route, and said that mediation with people affected by the network’s construction should be reasonable and constructive. Some members said the government should proceed with caution with regard to the timetable and the public purse.
The High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill is a money bill, which the House of Lords has no powers to amend: committee, report and third reading stages followed the debate as a formality. Royal assent, the final stage of a bill’s passage through Parliament, is yet to be scheduled.
High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill summary
In the 2013 Queen's Speech, the government announced a 'paving bill' to authorise further spending in preparation for the HS2 project: the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill makes provision for this.