Before the pandemic, commuters from Leighton Buzzard were often unable to get on a train at the station. As we emerge from the pandemic, we do need to add rail capacity to accommodate increased rail travel which has grown very rapidly in recent years. We also need to keep as many cars off the roads as possible in order to reduce congestion and to improve air quality while there are still petrol and diesel cars on the roads.
Given the considerable parliamentary scrutiny during the passing of the High-Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Act 2017 and the Government’s authorisation of Notice to Proceed last year, it is entirely proper that Phase One construction has begun. This authorisation was also following the recommendations of the independent Oakervee review on the benefits and impact of HS2.
With the authorisation of Notice to Proceed, the Government drew a line under past problems of transparency and cost control, to commit to changing and moving forward. Firm measures were outlined and implemented, with the goal of improving discipline and oversight. To provide greater transparency with regards to cost, the Government has committed to providing an update to Parliament every six months on the progress of HS2, whilst a dedicated HS2 minister was appointed to oversee and maintain a firm grip on this vital project.
I continue to believe that there is enormous potential in HS2 for the whole nation and that the project will be vital in bringing our biggest cities closer together, levelling up the economy and bringing new opportunities to people across the UK.
Finally, I welcome that there was a Westminster Hall debate on HS2 on 13 September. However, due to prior diary commitments I was unable to attend it, but I will make sure to follow this issue closely.