Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 1 May 2014


I thought it might be helpful to set out my thinking on HS2. I am not against the project as it will help the economy of the UK to improve the link between our major cities and provide additional capacity on the railway.

Having seen the impact of high speed trains in China I realise that this is probably the right thing to do over here, albeit 20 years later than we should. The problem with major infrastructure works is that they take so long to get from the design stage to completion, so in this case the first high speed trains will not start running until 2026.

It is encouraging that whilst £40 billion is being spent on HS2 over the next 20 years (roughly £2 billion pa) over the next five years £38.5 billion (i.e. £7 billion pa) is being spent on railway infrastructure that is not HS2.

So why abstain on the vote last Monday evening? Simply this: I am seeking to persuade the government that we need greater investment in the rail network of the far south west and I am trying to do so by both force of argument and other pressures, including voting intentions.

Once the main opposition party decided to back HS2 a few MPs rebelling no longer had the same impact as it was clearly going to pass through the Commons with a big majority, but one way to demonstrate seriousness at Westminster is in voting practice.

In July Network Rail is going to bring forward a report suggesting ways to improve our far south west rail resilience. It will include an exploration of additional or alternative routes to avoid the vulnerable stretch along the coast. Once we have sought to agree where this additional/alternative route should be, it obviously needs to be built which will take extra government funds. The current five year plan takes us to 2019. The target is to get the full cost of the new line included in the next Network Rail programme for the period 2019-2024.

That may sound a long way off but consider this: once the route is agreed there will be a tortuous planning process that will take several years. In China if something is in the way they just move it. Here, we have endless consultation and enquiries. It is unlikely that planning permissions would be sorted until 2020 at the earliest so the two periods combine.

The battle continues.

posted by Gary @ 13:44