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The hybrid bill to allow the construction of HS2 Phase 2b, taking it from Crewe to Manchester, has passed through its second parliamentary reading, winning the vote by 205 ayes to six noes.
The vote took place at 9.39pm last night (20 June) following several hours of debate. The six MPs who voted ‘no’ were all Conservative. There were 437 MPs who did not vote.
The only change from the first reading of the HS2 Phase 2b bill in January is the controversial removal of the Golborne link, which would have seen HS2 connect to the West Coast Main Line to continue services to Scotland. The government has committed to finding an alternative way to get HS2 trains to Scotland within the £96bn funding envelope committed in the Integrated Rail Plan.
This was a hot topic during the debate leading up to the vote, with Scottish National Party MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North Gavin Newlands saying: “Now that the Golborne link has been chucked in the bin, we can expect another bargain basement botch job designed to keep the Tory backbenchers happy rather than provide real investment to our transport infrastructure.”
The government’s decision to build a surface level Manchester Piccadilly station rather than an underground through station – the preferred option for local MPs and the mayor – was also commented upon by several in attendance. Labour MP for Denton and Reddish Andrew Gwynne called the choice a “travesty”.
Transport Minister Wendy Morton repeated the government’s stance that an underground Piccadilly would delay HS2 services into Manchester by seven years, cost £5bn more and result in up to 350,000 extra HGV movements in the city centre.
Several Manchester-based MPs dispute these figures, claiming to have seen seen no evidence of the additonal costs. They also assert that the extra investment would be paid back within 15 years. Gwynne added: “The fact is that Piccadilly, if we get this right, will have a huge growth opportunity for Manchester, both in terms of connectivity, but also in terms of the economic development in that part of the city centre […] if we are planning for the next century, let’s get the infrastructure right for the next century. And that means getting Piccadilly station right.”
Despite the reservations voiced by SNP and Labour MPs, they all voted in favour of the bill as they see HS2 overall as a great benefit to the country.
Having passed the vote, the HS2 Phase 2b bill will now go to committee stage, where it will be scrutinised by a group of selected MPs – usually 17 members – that has the same proportion of party representation as the current House of Commons.
This group will examine each clause and listen to petitions from interested parties who want to make amendments to the bill. These could be relatively small amendments such as where a bridge will be built or the placement of a tunnel portal, but the committee will also likely hear petitions on building an underground Manchester Piccadilly if brought forward, probably by the city council. The committee may decide to listen to petitions to reinstate the Golborne link, if someone wishes to make that argument.
The committee phase could take many months, depending how many petitions are brought before them. The bill for HS2 Phase 1 had nearly 2,000 petitions and took almost three years for all to be heard and some amendments to be added. The bill for HS2 Phase 2a had only 35 petitions but still took two years to reach Royal Assent, although this was impacted by the pandemic.
This article first appeared on www.newcivilengineer.com
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