Nick Herbert: Projects like HS2 are a chance to keep up

Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert
Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert
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Just before Easter I took the Eurostar from London to Paris, where the journey time is now just two hours thanks to a high speed line.

But HS1, linking London to the Channel Tunnel, opened 14 years after the much longer high speed French line from the Tunnel to Paris, which was completed before the tunnel was even opened.

If we are to win the global race, we cannot afford to be left behind like this. That is why I continue to believe that major infrastructure projects like HS2 are right, and why I enthusiastically voted for it again this week.

HS2 will be the first new railway line built north of London for 120 years. It will link 8 of Britain’s 10 largest cities, serving 1 in 5 of the UK population.

As I’ve argued before, the benefits won’t just be felt by the north, important though that is. The long term solution to excessive pressure on housing in the South must be a more balanced economy, with greater demand in the north.

Demand for long distance rail travel has doubled in the past 15 years to 125 million journeys a year. The West Coast Mainline, in particular, is now the busiest combined passenger and freight railway line in Europe.

HS2 will increase capacity from London to Birmingham by 143 per cent. Enhancements to the existing railway, as called for by some opponents of the scheme would increase capacity by just 53 per cent. Yet HS2 will only cost 10 per cent more to build than a new standard speed equivalent.

HS2 will not divert money from other transport projects. The Government is investing more than £70 billion in all forms of transport by 2021. That includes £56 billion on roads, rail and local transport, on top of its £16.5 billion investment in HS2. In every single year of that period, the Government will spend more on our roads than on HS2.

Only last week, the Government set out arrangements for a feasibility study into upgrades of the A27, including an Arundel by-pass. On Monday I met local business and County Council leaders to discuss how we can take the advantage of this important opportunity.

The fact that infrastructure is now a national priority is good news for us in West Sussex. Now we can and must make the case to upgrade the A27 to become the coastal highway which we need.

If you would like to get in touch with me, please write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, or e-mail me at nick@nickherbert.com