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Today's Written Statements Update

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Andrew Jones - Department for Transport

HS2 will be the new backbone of our national rail network and help us build an economy that works for all. Good rail links bring our country closer together, making it easier for people to get on and driving economic growth. That is why the government is heavily investing in transport infrastructure, such as HS2, across the country. HS2 presents huge opportunities for UK business, and has the potential to increase the amount of freight transported by rail meaning fewer lorries on the roads, cutting congestion and carbon. The sooner we build HS2, the sooner we will see these benefits.

The Government remains committed to completing the full Phase Two Y network from Birmingham to Manchester on the Western Leg, and to Leeds, via the East Midlands and Sheffield on the Eastern Leg. The decision to accelerate construction of part of the Phase Two route between the West Midlands and Crewe known as Phase 2a was taken in November 2015. This will mean that this section of the route becomes operational in 2027, so that some of the benefits of HS2 will be delivered six years earlier than originally planned.

Therefore, as part of our plans to prepare the HS2 Phase 2a (West Midlands to Crewe) hybrid Bill for introduction to Parliament next year, we have today launched the following consultations:

  • The Working Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Report;
  • The Working Draft Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) Report; and
  • A Design Refinement consultation.

Alongside the launch of these consultations, we are also publishing the revised EIA and EqIA Scope and Methodology Reports (SMR), which set out how the assessments will be undertaken, and the associated consultation response analysis documents.

The launch of these consultations is an important step towards delivering Phase Two, and reinforces our commitment to continually trying to improve and refine the scheme. Importantly, we want to give those affected the opportunity to make their views known and provide further evidence to inform my final route decision.

Working draft Environmental Impact Assessment and Equality Impact Assessment Reports

HS2 Ltd has developed working draft EIA and EqIA reports for the Phase 2a scheme, on which there will be an eight week consultation. This will enable interested parties to comment on the current proposed design of the scheme, current environmental baseline, likely impacts and effects (where identified) and proposed mitigation measures.

The responses to these consultations will be considered as the design and assessment are developed and will help in the development of the formal EIA and EQIA Reports. The formal EIA Report will set out the likely significant environment effects of the Phase 2a scheme, and will be deposited alongside the Phase 2a hybrid Bill so it can be taken into account by Parliament before it decides whether or not to grant the powers to build the railway. The formal EqIA Report will help us fulfil our Public Sector Equality Duty and is expected to be published when the hybrid Bill is deposited. Further information on these consultations can be found at www.gov.uk/hs2

Design Refinement Consultation

We are also consulting separately on a number of refinements to the route developed since November 2015. This consultation will last eight weeks, and enable me to take into account the views of those potentially affected before taking a decision on the refinements. Further information on this consultation can be found at

www.gov.uk/hs2

Work on the design is continuing alongside these consultations which may lead to further changes being identified and decision taken. The full route will then be published when we deposit the hybrid Bill in 2017, at which point those affected will have an opportunity to comment on the formal EIA Report. People specially and directly affected by the scheme will also have the opportunity to petition Parliament as part of the hybrid Bill process.

HS2 Ltd has today written to people living near the proposed route changes to inform them of the consultation and invite them to attend consultation information events in their local areas.

HS2 is a once in a generation opportunity to transform Britains railways, and I look forward to our continuing engagement in order to make it a reality and ensure that we maximise every opportunity it has to offer.


Caroline Nokes - Department for Work and Pensions

I am pleased to announce that today I intend to lay regulations to amend the cold weather payment scheme. The changes detailed in these regulations will come into force on 1 November this year, in time for the beginning of the winter period.

The scheme makes cold weather payments to help vulnerable groups during cold periods. Each year the Department reviews the scheme with expert advice from the Met Office and, where necessary, makes changes to regulations to ensure that postcodes are linked to the most appropriate weather station for the purposes of the cold weather payment.

For the 2016/17 season the Met Office has recommended the replacement of one primary weather station and the introduction of an additional new station.

The current station at Skye, Lusa will be closed and have equipment removed by spring 2017. The Met Office has therefore recommended changing to an alternative site at Achnagart to protect the 2016/17 service from any potential risk of earlier disruption to the station at Skye, Lusa.

South Devon, particularly the EX and TQ postcodes, would be better represented by the newly installed station at Exeter Airport. The Met Office has recommended including this station as an additional site in the network taking some of the postcodes currently served by Dunkeswell and North Wyke. The Exeter Airport site better represents the postcodes along and near the east facing coastline around east Devon, Exeter and parts of Torbay. The more inland and higher altitude sites at Dunkeswell and North Wyke will continue to serve the more inland communities.

The regulations also make other minor changes to the alternative weather stations. This will ensure that the weather station to postcode links are as representative as possible.

The changes to the postcode to weather station links resulted from the Departments annual review of the cold weather payments scheme. The review drew on expert advice from the Met Office and took account of representations from benefit claimants and Members of Parliament.

I will be writing to each Member who made representations about the administration of the scheme last winter to make them aware of the advice from the Met Office.

Cold weather payments are separate from, and in addition to, winter fuel payments.

For winter 2016/17 the cold weather payment rate will continue to be 25 for each seven day period of very cold weather.

The regulations are being amended so that, in future, revisions can be made without the need for new legislation each time weather station to postcode links change. This will not materially impact on how the scheme operates in practice.

The regulations are also being amended to ensure that where a primary station is unable to provide temperature information or the Met Office is unable to produce a forecast at a primary station, there are adequate procedures for the necessary temperature information or forecast to be obtained from another weather station.


Paul Maynard - Department for Transport

I am today publishing the Governments new Rail Freight Strategy, which has been developed in collaboration with Network Rail, the rail freight industry and its customers.

Rail freight makes an important contribution to our economic and environmental well-being, with benefits estimated at around 1.6 billion to the national economy every year. It generates around 1 billion from improved productivity, while around 0.6 billion is the value of the reductions in road congestion, carbon emissions and air pollutants.

Rail freight currently carries one in four of the containers coming into our ports, and has the potential to carry an even higher proportion. Each freight train removes the equivalent of up to 76 lorry journeys from our roads. Transporting freight by rail reduces carbon emissions by around three quarters compared to road, and also provides significant benefits through reduced local air pollution, road damage, traffic noise and road traffic accidents.

Since rail privatisation in the 1990s, the rail freight industrys market share of freight transport has risen from around 5% to around 12%. The industry has invested significantly on its own account, in rolling stock and terminals, in order to win new customers.

Government is also investing on a large scale in the rail network, including important enhancements worth nearly 240 million specifically identified by the rail freight industry as their priority.

This Rail Freight Strategy sets out our vision for how rail freight can continue to grow, and how the broader logistics sector and rail industry can collaborate and innovate to help relieve pressure on the road network. It looks at challenges facing the rail freight industry the way in which network capacity is used, the potential for innovation, the skills challenge and public perceptions of rail freight and identifies ways in which the Government and the industry can work together to address them.

A copy of the strategy has been placed in the library of both Houses and is also available on GOV.UK, together with two supporting technical reports.


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