People wishing to have their say on the government’s proposals for a high speed rail network have until the end of today (Friday 29 July) to register their views as one of the biggest consultation exercises ever undertaken by government reaches its conclusion.
Since it was launched at the end of February, the consultation process has included a series of 31 public roadshows held over 41 days along the proposed line of route, regional seminars for business and civic leaders across the UK and information stands at stations across England and Scotland. Information was provided on all aspects of the scheme ranging from the economic case to property concerns and the impact on the environment. Almost 30,000 people attended the events where they were able to quiz engineers and experts from HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport.
Over the coming months, responses to the consultation will be carefully analysed before the Transport Secretary makes a decision on whether to proceed with the scheme towards the end of the year.
Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, said:
High speed rail has the potential to transform the economic map of our country, create jobs, drive regeneration and deliver the additional rail capacity we so badly need. However I also understand the concerns of those who will be directly affected by the proposals, which is why we have done everything possible to allow people to find out about the scheme and to have their say. I am grateful to all who have taken the time to contribute to the consultation and their views will form a vital part of the process as we move towards a decision later this year.
If the decision is taken to build a line from London to the West Midlands, the next stage would be for the government to introduce a hybrid Bill which would set out the land requirements for the first phase of the project and provide the necessary legal powers to build and operate the new railway. Before such a bill could be introduced to Parliament, work would be required to complete the next stage of engineering design, including more detailed design of the route, its structures and mitigation measures. This process would also see the production of a full Environmental Impact Assessment and would be done in consultation with local communities and relevant authorities to agree mitigation measures.
Should the decision be taken to proceed with a high speed line, the drafting of a hybrid Bill would be likely to take until autumn 2013, when it would be deposited in Parliament. Parliamentary process could then be expected to take about one and a half years with a view to gaining Royal Assent in early 2015. Following a period of preparation, construction would then take approximately eight years, with testing of the line beginning in 2024 and the London to West Midlands line opening in early 2026.
The government would expect to announce and consult on its proposed route and station locations for the second phase of the project - the legs from the West Midlands to Manchester and Leeds - over the next few years. This would be with a view to introducing a second hybrid Bill in the next Parliament.
The cost of constructing a Y shaped network linking London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, as well as the Channel Tunnel and Heathrow, is estimated to be £32 billion (in 2009 prices).
Over a 60-year period, HS2 Ltd’s analysis estimates that a national high speed rail network would generate benefits with a net present value of £44 billion. The net present cost to Government over the same period of building and operating the line would be £17 billion (calculated as total capital and operating costs of £44 billion less fares revenues of £27 billion).
On this basis, the government’s assessment is that the proposed network would have a benefit:cost ratio (BCR) of 2.6. The basis on which this BCR has been calculated is explained in more detail in the Economic Case for HS2, which is available on the consultation website. However, it does not include the significant strategic benefits relating to high speed rail’s potential for supporting: job creation, regeneration and economic growth.
The consultation on the government’s high speed rail proposals closes at midnight tonight, Friday 29 July.
A full suite of detailed supporting documents, including the economic case for high speed rail and a full Appraisal of Sustainability is also available on the website.
The government’s proposed route
The government’s proposed network would be built in phases. Phase 1 would comprise an initial London-Birmingham line including a direct link to High Speed One (HS1). This would run from a rebuilt Euston station to a new Birmingham City Centre station at Curzon Street. A Crossrail interchange station would be built at Old Oak Common in West London, providing direct connections to: the West End, City and Docklands via Crossrail; to the South West and Wales via the Great Western Main Line; and to Heathrow via the Heathrow Express.
A second interchange station would be constructed where the line of the route passes the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) and Birmingham Airport close to Junction 6 of the M42. It would offer direct links to Birmingham Airport, the National Exhibition Centre and the M6 and M42. A direct link to HS1 would be provided in tunnel from Old Oak Common to the existing North London Line, from where existing infrastructure can be used to reach the HS1 line north of St Pancras.
Phase 2 would see the new high speed line running on to Manchester and separately to Leeds. HS2 Ltd is currently engaged in detailed planning work for options for these routes, including stations in the East Midlands and South Yorkshire, as well as for a spur link to Heathrow. Connections on to the existing West and East Coast main lines would also be included, allowing direct high speed train services to be operated to cities including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Liverpool. Further consideration will also be given to extending the network subsequently to these and other major destinations.