News story

Investing in Britain's future: high speed rail consultation launched

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Launch of consultation on the government's proposals for high speed rail.

Britain’s economic map would be redrawn, jobs created, prosperity spread and the way businesses work and compete transformed by a new high speed rail network, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said today (28 February 2011) as he launched a consultation on the government’s proposals.

Launching one of the biggest public consultations ever undertaken, the Transport Secretary also warned that Britain’s transport network cannot afford to be left behind while competitor countries improve their transport infrastructure.

The government is proposing a ‘Y’ shaped network linking London, the West Midlands, Manchester and Leeds, with stations in South Yorkshire and the East Midlands, and links to existing lines to enable through-running services to other cities including Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh. The scheme would deliver around £44 billion of benefits and would cut journey times between London and other major cities by as much as an hour.

Philip Hammond said:

We must invest in Britain’s future. High speed rail offers us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way we travel in the 21st century and would help us build a modern economy fit for the future.

Countries across Europe and Asia are already pressing ahead with ambitious plans for high speed rail, while some of our key rail arteries are getting ever closer to capacity. We cannot afford to be left behind - investing in high speed rail now is vital to the prosperity of future generations.

The government believes a new high speed rail network would offer:

A better connected Britain: Bringing Birmingham within 49 minutes of London, and Manchester and Leeds within 80 minutes or less. Birmingham and Manchester would be less than 50 minutes apart and Leeds and Birmingham just over an hour. Travel from London to Scotland’s major cities would take around 3 hours 30 minutes. Running 14 or more trains per hour, each with up to 1,100 seats and offering much higher levels of reliability than the existing network, high speed rail could shift as many as 6 million air trips and 9 million road trips a year on to rail.

A foundation for growth, jobs, prosperity and regeneration: The increased speed, capacity and connectivity provided by a high speed rail network would reshape our economic geography, regenerate our urban centres and help to bridge the north-south divide that has held us back in the past, allowing Britain to build a modern economy fit for the future.

A new start for Britain’s existing rail network: With long-distance services transferred to the new high speed network, large amounts of space would be freed up on the West Coast, East Coast and Midland Main Lines, allowing for an expansion of commuter, regional and freight services on these lines.

The government estimates the cost of the complete ‘Y’ shaped network at £32 billion and expects it to generate economic benefits of around £44 billion and fare revenues of around £27 billion over a 60-year period. The proposed network would be delivered in 2 phases - the first a line from London to the West Midlands, and the second the onward legs to Manchester and Leeds.

A direct link to Britain’s existing high speed line, High Speed 1 - which runs from London St Pancras to the Channel Tunnel - is also proposed as part of the initial phase of the scheme, to allow travel from cities linked to the high speed network to the continent. Construction of a direct link to Heathrow airport - which, under the proposals, would be built at the same time as lines from Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester - would enable direct high speed services to run to and from the airport, providing an attractive alternative to many short-haul air journeys and bringing central Birmingham within an hour of Heathrow, and Manchester and Leeds within around 70 and 75 minutes respectively.

In December 2010, the government announced its proposed route for the first phase of a high speed line between London and the West Midlands. The consultation which begins today is both on that proposed route and the government’s strategy for a wider network. The consultation will run until 29 July and events will take place in towns and cities along the 140-mile proposed route between London and the West Midlands, as well as in major cities across the country.

Subject to the outcome of this consultation, the government intends to secure powers to deliver each phase of its proposed high speed network by means of the hybrid bill process. Construction of any new network would be expected to begin early in the next parliament, with the line to the West Midlands completed by 2026 and the legs to Manchester and Leeds finished in 2032-2033.

Further information

Economic case

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 £43.7 billion. The net present cost to government over the same period of building and operating the line would be £17.1 billion (calculated as total capital and operating costs of £44.3 billion less fares revenues of £27.2 billion).

On this basis, the government’s assessment is that the proposed network would have a benefit:cost ratio 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.

Environmental mitigation

The government is clear that high speed lines must be designed sensitively and include mitigation measures to ensure any impacts are reduced to the minimum. The Appraisal of Sustainability prepared for the proposed London-West Midlands line shows that the improvements delivered through sensitive design and mitigation can be significant.

Following the Secretary of State’s autumn visits to the proposed line of route, work to review and refine its recommended alignment by HS2 Ltd has seen changes to around 50 per cent, including moving it away from sensitive sites and settlements, and lowering the line and using green bridges and tunnels to reduce noise and visual impacts.

Along with additional work to assess opportunities for noise mitigation, this has contributed to the number of properties which would be expected to experience high noise levels reducing from 350 (in HS2 Ltd’s original report to Government) to around 10.

In the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), all but 1.2 miles would be either in tunnel, in cutting and/or alongside the A413 main road.

If the proposed line is taken forward, then an Environmental Impact Assessment would be carried out as part of the preparations for the process of seeking powers.

Any high speed route proposals for subsequent lines from the West Midlands to Manchester or Leeds will be subject to public consultation in due course, and Appraisals of Sustainability would be prepared and published to inform those processes.

Consultation details

The consultation on the government’s high speed rail proposals runs until 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.

In the coming months, roadshows will be held along the proposed London-West Midlands line of route. You can see the full timetable of events on the consultation 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.

Blight and compensation

Under existing planning law, qualifying property owners of land within the safeguarded area for any future high speed line would have access to statutory blight provisions. These provisions would likely take effect at such time as safeguarding directions were issued in respect of any route.

Once any future high speed line had been open for a year, property owners would also be eligible to claim statutory compensation under Part 1 of the Land Compensation Act 1973.

The government is considering what additional measures may be appropriate to help those whose properties were unlikely to need to be compulsorily purchased in order to build a new line, but who may still experience a significant loss in the value of their property as a result of its proximity. Further details are provided at Annex A in the consultation document.

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