HS2 will take a major step forward today (25 November 2013) with publication of the Bill for phase one of the country’s new railway between London and Birmingham.
The hybrid Bill, effectively the planning application for the scheme, will give the government the powers to construct and operate the railway. It will also give those affected by the proposed line the opportunity to petition Parliament, both for and against the proposals, and have their case heard by a committee of MPs.
The government believes that the new line – the first to be built north of London for 120 years – is vital to meet the urgent rail capacity needs on the main rail routes into London. Parts of the West Coast Main Line are full in terms of the number of trains they can carry, many of which are full to overflowing. There are similar issues facing the East Coast and Midland Mainline.
HS2 will spread prosperity throughout the country, connecting 8 out of 10 of the country’s major cities and particularly benefitting the midlands and the north. A recent study by KPMG estimated that when fully operational HS2 will generate around £15 billion of economic benefits annually.
The publication of legislation for Phase One marks a significant milestone in the project. Once Royal Assent has been achieved, it is expected that construction of the line from London to Birmingham will begin in 2016 to 2017 allowing the line to open in 2026.
Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin said:
HS2 is the most ambitious and important infrastructure project in the UK since we built the M25 30 years ago, and in 30 more it will be just as integral a part of the nation’s prosperity.
The Bill will give us the powers we need to get the railway built and start delivering the extra room on our railways that this country so desperately needs. It will also start the process of rebalancing the economy and bringing our great cities closer together.
That is why the Bill is so important – it marks the move from aspiration to delivery. Now is the time to be bold and ensure HS2 becomes a reality.
The government will also publish today (25 November 2013) the environmental statement for Phase One of the scheme. The document sets out in detail the likely significant environmental effects of the scheme.
It will allow those on or near the line of route to see exactly how they will be affected and give details of the ways in which the railway has been designed to reduce as far as practicable impacts on the landscape.
These include that:
- around 23% of the line between London and the West Midlands will be in tunnels and around 32% lowered into the ground with cuttings
- landscaped earthworks and the planting of at least 2 million trees will further help to screen the railway, reduce the impacts of train noise and integrate the line into the landscape
- much of the earth removed during the construction will be used to create these earthworks, greatly reducing the amount of earth that would have to be otherwise transported, cutting lorry journeys and associated congestion, disruption and pollution
- drawing on Japanese technology, HS2 trains will be fitted with special features to help reduce noise: considerations include the use of wheel farings to cut the noise made by the wheels on rails – the biggest source of noise on any electrified railway; and eliminating the gaps between each train carriage to cut noise and boost aerodynamic efficiency
The publication of the hybrid Bill has been widely welcomed as a significant milestone towards delivering HS2.
Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) John Longworth said:
We have consistently said that investing in HS2 is the best way to deliver increased capacity to our overstretched railways. And it’s not just existing capacity that’s a problem. If we want the economy to grow and businesses to prosper, we are going to need more capacity in the future. The problem is not going to go away and we are at risk of stifling future growth.
HS2 simply must be built if we are to avoid crippling delays, stifling carriage conditions and weekend chaos that conventional upgrades will bring. Major infrastructure projects have always been controversial in the past. The M25, Crossrail, and the Channel Tunnel were not universally called for, yet look at the economic benefits they have delivered over the years. A new high-speed rail network, as part of a wider infrastructure investment strategy, will release capacity on our roads, and enable firms to move both staff and goods with ease.
Manchester City Council Leader Sir Richard Leese said:
HS2 is a once in a century opportunity for Manchester, and it’s one we should grasp tightly. The deposit of the hybrid Bill into Parliament is a major milestone in making the new north-south high speed line a reality.
Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership chairman Roger Marsh said:
The laying of the hybrid Bill today (25 November 2013) is an extremely important move forward for HS2. The new north-south high speed line will give a serious boost to the Leeds City Region economy through the transformational reduction in journey times not just to London but between the cities of the Midlands and North and by greatly increasing the capacity of the railways.
Derby City Council leader Councillor Paul Bayliss said:
Today’s (25 November 2013) laying into Parliament of the hybrid Bill to build HS2 is a very significant step forward in the development of Britain’s new north-south high speed railway. As the country’s leading city for advanced transport engineering, we welcome the economic opportunities that HS2 should bring, particularly if the East Midlands Station is in the right location.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
With rail passenger numbers along the west coast route set to rise sharply in the next few decades, HS2 is vital for delivering the extra capacity that passengers will need.
But HS2 isn’t just about helping passengers, it can boost growth and help rebalance the economy too. HS2 will provide new business opportunities at stops along its route, while local employment and apprenticeship clauses could help HS2 to create many thousands of high quality jobs across the country. This is an opportunity we can ill afford to miss out on.
The Department for Transport is also today (25 November 2013) publishing several other documents which have interdependencies with the Bill.
Find out what else the government is doing to support and grow the UK economy.