At the end of this month I will receive HS2 Ltd’s route and station advice for high speed rail lines to Leeds, Manchester and Heathrow. This is an important next step in our aspiration for a truly national high speed network, as set out in our programme for government. Phase 2 of High Speed Two will spread the benefits of high speed rail further across the country, increasing capacity and enhancing connectivity by extending high speed rail lines to Leeds and Manchester and connecting other major conurbations in the North and in Scotland through seamless transition onto the existing network.
In fulfilment of its remit, HS2 Ltd’s advice will include options for stations in Manchester, Leeds, South Yorkshire, the East Midlands and at Heathrow Airport, as well as advice on the case and potential locations for additional stations. It will also cover the impact of Phase 2 of the network in releasing capacity on the Midland and East Coast main lines, as well as further extending the benefits of released capacity within the west coast corridor.
I will consider this advice objectively and in detail over the coming months, and I intend to publish it in the autumn together with a government response setting out initial preferred route and station options. An important part of this process will be to consider the views of delivery partners in the cities where HS2 stations may be located, including any underpinning evidence which they have identified. Understanding local desires and plans for development will be crucial in helping me reach initial preferences for station locations. I am particularly keen to ensure that the network best supports the economic potential of the cities and regions it serves, through well-integrated station locations that build on local and regional plans.
Minimising the risk of blight is a serious consideration, and it is for this reason that I expect to publish HS2 Ltd’s advice once I have reached a view on routes and station options. Publishing a detailed range of possible options without an indication of the government’s preferences would generate unnecessary and harmful blight across areas that ultimately might never be affected by the lines. I will be working with national environmental stakeholders to discuss key sustainability issues and how best to consult on lines of route going forward to help meet the needs of different stakeholders and the public.
Following publication, the input of interested parties, including MPs and their constituents, will be valuable to help further develop the proposals that will go forward for subsequent formal public consultation. Only once a full public consultation has been launched and completed will any decisions be reached.
When preferred route options are published in the autumn we will consult on and introduce an exceptional hardship scheme to assist property owners impacted by the proposals. Further, in order to reduce uncertainty for those affected by the proposals, and to ensure that the benefits for passengers and business of a national high speed rail network are realised as soon as possible, I have asked my officials to explore options for bringing forward formal public consultation on Phase 2 of High Speed 2 to 2013, and I will set out my proposed timetable later this year.