Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has published details of the Government's proposed route for the first phase of its planned high speed rail network (HS2) designed to link London to the West Midlands, Manchester and Leeds.
The initial phase would include a new line between London and Birmingham and include a direct link to Heathrow and to the European high speed rail network.
The Government has stressed that the proposed route has been significantly redrawn to incorporate changes to over half its length following objections to the environmental impact of the initial proposals.
The completed 'Y'-shaped network would bring the West Midlands within about half an hour of London and would allow journey times of around 80 minutes from Leeds and Manchester to the capital. Connections onto existing tracks would also be included, allowing direct high speed train services to be operated to cities including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Liverpool.
Maps of the new route have been published and full public consultation on the route - as well as on the Government's broader strategy on high speed rail - will begin in February 2011.
Improvements to the route previously published have been made, including at the following locations: Primrose Hill in London; between Amersham and Wendover; at Hartwell House in Buckinghamshire; at Edgcote House to the north of Aylesbury; and at Lichfield where an improved alignment would move the line further from the city.
The Government plans to secure the powers to deliver the high speed network by means of a Hybrid Bill. Depending on the outcome of consultation and Parliamentary timescales and approval, enabling works for the initial London-Birmingham phase to be able to begin in 2015 with the high speed network opening in phases from 2026.
Under existing planning law, eligible property owners directly affected by any confirmed plans for the development of any future high speed line have access in due course to statutory blight provisions. These provisions would come into force at such time as safeguarding directions are issued in respect of any route.
However, the possibility of such a line being constructed may in some cases have an impact on property values in the period before statutory protection is available. The Government has introduced an Exceptional Hardship Scheme for householders most affected by these proposals, and in particular for householders who have an urgent need to relocate.
6 January 2011