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  6. High speed rail project gets go-ahead

High speed rail project gets go-ahead

Ministers have given the green light for a new national high speed rail network, called HS2, which has a price tag of £32.7bn and will be built in two phases by 2033.

HS2 will be a Y-shaped rail network with stations in London, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and the East Midlands linked by high speed trains conveying up to 26,000 people each hour at speeds of up to 250mph.

High speed trains will also connect with the existing West Coast and East Coast main lines to serve passengers beyond the HS2 network in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Durham, York, Darlington, Liverpool, Preston, Wigan and Lancaster.

The first phase will see construction of a new 140-mile line between London and Birmingham by 2026, the detailed route of which has just been published. This includes more tunneling to ameliorate the environmental impact of the scheme north and west of London, particularly where the route runs through the Chilterns. Ministers have also improved the compensation package for property owners affected.
These physical refinements will see 79 miles of the 140-mile line between London and Birmingham running in tunnels or cuttings, a 55 per cent increase in the amount of tunnelling in the consultation route.

Included are:

  • a longer, continuous tunnel from Little Missenden to the M25 through the Chilterns
  • a new 2.75 mile (4.4 km) bored tunnel along the Northolt Corridor to avoid major works to the Chilterns Line and impacts on local communities in the Ruislip area
  • a longer green tunnel past Chipping Warden and Aston Le Walls, and to curve the route to avoid a cluster of important heritage sites around Edgcote
  • a longer green tunnel to reduce impacts around Wendover, and an extension to the green tunnel at South Heath.

The second phase will see lines built from Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester by 2033. A formal consultation on second phase routes will begin in early 2014 with a final route chosen by the end of 2014.

The first phase of HS2 will include a connection to Europe via the Channel Tunnel. On completion of HS2 the network will include a direct link to Heathrow Airport.

The project will require primary legislation. Transport secretary Justine Greening told the Commons that she planned to introduce a hybrid Bill in Parliament by the end of 2013, including a detailed environmental impact assessment to provide the necessary powers to construct and operate the line from London to Birmingham.

“I have instructed HS2 Ltd to deliver this project at pace, but within milestones that will stand the test of time and with regular reporting to me on progress. The Major Projects Authority, which this Government launched last March to improve the performance of major Government projects in delivering on time and in budget, will provide critical support and oversight.

“This spring, we will consult on the draft directions for safeguarding the proposed route from London to the West Midlands, as well as separately consulting on detailed compensation proposals. I aim to bring final safeguarding directions and an agreed compensation policy into effect later in the year.

“In March this year, HS2 Ltd will advise me on the route and station options to Manchester and Leeds, and in autumn 2012, we will start an engagement programme on a preferred route to discuss local views.”

Read more about HS2 on the Department for Transport website.


Roger Milne

12 January 2012