An important stage in controversial Government plans for the High Speed Two (HS2) high-speed rail (HSR) line will be reached today when transport secretary Philip Hammond launches a six-month consultation on the £17bn project.
But while Hammond makes the case for the London to Birmingham line at a conference in Birmingham, those opposing the scheme will be highlighting their disapproval by lighting a chain of beacons at beauty spots through which HS2 is scheduled to go.
Opponents include not only residents’ groups and local councils but some Tory MPs, while the rail industry and big business are in favour of the line. Work could start in 2015 if it is approved.
Government documents will give more details about the project which was first suggested by Labour and has been taken up by the coalition Government.
The documents are expected to show how many homes will be affected by noise and will also present the economic and environmental case for the line, which could be extended north from Birmingham if a second stage goes ahead.
It is thought that around 4,860 homes will experience extra noise as a result of the line. But possibly as few as 10 properties will suffer from high noise levels and only another 150 will need noise insulation.
Hammond has said that it is vital for Britain to invest in its future and has dismissed suggestions that opting for HS2 will mean cutting back on other rail services.
“We will be spending billions of pounds over the coming years to improve commuter services and, in the long run, HSR will also help relieve pressure on the existing rail network,” said Hammond.
“Building the initial London-Birmingham high-speed line is expected to require average funding of around £2bn per year, broadly similar to the level of annual expenditure on London’s current Crossrail project.”
Last week almost 70 top bosses, including CBI director-general John Cridland and former British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh, gave their backing for HS2, but residents’ groups say there is no economic case for it.