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High Speed 2 hybrid bill to be revealed

The government this week published the hybrid bill for phase one of the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail scheme ahead of its reading before parliament on Monday (25 November).

The hybrid bill is effectively the planning application for the 225km of route required for the London to Birmingham section of the scheme and will give the government the powers to construct and operate the railway.

The aim is that, once Royal Assent is given, construction of the line can begin in 2016/2017. It is due to open in 2026.

“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,” said transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

The first phase is expected to cost £17.16bn at 2011 prices. The overall cost of phase one and phase two, which runs north of Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds, has a budget of £42.6bn.

Publication of the bill marks the move from “aspiration to delivery”, McLoughlin added.

The government also published the environmental statement for phase one of the scheme, setting out in detail the likely significant environmental effects.

  • Around 23% of the line between London and the West Midlands will be in tunnel and around 32% will run through cuttings;
  • Landscaped earthworks and at least 2M specially planted trees will help screen the railway.
  • HS2 trains will also use Japanese noise reduction technology.

A public consultation will follow publication of the environmental statement and will run until 24 January 2014.

Business groups the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and the CBI welcomed the announcement as did ICE director general Nick Baveystock.

 “We welcome the government’s ongoing efforts to make the case for HS2. Clearly it has to be an integral part of a national transport strategy rather than a project developed in isolation, and the benefits should be understood. But any debate must be properly informed, and the government must take the lead in bringing about a much greater understanding of the management and cost of risk, and how contingency really works – an area which has caused concern around projected costs.

“Much was learned from our experience with contingency budgeting in the London 2012 Olympics, and this has been embedded within the HS2 programme .”

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ICE director general Nick Baveystock said that it believed “HS2 is still the best option for greatly increasing rail capacity, strengthening connectivity between city-regions and creating economic and regeneration opportunities - and the publication of the Hybrid Bill is a significant step towards achieving this. 

“We welcome the government’s ongoing efforts to make the case for HS2. Clearly it has to be an integral part of a national transport strategy rather than a project developed in isolation, and the benefits should be understood. But any debate must be properly informed, and the government must take the lead in bringing about a much greater understanding of the management and cost of risk, and how contingency really works – an area which has caused concern around projected costs.

“Much was learned from our experience with contingency budgeting in the London 2012 Olympics, and this has been embedded within the HS2 programme, but the trick now is to articulate that.”

“HS2 simply must be built if we are to avoid crippling delays, stifling carriage conditions and weekend chaos that conventional upgrades will bring,” said BCC director general John Longworth. “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.”

CBI chief policy director Katja Hall said HS2 would tackle the “looming capacity crunch on the West Coast Main Line, connect some of our biggest cities and bring significant economic benefits. We would urge politicians on both sides of the House to back this important project.”

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.”

Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin said: “Not for the first time, we are completely bemused by Patrick McLoughlin saying construction of HS2 could start in four months [according to reports in The Sun], when the current timetable is more like four years.

To do anything else would be to completely subvert democracy and remove the right of people to petition the Hybrid Bill Committee. HS1 took about 2 years to get through Parliament, Crossrail about 3. To suggest HS2 could get through in 4 months either means the Government are planning a stitch-up of gargantuan proportions or that the Transport Secretary doesn’t have the first clue what he is talking about. Both of those things have been par for the course with HS2, so neither would surprise us.”

Stop HS2 also said that Philip Lund, a former director of Network Rail will tell MPs: “There is in fact much about the case for HS2 which simply does not make sense. It is for this reason, as well as because of the effects on their own lives and properties, that many of those protesting in and around Parliament want the project to be scrapped now. Whether or not this is done it is surely necessary to call a halt and have a fundamental review of the proposed scheme in the light of the points made above and by such authoritative bodies as the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office.”

Readers' comments (2)

  • David Smith

    So it seems ALMOST inevitable that HS2 will be built from London to Birmingham at a cost of £17bn+. I suppose it’s not really a huge sum and it’s possible that it will be cost effective.
    £25Bn more to extend it to Leeds and Manchester is a different prospect. I doubt it will be cost effective. In any case, I’ll be dead before we discover.
    In the meantime, HS2 benefits to West Coast Main Line will be marginal. WCML needs longer trains. The argument that platforms aren’t long enough doesn’t hold water. Newton Abbott copes.
    So the operators will use longer trains. It’s been noticeable over the last year how they’ve grown. They started at 10 carriages, then went to 9, then when the HS2 debate became energised, they grew to 12. I think I once counted 14 but maybe I was mistaken. They haven’t yet grown to Eurostar’s 20 (but the seats per carriage are only about 70% of Eurostars).
    So get on with stage 1. I don’t care any more. It’s down south. I doubt Stage 2 will ever get built. And Stage 3? Where to? Oxenholme so the city can get to the Lakes? Well I suppose we could PFI it. But wouldn’t it be a much better return if the money was spent in the Bristol Channel?

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  • The article's cost quotes are potentially confusing and give the impression that Phase 2 will be far more expensive than it actually is. The Phase 1 cost excludes contingency, but the total cost given includes contingency. The Phase 2 cost excluding contingency is actually £12.5bn (ref: http://www.hs2.org.uk/about-hs2/facts-figures/route-trains-cost).

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