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HS2 bill set for Royal Assent mid-February

HS2

The High Speed 2 (HS2) Phase One hybrid bill is now set receive Royal Assent in the second week of February, after complex negotiations in the House of Lords.

The government  today published the Department for Transport’s (DfT) response to petitions from people who say they will be adversely affected by the high speed line. The  response was part of the process of the getting the bill through the House of Lords.

In the DfT’s response is a government commitment not to make compulsory purchase orders for land at regeneration projects around the HS2 line, for example at sites such as Old Oak Common in west London.

The response is part of series of formalities the bill must go through in the House of Lords, after which it returns to the House of Commons for its final reading before it receives Royal Assent, which is expected in second week of February. The Assent will unlock powers, particularly in relation to land access, which will allow survey work, and seasonal ecology work, to go ahead.

As part of the process the Lords select committee which is consideing the bill received 822 objections to the bill. Of the 822 objections, 278 were successfully resolved. Of the remaining 544 , the committee listened to evidence in support of 314 petitions in formal session, with the remaining objectors withdrawing, or choosing not to appear before the committee. This was mainly as a result of successful prior negotiation with HS2 Ltd.

The select committee’s recent report summarises the hearings and contains modifications to the bill, directions for action by project promoter HS2 Ltd in a number of specific cases and more general recommendations about actions it should take on a range of other issues.

In a Commons transport select committee in December last year, HS2 Ltd chairman David Higgins responded to questions about why the process of passing the bill through the House of Lords had taken longer than expected.

“First, I want to pay tribute to both Committees in the Lords and the Commons,” he said. “They have done a fantastic and very disciplined job. The Lords had 800 petitions. It is a huge number. It is four times Crossrail in the Commons. There was a huge number of interests.

“If you compare it with any other project going through the Commons under this process, it has been at a rate that has been much more efficient and quicker than anything else that has gone through.”

He went on to say that although he did not see the funding of the future Crossrail 2 project as a threat to phase two of HS2, he did see the number of hybrid bills that would need to be taken through parliament at that stage as a challenge.

“It is more the legislative timetable in the House that will be the challenge—the hybrid bill process,” he said. “You will have three or four different major projects that require a hybrid bill. That is the challenge. At the moment, custom and practice has one hybrid Bill at one time. Even if it is in the Lords, you do not have another hybrid bill in the Commons.”

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