HS2: £33bn high speed rail

12 Jan 2012

On Tuesday this week, Government Minister and Secretary of State for Transport Justine  Greening, announced the Government's decision to proceed with plans for a  £33billion High Speed 2 line from London to Birmingham and, eventually, Manchester and Leeds — despite massive public opposition,  Tory warnings that it will prove a costly 'white elephant', and having to face down protests from her own MPs in the Commons

The HS2 scheme – the HS1 being the Channel Tunnel Rail Link – will involve trains travelling at up to 250mph, halving journey times between Birmingham and London to 49 minutes. Miss Greening said the scheme would mean more seats, better connections, new jobs, and growth and prosperity for the entire country.

But it faces huge political and legal hurdles not to mention reportedly meaning around 400 homes will need be demolished and 250 farms to be split.

Whilst the plans still need to be approved by the House of Parliament, it is expected to receive the approval with legislation for the first phase of HS2 being introduced in Parliament next year. 

The project is being developed by High Speed Two Ltd, a company established by the Government. The route would take the form of a "Y", with a trunk from London to Birmingham. The route would then split into two spurs, one to Manchester, and the other to Leeds via the East Midlands. The line will be built in phases, with the London to Birmingham section being the first phase and running by 2026 and the Y spur phase in 2033. There will be no intermediate calling points between London and the West Midlands.

A consultation on the second phase will begin in early 2014, with a final route chosen by the end of that year.

The Department of Transport's own website explains that "We are writing to all owners of properties that are very close to the proposed line of the route to inform them of the Government's decision, and the potential need to compulsorily purchase their property. On the currently anticipated programme, construction will start around 2016 and the line will be operational from 2026…..The properties that are very close to the line of the route, and therefore may need to be acquired for the scheme would not be needed before 2015 at the earliest…. In due course property owners will be contacted by representatives of HS2 Ltd, the company established to deliver the project. This would be to discuss the particular circumstances concerning their property and the process and arrangements that may apply regarding the potential future acquisition of all (or part) of their property, a process known as "compulsory purchase".There is already in place a statutory code for compulsory purchase of property required for major public infrastructure schemes. This sets out rights to compensation and other arrangements and there are a set of booklets published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG), which provide clear advice on this complex area."

Consequently, any property owners likely to be affected who have not already taken expert advice on compensation and compulsory purchase issues should consider doing so now, as whilst the law is relatively straightforward regarding the procedure to be followed for properties that have to be demolished, there will always be issues regarding the level of compensation to be paid.