Posted 24th February 2013 | 26 Comments
Surprise boost for HS2 to be unveiled
PLANS to build HS2 have been given a boost by a Government announcement that it intends to promote a Paving Bill in the next session of Parliament. The transport secretary has reaffirmed his own commitment to the scheme by hailing it as 'an engine for growth'.
The new law is intended to give the transport secretary powers to raise some early funding for the project, and Whitehall insiders say the measure is set to be included in the Queen's Speech in May, when she will reveal the Government's forthcoming legislative programme.
It had been thought that the HS2 project would have to wait for a major Hybrid Bill, but this interim measure will allow the transport secretary to make progress ahead of the main Bill. Assuming that it is passed, a Paving Bill also allows Parliament to signal its approval.
Most significantly of all, a successful Bill would convert HS2 from the status of 'if' to 'when', providing for the construction of Phases 1 and 2 and also accelerating the plans for Phase 3, which is to close the gap between the north of England and Scotland.
The Government has announced its intentions before the result of December's judicial review into the scheme is revealed, but sources say even an adverse judgement about some of the details of the consultation, in which several hundred responses were overlooked, is not expected to derail the project.
The spending powers which the Government is seeking would finance detailed design work and the letting of contracts for designing the construction of the line, planning the realignment of existing railways and rerouting utilities, and also carrying out ground investigation and ecological surveys.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said "High Speed rail is an engine for growth that will help drive regional regeneration, secure economic prosperity across Britain and support tens of thousands of jobs. It is vital we press ahead with delivering this crucial project as quickly as possible.
"Introducing a Paving Bill will allow Parliament to make a clear commitment to High Speed rail. Crucially, it will also give us the spending powers much sooner that will enable us to get moving on the detailed design work for the scheme.
"This is an opportunity for all three main political parties to reaffirm their support for High Speed rail and maintain the ambitious programme we have set for HS2."
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