Posted 8th May 2013 | 5 Comments

Queen gives green light to next stages of HS2

THE QUEEN has given a green light to the next stages of HS2, by announcing the Government's intention to move ahead with two Acts of Parliament – one of which would provide legal powers to acquire land for the first phase between London and Birmingham.

Speaking in Parliament, the Queen said: "My government will continue to invest in infrastructure to deliver jobs and growth for the economy. Legislation will be introduced to enable the building of the High Speed Two railway line, providing further opportunities for economic growth in many of Britain's cities."

The two proposed Acts include a main Hybrid Bill authorising the line, plus a High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill, also known as a 'paving' Bill, which will be Parliament's opportunity to authorise the release of further funds in the short term to continue development of the scheme.

Industry reaction was swift.

ATOC chief executive Michael Roberts said: “The inclusion of the HS2 legislation in today’s Queen’s Speech is good news for both passengers and the economy. This commitment is the next important step in securing a modern high speed rail network linking the north and south of Britain which will unlock significant economic and environmental benefits.

“A new High Speed line, alongside sustained investment in the existing network, is key to providing the extra capacity today’s booming rail industry will need in the years ahead.”

Centro chief executive Geoff Inskip also welcomed the news. He said: "This is exactly what we wanted to hear – a continuing commitment and tremendous news for the West Midlands. HS2 will bring fast, direct services connecting eight of our ten largest cities, but it will also release capacity for more services on our existing lines. We’re already working to get the best possible benefits from HS2 at a local and regional level and so this continuing, unwavering commitment is crucial.”

Mr Inskip said research revealed that HS2 would create 22,000 jobs and boost the West Midlands economy by £1.5 billion a year when the first phase had been completed, while Andrew Cleaves of the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership said the project "represents one of the most important opportunities we have in Greater Birmingham to bring about a step change in terms of jobs, connectivity and economic growth".

He continued: “HS2 will have a huge impact on our current local rail capacity challenges and provide the region with the opportunity to create new industry based on our strengths in advanced manufacturing.

“Of course, we do acknowledge that while the economic opportunities are huge, there will be challenges in some areas and the GBSLEP will continue to work with Government to minimise the social and environmental impact."

There was also a renewed wave of criticism from the scheme's opponents, such as Joe Rukin from the campaigning group Stop HS2, who said: "The Government have never been interested in doing HS2 properly, they have only ever wanted it doing quickly. Introducing a Paving Bill shows a complete disregard to both due process and budgetary control.

"The HS2 project has been stalling because of the incompetence of HS2 Ltd and the fact they have kept on getting their figures wrong. Introducing a Paving Bill at this stage is simply writing a blank cheque to the very consultants who after initially lobbying for HS2 to be built, are now consistently over-spending their contracts and displaying gross incompetence.”

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Chris Neville-Smith, Durham, England

    "I wonder what the cost of the project is now ?"

    If, as I assume, you are trying to argue that as there's now more tunnelling it's definitely going to cost more than the £33bn, rememember that this figure allows for costs to escalate by 60%. Plans have only been changed in Greater London which was always going to be the most complicated bit of the construction. No signficant changes have been made beyond the Chiltern Hills. The final bill could still be substantially below £33bn PV.

    " He does virtually all his work from his home in the Czech Republic by mobile phone and internet. He now very infrequently meets his customers - is that the future for Business around the world ?"

    Well, considering that this has not featured in the aviation expansion debate at all, it would seem the vast majority of the business world does not agree.

    I'll take the argument about technology reducing the need to travel seriously when people start using against Heathrow expansion. If techonology is not rreducing the need to travel abroad, why is it going to reduce the need to travel in the UK?

  • Peter Davidson, Alderley Edge, NW.England

    Chris Neville-Smith, Durham, England: "When you decide the government's wrong first and think of reasons later, you're bound to wind up in a self-contradictory mess."

    STOPHS2, HS2AA, AGHAST et al have been in self-contradictory territory from the outset - it has zero impact on their resolve to try and torpedo the project - after all, the leading lights amongst these campaign groups are all personally invested in seeing HS2 fail - clue; the line is coming right through their backyards!

    Yesterday marked a big step forward, yes, but the war of attrition (and that's what it is) is not over yet.

    The Judicial Review outcome earlier this year means legal efforts to challenge the project have effectively been cut off - that leaves a political approach as the only realistic method to block progress - so we can expect the anti-community to regroup and try again when the Hybrid Bill enters Parliament (planned for October this year). The Paving Bill is a lost cause for naysayers but the enabling Hybrid legislation process incorporates a number of stages for those opposed to have an opportunity to dissent and rally Parliamentary support to their cause (this is only right in a functioning democracy) - opponents will of course fail to garner sufficient legitimate opposition in the form of bodies in the NO lobby when the division bell sounds but they may be able to throw procedural spanners in the works to slow down the legislative process.

    Even after the Hybrid Bill receives Royal Assent (scheduled for Jan/Feb 2015), a hard core of Bucks based fanatical opponents will continue with their efforts to oppose the inevitable, probably in the form of stunts, such as occupying property / specific areas of environmental concern in futile efforts to sway public sentiment.

    Ironically (given the claims made by Joe Rukin about doing things quickly) the extended timescales involved mean there is lot of water to flow under the bridge yet!

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    Surely the real problem is unlike other countries like France where HS railways are produced like a factory production our on /off stop/go way of building these lines together with no clearly defined 'infrastructure Legislation' means we have to resort to paving bills just to keep schemes moving forward!

    Lets hope the next government will set in place clear legislation for major infrustructure projects be they Air, Rail or Road otherwise we will continue to here mis information when laws are needed to progress multi billion pound projects.

    Hopefully, a way of allowing Network Rail to include HS2 related infrustructure in its ongoing modernisation of the network even if its just installing a future bridge for HS2 above a line when major work in that part of existing network is undertaken.

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    I wonder what the cost of the project is now ? We have had several announcements that much more tunnelling is going to happen, with much greater costs and lower line speeds than originally planned. It now also looks that many more people are going to get compensation because of noise. The original costings were also based on the principle that businessmen don't work on trains. I also wonder if firms are going to be prepared to pay for employees to travel as much as they did in the past. Incidentally one of my sons is the Chief Salesman for a company in the UK. He does virtually all his work from his home in the Czech Republic by mobile phone and internet. He now very infrequently meets his customers - is that the future for Business around the world ?

  • Chris Neville-Smith, Durham, England

    I would take these arguments about rushing HS2 through seriously if I thought the people pushing this actually believed what they were saying.

    However, this time last year when HS2 wasn't in the Queen's speech (and was never earmarked for that year in the first place, but never mind), the same people were claiming that this slippage was proof that the whole thing is in disarray and the government is about to drop it. So are we supposed to believed that had the HS2 bill been pushed back to the 2014-2015 session, they would be welcoming the chance for the scheme to be given more time at the planning stage? Errm, I don't think so. It seems (well, it's bleeding obvious) that they only want more time in the hope they can use it to get the whole thing binned.

    I don't know how much longer StopHS2, HS2AA and so on think they can carry on chopping and changing their positions like this. When you decide the government's wrong first and think of reasons later, you're bound to wind up in a self-contradictory mess.