Posted 23rd February 2017 | 8 Comments

HS2 Bill receives Royal Assent

Construction will start in the spring

CONSTRUCTION of Britain’s second High Speed railway has been given the legal go-ahead today, because the Hybrid Bill authorising the construction of HS2 Phase 1 between London and Birmingham has received Royal Assent.

The complex and controversial Bill has taken more than three years to move through both Houses of Parliament. Hundreds of petitions from property owners and other members of the public, as well as pressure groups, have been heard.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “Getting the go-ahead to start building HS2 is a massive boost to the UK’s future economic prosperity and a further clear signal that Britain is open for business.

“HS2 will be the world’s most advanced passenger railway and the backbone of our rail network. Royal Assent is a major step towards significantly increasing capacity on our congested railways for both passengers and freight; improving connections between the biggest cities and regions; generating jobs, skills and economic growth and helping build an economy that works for all.

“By investing in infrastructure the Government is seizing the opportunity provided by leaving the EU to build a more global Britain. We will now press ahead with constructing the railway while continuing to ensure affected communities get appropriate support and are treated with fairness, compassion and respect.”

The Department for Transport said HS2 will create around 25,000 jobs during construction as well as 2,000 apprenticeships. It will also support growth in the wider economy, worth an additional 100,000 jobs.

David Higgins, the former Network Rail chief executive who now chairs the government-owned developer HS2 Ltd, said: “Achieving Royal Assent for Phase One of HS2 between Birmingham and London with such significant parliamentary support, is a monumental step in transforming rail travel in Britain.  We have a long journey ahead of us to build the railway and secure permission for Phase two to make sure that the full benefits of HS2 are realised.  This journey will see businesses right along the route benefit from greater access to the skills, markets and professional services they need to succeed in today's global market.   It will directly create some 25,000 jobs as well as forcing the pace of innovation in the construction industry.

“Throughout this process HS2 remains committed to mitigating the environmental impacts whilst continuing to engage with each individual community which is making sacrifices to enable a 21st century railway network to be built in Britain.”

The grant of Royal Assent has been welcomed around the industry.

Darren Caplan of the Railway Industry Association said: “Railway suppliers across the country can now start gearing up to invest and provide the world-class equipment, people and skills required for such a flagship scheme,” while Paul Plummer of the Rail Delivery Group said: “This is a major milestone for HS2 and Britain. The new high-speed line will boost north-south links, add much-needed space on the railway for more and faster trains, and support economic growth. HS2 will be an important part of a bigger and better railway, and the rail industry is working hard to ensure HS2 is seamlessly integrated with the existing network.”

There was a note of caution from the London Borough of Camden, which has consistently opposed HS2.

The council’s leader Councillor Sarah Hayward said: “We’ve challenged the HS2 Bill every step of the way to limit the worst effects of what will be nearly two decades of construction disruption for Camden. We are proud to have successfully secured significant concessions. After years of the Council fighting for fairer compensation for Camden residents, the Government has finally agreed to offer compensation that is ‘fair, reasonable and proportionate’ to those living in urban areas – we now need to see the details of this new scheme as soon as possible.

“But we know that residents and businesses will still face daily disruption. Hundreds will see their homes demolished, and thousands more will be impacted by construction noise and up to 800 extra two-way lorry movements every day during busiest periods. We’d prefer the scheme wasn’t going ahead, but our priority now is to hold HS2 Ltd to account on its commitments and make sure it does everything possible to further reduce impacts on Camden.”

HS2 will start at London Euston, and trains will call at a new interchange at Old Oak Common before heading north through and often under the Chilterns, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire. The next stop will be at Birmingham Interchange, providing connections with the West Coast Main Line and Birmingham International Airport. East of central Birmingham a triangular junction will be built, allowing trains to turn right and head for a terminus at Birmingham Curzon Street, while other trains will be able to continue north as far as Lichfield, where a connection will be made with the existing West Coast Main Line.

Phase 1 is expected to open in 2026, while a further section known as Phase 2a is set to follow a year later which will extend high speed running to Crewe.

The rest of Phase 2 should open in 2033 and consist of two spurs. One will be between Crewe, Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly, while the other will link the West Midlands with the East Midlands and Yorkshire, with connections in South Yorkshire and a terminus at Leeds.

Councillor Bob Sleigh, who is chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority, said: “This is the news that the West Midlands has been waiting for. HS2 is going to happen and we’re ready to capitalise fully on the opportunities it offers to transform places, create jobs and attract investment.

“Royal Assent is important because it makes HS2 an absolute reality and means the West Midlands can now fully deliver its HS2 ambitions. Those ambitions have a clear focus on jobs, apprenticeships, major investment at the two station sites in Solihull and Birmingham and millions of pounds of contract opportunities for West Midlands SMEs."

The process of procuring the first fleet of trains for HS2 has already begun, and a briefing for potential suppliers will take place on 27 March.

One contender to build Britain’s first domestic High Speed train fleet is Siemens.

The company's bid director for rolling stock Jo Hensher said: "Siemens is delighted that the HS2 Bill has gained Royal Assent.

“Royal Assent also gives companies like Siemens the confidence to make the necessary investments in their local supply chains and skills base to make HS2 happen. Siemens is committed to working with British suppliers and we currently support over  56,000 UK jobs through our UK supply chain. In fact, since the start of 2016 Siemens has spent almost £1.4bn in the UK supply chain of which around £300m was rail-related expenditure.

“HS2 is also a fantastic opportunity to attract more young people into the rail industry and to expand apprenticeship training. With over 500 apprentices in training, Siemens believes that apprenticeships are a great way to tackle engineering skills shortages in the UK.”

Reader Comments:

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

  • david c smith, Bletchley

    I agree , Mike, as far as infrastructure is concerned - this is part of the country's fabric, which along with roads, etc. needs a coordinated approach, preferably in a cost- effective manner and with proper accountability ( hopefully not via Whitehall !).

    But , as someone who lived throughoout the BR era, I appreciate the big improvements since privatisation . I hope we can move from "one size fits all" franchising of passenger operations to a "horses for courses"approach. In particular, commuter type operations with captive markets to have local directly elected managements, whilst longer distance intercity / cross country services provided by competing open-access operators.

    [David: you have said this so many times I have long since lost count. Your point is taken: please stop making it.--Editor.]

  • Paul Hoade, North Wales

    Another thing that continually bothers me is the statement that Camden faces 2 decades of disruption.
    At most the biggest disruption will be in the run up to Phase 1 which is 9 years, if I remember correctly there is further work at Euston prior to Phase 2 but nowhere near the level of initial works.

  • Manchester Mike, Manchester

    @John Gilbert

    I venture that a lack of a long term national rail strategy is handicapping Britain - instead DfT and several governments of both persuasions have been trying to make rail privatisation work. But with the clarity of comparison with other countries, we can see that privatisation has only led to the need for expansion of capacity, new lines etc are subject to individual scrutiny without an overall goal or strategy - something the other countries you site all have.

  • John Gilbert, Cradley, Herefordshire

    To Mr Edwards I would just say, Indeed HS2 will not be the world's most advanced passenger railway, that's just the usual British political guff which I hope fools no one! Look at Japan to see the world's most advanced passenger railway; look at China to see the largest mileage of High Speed Railways, look at Spain to see the largest mileage of these railways in Europe built by a medium economy and France to see the largest mileage in Europe built by a really successful go-ahead European state (however much that galls we British.) No, as usual we lag behind as in almost everything due to our perpetual lack of drive, enterprise and ambition. Oh how I sigh for a change in this attitude. Is it in-built I wonder. Presumably.

  • Stuart Porter, Kettering

    HS2 services are welcome, but need to extend well beyond the core network and be properly integrated with WCML Pendolino services. The West Coast Partnership (WCP) franchise - due to be awarded in 2019 - is to be responsible for that integration.
    Frequency is important and extra bi modal Pendolino driving cars should be bought by the WCP to keep existing frequencies on Euston - Coventry WCML and similar services and extend them beyond the wires at Wolverhampton, Crewe, Preston etc.

  • Adrian Edwards, Leeds

    "HS2 will be the world’s most advanced passenger railway" - really?!

    What's so special about it?

  • Pete64, Manchester

    Three years hard effort in both the Commons and the Lords has paid off. I'm genuinely sorry that some people living in London will face disruption from construction, but this is a vitally needed piece of new National infrastructure. Now that Phase 1 is going to start, can I just make a plea on behalf of those of us in the North of England to complete Phase 2B three years earlier than the Treasury want i.e. by 2030, as Sir David Higgins has stated is entirely achievable.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    News of this was reported on BBC News just as I was reading this and a reporter did a London to Birmingham trip from Euston which showed how busy the train was and he even mentioned the point where that had he been on HS2 he would have been in Birmingham.

    However, the report included the classic error of quoting the £55 billion figure for HS2 which is the total for the full project with massive contingency instead of the cost of stage 1 of the project .

    As for the comments above from Chris Grayling well he is a long term opponent of our EU membership and he needs to explain how our being outside the EU and even more so The Single Market will affect procurement of supplies and indeed workers to build HS2 .

    As for Camden council well if you have 3 major rail termini in your borough then this work just like that at nearby Kings Cross St Pancras is a sign of the success of rail transport especially when you consider how St Pancras International looks today when had planners had their way it would have been demolished in the 1960s when its use had fallen to a point where it's future was in doubt.