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.”