HS2 finally given green light in overwhelming Parliament vote

Phase one for the HS2 project has today finally been given royal assent in Parliament, meaning that work on the long-awaited high-speed rail network can now officially go ahead.

With construction set to begin in the spring, today sees the launch of £70m worth of schemes for communities along the route between Birmingham and London – from Euston station up to the still-to-be-built Birmingham Curzon terminal which the line will pass through.

The High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Hybrid Bill, which acted as planning permission for HS2, received overwhelming support from MPs, being passed 399 to 42 in favour in its third reading, whilst the Lords had voted 386 to a mere 26.

Speaking after royal assent was given, transport secretary Chris Grayling expressed his excitement for HS2, saying: “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.”

HS2 is anticipated to support wider growth in the economy by creating 100,000 jobs, since from 2026 passengers will be able to use high-speed services every day between London and Birmingham, with services later travelling onwards north to Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool, Preston and Wigan.

By 2033, it is hoped that HS2 will go into the centre of Manchester and Leeds and then onwards to Darlington, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

Sir David Higgins, chairman of HS2, argued that achieving royal assent for the first phase with “such significant parliamentary support” was a monumental step forward 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,” added Sir David. “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.”

He also reassured the public that HS2 remained committed to mitigating the environmental impacts whilst talking to individual communities who had to make sacrifices “to enable a 21st century railway network to be built in Britain”.

The government had also paid out compensation to councils affected by HS2, including Camden Council, which received £3.5m through a community fund as reparations to replace homes that will be lost, as well as for noise insulation and other works.

Cllr Sarah Hayward, the council’s leader, said: “Together with residents, community groups and businesses, 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.

“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.”

Cllr Hayward also emphasised that although the council would prefer for the scheme not to go ahead, the priority in the future will be in holding HS2 Ltd to account and ensure the railway’s impact on Camden is reduced.

Widespread support from leaders and suppliers

Other rail authorities spoke of their excitement for HS2’s official green light. High Speed Rail Leaders (HSRIL), for example, joined the transport minister and hundreds of apprentices at Euston station to welcome in HS2.

“We are delighted the first phase of HS2 has received royal assent, and it now means HSRIL members can get on and start building Britain’s new railway,” a HSRIL spokesperson said.

“With so many enthusiastic and skilled young people ready to help build and deliver the first phase of HS2, we look forward to nurturing their talent and developing world-class engineers and experts.

“The project will act as a huge economic boost to Britain, employing 27,000 people by the end of the decade. On top of that, 70% of the jobs will be outside of London.”

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, agreed that it was a “major milestone” for both the project and Britain as a whole.

“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,” said Plummer.

“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 as one railway when the new line opens.”

There was also excitement from the project’s current and potential future suppliers. Alstom UK & Ireland’s managing director Nick Crossfield said: “At Alstom, we live and breathe high-speed rail and it is clear to us that HS2 is the most important investment in Britain’s railways for over 100 years.

“It will bring huge benefits to passengers. But even more crucial is the legacy of skills, apprenticeships and jobs it will create, all over the country.”

And Jo Hensher, bid director for HS2 rolling stock at Siemens, argued the company has long been a supporter of the project, with today’s news presenting an opportunity to “set a new benchmark for the passenger experience of rail travel in the future and truly transform connectivity”.

“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,” added Hensher. “HS2 is also a fantastic opportunity to attract more young people into the rail industry and to expand apprenticeship training.”

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Jonathan Pile   23/02/2017 at 14:04

This is a black day for British Democracy when parliament is preparing to impose a project opposed by 80% of the British public. Already on phase 1 contractors in Aylesbury faced civil disobedience by the public and In Yorkshire where parliamentary aproval for Phase 2 will not be broached until 2022 communities have combined to launch a Judicial Review into the irrational route decisions and maladministration of the Higgins Report. In Wakefield on March 3rd - Wakefield Council will co-host a one day conference at Wakefield Town Hall where the full range HS2 alternatives ignored by HS2 Limited will be showcased along with the un-accessed impacts of the new M18 Route www.yorkshireagainsths2.org

David   23/02/2017 at 18:09

Jonathan, can you point me to a source that says 80% of the british public are opposed?

Melvyn   23/02/2017 at 18:18

HS2 gained massive support in Parliament made even better by the fact the 2nd and 3rd Readings were in succeeding Parliaments and still gained 10/1 majorities further supported by majorities in the House of Lords . Democracy at its finest where those who opposed the scheme had pplenty of time to present their arguments but in the end the fact remains that we need the extra capacity HS2 will provide not just for tomorrow but for the next century! We now need a properly developed plan for a new Euston Station fully integrating existing with new and a major upgrade to underground station together with construction of Crossrail 2. As for HS1-2 link well all that has happened is the totally inadequate link using the North London Line has been abolished allowing a clean sheet as to how to link HS2 to HS1 and maybe allow through Birmingham to Paris trains ! As for stage 2 there is far more support for this stage given how it will upgrade many services across the north once an East to West line is developed which will use sections of HS2 and thus hopefully be built to same larger gauge as HS2

Andrew Gwilt   23/02/2017 at 18:18

So Phase 1 of the HS2 as begun with the remodelling of London Euston station with new extra platforms and a while redevelopment of the station. And the construction of the new HS2 route that will be extended to Birmingham, East Midlands and Manchester. Phase 2 also to commence. A new start for HS2 rail link has begun. But what about HS3. Will HS3 also get the go ahead as it will be built to go from Liverpool and Manchester to Leeds, York and Hull with HS2 also to connect with HS3. I know it seems that it's 15-20+years away.

Chris M   24/02/2017 at 00:33

Excellent news, long overdue. At last Britain can have a modern spec railway. Jonathon Pile, judicial reviews will just burn your money - learn the lessons of phase 1. Engage with HS2 Ltd, get the least disruptive route in your region.

Noam Bleicher   24/02/2017 at 10:35

The lack of a link to HS1 is disappointing, as better connectivity to the continental HS network, as well as to Heathrow, is one of the principal something that our new-build HS line should logically feature. In the long term it should happen, so it would be daft not to include at least passive provision at all new-build HS2 stations for one sterile platform with enough room for customs facilities, like the London-bound platform at Lille Europe. In the interim St Pancras will remain the start point for continental services, and the UK customs boundary. A single-lead link over the congested North London Line is impractical, so how else do we connect HS2 to HS1? Euston is no more than 500 m from St Pancras, less as the crow flies, so a sub-surface moving walkway link should be feasible at a fraction of the cost. It would also be good to see a DB Inter City Nacht-type service from St Pancras to destinations eventually including southern Germany, southern France, Italy, Switzerland and Spain.

John A   24/02/2017 at 11:49

I couldn't agree more about the Night Trains. Sadly, the Nightstar trains originally built for the Channel Tunnel were sold off to Canada without turning a wheel in revenue service in the UK or Europe.

Pwt   24/02/2017 at 11:53

Sadly DB no longer operate night trains with their overnight operations largely passing over to ÖBB.

Peter   24/02/2017 at 12:53

QUOTE :"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.” I hope this applies to the now derelict pub near Great Missenden taken over by HS2 ltd. - covered in graffiti and rubbish. Is this the care we have to look forward to ?

Gabriel Oaks   27/02/2017 at 09:01

Will HS2 passengers arriving at London Euston please change onto a no.73 bus to St Pancras for onward HS1 travel to the continent........

Wimg   28/02/2017 at 19:11

no.73 bus to St Pancras ... By the time we get that far we live in Global England, Eurostar vanished , DB never heard of ..

Sam Best   10/10/2017 at 10:17

What a waste of public money, you can go from Liverpool to Euston in 2 hours anyway !!! no one will be able to afford to go on it , why not invest in Housing and Health not something all the rich can skim from the top disgusting !!!

J Brock   24/10/2017 at 11:46

I can pretty much guess that all the supporters and the gleeful comments above are posted by people who's houses and communities are not affected by HS2. Most of the affected towns and villages along the route will not even be able to use the service, there are no stopping points nearby, so they will get no benefit. There is an existing London to Birmingham train line which could have been upgraded without destroying so much of the countryside.

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