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Go-ahead in sight for HS2 Bill as Lords reject bid to block project

HS2 has moved one step closer to becoming a reality after its dedicated Bill passed its third reading in the House of Lords this week, despite late attempts by Peers to block the long-awaited £55.7bn project.

Peers opposed a backbench amendment by Conservative Peer Lord Framlingham to stop the legislation for the project by a majority of 360, effectively giving the Bill the green light after three years of Parliamentary discussion.

The HS2 Bill will now be passed back to the Commons one final time for consideration of the Lords’ amendments – which is likely to be minimal – before being sent for Royal Assent in the coming weeks.

Lord Framlingham had urged his fellow Peers to scupper the high-speed project, warning that “all the scheme’s credibility has long since gone”.

“If [the House] believes that the HS2 project provides good value for money and will benefit the British public, it will vote against the amendment,” said Lord Framlingham as he proposed the wrecking motion earlier this week.

“But if it agrees that this was an ill-conceived project from the start, which has been entirely discredited, … and that if allowed to proceed, it will result in massive expenditure and huge disruption in both London and the countryside for no discernible benefit at all, the House will support the amendment and stop this scheme before any more harm is done.”

But the Lords did not support his argument against the Bill as they eventually voted his amendment down by 386 votes to a mere 26.

Transport minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon sought to assuage Lord Framlingham’s concerns as he stressed the importance of HS2 to the country, claiming that the project is not only necessary for wider investment in rail but is also important “to ensure connectivity, capacity and that our country is truly a 21st century country on the world stage”.

“We have put in place the checks and balances necessary to ensure that the costs implications of the project have been fully considered and will continue to be so,” the minister concluded.

The progression of the Bill now opens the way for construction work on Phase 1 of the project, which is due to open in December 2026.

The Y-shaped Phase 2 will open in two stages, with the Phase 2a line from Birmingham to Crewe due to launch in 2027 and the remaining Phase 2b to Manchester Airport and Leeds due to finish in 2033.

Despite his loss, Lord Framlingham’s reservations have been long held as HS2’s progression has been slowed by a myriad of environmental and financial concerns.

Last month, for example, the government agreed to the Lords’ suggestion of “fair, reasonable and proportionate compensation” to people who will be affected by the high-speed line, with residents living near the proposed routes facing noise pollution or even being forced to move home.  

But authorities have nevertheless been confident in pressing ahead with HS2, with the government beginning its search for a company to build high-speed rolling stock earlier this year and HS2 Ltd opening a consultation on eight sites for a proposed ‘parkway’ station to serve South Yorkshire as part of the Phase 2b part of the route.

(Image c. HS2 Ltd)

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Tony Hill   03/02/2017 at 12:59

What an enormous waste of taxpayers money which could have been used on far less glamorous (vanity) projects to the greater benefit of the majority of UK citizens. The already massive estimated costs will surely spiral if HS2 is run in the same shambolic manner (government fiddling and ineptitude) that is the norm in UK grand projects. The only winners will be the consultants who will be doing the work that the HS2 team are supposed to be doing.

Mark Hare   03/02/2017 at 13:31

@Tony Hill so what's the alternative? WCML already upgraded and running at or very near capacity. The boom in railway use in recent years means upgrades to the current system are not enough. We need HS2 and the sooner construction starts the better.

Chris M   03/02/2017 at 13:45

Tony, where have you been for the last decade? Almost all new build railway projects in this timescale have been delivered on time and budget, and there is widespread consensus that Crossrail (a grand project if ever there was one) will repeat this. It is also now widely accepted that trying to rebuild the WCML while keeping the trains running was a joke, wasting many £billions as it went over budget and dragged on - over £1 billion was given to the train companies as compensation alone. From that utter debacle we know now that trying to widen a busy working UK railway line in a few hours possession each night is a stupidly inefficient way to spend taxpayer's money. No small or local projects have a hope in hell of ever solving the looming capacity crisis on our railways. They can only ever solve small, local problems that affect small numbers of passengers. And no, there are no Beeching closures to be reversed that can provide any extra tracks over the last 40 miles into London - because none of those tracks were ever closed. This is another common fallacy used to argue against HS2. The only credible solution to develop a system fit for the 21st century is to stop trying to tinker with ancient infrastructure and build from scratch - as the rest of the developed world has been doing for decades. The results will be much more predictable and the UK will get a lot more for it's money! Anyway, HS2 is going to happen - phase 1 will be law within weeks.

Manchester Mike   03/02/2017 at 14:20

Tony, HS2 is a step change improvement in capacity. Why deal with 15-20 years of weekend closures upgrading the WCML for much less additional capacity, when HS2 will provide much more, for less disruption.

Jimbo   03/02/2017 at 17:04

It is also worth pointing out that the only recent major railway project that has gone over budget, is the the Great Western Electrification, which was also another project where a live railway was being massively upgraded. Besides, it is fallacy that if HS2 was cancelled, the money would be used other, smaller railway projects. The HS2 budget is ring-fenced and completely seperate from the normal railway budget. In other words, the only way to get £55bn investment in the railway system is through HS2 - it is all or nothing. The price may increase over the lifetime of the project, but all this arguing about it is not free and is only putting the costs up. The quicker it happens, the cheaper it will be.

Nickk   03/02/2017 at 19:18

Once again I comment that it's all very well promoting electrified railways, but the higher the speed the more power they need. The UK's generating capacity is already heavily stretched: renewable energy does help but can vanish in an instant. The reality is that we urgently need new power stations. Maybe the Government have recognised this by ordering the dual-mode new stock to cope with power cuts... Diesel-electric for HS2?

Chris M   03/02/2017 at 23:56

Nickk, have a read of this: The UK requirement for large fuel burning power plants has been revised downwards as renewable output has increased more quickly than anticipated. Contracts are now in place for some of the older gas & coal plants to remain on standby during winter for the next few years to provide emergency base load if necessary - however even this requirement (and asking industries to use less at certain times) will reduce as cheaper energy storage becomes increasingly cheaper. Thankfully there doesn't seem much chance of the lights going out.

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