By Claire West
High Speed 2, the high speed railway connecting London with Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester has taken another step towards construction today (17 June 2015), as Parliament announced a debate on updated plans for building it.
A motion has been laid in Parliament instructing the HS2 Select Committee to consider more than 120 changes the government wishes to make to the HS2 hybrid Bill. These amendments are the direct result of discussions between HS2 Ltd and communities along the London-Birmingham route. Their petitions have been through the bill’s Select Committee process and the resulting changes to HS2’s design will ensure that the railway is built in the best way possible.
Transport Minister Robert Goodwill said:
This motion is a major step forward both in terms of getting HS2 through Parliament and getting this vital railway built.
The changes to the bill show the government is listening to communities along the HS2 route. By working together, we can ensure this vital railway is designed in the right way, so we have spades in the ground in 2017 as planned.
HS2 is a vital part of the government’s long term economic plan. It will have a transformational effect, supporting growth in the north by improving connectivity, freeing up space on our crowded rail network, promoting regeneration, boosting local skills, generating tens of thousands of jobs and helping secure the UK’s future prosperity.
Among the amendments to be put to the Select Committee are:
changes to the HS2 route near Lichfield, which mean the railway will now pass under the A38, the West Coast Main Line and the South Staffordshire line rather than run over them on viaducts - this will avoid the need for two crossings over the Trent and Mersey Canal, which had previously been of concern to local stakeholders, including the Canal and Rivers Trust
altering the proposals for the relocation of the existing Heathrow Express depot at Old Oak Common to Langley near Slough, instead of the North Pole East depot site currently proposed in the bill
the construction of sidings to the west of the Old Oak Common station, which could facilitate a future connection between Crossrail and the West Coast Main Line, if needed
Many petitioners made a case for small-scale changes to the bill. Also included in the amendments is the construction of a bypass for Chipping Warden in Northamptonshire, which will be of particular benefit to parents and pupils of the Chipping Warden Primary School on the A361 Byfield Road.
The motion will be debated in Parliament. The amendments will then be deposited and anyone affected by the changes will be able to petition against them. A consultation period will also start so that members of the public can have their say. The Select Committee will meanwhile continue to hear petitions from people along other parts of the Phase One route.
The hybrid Bill remains on track to achieve Royal Assent by the end of 2016.