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Monday, June 4, 2012

High Speed 2 (HS2)


 High Speed 2 (HS2) is a planned high-speed railway between London and the Midlands, Northern England, and potentially at a later stage the central belt of Scotland. The project is being developed by High Speed Two Ltd, a company established by the British government. The route would take the form of a "Y", with a trunk from London to Birmingham. The route would then split into two spurs, one to Manchester, and the other to Leeds via the East Midlands. The line is to be built in phases, the London to Birmingham section being the first phase. There will be no intermediate calling points between London and the West Midlands.

High-speed rail is supported in principle by the three main UK political parties; there is, however, debate about which cities should be served, and on the environmental performance and impact of high-speed rail.

The Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition government formed in May 2010 stated in its initial programme for government its commitment to creating a high-speed rail network. In January 2012 the construction of phase 1 between London and Birmingham was approved with an indicated opening date of 2026.

High Speed Two Limited

In January 2009, the then Labour government established a company, High Speed Two Limited (HS2 Ltd), chaired by Sir David Rowlands, to examine the case for a new British high-speed line and present a potential route between London and the West Midlands. The government report suggested that ultimately the line could be extended to reach Scotland.

Drawing on consultations carried out for the Department for Transport (DfT) and Network Rail, HS2 Ltd would provide advice on options for a Heathrow International interchange station, access to central London, connectivity with HS1 and the existing rail network, and financing and construction,and report to government on the first stage by the end of 2009.

In August 2009, Network Rail published its own study independently of HS2's work, outlining somewhat different proposals for the expansion of the railway network which included a new high-speed rail line between London and Glasgow/Edinburgh, following a route through the West Midlands and the North-West of England.

For the HS2 report, a route was investigated to an accuracy of 0.5 metres (18 in). In December 2009, HS2 handed its report to the government. The study investigated the possibility of links to Heathrow Airport and connections with Crossrail, the Great Western Main Line, and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (HS1).

On 11 March 2010, the High Speed 2 report and supporting studies were published, together with the government's command paper on high-speed rail

Public consultation

On 20 December 2010 the government published a slightly revised line of route to be put out for public consultation, based on a Y-shaped route from London to Birmingham with branches to Leeds and Manchester, as originally put forward by Lord Adonis as Secretary of State for Transport under the previous government, with a number of alterations designed to minimise the visual, noise, and other environmental impacts of the line.[26] In a statement to Parliament, the Secretary of State confirmed that the first phase of construction would include a high-speed line from London to Birmingham as well as a connection to High Speed 1. High-speed lines north of the West Midlands would be built in later stages, and a link to Heathrow Airport would be initially provided by means of a connection at Old Oak Common, with a high-speed link to the airport to be added later. The high-speed line would connect to the existing network, allowing through trains from London to northern destinations. The consultation documents were published on 11 February 2011 and the consultation period was set to run until July 2011. In January 2012 the go-ahead was given for phase one of the line to be constructed by 2026, with additional tunnelling to meet environmental concerns.

Legal challenges

At the end of March 2012 the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) announced that it had submitted a complaint to the European Commission that the UK government, in failing to carry out a strategic environmental assessment ahead of deciding on the route of Phase I of HS2, was in breach of European Union legislation. BBOWT said that the complaint would only be considered by the EU Commission after the UK Courts had concluded consideration of various judicial reviews submitted to them.

In April 2012 five requests for judicial reviews were submitted to the UK Courts. Two by HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA) and one each by the 51m Group, Aylesbury Park Golf Club, and Heathrow Hub Ltd. In two separate judicial review applications the HS2AA claimed that the UK government failed to carry out a proper strategic environmental assessment and that it provided inadequate information to the public during the public consultation. As a consequence the HS2AA claimed that the Secretary of State's decision to approve Phase I of HS2 was made without proper justification, that it ignored the Government's own processes and assessment criteria, and relied on undisclosed material. In a separate judicial review request the 51m Group challenged the UK government on several grounds. Firstly, that it failed to consult properly on the original or the revised route. Secondly, that it failed to consider the impact of HS2 on the London Underground network. Thirdly, that it did not take proper account of the environmental impact on the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a number of important wildlife habitats, and finally that the hybrid bill approach was 'incompatible with the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive. Aylesbury Park Golf Club's proceedings are based on the impact of the proposed route which will pass through part of the club. Heathrow Hub Ltd, a company owned by ARUP, announced it has also started proceedings on the grounds that the UK Government could choose an alternative route which would provide an improved connection between HS2 and Crossrail via a transport hub built on land owned by the company.
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