On 10 January 2012, the Government announced that it would be proceeding with the High Speed 2 rail link from London to Birmingham. Construction will start around 2016, with the line being up and running by 2026.
Nearly 55,000 responses were received to the Government's February 2011 consultation on the project. Of these, just over 36,000 included comments on the potential effects of HS2 on property. Although the line of the route itself remains largely unchanged, the Government has announced a "package of alterations to further reduce the route's impacts", such as more tunnelling.
The Government states that later this year it will be conducting a comprehensive land referencing exercise to identify all property interests affected by the route. Clearly, in addition to properties which may need to be compulsorily purchased, there will be other properties which, although not directly required, will suffer noise and disruption during the construction works and beyond.
Maps of the route are available from the Department for Transport website. Commercial searches are also available which, for a small fee, will reveal the exact distance from a property to the line, along with matters such as the level of the line at the relevant point (viaduct; ground level; tunnel etc) and the maximum speed of trains at that point.
Alongside its latest announcement, the Government has published a review of property issues. This summarises the existing statutory position on blight and compensation. Given the exceptional nature of HS2, the Government believes that there is a strong case for introducing adjustments to the current system as it applies to this project. Proposals include:
- a streamlined advance purchase scheme
- a sale and rent back scheme
- a streamlined small claims scheme
- a package of measures to reinforce confidence in properties above tunnels
- a refreshed hardship based property purchase scheme.
The Government will consult further in spring 2012 on blight and property proposals.
The London - Birmingham route is phase one of High Speed 2. A second phase is planned to extend the line up to Leeds and Manchester, although this is not scheduled to open until 2032-33. A consultation on the preferred route for phase two is expected in 2014.