The Government has published its initial preferred route for the second phase of High Speed Two (HS2), linking Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester. This announcement follows the Government's publication in January 2012 of its decision to proceed with HS2, which included details of its preferred route for the first phase, connecting London to Birmingham.

As currently envisaged by the Government, once fully constructed, the new national high speed rail will comprise a "Y-shaped" network. It will start at London Euston, and connect to Birmingham Curzon Street before separate branches lead on to Leeds (via Toton in the East Midlands and Sheffield Meadowhall) and to Manchester via Manchester Airport. The Government's original decision to connect HS2 to Heathrow Airport via a spur at Old Oak Common has been suspended. This is subject to the outcome of the Airport Commission's examination of the requirement for additional aviation capacity in London.

As is common with infrastructure projects of the scale of HS2, compulsory acquisition of property located in the way of the route is inevitable. Even where properties are not to be acquired, they could be affected by noise and other disruptions during the construction and/or operational phase of the project. Although actual acquisition is still some time away, and construction is not expected to begin until 2017 (for the first phase) and the mid-2020s (for the second phase), the implications of HS2 are already beginning to take effect in terms of the value of properties, and how affected parties deal with their property interests.

Landowners and occupiers of residential or commercial property, local authorities, statutory undertakers (such as utility and rail network operators) and any other bodies with interests in the vicinity of the route should seek professional advice immediately if they have not already done so.

Proposals for HS2 should be influenced now through engagement with the Government and HS2 Limited, rather than waiting until the hybrid bills (which will give consent for HS2) are introduced to Parliament. Although the hybrid bill process allows objections and representations, there is likely to be more scope now to influence matters such as scheme design. Maps of the first phase route and the Government's preferred route for the second phase are available online.

The following timeline may be of assistance:

  • The consultation on the proposed "Exceptional Hardship" scheme for the second phase of HS2 will close on 29 April 2013. Broadly speaking, this would require the Government to purchase the properties of owners and occupiers of private residential properties, owners and occupiers of business premises with an annual rateable value not exceeding £34,800, as well as owner-occupiers of agricultural units, at 100% of their unblighted open market value provided certain specified conditions are met.
  • In the spring of 2013, the Government is expected to announce details of the final safeguarding direction for the first phase of HS2. Once the safeguarding direction takes effect, planning permission for development within the safeguarded area cannot be granted unless the Government considers the development proposals not to conflict with the HS2 scheme.
  • Also in 2013, the Government's consultation on the details of the route for the second phase will be published.
  • The Government is intending on introducing into Parliament the hybrid bill for the first phase of HS2 in late 2013. Only those with a property interest in the land affected by the bill will be able to petition Parliament about how specific provisions impact them. There will be no opportunity to oppose the principle of HS2 at this stage. In advance of this, in the spring of 2013, the Government is expected to consult on the environmental statement for the first phase.