HS2, the planned high speed rail link described by the Government as ‘the most significant transport infrastructure project in the UK since the motorways were built in the 1950s and 1960s’, is pressing ahead in 2013.

The new line will follow a ‘Y’ network and will be delivered in two phases: phase one will run from Euston in London to the West Midlands, with a link to Europe via High Speed 1, and phase two will extend the link to Manchester and Leeds. The link will also potentially extend to Heathrow Airport, but this is currently on hold.

PHASE ONE BILL TO BE INTRODUCED THIS YEAR

Consultation is complete on phase one, and a hybrid bill is due to be introduced to authorise its construction in December 2013. A target date of 2015 has been set for the bill to receive Royal Assent. If granted, work would start in 2017 with the first high speed trains aimed to be running between Birmingham and London by 2026.

PHASE TWO PREFERRED ROUTE ANNOUNCED JANUARY 2013

The preferred route includes new stations at Toton, Sheffield Meadowhall, Leeds and Manchester and an interchange station to Manchester airport. Formal consultation on the route will take place later in 2013. The hybrid bill for phase two would be prepared in 2014/2015.

THE HYBRID BILL PROCESS

Both phase one and phase two will be authorised by ‘hybrid bills.’ The following is a broad outline of the hybrid bill process:

  • the Bill is introduced into the House of Commons;
  • the Bill receives a Second Reading in the House of Commons. This relates to the principle of the Bill. If it passes this stage, then it cannot be challenged in principle during subsequent Committee stages;
  • those ‘specially and directly affected’ by the Bill may petition against it after Second Reading to object to its detailed proposals, such as detailed aspects of the proposed route or its effect on particular properties;
  • the House of Commons may appoint a Select Committee to hear the petitions, alternatively a Joint Committee of both Houses may be appointed;
  • these procedures, including a further opportunity to petition against the Bill, are then repeated when the Bill moves to the House of Lords, unless a Joint Committee heard petitions when the Bill was in the House of Commons.

The Government can be expected to draw up standard provisions and other compensatory measures for those who might be affected by HS2. In many cases, these will not be adequate so it is important to engage early with the project promoters.

Where early discussions are proving fruitless, and the compensatory measures appear inadequate, petitioning against the Bill may be the recommended option.

HOW MIGHT I BE AFFECTED?

Those likely to be affected include local authorities, utility companies, amenity bodies, developers as well as commercial, industrial and residential landowners and occupiers.

Most permanent land acquisition will take place within the HS2 ‘safeguarded’ corridor. Land bordering the safeguarded corridor may also be affected in the following ways:

  • some properties may be damaged during construction, for example by settlement caused by tunnelling;
  • some land and buildings would need to be permanently acquired and demolished;
  • some land would be occupied temporarily during the construction period;
  • construction of the works may affect residents, local businesses and certain sensitive uses through disruption caused by factors such as HGV traffic, noise, fumes, vibration, dust, light and obstruction of accesses;
  • there may be permanent and temporary road closures and diversions affecting property and business activities; and
  •  property values may decrease temporarily or permanently.

HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED IN THE PROCESS AND HOW CAN BDB HELP?

The procedure for hybrid bills can be protracted and complex. For that reason, it is recommended that those affected seek specialist advice to ensure that their interests are protected as far as possible.