The government has published two further consultations in relation to the route for Phase One of High Speed 2 (HS2), the proposed national high speed rail network linking north and south. Phase One will connect London's Euston Station to a new station at Birmingham Curzon Street. Phase Two, which will be designed, consented to and constructed separately, will connect Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester.
Further consultation: design refinements along the route of Phase One
The first of the most recently-published consultations proposes a series of changes to the route which Phase One will take, and to the proposals for Euston station.
The government has stated that, since announcing the route and stations for Phase One in January 2012, engineers and environmental specialists have continued to develop the route. At the same time, stakeholder engagement has continued. Between them, these two "work streams" have led the government to "refine" the route design in several locations. The Secretary of State for Transport (as the minister in charge of the project) has stated that he considers such changes to be usual for the development of a major engineering project such as HS2.
However, there are also 14 proposed alterations to the route design which, in the Secretary of State's opinion, go beyond this normal process. This might be because a proposed change introduces new operational rail infrastructure, or it perhaps involves an alteration to the original design which is so great as to give rise to new or increased significant environmental effects. Whichever reason it is, the government is consulting on these 14 proposals.
These more substantial changes affect the route in: the London Boroughs of Camden and Ealing; Colne Valley; Buckinghamshire, near Stoke Mandeville; Calvert; Wormleighton, in Warwickshire; Chelmsley Wood; Water Orton; Bromford; Washwood Heath; Curdworth; and an area near Lichfield. They also affect the proposed station at Euston in London.
Further consultation: draft environmental statement for Phase One
Along with the design refinements, the government is also consulting on the draft environmental statement for Phase One. By this, an assessment is to be made of the likely significant environmental effects of Phase One on each of the localities affected by the route.
European environmental legislation requires such an environmental statement to be prepared, published and consulted on as part of the process for granting development consent. The European legislation requires "decision makers" to take into account the likely significant environmental impact of a development project (such as HS2) before granting development consent.
Both consultations are open until 11 July 2013, following which the government is expected to finalise both the route design and the environmental statement for Phase One.
Changes to the route design may mean that the government also has to make changes to the land required, and therefore already safeguarded, for HS2 purposes. As reported in previous Property Updates, the consultation on safeguarding for Phase One closed on 31 January 2013. However, if the proposed changes to the route in Ealing and Bromford (where new tunnels are proposed) are taken forward, safeguarding directions may need to be amended. The government is not intending to safeguard any "new" areas of land until final decisions have been taken on the route.
All of this work is in preparation for the first of the HS2 hybrid bills (that is to say, a bill which is a mixture of both a public bill - being of general interest - and a private one, affecting individuals). There will be a hybrid bill for each of Phase One and Phase Two.
The first bill is set to be deposited in Parliament later this year, and will seek the powers to build and operate Phase One. The environmental statement will be deposited at the same time. Preparation of the second bill is expected to commence in 2015, following formal consultation during 2014 on the Phase Two route north of Birmingham.