It is now almost two and a half years since the coalition government deposited a hybrid Bill entitled 'High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill’ with Parliament. The purpose of the Bill is grant the government the legal powers to construct and operate phase one of HS2 between London and the West Midlands and, on becoming an Act, it would give the government deemed planning permission for the railway. The Bill also provides for the granting of further powers including to maintain HS2 and its associated works and the compulsory acquisition of the required land interests. The Bill continues to be supported by the recently elected government and was a feature of the Queen's Speech on 27 May 2015.
In spite of the mixed reaction to the Bill since it was first published, the government's position remains that phase one of the HS2 would be "a transformational scheme to help rebalance the UK economy and bring greater prosperity to the midlands and the north" and the scheme has broad parliamentary support.
In the first quarter of this year, the HS2 Select Committee heard petitions from those affected by the Bill and published its First Special Report of Session 2014-2015 on phase one of the Bill. The Secretary of State for Transport has since provided his response.
Once the committee stage is finalised, the Bill will return to the House of Commons for its report stage, where it can be debated and further amendments proposed. Following the end of the report stage (and usually on the same day) the Bill will undergo its third reading, following which the House of Commons will vote on whether to approve it.
Once approved, the Bill will go to the House of Lords for its first and second reading, followed by a committee stage where the members will undertake a detailed review of the drafting of the Bill. As in the House of Commons, the Bill will then proceed to a report stage, followed by a third reading. If amendments have been made to the Bill, it will be sent back to the House of Commons for consideration of the Lords' amendments; otherwise it will be sent for Royal Assent.
In the March 2015 report entitled "HS2: On Track", the DfT advised that the Bill remains on course to achieve Royal Assent by late 2016. Preparatory works in advance of the Bill being passed are possible under the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Act 2013 and HS2 Limited has already commenced procuring contracts worth up to £61 million for ground investigation works. The HS2 works have a target date for completion of 2026 so those eager to experience the speed and comfort of the new route still have a while to wait.
First published in Railnews