The Bill for Phase One of High Speed 2 (the Phase One Bill), took another significant step forward with the conclusion of the petition hearings on 1 December 2016 in the House of Lords (HL) Committee stage.

The HL Committee has indicated that it is aiming to publish its report as soon as possible and before the Christmas recess which starts on 22 December 2016.

The Phase One Bill will, subject to Parliamentary approval and Royal Assent, provide the powers needed to build Phase One.The first phase of HS2 is therefore now poised at a significant threshold; the start of construction. Royal Assent could be secured before the end of this Parliamentary session.

Our briefing considers the parliamentary process for the Phase One Bill and looks at wider progress with that bill, as well as looking ahead to future phases.

Progress to date – Phase One

Significant progress has been made in developing Phase One of HS2 from Euston to the north of Birmingham. The route for Phase One was confirmed and safeguarding directions to protect land along the route from conflicting development were made in July 2013.

Back in March 2010 High Speed Two Ltd (HS2 Ltd) indicated that, following ministerial approval, public consultation, parliamentary approval through a hybrid bill, and detailed design, construction of the London-Birmingham section, opening was estimated for the end of 2025.

Subject to the Bill now obtaining Royal Assent, it appears that Phase One of HS2, from London Euston to Birmingham, may be on track to open in 2026. Cities have also developed their growth plans for how HS2 stations will create an economic step change in their areas.

Petitioners and additional provisions

Back in March 2015, the House of Commons (HC) Select Committee published an interim report, including some decisions and recommendations. Following the 2015 general election, the Bill was re-introduced in Parliament (the 2016-2017 session). The HC Committee resumed its work on 8 June 2015.

Now that the HL Select Committee has finished hearing petitions, a date will be confirmed on which Parliament will vote on the Phase One Bill again.

A list of petitions records a total of more than 2,200 petitions were deposited in the House of Commons. There were more than 140 sitting days to hear the petitions in the HC Select Committee. When the Bill reached the House of Lords more than 800 petitions were deposited. These ranged from seeking changes to the project, protection from it or a remedy for its impact. It is estimated that over 60 per cent of petitioners have either had their issues addressed by a change to the scheme agreed directly with HS2 Ltd, or have appeared before committee (endnote 1).

Changes are taken forward through “Additional Provisions” (APs) to the Bill. Five APs were brought forward in the House of Commons and included over 200, mainly minor, changes to reduce the impact of the scheme on individuals along the line of route. Some bigger issues were raised and revised proposals developed in response, e.g. at Euston Station and the Chilterns Tunnel.

Specific recommendations for changes to future Hybrid Bill procedure

In publishing their report on the Phase One Bill (endnote 2) the HC Committee noted that "the high numbers of petitioners prompted some prognostications of programming doom." With the prospect of several more hybrid bills in the near future the HC Committee report records that there are ways to address the identified problems through some quite easily achievable procedural changes. The specific recommendations for change included, in summary:

  • Petition deposit process: a new electronic system is suggested which is not dependent on personal attendance at Westminster but which retains safeguards. It could allow some limited scope for petition amendment; potentially, once, a sensible number of weeks before the relevant hearing
  • Petition deposit fee: Committee favours retention of this fee to discourage speculative or spurious petitions
  • Language: the 'Victorian language' should be brought up to date in line with changes agreed by the House for public petitions
  • Rights of audience: a stricter approach to standing is recommended with strong guidelines on acceptable standing. The House authorities should recommend standing guidelines, consider the standing challenges and recommend decisions for the Committee, which could then review those decisions and hear any standing challenges orally if it wished
  • Challenges by the Promoter: the Committee emphasized the importance to efficient process of the standing challenge process taking place in writing as far as possible
  • Hearings and programming: a number of reforms are suggested to assist reduce the amount of time spent in committee and ensure that it is spent as effectively as possible. The proposals include the following for Committees:
    • clear scope of its powers
    • clarification of the application of private business standing orders and Court of Referees’ rules
    • more practical rules for appointing representative agents and scope for a petitioner to appoint more than one agent to accommodate business availability, vacation arrangements and sickness
    • an express power to direct the order of addressing the Committee; between petitioner and promoter, so that where appropriate the promoter could open and explain any points that have become non-issues
    • an express power to restrict the volume of evidential submissions and the numbers of witnesses
    • a facility to allow petitioners to make points in writing, if they so wish.
  • Decision making: in appropriate circumstances an express power to allow the Committee to issue preliminary decisions, express power to issue preliminary decisions.

For further information on the HS2 select committee report please see our earlier briefing here.

Start Phase One of construction works

As the recent Department for Transport (DfT) command paper 'From Crewe to Manchester, the West Midlands to Leeds and beyond' (endnote 3) states, the Government remains on course to start construction of Phase One in 2017 and open the Phase One route in 2026. This is line with the original timetable for the mobilisation and construction phase as set out in the DfT command Paper, 'High Speed Rail' (March 2010).

Main works are forecast to start in 2018 with the station providing six new high speed platforms and significantly enhanced access to London Underground for Phase One, opening in 2026. The full eleven high speed platforms are expected to be completed by 2033.

HS2 Ltd has started the procurement process for the main civil engineering works, that includes tunnels, viaducts and embankments, estimated to be worth an estimated £11.8 billion, through the publication of a prequalification questionnaire.

The independent construction commissioner

As a statutory undertaker, HS2 Ltd was required to appoint an independent construction commissioner. Gareth Epps was appointed to the role on an interim basis in July, but with the expectation that the role would increase after Royal Assent.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Andrew Jones) when speaking in parliament on 27 October 2016 expanded on the role of the independent construction commissioner.

The construction commissioner will mediate in unresolved disputes between HS2 Ltd and individuals or bodies, including under a planned small claims scheme. He will also monitor complaints and advise on how to reduce them where possible, and he will scrutinise HS2 Ltd and the community engagement work of its contractors, to provide a clear steer for the company. Following Royal Assent, DfT expect it to become a permanent role.

Compensation

In debate at the end of October, Andrew Jones also stressed that the Government are committed to fairly compensating land and property owners directly affected by HS2. He noted that most large infrastructure projects compensate property owners only when statutory compensation measures apply. Given the time it will take to develop HS2 the Government recognise that earlier discretionary schemes help those property owners who are most severely affected by the proposals.

Andrew Jones referred that residents with properties on the full Phase One and Phase 2a routes currently have access to a package of compensation measures and assistance. And that the Government intends to bring forward proposals for long-term property compensation and assistance schemes at the same time as the HS2 Phase 2b announcement is made. Some matters such as taxation impacts which have been raised by petitioners remain largely unaddressed.

As announced on 15 November 2016 the Government is further consulting on schemes it proposes to introduce for Phase 2b (endnote 3). The schemes are available now on an interim basis and are expected to be implemented in full in respect of Phase 2b in 2017.

What next? - Phase 2 

Phase 2a: West Midlands to Crewe

Development of a hybrid bill to secure powers from Parliament for the construction of the next phase - Phase 2a - from the West Midlands to Crewe will now begin. Government has indicated that it will seek to deliver this section of the route six years earlier than planned.

It has also indicated that its approach will also be similar to that adopted in the development of the Phase One Bill, building on the lessons that we have learned in this process to inform our approach.

It is expecting the hybrid Bill to be deposited in 2017 and with a target date for Royal Assent in 2019. HS2 Ltd has already procured Professional Services Consultants, for the purposes of supporting the hybrid Bill process and continuing to develop the design.

Phase 2b - eastern leg from the West Midlands to Leeds New Lane; and western leg from Crewe to Manchester

The consultations on the proposed Phase 2b route and the proposed property schemes will run for 16 weeks until 9 March 2017.

A copy of the consultation seeking views on the property compensation and assistance schemes can be found here.

For our separate briefing on the HS2 – Phase 2 route selection please see here.

  1. Department for Transport published a command paper (9157), 'High Speed Two: East and West the next steps to Crewe and beyond' (30 November 2015)
  2. House of Commons Select Committee on the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill, Second Special Report of Session 2015–16, HC 129, 22 February 2016
  3. Department for Transport published a command paper (9355), 'High Speed Two: From Crewe to Manchester, the West Midlands to Leeds and beyond' (30 November 2016)

HS2 will be delivered in three phases:

  • Phase One from London Euston to Birmingham Curzon Street and Lichfield with intermediate stations in West London (at old Oak Common) and at Birmingham Airport;
  • Phase 2a from the West Midlands to Crewe; and
  • Phase 2b comprising an eastern leg from the West Midlands to Leeds New Lane with intermediate stations in the East Midlands and South Yorkshire; and a western leg from Crewe to Manchester with an intermediate station at Manchester Airport.