High speed buffers? HS2 in London (part A)
High Speed 2 is the Government-sponsored scheme for a new London-Midlands-North express railway. It is intended to add capacity and shorten journey times on the main north-south intercity corridors. It has been around as a politically supported concept since 2008-09, although the 2006 Eddington Report dismissed a high speed line as poor value for money and said the government should instead concentrate on improving existing road and rail networks. Recession and postrecession arguments about capacity and stimulus for economic growth turned that policy corner.
Successive governments, Labour in 2009-10, Coalition in 2010-15 and now Conservative, have backed the proposition - one of few matters to secure and maintain all-party support. The government's designated project company, HS2 Ltd, has developed detailed proposals and undertaken widescale consultation, for a scheme which now embraces about 335 miles:
- Phase 1 trunk line (130 miles) between London, Birmingham and Handsacre, near Lichfield on the West Coast Main Line (WCML).
- Recently-defined Phase 2a onwards to Crewe (~40 miles).
- The bulk of Phase 2, Crewe to Manchester and from the West Midlands to the East Midlands and Yorkshire (another ~165 miles including through spurs to NW and NE England). This is a large ambition, and was to have included more elements in earlier versions with a Heathrow spur and an HS2-HS1 link.
The preparatory work led to a HS2 Phase 1 Hybrid Bill being lodged in Parliament in November 2013 to seek powers for construction and operation. There was also a paving Act - the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Act 2013 - to allow early start on preliminary elements. The main Bill has just concluded its Commons stages and has entered the House of Lords. During the Commons a major part of the proceedings was a Select Committee, whose work began in May 2014, and continued into February 2016. Meetings extended over 160 days of hearings with nearly 1,600 petitioners. Appointment to such a Select Committee has sometimes been compared to a Soviet posting to Siberia.