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09/05/2013
Government shrugs off Tory heartland concerns with Queen’s Speech HS2 Bills


The government has shown its determination to keep a high-speed rail link connecting London to northern cities firmly on track by proposing legislation in today’s Queen’s Speech.

The first phase of the controversial HS2 scheme, from London to Birmingham, runs through Tory heartlands and is bitterly opposed by some residents’ groups and some councils.

But the project has all-party support and today in the Queen’s Speech an HS2 Hybrid Bill was announced as well as a High Speed Rail Preparation Bill.

The Hybrid Bill will not only give the government parliamentary permission to build the line, but any specific powers needed to operate it.

MP Frank Dobson, whose constituency Holborn and St Pancras contains London Euston station, where it is proposed trains will operate from, said the government should have "rock solid” proposals before introducing a hybrid Bill.

"They actually need to have some firm proposals before they can bring forward a hybrid Bill,” he said.

"The people organising it do not know whether they’re coming or going.”

He added: "The proposal to spend £5 or £6billion pounds bringing the trains into Euston when people would be better off, and would get to their destination quicker, getting off a Old Oak Common - it’s total madness and a grotesque waste of public money.”

Hybrid Bills can be long and very detailed and usually take longer to go through Parliament than normal Bills. The Channel Tunnel Link Hybrid Bill took two years to become law after it was introduced in Parliament.

The Preparation Bill announced today will provide the financial powers to proceed with HS2 more quickly than otherwise possible.

This Bill will allow expenditure on the contruction design of HS2 as well ecological surveys and other preparatory work. It will also provide Parliamentary authority for expenditure on property compensation.

If all goes well, work is expected to start on the £16.3billion first phase in 2016/17 with the first trains expected to run around 2026.

The second phase, which will need need separate legislation, will see trains running north of Birmingham on a Y-shaped route to Manchester via Crewe and to Leeds via the East Midlands and Sheffield.

This second phase is due to be completed around 2032/33.

Few big transport projects have so polarised opinion as HS2 with those supporting the scheme claiming its massive future benefits and those against it disputing the pro-lobby’s figures and regarding the project as wrecking the countryside.

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