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Phase one of high-speed rail line gets go-ahead.

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Phase one of high-speed rail line gets go-ahead.

Post  Panda on Tue 10 Jan - 14:44

HS2: Phase one of high-speed rail line gets go-ahead

The HS2 rail route from above

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A controversial new high-speed rail
line between London and Birmingham has been given the go-ahead by

This first phase of High Speed Two (HS2) could be running by 2026, later
extending to northern England.

Secretary Justine Greening has announced extra tunnelling along the 90-mile
(140km) first phase
in response to environmental concerns.

Opponents also dispute government claims HS2 will deliver benefits worth up
to £47bn, at costs of nearly £33bn.

This would be followed by a second phase of Y-shaped track reaching
Manchester and Leeds by about 2033.

Travelling on 225mph trains, passengers will be able to commute from
Birmingham to London in 45 minutes, reducing the journey time by almost half
from one hour and 24 minutes.

A Birmingham to Leeds journey will be reduced from two hours to 57 minutes
and a Manchester to London journey from two hours and eight minutes to one hour
and eight minutes.

Connections to existing lines should then cut journey times between London,
and Edinburgh and Glasgow, to three-and-a-half hours.
Continue reading the main story

Richard Black Environment correspondent, BBC News

Big infrastructure projects often carry potential for both environmental
benefit and harm; and HS2 is no exception.

Wildlife groups have warned it could damage around 160 important wildlife
sites, and the latest modifications to the route have done little to alter that

Stephen Trotter, head of Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, told BBC News he was
"very disappointed"; the much vaunted extra tunnels will do little, he said, and
there's still "serious concern" about destruction to woodlands and other
important habitats.

All this might be bearable for environmental groups if HS2 guaranteed a big
win on carbon emissions; but it doesn't.

The government's own projections show it's not certain to reduce either
flying or road use.

In any case, the trains will only be a green transport option if the
electricity they use comes from low-carbon sources - which hangs on continuing
government support for renewables and nuclear.

Anti-HS2 campaigners argue that improving existing lines could bring more
certain environmental benefits much cheaper and much sooner.

The first phase of HS2 will include a connection to
Europe via the Channel Tunnel. On completion of HS2 the network will include a
direct link to Heathrow.

Ms Greening called the line "the most significant transport infrastructure
project since the building of the motorways".

"By following in the footsteps of the 19th Century railway pioneers, the
government is signalling its commitment to providing 21st Century infrastructure
and connections - laying the groundwork for long-term, sustainable economic
growth," she said.

The government estimates that the project could eventually result in 9
million road journeys and 4.5 million journeys by plane instead being taken by
train every year.

"HS2 is therefore an important part of transport's low-carbon future," Ms
Greening said.

There had been almost 55,000 responses to the consultation process on the
project, which clearly "generates strong feelings, both in favour and against
the scheme", the minister said.

She pledged a commitment to "developing a network with the lowest feasible
impacts on local communities and the natural environment".

"I have been mindful that we must safeguard the natural environment as far as
possible, both for the benefit of those enjoying our beautiful countryside today
and for future generations."

Revisions to the route had halved the number of homes at risk, as well as
reducing by a third the number due to experience increased noise, she
The route's key sticking points Continue reading the main story


Green-belt land

The planned route encroaches on green-belt land in a number of areas,
including around London and Birmingham.

The Campaign to Protect Rural
England argues plans for new out-of-town parkway stations would have a
"devastating" effect on green belt and that the economic benefits would be a
fraction of those that would be achieved from town centre stations.

campaign group wants, in particular, changes to the proposed Birmingham
interchange station, which it says will "encroach into the green belt next to
Birmingham Airport".

Wildlife sites

County wildlife trusts are concerned the proposed route will pose a threat to
wildlife. They estimate more than 150 nature sites could be affected, including
10 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

Four nature reserves
will be directly impacted, they say. They are Finemere Wood Nature Reserve and
the Calvert Jubilee Nature Reserve, managed by the Berks, Bucks and Oxon
Wildlife Trust, Broadwater Lake Nature Reserve, managed by Herts and Middlesex
Wildlife Trust, and Park Hall Nature Reserve, managed by the Wildlife Trust for
Birmingham and the Black Country.

The government has said that extra
tunnelling and route amendments mean that the impact of more than half the route
will now be mitigated. However, the wildlife trusts say this could actually make
the damage to wildlife worse.


The second phase of the government's plans include a possible future spur to
Heathrow Airport in west London.

The HS2 line from London to Birmingham
is expected to open in 2026, followed in 2032-33 by high speed links to
Manchester, Leeds and Heathrow.

However, in November, the Commons
Transport Committee said a case for routing HS2 via Heathrow had not been set
out clearly and needed further analysis.

Labour, which supports HS2, has
suggested the first phase main route should actually travel via Heathrow,
creating a hub at the airport and thus making it easier for travellers from
south-west England to get on fast trains to the north. It would also protect the
most sensitive parts of the Chilterns, the party says.

The Chilterns

The proposed HS2 line crosses the Chilterns area of outstanding natural
beauty (AONB). Environmental and local campaigners say the picturesque landscape
will change forever if plans are approved.

The government was due to
make an announcement on HS2 in December, but delayed it to incorporate miles of
extra tunnelling to try to appease opponents. It has added 7.5 miles of
tunnelling and 3.5 miles of deep cuttings along the 13 miles of proposed line
through the Chilterns AONB.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England has
said additional tunnelling would be "essential" if HS2 is to be built through
the area.

Conservative heartlands

A number of Conservative MPs have expressed concerns about the rail link,
which passes through Tory heartlands. Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan has been one
of the most vocal Conservative critics and says she is prepared to resign over
the project that cuts through her Chesham and Amersham constituency.

Byles, Conservative MP for North Warwickshire and Bedworth, and Andrea Leadsom,
Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire, have also voiced concerns.

To try to win over critics, ministers have added a overall total of
eight miles of tunnelling along the route - mostly in the Chilterns. The changes
include extended tunnelling near Amersham, in Mrs Gillan's constituency, near
Ruislip in north-west London, Turweston and Wendover in Buckinghamshire,
Greatworth, Chipping Warden and Aston le Walls in Northamptonshire, and Long
Itchington Wood in Warwickshire.

Euston station

Campaigners fear the planned remodelling of Euston Station will lead to
disruption that could last for many years.

Last year, a study from The
TaxPayers' Alliance said passengers would face slower and less-frequent services
if the scheme went ahead. Creating the London to Birmingham HS2 would mean
Euston station in London "becoming a building site for seven years", it said.

Labour's Frank Dobson, MP for Holborn and St Pancras, told MPs the
station was already overcrowded and lacked the infrastructure in surrounding
streets to be the terminus for a high-speed rail link. The proposals would also
mean the demolition of the homes of more than 350 of his constituents, he

The government has said its revised route halves the number of
homes affected.

Changes to the plans, Ms Greening said, also meant that
"more than half the route will now be mitigated by tunnel or cutting",

  • A longer tunnel through the Chiltern Hills from Little Missenden,
    Buckinghamshire, to the M25
  • A new 2.75-mile (4km) tunnel to avoid impacts on communities in Ruislip,
    north-west London
  • A longer covered cutting, known as a green tunnel, past Chipping Warden and
    Aston le Walls in Northamptonshire
  • A curve in the route to avoid heritage sites around Edgcote, Northants
  • Longer green tunnels at Wendover and South Heath, Bucks

The Department for Transport said that 22.5 miles of the first phase would
now be enclosed in tunnels or green tunnels - up from 14.5 miles for the route
that went to consultation - and a further 56.5 miles of cuttings would
significantly reduce "visual and noise impact".
'Wealthy few'

Justine Greening says HS2 "will support jobs, growth and
prosperity for Britain in the future"

Protest groups formed to oppose the scheme say the planned route crosses an
area of outstanding natural beauty and it will damage the environment.

Adam Thomas, whose home in the Chiltern hills will make way for the rail
route, said: "We're going to lose our home which we've spent so long building
for ourselves. But I feel more sorry in a way for the country because it's such
a colossal waste of money and it is genuinely is not needed."

Opponents have also challenged the government's economic argument, suggesting
the costs will be greater while the economic benefits will be lower than
forecast, and that the business case for HS2 is based on an overly-optimistic
prediction of growth in demand for long-distance train travel.

"There is no business case, no environmental case and there is no money to
pay for it," said Stop HS2 campaign co-ordinator Joe Rukin.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

The process for deciding on the London-Birmingham part of
HS2 has been too narrow and people feel left out”
End Quote Stephen Joseph
Chief executive, Campaign for Better

"It's a white elephant of monumental proportions and you
could deliver more benefits to more people more quickly for less money by
investing in the current rail infrastructure."

Craig Bennett, director of policy and campaigns at Friends of the Earth,
said: "We need to revolutionise travel away from roads and planes, but pumping
£32bn into high-speed travel for the wealthy few while ordinary commuters suffer
is not the answer.

"High-speed rail has a role to play in developing a greener, faster transport
system, but current plans won't do enough to cut emissions overall - ministers
should prioritise spending on improving local train and bus services

However, the plan would be welcomed by "businesses up and down the country",
said John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce.

"Britain cannot continue to 'make do and mend' when it comes to its
substandard infrastructure. Fundamentally, our global competitiveness is at
stake," he said.

Stephen Joseph, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said:
"We're pleased to see the government investing in rail, rather than roads and
aviation, and acting on some of the local environmental concerns surrounding

Case for HS2 "doesn't stack up"

But he went on: "The process for deciding on the London-Birmingham part of
HS2 has been too narrow and people feel left out.

"In consulting on the lines north of Birmingham, the government needs to
involve people earlier with greater discussion of alternative options, including
ways rail investment can support low-carbon growth in the communities served,
and also how any new lines will integrate with existing networks and improve
local as well as long-distance transport."

Are you for or against a new high-speed rail line between
London and Birmingham? How will you be affected if the new rail line is
approved? Send us your comments using the form below.
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