HS2 NEW ROUTE
by Michael Fabricant on Tuesday, 21 December 2010 at 09:44
Philip Hammond, the Secretary of State for Transport who visited Lichfield in October, has
announced a new preferred route for the HS2 train service which will by-pass Lichfield and
Whittington. I think it is a Christmas present for the people of Lichfield. The Coalition have
abandoned the railway viaduct which would have flown over Britannia Park and blighted the
lives of people living in hundreds of homes on Boley Park and other parts of east Lichfield.
In his statement to the House of Commons on Monday 20th December, Philip Hammond said
“An improved alignment has been identified which would move the line further away from
It is now clear that Philip Hammond listened to the people of Lichfield when he came to visit.
The train will now be forced to slow down as it approaches Lichfield District from the south
as the track takes an inverted „S‟ bend passing roughly midway between Lichfield and
Whittington then swinging to the left to pass east of Streethay and heading out to the north
I am aware that this new route will still cause huge difficulties for those in its path, but
it greatly minimises the effect on residents of Lichfield District. It is the culmination of
countless meetings I have had with the Secretary of State for Transport and his engineers and
with the Prime Minister. If the line is eventually constructed, it is the route which will cause
the least damage to those in our area.
Many in Lichfield and Whittington will regard it as a major victory. I thank the Lichfield
Mercury for their vigorous campaign, their petition, and for keeping residents accurately
informed as to developments; and the Lichfield Action Group and Cllr Janet Eagland for
engaging in the debate as to the route the high speed train might take.
Others who refused to enter into route discussions, as a matter of principle, did nothing to
help their communities and have nothing to be proud of. And those individuals and local
magazines that caused huge distress with inaccurate reporting and promoting the possibility
of other routes that were never going to happen should be ashamed of themselves.
However, the question still arises as to whether HS2 is the best way to link the north and
south of the UK and I know that the Lichfield Action Group will argue that HS2 is not the
way to achieve this and that it should not be built.
I have an open mind on the matter. The existing north-south rail links are reaching full
capacity and some solution does now need to be found before our rail service clogs up
altogether. If there is an alternative which will deliver the same benefits than constructing a
new line, I would welcome it. But the Department of Transport assert that longer trains and
increased signalling on existing track to increase the service are only a short term fix. The
HS2 is not about shaving off a few minutes between Birmingham and London. It is all about
connecting the north and Scotland with the south east for the next generation.
There will now be a 5 month Public Consultation into the route and those still affected by it –
together with those who argue for an alternative to HS2 – will be able to give evidence and
seek further changes. At the end of it all in late 2011, my job will be to fight for the
maximum compensation for those constituents who are still affected by the line if the project
still goes ahead.
Expenditure on the line begins in 2017 with the commencement of its construction.
The Secretary of State's Statement to the House of Commons 20th December 2010
The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Philip Hammond): With permission, Mr Speaker,
I want to make a statement on the Government's plans for the development of a national high-
speed rail network, and on the proposed route that we will put forward next year for public
One of the coalition's main objectives is to build an economy that is more balanced both
sectorally and geographically, and that will deliver sustainable economic growth while also
delivering on our climate change targets. Investment in infrastructure, and transport
infrastructure in particular, will be a key part of that approach. To deliver economic growth
and carbon reduction, we must provide attractive alternatives to short-haul aviation while
addressing the issue of scarce rail capacity between city centres. Network Rail has calculated
that by 2024 the west coast main line will effectively be full, with no further enhancements
that could reasonably be made to meet future demand.
The Government believe that the best long-term solution to those challenges is the
development of a national high-speed rail network. Our proposed strategy is a Y-shaped
network, to be delivered in two phases, the first being a line from London to the west
midlands and the second the onward legs to Manchester and Leeds, with connections to
points further north via the east and west coast main lines.
Our proposals will provide an unprecedented increase in capacity on the key north-south
routes out of London through a combination of new infrastructure and released capacity on
existing lines. Reliability will be improved and journey times between major cities slashed.
Central Birmingham will be brought within 49 minutes of London-potentially less for non-
stopping services-and within one hour five minutes of Leeds. The released capacity on the
west coast main line offers the possibility of commuter-frequency fast services to London
from places such as Coventry and Milton Keynes.
By running trains seamlessly on to existing inter-city routes, the proposed network will also
bring Glasgow and Edinburgh within three and a half hours of London, which is fast enough
to induce a major shift of passengers from domestic aviation. In the longer term, we will also
explore with the Scottish Government the options for further reducing journey times to
The development of a high-speed rail network has been a key factor in our decision on
additional runways at London's airports, which is why we said from the outset that any such
network must be linked to our principal gateway airport and integrated with the European
high-speed network via High Speed 1. In June, I asked HS2 Ltd to carry out additional work
on such links. I have studied that work and the recommendations of Lord Mawhinney's
review, and I have also examined Arup's proposals for a transport hub near Iver.
I have concluded that a spur route to the airport, running on the surface close to the M25 for
part of its length, is the best option. It is lower-cost than the other options considered by HS2
Ltd, will keep journey times between London and Birmingham to a minimum and will retain
the flexibility to be extended into a loop in future. To deliver the best possible value for
taxpayers' money, I propose that a spur route be constructed as part of the second phase of the
network, opening at the same time as the routes to Manchester and Leeds. I have today asked
HS2 Ltd to carry out further work on such a spur route, with a view to public consultation
later in this Parliament alongside the routes to Manchester and Leeds. For the period prior to
the opening of that second phase, high-speed rail travellers to the airport will be able to
change to fast Heathrow Express services at Old Oak Common, where there will also be a
direct interchange with Crossrail.
With regard to a link to HS 1, HS2 Ltd's report identifies that a connection can be made via a
new tunnel from Old Oak Common to the North London line near Chalk Farm, from where
existing infrastructure can be used to reach the HS 1 line north of St Pancras. That proposal is
significantly cheaper than any other option for a direct link, and it will enable direct trains to
run from the midlands and the north to Europe without affecting existing service levels on the
North London line. Such a tunnel can be constructed only before the Old Oak Common
interchange comes into operation, so the link will be included in the phase 1 scheme put
forward for consultation.
The Government believe that the construction of a high-speed rail network will support
economic growth and the rebalancing of the UK economy, but we recognise that the
proposed line will have significant local impacts on the areas it passes through and that we
have a duty to do everything practically possible to mitigate those impacts. That is why, since
my appointment as Secretary of State, I have reviewed the proposals of the previous
Administration. I have looked at the case for high-speed rail, at the corridor options for a
north-south route, at the different route options put forward by HS2 Ltd and in detail at the
route option recommended in its March report. I have reached the conclusion, as the previous
Administration did, that the route option recommended in March represents the most
appropriate general alignment for the high-speed railway between London and the west
However, before finalising the detailed route that I am publishing today for consultation, I
travelled the length of it and talked directly to local authorities, property owners, and many of
the protest groups and their Members of Parliament, and I commissioned additional work on
the options for improving the proposed alignment. As a consequence, significant amendments
have been made to both the vertical and horizontal alignment, and to the proposed mitigation
measures. In total, around 50% of the preferred route proposal published in March has been
amended in some respect.
I am confident that solutions have now been found that can significantly mitigate the impacts
of the railway at local level which, when properly understood, will reassure many of those
who have been understandably apprehensive about the potential impact on their lives and
their property values. For instance, in Primrose Hill, work to identify the most appropriate
locations for the necessary vent shafts has shifted the proposed tunnel, and thus also the vent
shafts themselves, to the north, away from the most sensitive areas of that part of London,
locating them alongside the existing railway.
Between Amersham and Wendover, opportunities to cover sections of the proposed cutting to
create a green bridge and a longer green tunnel have been incorporated into the route design
to reduce its visual impact and avoid severance of public rights of way. By moving the
alignment away from the historic property of Hartwell house, HS2 Ltd has been able to
ensure that the line would not be visible from the house itself and that additional earthworks
and planting can be undertaken to further reduce visual and noise impacts. In the most
northerly section of the route, an improved alignment has been identified that would move
the line further from Lichfield.
Despite our best efforts at mitigation, however, we will not be able to avoid all impacts on
property values. Where a project that is in the national interest imposes significant financial
loss on individuals, it is right and proper that they should be compensated fairly for that loss,
so I have asked my officials to prepare a range of options for a scheme to assist those whose
properties will not be required for the construction of the railway, but who will none the less
see a significant diminution of value as a result of the construction of the line.
The forthcoming consultation will include proposals for such a scheme, which will sit
alongside the statutory blight regime, which covers those whose properties would need to be
taken to build the line. I am publishing today on my Department's website, and placing in the
Library of the House, a set of reports by HS2 Ltd that sets out for each route section the
options considered and the changes proposed, together with detailed maps showing the
revised preferred route from London to the west midlands in full. That route will form the
basis for the public consultation, which I expect to begin in February next year.
When the consultation is launched, I will also publish a revised business case, a full appraisal
of sustainability, noise contour maps and route visualisations, all of which can be completed
only now that the final preferred route for consultation has been determined. Let me be clear
that the consultation will encompass the Government's strategy for a national high-speed rail
network, the choice of corridor and the detailed line of route that I have outlined for the initial
phase from London to the west midlands. As part of the consultation process, roadshows will
be held along the length of the preferred route from London to the west midlands to ensure
that local people have the opportunity to find out more about the project and to discuss
specific concerns with those involved in developing the scheme.
It is my view that a high-speed rail network will deliver a transformational change to the way
Britain works and competes in the 21st century. It will allow the economies of the midlands
and the north to benefit much more directly from the economic engine of London, tackling
the north-south divide more effectively than half a century of regional policy has done,
expanding labour markets and bringing our major conurbations closer together. The
consultation exercise that we will launch in the new year will be one of the biggest and most
wide-ranging ever undertaken by any Government, and I urge all hon. Members with an
interest to participate and to encourage their constituents to do so. These proposals have the
support of political and business leaders from all parts of the United Kingdom, and I hope
they will gain cross-party support in this House. I commend this statement to the House.