HS2 will be the new backbone of our national rail network and help us build an economy that works for all. Good rail links bring our country closer together, making it easier for people to get on and driving economic growth. That is why the Government are heavily investing in transport infrastructure, such as HS2, across the country. HS2 presents huge opportunities for UK business, and has the potential to increase the amount of freight transported by rail meaning fewer lorries on the roads, cutting congestion and carbon. The sooner we build HS2, the sooner we will see these benefits.
The Government remain committed to completing the full phase 2 “Y” network from Birmingham to Manchester on the western leg, and to Leeds, via the east midlands and Sheffield on the eastern leg. The decision to accelerate construction of part of the phase 2 route between the west midlands and Crewe—known as phase 2a—was taken in November 2015. This will mean that this section of the route becomes operational in 2027, so that some of the benefits of HS2 will be delivered six years earlier than originally planned.
Therefore, as part of our plans to prepare the HS2 phase 2a (west midlands to Crewe) hybrid Bill for introduction to Parliament next year, we have today launched the following consultations:
The Working Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report;
The Working Draft Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) report; and
A Design Refinement consultation.
Alongside the launch of these consultations, we are also publishing the revised EIA and EqIA “Scope and Methodology Reports” (SMR), which set out how the assessments will be undertaken, and the associated consultation response analysis documents.
The launch of these consultations is an important step towards delivering phase 2, and reinforces our commitment to continually trying to improve and refine the scheme. Importantly, we want to give those affected the opportunity to make their views known and provide further evidence to inform my final route decision.
Working draft Environmental Impact Assessment and Equality Impact Assessment Reports
HS2 Ltd has developed working draft EIA and EqIA reports for the phase 2a scheme, on which there will be an eight-week consultation. This will enable interested parties to comment on the current proposed design of the scheme, current environmental baseline, likely impacts and effects (where identified) and proposed mitigation measures.
The responses to these consultations will be considered as the design and assessment are developed and will help in the development of the formal EIA and EQIA reports. The formal EIA report will set out the likely significant environment effects of the phase 2a scheme, and will be deposited alongside the phase 2a hybrid Bill so it can be taken into account by Parliament before it decides whether or not to grant the powers to build the railway. The formal EqIA report will help us fulfil our public sector equality duty and is expected to be published when the hybrid Bill is deposited. Further information on these consultations can be found at: www.gov.uk/hs2.
Design Refinement Consultation
We are also consulting separately on a number of refinements to the route developed since November 2015. This consultation will last eight weeks, and enable me to take into account the views of those potentially affected before taking a decision on the refinements. Further information on this consultation can be found at: www.gov.uk/hs2.
Work on the design is continuing alongside these consultations which may lead to further changes being identified and decision taken. The full route will then be published when we deposit the hybrid Bill in 2017, at which point those affected will have an opportunity to comment on the formal EIA report. People specially and directly affected by the scheme will also have the opportunity to petition Parliament as part of the hybrid Bill process.
HS2 Ltd has today written to people living near the proposed route changes to inform them of the consultation and invite them to attend consultation information events in their local areas.
HS2 is a once in a generation opportunity to transform Britain’s railways, and I look forward to our continuing engagement in order to make it a reality and ensure that we maximise every opportunity it has to offer.