In January, the Government set up High Speed Two Limited to advise on the development of high-speed rail services between London and Scotland. At the end of this month High Speed Two will report to me on a detailed route plan for the first stage of a north-south high-speed line, from London to the West Midlands. The company will also advise on options for extending high-speed services, and high-speed lines, to destinations further north, including the North West, the East Midlands, Yorkshire, the North East and Scotland. It will also advise on options for serving Heathrow Airport, and on connections between High Speed One and High Speed Two.
HS2 will present a business case supported by technical assessments, including demand forecasts, and the potential for shifting journeys to high-speed rail from air and road. In respect of the route between London and the West Midlands, the company will also present detailed plans, design specifications, and an assessment of costs, funding and delivery structures.
Having taken full account of the HS2 report, if the Government decide to pursue proposals for high-speed rail, we will publish a White Paper setting out plans by the end of March 2010. This would include route proposals, timescales and associated financial, economic, and environmental assessments. The White Paper would be followed by a full public consultation in the autumn of 2010, giving all interested parties an opportunity to comment before proposals are finalised and a hybrid Bill is prepared.
It would not be possible to publish the HS2 report in advance of a White Paper setting out the Government’s plans, as to do so would cause unnecessary blight in respect of options identified but not taken forward. However, the report will be published alongside the Government’s response. I will seek to minimise uncertainty for those who are potentially affected by a proposed line, and the White Paper would therefore set out, for consultation, a non-statutory hardship scheme.