High Speed 2 overview
The current situation
HS2 is a proposed high-speed rail line from London to Birmingham. AVDC remains strongly opposed to HS2 in its current form and we are doing all we can to ensure that the concerns of our local communities are heard at the highest level.
MPs vote for HS2 at Second Reading
On 28 April 2014, parliament voted for HS2 to go ahead.
We are disappointed but will continue to make representations as the HS2 Bill now passes to Committee and will be publishing our full petition online shortly.
AVDC’s petition will pick up on noise issues, construction related matters, ecological and heritage points and specific strategic locational matters. Bucks County Council’s petition will focus on route-wide and strategic issues, including highways, waste disposal, and ecological issues.
The Select Committee will over the coming months begin to hear from petitioners.
Select Committee process
On the 12 June the Select Committee set out the procedure for petition appearances. The key points include:
• the Select Committee will meet initially in July, and then again in September. The July timetable can be found here, and the programme for September will be released next month.
• petitioners will be heard geographically, running north to south from Birmingham to London.
• within each area, county councils will be heard first, followed by district, parish and town councils, followed by community groups, other public bodies, businesses and individuals.
• topics that will make numerous other petitioning points redundant (e.g. tunnel petitions) will be heard early on in proceedings.
• the programme will be handled by HS2 Ltd’s parliamentary agent, given that they have a clearer idea of what stage negotiations are at. If deemed necessary, the Private Bill Office will intervene.
• if HS2 Ltd is to challenge locus standi, petitioners will receive a letter by the end of next week. Petitioners will have the opportunity to challenge this, and the Select Committee will make the final decision.
• petitioners will receive notification of when they will appear before the Select Committee four weeks in advance, and the proposed date should accommodate petitioners to some extent. All evidence must be submitted by 5pm 2 working days before the petitioner’s appearance.
• the Select Committee will sit in London. However, visits to the route will be made and petitioners will be able to attend these subject to space considerations.
Appearing at the Select Committee
A document providing information on appearing before the Select Committee, including challenges to locus standi has been released. The key points are:
• if a series of petitions address related issues, the Committee will hear the first petitioner, and then invite subsequent petitioners to make any further points.
• unnecessarily lengthy arguments from either the petitioner or promoter will not be appreciated.
• a summary of the petitioner’s argument can be included as evidence. This should be no more than two pages long. If the petitioners choose to include this, the Committee will read it in advance and there will be no need to expand on during the hearing.
• public can attend hearings, although space may be limited. If large numbers intend to attend, the Private Bill Office should be contacted in advance.
• during locus standi hearings (for petitioners who are challenged), the following format will be followed:
o statement from petitioner explaining how they are directly and specially affected
o examination of petitioner by HS2 Ltd’s Parliamentary Agent
o questions from the Committee
o short closing remark by the Petitioner
o Committee decision (may be at end of sitting)
HS2 Ltd response to petitions
We have heard from members of the community that HS2 Ltd will not be meeting petitioners until they have sent a formal response to all petitioners. Given that 1,925 petitions were submitted, this could be a lengthy process, and therefore you may not hear from HS2 Ltd or their Parliamentary Agent for some time.
In the meantime, all petitioners should have received an email from HS2 Ltd stating that they will be sending Petition Response Documents (PRDs) electronically using an encryption programme called Egress. This has caused some concern, and the Select Committee have strongly urged HS2 Ltd to provide petitioners with alternative methods of communication, including email and post.
We have heard that a number of action groups and Parish Councils have refused to sign up to the Egress system, and Buckinghamshire County Council is also refusing to sign up to the system. Instead, we have requested that our PRDs are sent via email (multiple emails if size restraints required) and two hard copies through the post. However, we emphasise that it is up to each individual petitioner whether or not they choose to sign up to Egress.
In terms of what to expect in the PRD, an example from the Crossrail project can be found here. This demonstrates that Crossrail provided an extensive and in many cases constructive and meaningful response, allowing the petitioner to be well informed leading up to negotiations and potentially the Select Committee stage. It is hoped the HS2 Ltd will provide the same level of detail when responding to petitions, allowing petitioners to be well informed of HS2 Ltd’s argument. Please note the reliance on Information Papers.
Details of the new compensation package for homeowners and businesses near the HS2 line were announced on 9 April. The new package attempts to incorporate improvements to the original package, taking into account points raised during consultation. The three key packages are:
• express purchase for those in the ‘surface safeguarding’ area, the government will offer to buy properties at their full unblighted market value, plus 10% (up to £47,000), plus reasonable moving expenses.
• voluntary purchase for those in rural areas outside the safeguarding area, and up to 120 meters from the line. The government will buy properties at their full unblighted value up until a year after the line opens. This should be launched later this year.
• need to sell. This has no boundaries, and is available to those with ‘compelling reasons’ to move (e.g. job relocation, health issues), but are unable to sell their property due to HS2. The government will pay the full, unblighted value of these properties. This should replace the exceptional hardship scheme later this year.
All options will be accompanied by a rent back option for owner-occupiers who choose to sell their property but would prefer to rent it back and continue living there. This will be implemented immediately.
Further consultation will be undertaken on the following proposals:
• as an alternative to the voluntary purchase package, the government would offer a cash payment to those outside the safeguarding area, and up to 120 metres from the line, who do not wish to sell their property and move.
• for those between 120 and 300 metres from the route in rural areas, owner-occupiers could take cash compensation. Details of amounts and eligibility would be confirmed following consultation.
In addition, a residents’ charter will be developed to ensure residents know their rights. An independent Residents’ Commissioner will also be appointed to try to ensure HS2 Ltd adhere to all commitments, and provide residents with a voice and representation.
Read the full report.
Further details are available here.
Environmental Statement consultation
On 7 April, the report produced by Golder Associates summarising responses to the Environmental Statements was released. The purpose of this report is to inform MPs of the key issues raised in response to the ES, and therefore the report contains no recommendations or interpretations.
According to the report, a total of 21,883 responses were received, with minimising the impact of the route through the Chilterns AONB being the single greatest issue of concern. Throughout the route the issue of ‘tunnels’ was the most commonly cited issue, this high response specifically due to the campaign demanding a full length tunnel under the AONB. Issues regarding community; sound, noise and vibration; and public consultation were also commonly cited, and within parts of Buckinghamshire outside the AONB, agriculture, forestry and soils; and traffic and transport were also key issues.
Read the full report.
Buckinghamshire’s Mitigation Blueprint for HS2
The Blueprint for HS2 is the mitigation plan for HS2 through Buckinghamshire. This has been produced by Buckinghamshire County Council in conjunction with the four district councils – Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern District, South Bucks District and Wycombe District.
The Blueprint has been endorsed by The Chilterns Conservation Board, National Trust, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trusts, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Buckinghamshire Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership, Buckinghamshire Business First and the National Farmers Union.
Read more about the mitigation blueprint.
The government is pressing ahead with a new high speed rail route that would initially link London to Birmingham (phase 1) and subsequently extend to Manchester and Leeds (phase 2). Ultimately it could extend to Scotland. The government has decided that the linkage to Heathrow Airport will be looked at as part of phase 2.
The route would come up from Amersham, crossing the southern edge of Wendover, Stoke Mandeville and Aylesbury, then running east of Waddesdon before picking up the path of the disused railway line past Quainton, Calvert and proceeding up to the edge of Brackley.
Key features of the high speed rail link
• a new dedicated track linking London to Birmingham with no intermediary stops aimed at reducing journey times by approximately 30 minutes
• up to 14 trains an hour running at speeds of up to 225mph
• trains up to 400 metres long and carrying up to 1100 people per train
• some trains will be maintenance vehicles
• trains to be powered by electric overhead cables
• tracks that have gentle gradients requiring construction of embankments, cuttings, tunnels and viaducts
How to find out more
As well as the AVDC website, a wide range of reports and technical material is available on the Department for Transport's website.
Material and reports from the various HS2 summits organised for Bucks communities can also be downloaded from the links below.
If you have any enquiries about this scheme, please contact the Department for Transport on 0300 330 3000.