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HS2 on Track with Proposed Northern Route

The controversial HS2 scheme is making headlines again as the Government unveils details of the proposed northern route of the high speed railway.

Phase Two of HS2 will extend Britain’s new high speed rail network north from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds. 

There are to be five new stations on the £33 billion Phase Two route: Toton near Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester and Manchester Airport.  A map of the proposed route can be found here.  The Government has also announced its decision to suspend the development of a spur connecting HS2 with Heathrow Airport, subject to the outcome of the Airport Commission.

The first phase of HS2 has been hotly contested, with critics arguing the scheme is fundamentally flawed, prohibitively expensive and that the economic benefits have been overestimated.  Environmental groups have been conflicted between their inclinations to promote rail travel over air against concern that HS2 will encourage “hypermobility for the rich” as well as blighting large areas of countryside.

Perhaps of more concern to those who live in the vicinity of the proposed route, are the Government’s proposals for compensation.  Given the uncertainty of the final route, property values in the immediate area may be blighted.  In recognition of this, the Government is considering introducing an earlier discretionary scheme.  It has published details of the consultation on the exceptional hardship scheme (EHS) for Phase Two, closing on 29 April 2013.  EHS is a voluntary purchase scheme (for owners who meet the qualification criteria) intended to assist those in the immediate vicinity of the scheme who urgently need to sell their properties before the final route is determined.  Once the route is finalised EHS will fall away and statutory compensation mechanisms will come into play.

Concerns over an anticipated deluge of court cases and judicial review challenges have led some to fear that construction for Phase Two may not begin until 2025, making it hard to pin down a timetable.  Regardless, the opposition appears to have done little to dent the Government’s commitment to HS2 and it seems that (for now at least) HS2 is here to stay.