High Speed 2 Given Go-Ahead

Plans for a controversial new £32bn High Speed Rail line linking London and the north have been given the go-ahead.

High Speed 2 is designed to cut journey times between London and Birmingham to 49 minutes, but campaigners aren't happy it will tear up countryside in places like Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire.

There's been plenty of opposition to the project since the route was first put forward in March 2010.

To try and appease opponents of the scheme, including some Conservative MPs, the Transport Secretary's announced extra tunnels will be built on the 140-mile route between London and Birmingham.

That first phase will cost £16.4bn and will see trains run at 225mph between the two cities once the link is completed in 2026.  A bill giving the government the authority to start building the London-Birmingham section is expected to be put before MPs in 2013.

A second phase, taking HS2 to Manchester and Leeds in a Y-shaped route, would be completed around 2032/33.

As well as slashing journey times, supporters of HS2 claim it will free up capacity and make trains less crowded on the West Coast Main Line which passes through places like Watford Junction, Hemel Hempstead, Leighton Buzzard and Milton Keynes.  Rail services around Northampton are also expected to benefit.

Changes announced

New measures announced by the Transport Secretary Justine Greening include a 1.4-mile tunnel near Amersham in Buckinghamshire.  There will also be a new tunnel that's nearly three miles long in Ruislip in north west London.

Other new tunnels, or extensions to already-planned tunnels, will be at Greatworth in Northamptonshire, Turweston in Buckinghamshire, Chipping Warden and Aston le Walls in Northamptonshire, Wendover in Buckinghamshire, and Long Itchington Wood in Warwickshire.

You can see more details of the new changes announced beneath the map below.

Passing through beauty spots, HS2 has attracted the anger of residents, councils and conservationists, but the Government reckon the scheme will produce economic benefits of £47 billion over 60 years.

See the proposed route of High Speed 2

View HS2 in a larger map

Full list of new changes announced to the route

LICHFIELD, STAFFORDSHIRE - Increase the clearance of HS2 over the Trent and Mersey Canal near Lichfield. The change is required to keep the canal navigable and would slightly improve flood management;

WARWICKSHIRE - Move the route slightly further away from Middleton. The changes to the scheme in this area will result in fewer demolitions and less noise impacts.

Mitigation of impacts on Balsall Common by moving the line further away from the community and lowering the height of the viaduct.

A shallower cutting and longer green tunnel at Burton Green. Changes here include mitigating local impacts and reducing spoil generation, while still shielding the visual impact of the trains from the community.

Avoid Kenilworth Golf Club, lower the line further into cutting through the National Agricultural Centre, and introduce a narrower cutting through South Cubbington Wood. This will help mitigate the impacts in this area and also avoid the need for the demolition of a Grade II listed farmhouse at Kenilworth.

Introduce a longer bored tunnel at Long Itchington Wood. This will reduce land take, noise, landscape and visual impacts significantly;

NORTHAMPTONSHIRE - Introduce a longer green tunnel past Chipping Warden and Aston le Walls, and to curve the route to avoid a cluster of important heritage sites around Edgcote. These changes will provide additional mitigation for Aston le Walls, reduce setting impact on Grade I listed Edgcote House, avoid a scheduled monument (the Roman Villa site) and the possible location of the historic Edgcote Moor battlefield.

Lower the alignment and introduce a green tunnel past Greatworth, and a short green tunnel at Turweston. These changes will help mitigate landscape, noise and visual impacts as well as remove the need for a viaduct;

BUCKINGHAMSHIRE - Take an alternative alignment past Twyford, moving it further away from Twyford and reducing noise. This will assist mitigating impacts on Twyford by making some land available between HS2 and the village that would allow for landscaped earthworks that would reduce noise and visual impacts.

Lower the alignment past Aylesbury and Stoke Mandeville to reduce local impacts and eliminate the need for larger-scale works to local roads and the Chiltern Railways line.

Introduce a longer, now-continuous tunnel from Little Missenden to the M25 through the Chilterns AONB to reduce the need for deep cutting and to avoid a major aquifer;

LONDON - Introduce a 2.75 mile bored tunnel along the Northolt Corridor to avoid major works to the Chilterns Line and impacts on local communities in the Ruislip area of north-west London. This will have the effect of removing all surface impacts apart from the need for an intervention shaft.

The proposed London to Birmingham line would run from a rebuilt Euston station to a new Birmingham City Centre station at Curzon Street. There would be a Crossrail interchange station at Old Oak Common in West London and a second interchange station to the south-east of Birmingham.

There would be a direct link to HS1 (the rail line linking London St Pancras and the Channel Tunnel) built in phase 1, and a spur linking to Heathrow Airport would be built in phase 2.

What happens now?

Since the Government's decision to go ahead with HS2, HS2 Ltd is the organisation that is developing and promoting the project. The company will now start the engineering, design and environmental work in preparation for the hybrid Bill for the London to West Midlands route.

The Bill will authorise the Government to build and operate phase 1 of the project. It will also continue to work on proposals for the line from Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester.

HS2 Ltd is a company wholly owned by the Department for Transport.

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