HS2 Given The Go Ahead

10 January 2012, 09:29 | Updated: 11 January 2012, 09:40

Transport Secretary Justine Greening has confirmed the high speed rail line will be built, passing through places like Aylesbury and Brackley.

The £32 billion scheme will cut the journey between London and Birmingham to 49 minutes, but it has provoked criticism.

Some changes have been made to the plans, including extra tunneling to reduce noise.

A longer green tunnel will be built near Wendover, Buckinghamshire, reducing the impact to the area.

Passing through areas of outstanding national beauty like the Chilterns, residents have organised campaign groups against the plans.

"When schools are closed, teachers are losing their jobs... it is just unviable," said Chilterns resident Alison Kenny.

"I can't believe we're still here having this conversation and the Government is still going ahead. It's just a vanity project. It's nothing more."

Cherwell District Council have told Heart they're disappointed at the decision.

Councillor Michael Gibbard, Cherwell’s lead member for planning, said:

“We have always considered this project an enormous white elephant and are disappointed by today’s decision.

“We are not giving up. This is an early stage in the decision-making and we will work with partners to consider a challenge."

Trains are expected to start running along the new line in 2026.

It will then be extended in a Y-shape to serve Leeds and Manchester, with reduced travel times to Liverpool and Glasgow by 2032.

View HS2 in a larger map

The Department for Transport said:

"HS2 is not just about getting between London, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester more quickly, but bringing faster services and many more seats to towns and cities well beyond the HS2 network.

"It would work just like a motorway. No-one uses a motorway to get all the way from their front door to their final destination, but they use it because it offers high capacity and faster services - precisely what HS2 will offer rail passengers."

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.

For local campaigners, their battle against HS2 is not over.

A group of 18 councils opposed to the scheme - known collectively as 51m - say they are looking at whether they could go to the courts to get the project stopped.

Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council Martin Tett and chair of 51m, told Heart:

"We'll look at the announcement in detail and look at the technical response and economic arguments put forward to see if they've changed at all, and then we'll look at what grounds there might for any legal challenge."

"We obviously have that option, but must more importantly it's winning the argument with members of parliament, members of the House of Lords, MEPs, and also with the public as a whole, that spending well in excess of £32billion at a time of austerity is not a good use of their money."

"We take inspiration from the campaign against the 3rd runway at Heathrow, where the previous Labour government made a decision to go ahead - but the campaign was actually reinvigorated locally and they stopped it."