High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill Contents

6Route-wide issues and farms

Environmental issues and ecology

Environmental authorisation for the project

297.The Bill provides legislative authority for the HS2 Phase One project. The Environmental Impact Assessment Directive52 deriving from the Aarhus Convention expressly does not apply to projects adopted through national legislation, but Article 1(4) requires that the Directive’s objectives of assessment and scrutiny are achieved through the legislative process. The project therefore proceeds subject to a process of scrutiny, and compliance with what are known as environmental minimum requirements, which derive from various sources including the Code of Construction Practice and the undertakings and assurances given by the Promoter.53 The Bill’s authority extends to the effects described in the environmental statements.54

298.The Committee’s job was a part of the Bill’s scrutiny. We followed due process. We did not consider it part of our role to judge the adequacy of the overall scrutiny process. Our work was to hear petitioners and responses. Wider issues could arguably have detracted from our specified task.

299.Early on, we heard argument on whether the environmental statement was adequate.55 It will be recalled that the paper version of the environmental statement notoriously omitted 877 pages of its intended content (though the electronic copy did not). It was argued in respect of other omissions and errors that they were more serious, and prevented those objecting from adequately making their case. Chapter 2 of this report refers to one set of such errors which related to traffic data.

300.It was clear to us that describing the effects of a new railway route from London to Birmingham and beyond would be work in progress for some time, not complete and perfect at the start. Many petitioners complained that there was too much, not too little, information. Certain mistakes and omissions we observed were regrettable more for causing confusion (which they did) than for being seriously misleading. That is not to say that errors or omissions would never be a significant problem. Reliable traffic modelling on final analysis will be crucial. The project and its environmental effects will continue to be refined. We decided that those wishing to object knew enough on the basis of the published environmental statements to make out their objections.

301.We make one observation, however, which is that it appears to be in the control of the Promoter to decide when an environmental effect is significant enough to merit a new statement. We wonder whether there should be some independent input into that.


302.The Promoter has an objective that the project seek to achieve no net loss of biodiversity.56 The early analysis of how that objective will be pursued was only recently published.57 The analysis has been criticised for lack of granularity and accuracy. Woodland and wildlife trusts were among those who believed HS2 Ltd had overemphasised the potential benefit of connectivity along the railway while underestimating severance effects. They questioned why the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs model had not been used. The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust believed that a substantial (more than 10%) proportion of the net loss calculation scores were incorrect and that on a different version of net loss calculation HS2 Ltd may be only half way to meeting the no net loss aspiration. Warwickshire authorities were among those concerned that the net loss calculations were not sufficiently broken down by area. The Promoter told us that it believed the current no net loss deficit was only 3% and that would endeavour to eliminate that through detailed design.

303.We direct the Promoter to identify an independent third party arbiter to review the different net loss metrics and publish its findings so that HS2 Ltd can be challenged on its figures if appropriate. Natural England is one possibility.

304.An Ecology Review Group will monitor the biodiversity and ecology aspects of the project. Its members will include Natural England, local authorities, nature conservation non-governmental organisations and relevant specialists. Environmental groups wanted the Ecology Review Group set up immediately. The Promoter said that establishment should wait until more detailed design work could be considered. Our colleagues in the Lords may wish to consider that question along with issues arising from the only recently published no net loss calculations.

305.Losses to the environment could be relatively more significant in urban areas with little green space. This should be recognised through specific extra allocations to Birmingham and Camden on top of the current Community and Environment Fund budgets. The visual impression created by the railway will depend to some extent on the maintenance of its security infrastructure and the land adjacent to that. We expect the Nominated Undertaker and its successors as operators of the railway to set appropriate standards for maintenance.

306.We were concerned to hear reports of high failure rates for tree planting on HS1. We asked the Promoter to look into that. We want the early planting of tree mitigation to be more than just an aspiration. The Promoter should provide clear assurances that it will undertake such work as soon as reasonably practicable.

307.We heard that some bird and bat populations might be particularly at risk from the operational railway. (Approximately 1% of the UK population of barn owls is near the route and faces threat.) Measures to protect those populations by encouraging habitat and foraging shifts are required.

308.We have been helped and impressed by professional and amateur experts on wildlife and the natural environment. Contributions from local authorities were authoritative and helpful. Knowledge has been advancing. We acknowledge the efforts made by the Promoter.

Animal welfare

309.The tenant of Upper South Farm at Doddershall, Mr Goss, has a cattle shed which will be very near to the line. The Promoter estimated that the closest façade was 40m away and that this would fall outside the relevant threshold noise contour. We were not satisfied with this and we asked for more work. The response we received said “since Committee the effect of noise on animals has been looked into in further detail and our approach to this subject can be found from the noise, sound and methodology, assumptions and assessment report, volume 5 of the main Environmental Statement”.

310.We asked what the new work had elicited. It then emerged that the further look referred to a US research paper of which the Committee had already been informed. We were not happy with that. We want a proper look at how animals in such conditions might be affected and whether better mitigation should be provided in this particular case. The RSPCA might be invited to contribute a paper. Mr Goss also need a sensible solution on how to move livestock around the farm once the railway arrives.

Operational noise


311.The Promoter’s approach to dealing with train noise is set out in HS2 Information Paper E20 and within Volume 5 of the main environmental statement. It proceeds from the Noise Policy Statement for England whose objective is that of noise management and control through—

— while taking account of the economic and social benefit of the proposed activity.

312.As applied, to HS2, this has involved defining a significant observed adverse effect level (‘SOAEL’) of noise above which exposure is considered undesirable. The planning process should be used to avoid such effects by appropriate mitigation, including by altering design and layout and by provision of insulation. The choice and design of the HS2 route has taken that into account. It has further involved defining a lowest observed effect level (‘LOAEL) and taking steps for noise levels between LOAEL and SOAEL to mitigate and minimise impacts on health and quality of life. Measures still take account of the economic and social benefit of the activity.

313. There are data to support certain assumptions about LOAEL. There is no standard definition of SOAEL. The Promoter has adopted measures of each which take account of time of day. These are set out in the following table.

Table 3: Noise effect levels for permanent residential buildings

Time of day

Lowest Observed Adverse Effect Level

Significant Observed Adverse Effect Level

Day (0700–2300)

50 LpAeq, 16hr

65 LpAeq, 16hr

Night (2300–0700)

40 LpAeq, 8hr

55 LpAeq, 8hr

Night (2300–0700)

60 LpAFMax
(at the façade, from any nightly noise event)

80 LpAFMax
(at the façade, from more than 20 nightly train passbys), or
85 LpAFMax
(at the façade, from 20 or fewer nightly train passbys)

314.There is a short and helfpul glossary of noise terminology in HS2 Information Paper E20. LPAeq is an index which expresses the effect of a changing noise as a continuous equivalent. It is not a simple arithmetic average because sound is measured in decibels, employing a logarithmic scale, so an arithmetic average would be misleading. Instead, it averages the total sound energy received over a defined period. Different periods can be chosen.

315.For a constant noise source, and under normal conditions, changes of under 3dB are not perceptible. A 10dB increase represents approximately a doubling in loudness. A 10dB decrease is approximately a halving in loudness. With LAeq, doubling the sound energy or the sound duration increases LAeq by 3dB. Ten times the sound energy or ten times the duration increases the LAeq by 10dB.

316.LpAFMax is an index of maximum noise. World Health Organisation (WHO) methodology favours its measurement at the façade (wall or window) of the receptor building,58 where maximum noise is experienced more intensely than in the ‘free field’.59

317.HS2 Ltd have modelled the effects of HS2 trains. The modelling methodology is in Volume 5 of the environmental statement.60 It is based on a reasonable worst case. For instance, it assumes moderately windy conditions. Noise sources penetrate further in those conditions. With no wind, they penetrate less; with higher wind, the wind itself tends to mask the noise. The model also makes allowance for phenomena such as temperature inversion within valleys, which can cause sound to penetrate further.

318.The adoption of the noise criteria in the table for the purposes of environmental minimum requirements means the Promoter should (subject to assessment of social and economic benefit) avoid average noise exceeding 65dB in daytime or 55dB at night. Between 50dB and 65dB (daytime) and 40 and 55dB (night-time), noise effects should (subject to assessment of social and economic benefit) be mitigated and minimised. Under the assessment in HS2 Information Paper E20, maximum night-time noise exceeding 80 or 85dB (depending on train frequency) should be avoided. The effects should be minimised or mitigated from 60dB to that level.

319.These criteria provide a number of layers of protection. In addition, noise receptors which fall outside those protections but are predicted to experience more than certain levels of change in noise are assessed for further protection depending on local circumstances. This offers an additional level of protection against intrusion into the existing environment.

320.For each locality along the proposed line, Volume 5 of the environmental statement contains colour coded tables of noise measurements and modelling data which show the current (baseline) position, the predicted noise effects from high-speed trains, and the additive position. There are contour maps showing the extent of train noise effects in terms of magnitude and change. Volume 5 contains highly detailed descriptions of the qualitative noise characteristics of each locality. Volume 2 of the environmental statement summarises the position for each area.

321.The generally received wisdom is that train noise is qualitatively less annoying than motor vehicle noise (for the same dB level). The applicability of this to the noise characteristics of high-speed trains as opposed to conventional trains was disputed by some petitioners.

322.Train noise will be mitigated. Earth bunds absorb and protect from noise. Noise barriers close to the source or a receptor can be effective. (Hence, if near the track they tend to be more effective at rail level where they protect against the noise of train wheels.)

323.We heard the case on noise principally on 12 October 2015 and 4 November 2015 although we had already become familiar with the arguments before that.

324.Five main arguments were deployed by those who objected to HS2 on the basis of its noise effects.: that high-speed train noise was inherently undesirable, that the levels of threshold noise in the HS2 Ltd’s framework of protection measures were too high, that train noise would disrupt tranquility and change the character of areas, that averaged noise is not what matters to people, and that maximum noise was more important—particularly for a railway whose frequency will be up to 36 train passes an hour at peak times. On the latter, petitioners pressed for contour maps showing the extent of penetration of maximum noise.

325.During our two years of sittings we have become familiar with ambient noise and other noise sources. We do not agree that the HS2 Ltd has set the thresholds too high, particularly as mitigation will be applied on the basis of modelling that assumes a reasonable worst case. Averaged noise level of 65dB is not high. The Promoter has conceded that the trains will be audible but argued that the train noise should not intrude unduly on the basis of the designs and mitigations proposed.

326.We heard HS1 high-speed trains in Kent. They are noisy near the track but within short distances the noise is significantly moderated and less intrusive, even in tranquil areas away from motorways. HS2 trains may be quieter. Among the closest residential buildings to the line will be houses in Aylesbury. We heard demonstrations of modelled train noise passes for that location at the Arup sound lab. Even based on this very proximate location, we found the noise level significantly noticeable, but not such as to be intolerable.

327.We heard that contour maps of maximum noise are not practical because the methodology whereby maximum noise is measured at the façade is highly susceptible to variation over short distances. The free-field methodology would not be, but is does not tie in with WHO assumptions. It seems counterintuitive to argue on that basis. The spread of maximum noise is, however, shown in the environmental statement data tables.

328.It seems clear that maximum noise and train frequency are the main underlying grievances for many objectors, largely based on concerns about changes to tranquility. Under the proposals contained in HS2 Information Paper E20, maximum noise will be a criterion for mitigation. Train frequency will not be sustained at peak levels throughout the day. It will be important for the railway’s operators to monitor whether there are areas where levels exceed the predictions of the models and take remedial steps. There may be other instances where intervention outside of that required by the Promoter’s approach is appropriate. If such interventions cannot be achieved through modifications to the railway itself they may be achievable through other means such as through quietening of roads.

329.Issues on noise can be complicated. This report is no substitute for personal experience and a partial exposition is no substitute for the expertise on all sides offered to the Committee. We trust that we will not seem partial with the observation that we found Rupert Thornely-Taylor understood points made by and for petitioners. His explanations were accessible. It was usually clear to us on the day that there was a rationale to the approach by the Promoter of the Bill.

Rail speed

330.The pantograph to conduct electricity from cable to train makes a noise. We heard that good design can reduce noise from the pantograph. Nevertheless, noise increase goes up more rapidly over speeds exceeding 300kph. On that basis, we heard a case for limiting train speed from 360kph to 300kph to reduce noise. That would be a substantial limitation. It would achieve at most a 3–4dB decrease in noise (assuming no other mitigation applied)—perceptible but not massive. We do not believe that future operators of high-speed rail should have their hands tied on speed to the extent of a 16% speed reduction from maximum speed to achieve a barely perceptible benefit. In any event, the average speed of trains taking account of position on the route in terms of gradient and curvature and proximity to stations will be 320kph, not 360kph. Most trains will not be travelling at full speed all the time.

Construction, air quality and vibration

Construction effects

331.The Promoter has established lowest observed adverse effect levels and significant observed adverse effect levels for construction noise. These are set out in the table below. LpAeq,T is the decibel level for equivalent average noise which will trigger mitigation analogous to that for operational noise. There are different trigger levels for different times of day and different days of the week.

Table 4: Construction noise effect levels for permanent residential buildings (outdoor at the façade)


Time (hours)

Period T

Observed Adverse Effect Level
LpAeq,T (dB)

Observed Adverse Effect Level LpAeq,T (dB)

Mondays to Fridays

0700 - 0800
0800 - 1800
1800 - 1900

1 hour
10 hours
1 hour
1 hour




0700 - 0800
0800 - 1300
1300 - 1400

1 hour
5 hours
1 hour
1 hour



Sundays &
public holidays


1 hour



Any night


1 hour



332.The Code of Construction Practice, set out in HS2 Information Paper D3, will govern construction operations. Petitioners wanted it to be directly enforceable. The duration of the HS2 construction project will insert a strong element of self-policing into compliance with the code; contractors will face termination of contract if they breach it. A further incentive is that legislation could be introduced after the commencement of the project if necessary. There will be a Construction Commissioner as well as a Complaints Commissioners and a small claims scheme.61 The efficacy of all these will be closely scrutinised. Adjustments can be made if necessary.

333.The Promoter has commissioned a study on the effects of construction noise which will report by mid-2016 and will recommend standards. It will be important to follow through on its observations. Depending on the outcome of the study it may be appropriate to revisit aspects of the trigger times and levels.

334.The policy on management of construction traffic is set out in HS2 Information Papers E13 and E14. A traffic management plan will need approval by each local authority. Modern technology will be used for reducing noise on construction sites. We heard about how construction traffic will be managed through real-time radio monitoring. Except where no likely air quality problem is identified, lorries will need to comply with the Euro VI standard for emissions. Local authorities will need to agree traffic management plans before work begins. Safe interaction of construction traffic with pedestrians and other road users will be imperative. Drivers should receive proper training including on driving safely near cyclists. Lorries may be required to have safety devices installed along with means for increasing visibility.

335.The section of this report on environment comments that the environmental statement is a living document and could not be expected to be entirely error-free from inception. The accuracy of future traffic modelling data will be critical. There are those who are assiduous in checking it.

Ground settlement and vibration

336.The Promoter has set out its policy on ground settlement from tunnelling in HS2 Information Paper C3 and in an online guide to settlement.62 Professsor Mair explained to us the extent of settlement from tunnelling and how it is minimised through appropriate engineering.63 The Promoter will offer a legal deed of settlement to all those within 30m of the line to protect their position, for which pre-registration is possible.

337.There was some unfortunate underestimating of tunnel depth, by quite significant amounts, for certain petitioners in west London. No adverse environmental effects were anticipated to result from the corrected data, but the mistake was regrettable.

338.The Promoter’s position on dealing with operational vibration is set out in HS2 Information Paper E21. We are satisfied that the railway can be engineered to avoid undue effects of vibration. We do not comment further.


339. The Government has said that it will make good on additional local authority maintenance costs attributable to HS2, applying its doctrine of ‘no new burdens’. The Promoter has observed that certain roads will be handed back to local authorities in better condition after construction. We heard that progress has been made on reaching agreement on roads maintenance cost sharing, with Warwickshire, Buckinghamshire and Camden as case studies.

340.There are several areas along the route where traffic pressure is already at or near critical levels. Unlike shorter transport schemes, HS2 cannot bring specific benefit to adjoining areas that are not within the hinterland of a station. Among the benefits that improvements in local roads could bring to the quality of local life and the vigour of local economies are better safety, less congestion, quicker journey times and better design.

341.We propose to the Secretary of State that local authorities along the HS2 route be able to bid to the Department for Transport for funding for such schemes if they are appropriate and capable of timely implementation. Such schemes might include improvements not just for motor vehicle users but for cyclists, horse riders and walkers, as well as better provision for the young, old or disabled. In any event, we would like HS2 to leave a legacy of improved road traffic risk identification and safety improvement along the route.

Design, consultation and engagement


342.The Promoter’s position on design is set out in HS2 Information Papers D1, D5 and G6. The Bill’s provisions on design consultation are contained in schedule 16. Following discussion with the Camden Borough Council, the lead local authority on design, schedule 16 will be amended to bring the Bill into line with the equivalent provisions of the Crossrail Act 2008 on the freedom of local authorities to impose conditions on design.

343.We expect a truly consultative approach to design of sensitive parts of the railway, with an element of dialogue and choice, not a one-way information flow. We have encouraged the Promoter to develop a flowchart for community involvement and we invite them to try out the inclusive approach we recommend with the flowchart itself.

344.The cost of design will be material, but so will sensitivity to the local landscape, geology and architecture. Viaducts and vent shafts will need especially careful attention. We have mentioned several by name. Many or most will merit the same careful treatment.

345.There should be a positive architectural legacy from the railway’s interaction with the canal network in this country. The Canal and River Trust’s presentation on our final day of hearings impressed us. There are ways to achieve the conjunction of railway and waterway in a manner pleasing to the eye, including use of good materials, retention and framing of views, retention of open space near the waterside, and softening of views against the horizon. We would expect a presumption that the perspective of canal users will be strongly taken into account in the design of infrastructure.

Public engagement

346.We commented in our 2014–15 report on HS2 Ltd’s mixed record of public engagement. We are aware of the report of the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman which found serious failings in HS2 Ltd’s engagement with a community in Staffordshire which will be particularly severely affected. There is work to be done in improving approaches and responses to the public.

347. It can be difficult to mollify those whose lives face disruption. Many petitioners commented on the sensitivity with which many HS2 Ltd staff had handled their issues. Apologies when errors are made go far. As the project moves toward commencement, considerate engagement and helpful provision of information will be even more important. HS2 Ltd will need to pay attention to communicating and explaining its decisions. We hope that the Residents Commissioner will do the same, and consider different lines of communication to her office.

348.The task of negotiating with nearly 2,600 petitioners was not an easy one for HS2 Ltd or the Promoter. For the future, we strongly encourage more cooperation between local authorities and the Promoter in setting timetables for negotiation, not least because the outcome of those negotiations is often critical to what other petitioners have to add. Assurances absolutely must be published early so that other petitioners know what has already been decided. Our successor committees on any future hybrid bills may wish to consider programming all local authorities early on so increase the incentive for proper engagement and compromise. Petitioners who followed in the programme would then know what had been achieved.

Business and Community

Community and Environment Fund and Business and Local Economy Fund

349.These funds will provide a total £30m in funding to support communities and businesses on the route.64 The Government position is that this amount is in proportion to the similar funds made available in relation to HS1. There are 25 local authorities on the HS2 Phase One route. Buckinghamshire County Council alone has ideas for some £15m in spending throughout the county, and has argued that the HS1 fund was solely for environmental items. Warwickshire has ideas for some £8m of spending. Buckinghamshire has pointed to higher funds for other infrastructure projects. It has observed that taken over the life of the project the sum of £30m amounts to only £3m per year. It has argued that the total funding envelope for community and environment projects and for business and local economies should at least £150m.

350.We recommend that the funding envelope of both funds should be substantially increased. We suspect the Government is aware that the amounts are too low. We want to see specific allocations to certain communities to avoid bidding wars.

351.As a separate point, we hope that local businesses capable of benefiting from construction will be actively involved in the Promoter’s contract awards. These may include undertakings engaged in equipment and vehicle maintenance, and catering support.

Business rate effects

352.Construction of HS2 may reduce business rate income. The Promoter is in discussions with local authorities. We suspect that highways and environmental health matters will be of more significant concern. Our colleagues in the Lords may wish to consider the question of the effect of HS2 construction on business rates.

Schools and places of worship

353.Impacts of construction on schools should be monitored during construction and for one year after the HS2 building project. Maintaining safe and proper access will be critical. The Promoter should be open to financial support for schools if there are, for instance, demonstrable adverse effects on roll numbers that affect a school’s viability or its capacity for employing teaching staff. It should endeavour to maximise the amount of construction work in school holidays.

354.Places of worship will need consistent and considerate treatment. The Promoter should be prepared to postpone work that interferes with unavoidable activities such as funerals. There should be a hotline for such matters. We would also like the Promoter to consider some specific support for religious and similar institutions whose legal status may prevent or make difficult a conventional claim for lost revenue. Conventional claims may also be inappropriately elaborate in such cases. The remedy should be a fund that is readily accessible and easy to negotiate.

Land take and temporary or permanent occupation

355.The Promoter’s powers of land acquisition and occupation are set out in the Bill. The Promoter has given undertakings on minimising the extent of acquired land. During our proceedings, we frequently directed or attempted to nudge the Promoter toward either smaller land take or shorter duration of occupation, particularly in the case of farms. As we conclude our work, we remain concerned that the permanent occupation powers are being used too extensively. We do not intervene to direct that the Secretary of State should not consider the economics of particular cases, but we do believe that the Government should be circumspect in considering economics of land occupation given the railway’s objective of developing the economy, helping to change the economic geography of the country for the better.

Farm issues and tax

Farm issues

356.As a general observation, we have been impressed by the pragmatic approach taken by farmers affected by the line. We could mention many.

357.Several common themes emerged from farm petitions: the need for construction to work around the seasonal and long-term business nature of farming, less than ideal choices for locating mitigation planting, disputes over extent of land take and access, and tax issues. We directed preparation of a farmers’ pack which would set out common helpful approaches. The National Farmers Union is involved in negotiating it. We are pleased that several cases in which the farmer suggested alternative mitigation locations have been settled following hearings before the Committee. We have directed different access arrangements in several cases where it was clear that the farmer’s suggestion made sensible use of their knowledge of the terrain.

Specific farms

358.We were concerned at the extent of land take at Hunts Green Farm,65 particularly in relation to the rare ancient pasture, and we said we wanted improvements. We welcome the progress that has been made in addressing that. The Promoter explained that it cannot eliminate activity on the eastern side of the railway, but that it will avoid use of certain sensitive areas for temporary stockpiling if feasible. We welcome the accommodation that has been reached concerning Hammonds Hall Farm.66 We want the Promoter to devise a flood risk scheme to address potential concerns about flooding at Marsh Mills Farm.67 We expect the Promoter to work sensibly to a solution on access, land take and drainage issues at Nash Lee Farm.68

359.Mr and Mrs Howie farm in Hillingdon. They employ a number of farm workers on land that was used for World War II food production.69 Effects of the project include mitigation planting and the presence of an electricity feeder station. We encourage the Promoter to look at ways to reduce impacts on the farm activities.

360.It is open to petitioners including farmers who petitioned this Committee to raise outstanding matters later in the Lords. Amongst those considering their position is Bob Lewis of Springfield Farming Ltd.70 Many petitioners who appeared before us have made substantial progress in negotiating sensible outcomes with the Promoter.


361.Farmers whose land is compulsorily acquired by the Promoter may find themselves landed with a large and unwelcome capital gains tax liability if unable to reinvest the purchase proceeds in replacement land, premises or fixed plant within the normal ‘rollover relief’ periods. The size and scale of the HS2 project means that competition for replacement land will be intense, and real estate prices will probably increase. The estate of any farmer unfortunate enough to die while the purchase proceeds remain uninvested may also incur inheritance tax liability.

362.The Department said that HS2 may result in some increased land availability of parcels along the line which HS2 itself resells, but we doubt that that will be sufficient. We were told that HS2 should not be treated differently from other infrastructure projects but we believe the likely intensity of competition for land along the HS2 route merits its treatment as a special case.

363.We wrote to HM Treasury seeking a generalised extension of the discretion to extend rollover relief periods in the case of HS2, or at least a statement that there would be a starting assumption of such extension. We did not want farmers spending money on detailed individual tax advice when a general position or set of starting assumptions could be usefully set out.

364.HM Treasury said that it would write to farmers to advise them of existing rollover relief discretions. We wished for greater certainty and clarity. There is precedent for extended discretion in cases from other business sectors.71 The Treasury should make it clear that the enhanced rollover relief periods will apply to all those whose land is acquired for the project. As it will take HS2 some ten years to bring its Phase One rail project to fruition, there is a case for allowing farmers a comparable period for reinvestment.

Development and railway

Development and planning

365.We heard argument that the powers in clause 47 whereby the Secretary of State may acquire land for regeneration purposes were too broad. We were presented with two sets of compromise language: one from the Promoter, requiring the Secretary of State to consult on use of the powers; and one from Camden Borough Council which would tie exercise of the power to the vicinity of the works and/or to local plans. We decided the latter would be too restrictive. The power is a backstop power designed to prevent ‘ransom strips’ obstructing regeneration.72 We favoured the Promoter’s language. We direct an appropriate amendment to the Bill.

366.We heard that in certain areas such as green belt areas local planning policy prevents net increase in building numbers. Where residents particularly adversely affected by the line want to move away and build new property, the dilemma in planning terms is whether they should be permitted to do so only with demolition of the current premises. The land on which the premises are demolished would clearly be of substantially lower value to the acquiring body—probably the Promoter. There is an analogous issue with agricultural premises. We heard a small number of cases but there will be others. We took this up with the Department of Communities and Local Government. The Minister wrote to local authorities to encourage them to have regard to the impact of HS2 when deciding on planning applications.73 As the project nears commencement we would like the Department of Communities and Local Government to remind local authorities of the sensible position. Wholly unnecessary demolition should clearly be avoided.


367.The Bill makes passive provision for installation of broadband infrastructure on the route, but not actual installation such as ducting and cabling. Several areas which will not stand to gain directly from the railway and which lacked broadband access pressed the case for active broadband provision, to mitigate for some of the pain of construction.

368.The Government has said that commercial need and a commercially justifiable proposition would require to be demonstrated. It told us that most areas between London and Birmingham are planned to be “fairly well served” by fibre broadband providers, adding that it might be more efficient to provide more poorly served areas with broadband access via cabling not from the HS2 route but other rail routes, or road routes. The Government accepted that this might not be the case everywhere. It noted that in the areas where it is not there would still need to be a demand for a commercially viable broadband service. The Promoter said it would be meeting the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and the telecommunications industry in May 2016 to define the market, and level of demand.

369.The Department of Culture, Media and Sport can establish which areas within, say, 3km of the HS2 route are unlikely to have superfast broadband provision and good 4G mobile telephone coverage by 2018 (the year after anticipated start of construction). Few if any of those living close to the route will benefit directly from the HS2 project. The Government is wrong to believe that the test for providing broadband and mobile access is whether the telecommunications industry can be offered a commercially viable market in such localities. If commercial propositions are not speedily forthcoming the Government should fund the provision. We do not direct whence the cabling comes; industry operators and Government can make a commercial assessment of that. We direct that, one way or another, the provision of a modern railway is to be associated with achieving modern high-speed communication along its route.

Railway assets

370.The project will be making substantial use of existing railway infrastructure and assets. Some of those may not be in good condition. Using it to the extent required by a project of this nature might create annoyance to residents. The Nominated Undertaker should fund reasonable improvements in such cases. A petitioner from Camden described poorly maintained gates, currently not that frequently used, whose increased use would irritate. There will be other examples. The Nominated Undertaker should be alert to them and respond quickly. There may also be low-cost aesthetic enhancements to railway property that can be made as a way to mitigate the perceived impact of construction. Some of the existing railway assets in and around Ruislip might benefit from some care and attention, for instance.


371.An important element in construction is the proposed railhead at what is currently the Euroterminal rail site in Willesden. The freight operator DB Schenker has a more than 100-year-long lease from Network Rail on the property. The site is currently the subject of various subleases. We heard that the Promoter needs an extended period of up to 17 years access to the site for construction. While we acknowledge that the Promoter should not be required to enter into complex negotiations for sub-licences from multiple landlords, outright acquisition would displace the current occupant from valued business premises. If that is to happen, it should not be with one eye on what other parties might want or might have wished for. We asked the Promoter to reconsider alternatives to and to negotiate with DB Schenker in good faith, on the basis of DB Schenker’s existing lease between Network Rail rather than what might have been. The Promoter agreed.

372.Several freight operators perceived a lack of ambition and urgency in endeavours to secure benefits from the project for their industry. They pressed for the Bill to require that the Secretary of State issue guidance on principles for use of rail capacity released by HS2. Professor MacNaughton told us that the door was open to discussion through working groups but that legislating for discussion was not appropriate. We agree, and we recognise that there are procurement law boundaries to such discussions. The long investment lead times that will be needed to exploit released capacity persuaded us of the need for greater engagement.

West Coast Main Line operation

373.‘Line X’ is an important ‘dive-under’ tunnel in the throat of Euston station which enables West Coast Main Line and other services to switch platforms without crossing the tracks in the throat at surface level. It plays an important part in maintaining capacity. We were pleased to hear that the period for which it will need to be closed is to be minimised.

374.Coventry will benefit from the proximity of the proposed Birmingham Interchange station and is among those being consulted on the name of the station. We welcome the assurances given to Coventry City Council (and to other parties with interests in West Coast Main Line services to the Midlands) about future Coventry service provision on the classic rail network and about passive provision for possible future “four tracking” of the West Coast Main Line at Berkswell.

375.The Promoter has set out its aspirations and capacity in the world of HS2 in HS2 Information Paper A2. Exact service frequencies on the West Coast Main Line in general will be a matter for future regulation. The rail network as a whole should be seeking to meet the needs of passengers and local economies and improve their experience of rail use.

52 EU 2011/92

53 HS2 Ltd, Information Papers, B5 and E1

54 HS2 Ltd, Information Papers, E1-28 describe these matters

55 The main case was heard on 23 and 27 October 2014

56 HS2 Ltd, Information Papers, E2

58 It is actually measured 1m from the façade

59 ‘Free field’ is defined as more than 3.5m from sound-reflecting surfaces

60 In the memorably titled SV-001-000 section

61 HS2 Ltd, Information Papers, C10 and G3

62 HS2 Ltd, Guide to Settlement, (September 2015)

63 HS2 Ltd, Information Papers, D7c

64 HS2 Ltd, Information Papers, C12

65 Petitions 670 and AP4:178

66 Petitions 90, 91 and AP4:87

67 Petition 1149

68 Petition 1173

69 Petition 471

70 Petitions 50 and AP4:180

71 Executors of Ralph Louse Brown v Inland Revenue Commissioners [1996] STC (SCD) 27

72 HS2 Ltd, Information Papers, C11

73 Letters of 12 and 18 March 2015, published on Committee website

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

Prepared 29 February 2016