The general principles of the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill 2013-14, dubbed HS2, have been approved in the House of Commons, meaning that ministers in favour of the rail line are a step nearer to seeing the project come to fruition.
The Bill survived a Tory revolt on Monday (April 28) when a proposal by former Cabinet minister Cheryl Gillan for the plan to be halted was thrown out by a vote of 451 against to 50 for.
MPs then went on to approve the general principles of the Bill in a second vote, which was carried by 452 to 41 votes, a majority of 411. It had been expected that more Conservatives would back Ms Gillan but the Labour party is supporting the Bill, so it was almost certain that her proposal would be defeated.
After the vote, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said that work on the £50bn project will begin in 2017, as planned, although Ms Gillan, said that she would keep up the fight by scrutinising the Bill “inch by inch” as it progresses through Parliament.
The proposed legislation would grant the powers required to construct and operate phase one of HS2, between London and the West Midlands, with later extensions taking the high-speed route north to Leeds and Manchester.
However, the Bill does not guarantee that HS2 will be built but it cannot be built without the Bill becoming law, which it is unlikely to do until after the 2015 general election because of its complexity and the opposition to it.
Indeed, MPs who oppose the project feel very strongly about it, with David Lidington, MP for Aylesbury urging his constituents to petition the Committee examining the Bill to make amendments that would protect the environment and properties near the proposed route.
Mackrell Turner Garrett Solicitors in London
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