Head of Infrastructure Planning and Government Affairs, Robbie Owen of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, who specialises in hybrid bills and other procedures for major infrastructure planning, said that the announcement provided a little more certainty about the next stages of the parliamentary process.
"Now we have a date for Second Reading, we have a better idea of when the deadline for petitions against the Bill will be and prospective petitioners, of which there are likely to be several thousand, will be busy finalising their petitions," he said. "Meanwhile, publication by 7 April of the report of the Independent Assessor summarising the consultation responses on the Environmental Statement is eagerly awaited."
"Following the recent review of the HS2 project by the new HS2 Chair, Sir David Higgins, many will be interested to see what amendments to the Bill to deal with his recommendations the government sign-posts in the Second Reading debate. The government has already said that the Bill will be amended to remove the HS1-HS2 link but the new scheme for Euston station will certainly feature as an 'additional provision' to be brought before the select committee later in the year," he said.
The High Speed Rail (London to West Midlands) Bill has been described by the Department for Transport (DfT) as the "planning application" for the scheme, and would give the government powers to construct and operate the line once approved. It takes the form of a 'hybrid' Bill, which features elements of both a public and a private Bill.
Under current plans, HS2 is to be built in two stages. An initial London to Birmingham section of the line is due for completion in 2026 while a proposed second phase connecting the line to Manchester, Leeds and Heathrow Airport would follow by 2033. The project is currently estimated to cost £42.6 billion, of which £14.56bn is contingency, with an additional £7.5bn for rolling stock.
The UK government has already committed to scrapping the planned link between HS2 and the HS1 line to the Channel Tunnel, following the recommendations of HS2 Ltd chair Sir David Higgins in his report on how to deliver the project earlier and at a lower cost. Higgins recommended that £700 million be cut from the cost of the project by dropping the link, while parts of the construction should be speeded up.