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Transport Minister’s high speed rail vow: HS2 will ‘reshape country’s economic geography’

Transport Minister’s high speed rail vow: HS2 will ‘reshape country’s economic geography’

🕔12.Sep 2013

HS2 has the scope to transform Britain by bringing cities closer together and re-shaping the country’s economic geography, Transport Minister Simon Burns told MPs today.

In a written statement to the Commons, Mr Burns underlined the Government’s continuing commitment to a £50 billion high speed rail line from London to Birmingham and on to Manchester and Leeds.

Mr Burns said: “HS2 is set to become a vital part of Britain’s infrastructure. This new high speed line will open up opportunities for the UK that we have not seen in generations.

“Its scope to transform this country is enormous, bringing our cities closer together and re-shaping the economic geography of this country.”

He was announcing a second wave of public consultation on long-term property compensation measures for phase one of HS2, from Euston to Birmingham.

The Transport Minister’s comments were delivered during a difficult period for HS2, which has seen the cost and benefit of the scheme severely criticised by a range of bodies including the Institute of Directors, the Institute for Economic Affairs and the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee.

Chamberlain Files will next week publish a series of articles from transport experts and opinion formers looking in detail at the case for high speed rail and the benefits HS2 could bring to the West Midlands economy.

The second consultation over compensation for people living close to the HS2 phase one line was first announced by the Government last year after protesters forced a judicial review into the scheme.

Mr Burns told MPs: “We have launched the new consultation, seeking the public’s views on a package of measures designed to assist individuals in a range of circumstances, whether their property is directly on the line of route or further away. Though similar to the package consulted on previously, we have taken a fresh look at the options available and introduced a number of new ideas.

“Within the safeguarded area, we have proposed a streamlined system of purchasing owner-occupied properties to give greater certainty to the owner-occupiers closest to the line that we will buy their homes.

“The proposals also include a long term hardship scheme for owner-occupiers who have strong personal reasons to move but cannot do so, other than at a significant loss, because of HS2. This scheme would have no defined geographical boundary.

“In rural areas, we have outlined two potential options which would provide further assistance. One option is for the Government to issue property bonds, a transferable guarantee that the Government would act as the buyer of last resort for those living close to the Phase One route.

“We are also seeking the public’s views on a voluntary purchase scheme for owner-occupied properties within 120 metres of the Phase One route. We are committed to fairly compensating those who are affected and we want to hear people’s views on the generous and comprehensive measures we have set out.

“By supplementing the measures that are already available through the compensation code, these proposals go significantly above and beyond what is required under statute. Owner-occupiers within the safeguarded areas who sell their homes to the Government would receive the payments laid down in the compensation code. Those further away would receive 100% of the un-blighted value of their properties – that is, its value if there were there no proposals for HS2.”

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