HS2 compensation to be 'comprehensive'

  • 25 October 2012
  • From the section UK
A high-speed train
Image caption The first phase of the HS2 rail line will require 338 homes to be demolished to allow for construction work

Residents affected by the first phase of the HS2 rail line will be offered a "comprehensive package of compensation measures", the government says.

Phase one of the £33bn high-speed rail link, between London and Birmingham, is due to start operating in 2026.

The Department for Transport says the compensation would be "significantly beyond statutory requirements".

Protest groups say the planned route crosses and would damage an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Rail minister Simon Burns said compensation would "strike the right balance for local communities and the British taxpayer".

The government has pledged to buy any owner-occupied home in the "safeguarded area".

This covers the space within 60 metres of the planned route, and includes 338 homes that will have to be demolished to make way for the first phase of the rail line.

And as well as paying the 'unblighted' value of the property, the government is proposing to pay additional compensation of 10% up to the value of £47,000.

The government says that other elements of its compensation package include:

  • establishing a "voluntary purchase zone" immediately outside of the safeguarded area in rural areas, within which homeowners can sell their homes at their full "un-blighted" value
  • a long-term hardship scheme to help those with a need to move during the development of HS2 but who are unable to sell their home
  • a sale and rent back scheme for homeowners who wish to stay in properties which will eventually be required by the rail scheme
  • measures to "provide clarity and reinforce confidence" in properties above tunnels, including before and after surveys
  • a pledge to work with local authorities, housing associations and affected tenants to develop a strategy for replacing any lost social rented housing
Media captionThe HS2 rail route from above

Mr Burns said the government had thought hard about the compensation on offer: "No major infrastructure project on this scale can be built without some impact on local communities, but I am determined to do everything I can to minimise the effect of HS2 on those closest to the line.

"We have developed the right compensation package, providing absolutely the right support for those affected, while at the same time protecting the interests of taxpayers. The measures I have announced are fair and strike the right balance for local communities and the British taxpayer."

Environmental concerns

The government has previously said that the London-to-Birmingham link would be followed by a second phase of the Y-shaped route reaching Manchester and Leeds by about 2033.

A consultation on the second phase will begin in early 2014, with a final route chosen by the end of that year.

Travelling at speeds of up to 250mph, passengers will be able to commute from Birmingham to London in 49 minutes, reducing the journey time by almost half from one hour and 24 minutes.

A Birmingham-to-Leeds journey will be reduced from two hours to 57 minutes and a Manchester-to-London journey from two hours and eight minutes to one hour and eight minutes.

Connections to existing lines should then cut journey times between London, and Edinburgh and Glasgow, to three-and-a-half hours.

The first phase of HS2 will include a connection to mainland Europe via the Channel Tunnel. On completion of HS2 the network will include a direct link to Heathrow.

'Buy off opposition'

But protest groups formed to oppose the scheme say the planned route would damage an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Opponents have also challenged the government's economic argument, suggesting the costs will be greater while the benefits will be lower than forecast.

They suggest that the business case for HS2 is based on an overly-optimistic prediction of growth in demand for long-distance train travel.

Joe Rukin, of the Stop HS2 campaign group, said it was "astounded" by the government's proposals.

"They clearly haven't costed this properly and it's only going to jack up the cost of an unnecessary project," he said.

"It's a cynical attempt to buy off the opposition which won't work. Also, we are absolutely gobsmacked at the size of the safeguarded area. It's absolutely massive and will make it difficult for people to get on with their lives for the next 15 years."

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