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Sun June 20 2021

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HS2 plans progress to next stage despite NAO criticism

16 May 13 Despite criticism from the National Audit Office, the Department for Transport is kicking on with the development of plans for the High Speed 2 rail scheme.

The DfT has published two more consultation documents for the route between London and the West Midlands – phase one of HS2. These are the draft environmental statement (ES) and the design refinements consultations.

Publication of the draft ES is considered a key step towards delivering the Hybrid Bill for the HS2 route between London and the West Midlands. The formal ES will be published alongside the Hybrid Bill later this year, with refinements reflecting consultation responses.

The draft ES details likely significant environmental impacts and the plans to mitigate them.

Although a report from the NAO today said that the government had failed to make the case for the project (see earlier report here), transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin insisted that it was “vital”.

He said: “HS2 is absolutely vital for this country, providing a huge economic boost which will generate a return on investment that will continue paying back for generations to come. But you cannot build a new railway line without causing some disruption.

“What we can and will do is ensure that disruption is kept to a minimum by using the very latest design and construction methods.

“We are confident that through continued hard work we can ensure that many of the feared effects of HS2 never materialise. We also know that the best design for the scheme can only be reached with the input of local communities, environmental groups and all levels of government."

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Alongside the draft ES, the DfT has published a series of design refinements for the HS2 route between London and the West Midlands, for further consultation.

Environmental mitigation measures set out include using technology to cut the noise of the trains, such as by eliminating the gaps between train carriages to boost their aerodynamic efficiency.

Drawing on Japanese expertise, HS2 trains could also be fitted with wheel farings, like on a Citroen DS car, to cut the noise made by the wheels on rails – the biggest source of noise on any electrified railway.

Around 70% of the line’s surface sections between London and the West Midlands will be insulated by cuttings, landscaping and fencing, helping it to harmonise with the landscape.

Earth removed for track laying could be used beside it as noise-absorbing bunds, cutting the amount of earth that has to be transported and therefore reducing the number of tipper truck journeys which create congestion, disruption and pollution.

The most significant proposed design refinement being consulted on for phase one includes tunnelling under Ealing and Northolt in northwest London, and at Bromford in the West Midlands. Also published for consultation are revised proposals to redevelop and improve Euston Station to accommodate high speed trains for HS2 without having to knock down and rebuild the entire station.

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