Last week the Supreme Court rejected a legal bid by objectors to the HS2 rail link to force further scrutiny of the government’s plans. All seven judges agreed with the Court of Appeal and High Court that the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive did not apply to HS2. They also did not consider that changes need to be made to the hybrid Bill process to comply with the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive. The Court has decided that in both cases it is not necessary to refer any EU law questions to the Court of Justice of the EU.
This verdict means the HS2 timetable more or less continues as planned despite another extension being granted to the consultation deadline on the potential environmental impacts of HS2. This has been postponed for a further two weeks after a House of Lords committee found errors in the distribution of the Environmental Statement. The new deadline of 27 February means the next available slot for Second Reading of the Hybrid Bill would be at the end of April, after the Easter Recess.
We are putting the finishing touches to our Environmental Statement consultation response and have commissioned a range of experts in hydrology, acoustics, land use, landscape architecture and high speed rail engineering to advise us on our approach. We’ll share our response here as soon as we are able.
Below is our best guess at a timetable for the passage of the Hybrid Bill through Parliament:
27 Feb – Deadline for Environmental Statement response submissions
3 March – Earliest date for Minister to send responses to independent assessor (Golders UK)
31 Mar – Earliest date assessor could submit report to parliament. It is then required to have 14 days to be lodged in parliament.
11 to 25 April – Easter recess (Second Reading not possible)
28 April – Earliest date for Second Reading
12 May – Earliest date for expiry of petitioning window (2 weeks for petitions, another week to petition against any of those petitions).
June – Select committee hearings commence, duration unknown (stated goal of 2015 finish), but likely to begin from geographical south, and work its way up the route of HS2.
2017 – Construction begins.
2026 – Opens to passengers.
31 January – Deadline for responses to consultation on the preferred route of phase two.
Second half of 2014 – Publication of final route.
2015 – 2017 – EIA and public engagement work commence.
2019 – Construction begins.
2033 – Opens to passengers.