High Speed Two (HS2) is an exceptional project, not least because it will be the first railway built north of London in 120 years. Its timescale, size, cost and complexity, both in construction and its eventual operation, make it one of the biggest rail projects in Europe, if not the world.
The rationale for the scheme is that it will help to meet our growing demand for rail travel for the long term. It will create economic benefits by improving connectivity between many of our key city regions. And it will release capacity on our existing network, helping to relieve pressure on passenger services and boosting rail freight.
HS2 will be built in two phases. The first will connect London and the West Midlands from 2026. The western and eastern legs of Phase Two will run from the West Midlands to Manchester, the East Midlands, South Yorkshire, Leeds and beyond from 2033.
The total length of track built in both phases will be about 350 miles. The budget for the whole scheme is £42.6 billion, including a contingency of £14.4 billion. When HS2 is complete, up to 18 trains an hour will run in each direction. Trains 400m long will provide 1,100 seats each and will travel at up to 225mph.
Inevitably, HS2 will have significant environmental impacts. It will cause disruption during its construction, as well as sound and visual intrusion. All this has to be fully understood and properly managed: this means talking and listening to those affected, as well as their representatives. This we call ‘community engagement’. It is a serious, long-term challenge, and is as important to the scheme’s success as its engineering and its finance. HS2 will build on best practice from High Speed One, the London 2012 Olympic Games and Crossrail to minimise environmental impacts during construction.
Why community engagement matters to HS2
In order to build the railway, we must secure the parliamentary powers to do so. We will need to demonstrate to both Houses of Parliament and a Select Committee that – among other things – we have worked to understand local people’s concerns about HS2 along the whole line of route, and that we have taken all reasonable steps to address the issues they have raised.
We are also fully committed to creating an exemplary project. Our sustainability policy sets out our support for sustainable economic development and the localism agenda for regeneration. We seek to avoid significant adverse effects on communities, businesses and the natural, historic and built environment. And we want to enhance the natural environment, as far as practicable, to ensure that there is no net loss of biodiversity.
Throughout its development, HS2’s success depends on our ability to talk to communities – and act on what they tell us.
To hear more about this, visit www.csrshowcase.com for further information on speakers at the UK CSR & Sustainability Showcase on 11th February 2014.