Hybrid bill provides plans for extensive tunnelling and cuttings between London and Birmingham

Construction leaders have hailed the publication of a hybrid bill to authorise HS2 as a “significant” and “crucial step” towards the project becoming a reality.

Yesterday (Monday), the government published the hybrid bill, effectively the planning application for the scheme, which runs to nearly 500 pages.

The in-depth examination process for the bill is expected to take around three years as a committee of specially appointed MPs will have to examine every petition for changes to the bill, which could well run to thousands.

The bill outlines how 23% of the line from London to Birmingham will be in tunnels and a further 32% will be lowered into cuttings. Landscaped earthwork and two million trees will also be used to screen the railway.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the project was the “most ambitious and important infrastructure project” in the UK in 30 years and the publication of the bill moves it “from aspiration to delivery”.

Nick Baveystock, director general of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), said: “HS2 is still the best option for greatly increasing rail capacity, strengthening connectivity between city-regions and creating economic and regeneration opportunities - and the publication of the hybrid bill is a significant step towards achieving this.” 

He added that government needed to “take the lead in bringing about a much greater understanding of the management and cost of risk, and how contingency really works – an area which has caused concern around projected costs”.

Douglas McCormick, managing director of consultant Atkins’ rail business, said he had “seen the direct benefits other countries have achieved” from investment in high speed rail lines.

He added: “We therefore see this bill as a crucial step forward for the UK’s international competitiveness and economic and social prosperity.”

McCormick added that UK firms could deliver the project “to plan”.

Duncan Symonds, head of  infrastructure at WSP, said yesterday’s bill was “good news”.

He said: “I’ve listened to many of the arguments against HS2 and while some have merit, most are too short-termist in their views… As a business with regional offices HS2 will have direct benefits for us and I’m sure this is true of many businesses across the UK.”

However, Robbie Owen, head of infrastructure planning at law firm Pinsent Masons said the project would face “much greater opposition than other recent rail projects” because of its scope and size.   

He said: “As we go into 2014 and the bill starts its parliamentary journey, we expect the ride for HS2 to get far bumpier than in recent months, which have hardly been smooth.”