HS2 preparation bill approved by Lords

The House of Lords has approved the High Speed Rail Preparation Bill, giving the Government a green light to start spending money on construction of the controversial rail link.  

The Bill, allowing for compulsory purchases of land needed to build the line, was backed by 350 MPs when voted on in the House of Commons earlier this month and will now be sent for Royal Assent.

Transport Minister Baroness Kramer said the next stage in the process, would be introduced in the Commons on Monday.

Peers backed the preparation legislation after former transport secretary Lord Adonis called on Sir David Higgins, the incoming chairmen of HS2 Ltd - the company overseeing the project -  to get a firm grip on costs.

''Sir David Higgins needs to get a firm grip on management costs of HS2, including the recent increase in the projected cost from £32bn to £42bn - an increase largely due to a sudden and, in my view, hard to justify decision by the Treasury to impose an extra £6bn of contingency on the project, taking the contingency alone to £14bn,” Adonis said.

The shadow infrastructure minister set out Labour's strong backing for the scheme but said it should not be built "at any price".

Labour support for the project has weakened in recent weeks after its merits were questioned by shadow chancellor Ed Balls at his party's annual conference. Previously, senior Labour figures including Lord Mandelson and Alistair Darling spoke out against the scheme planned to improve the connection between London and the north.

Lady Kramer, introducing the Bill, said the benefit-cost ratio of 2.3 was ''remarkable for a large project".

Lady Kramer added: ''We have the opportunity today to support a Bill that takes Britain into the future. We cannot opt again for make-do and mend, relying on an exhausted Victorian system for our vital rail transport.”

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