On 11 February 2020, the government published the independent Oakervee review of the High Speed 2 rail project and announced plans to proceed with High Speed 2, with construction of Phase 1 from London to the West Midlands set to begin in April.
At the same time, the government announced its intention to draw up an integrated rail plan for the North and Midlands, to identify the most effective sequencing of relevant investments and how to integrate HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and other rail investments.
On 21 February 2020, government published the terms of reference for its integrated rail plan. This plan will be informed by an assessment of the rail needs of the Midlands and the North to be undertaken by the Commission.
The Commission will operate independently, at arms length from government.
Separately from the Commission’s assessment, government is undertaking an exercise to learn lessons from Phase 1 of HS2 to drive down costs.
The Commission seeks to operate in an open and transparent manner, building consensus around its recommendations and engaging across parties and with the public, policy-makers, infrastructure experts and relevant bodies.
The Commission is aware of the considerable levels of interest among many stakeholders in these issues, but is also conscious of the considerable pressures facing many organisations and individuals in light of the spread of coronavirus. We will develop a structured approach to engagement, across the region, bearing in mind the current circumstances; through virtual meetings; roundtables and other face-to-face meetings once circumstances allow; and through a call for evidence launched on 25 March 2020 (which closed on 29 May).
An interim report – which sets out the methodology the Commission will use to complete its assessment – was published on 15 July. The deadline for submitting responses to the four questions asked in the interim report is 15 August 2020.
The Commission will keep its approach to gathering evidence under review, recognising the challenges that stakeholders are currently facing, and we will publish regular updates on our work here on our website.
In the meantime, if you would like to be informed about key developments in the Commission’s work on this project, you can sign up using the form below.