HS2 exposes flaws in democratic process

The confirmation that HS2 will need a paving bill in order to be able to obtain funds for continued preparatory work shows just how early in the whole process we still are. First the needs to go through, but then there is the much more complex process of the hybrid bill which will take 18 months or so to get through Parliament.

It is rather odd that the government and HS2 Ltd did not realise earlier in the process that a paving bill would be required. While it will be a simple bill that will easily get through, it will offer the opportunity for opponents to raise their concerns in a meaningful way for the first time ever on the floor of the house. That in itself is remarkable. Given this is the biggest engineering project ever undertaken in the UK, it is strange that there has been no opportunity for any debate concerning legislation so far. Nor will there be in the hybrid bill which will be handled by a small committee.

The controversy has so far focused on the Chilterns but now that more details of the route and the associated works are emerging, it is the stations that will raise most concerns. And the biggest row will undoubtedly be over Euston. The recent revelation that a much cheaper option, which will involve retaining and adapting the 1960s monstrosity instead of demolishing it, has already raised hackles and is bound to lead to a much greater furore. Yet,. again, Parliament will not get a chance to discuss this properly.

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