One of the many iffy provisions that the Hybrid Bill contains, is Clause 48 that will allow the Secretary of State to take over any land anywhere in the country – as long as he can claim HS2 gives it an opportunity for regeneration. (This was originally Clause 47 in the Commons Bill).

Admittedly, he has to consult the local authority, but there is no geographical restriction or time limit in the Clause.

While one might assume that this would only be relevant if the land was close to HS2, or an an HS2 station – but there is no such limit in the bill itself or the accompanying explanatory notes which can be downloaded from the Parliamentary website.

In fact looking at other parts of the document this is a deliberate, because the Bill also allows for Scottish Ministers to “make an order relating to the carrying out of works in Scotland for Phase One purposes.” Scotland is of course some way north of Birmingham.

What’s more, the part of the Bill relevant to closing other railways is time bound – and will no longer apply after the Secretary if State has told Parliament that HS2 is “ready for commercial use”.

This section is Clause 40, which enables the Secretary of State to disapply the normal statutory closure provisions laid down in the Railways Act 2005. These set down rules about notice for the closure of railway services and stations, including consultations on proposed closures.

What’s more, the clause 40 exemption has nasty stings.

  • There is no geographical limit as to which services can be shut, meaning that this clause could be used in areas that are far away from Phase 1 of HS2.
  • it could be used to close down popular cheaper or slower services, if the government is concerned that not enough people will transfer to HS2

While these concerns might seem farfetched, it might be worth remembering the case of Walter Wolfgang who was thrown out of and barred from re-entering the Labour Party Conference in 2005 under provisions from the Terrorism Act 2000 – just for shouting ‘nonsense’.

From the Bill:

40: Disapplication of statutory closure provisions

(1)The Secretary of State may at any time before Phase One of High Speed 2 is
ready for commercial use direct that the statutory closure provisions (so far as otherwise relevant) are not to apply to any discontinuance which the Secretary of State considers necessary or expedient because of—

(a) the carrying out or proposed carrying out of works authorised by this Act, or
(b) the proposed operation of Phase One of High Speed 2.

(2)In subsection (1) “statutory closure provisions” means the following provisions of the Railways Act 2005—

sections 22 to 25 (discontinuance of railway passenger services),
sections 26 to 28 (discontinuance of operation of passenger networks), 5 sections 29 to 31 (discontinuance of use or operation of stations), and
section 37 (discontinuance of experimental passenger services).

(3)For the purposes of this section, Phase One of High Speed 2 is to be taken to be ready for commercial use only if the Secretary of State has laid before Parliament notice of his or her determination that it is ready for such use.

48 Compulsory acquisition of land for regeneration or relocation

(1) If the Secretary of State considers, having regard to the relevant development plan, that the construction or operation of Phase One of High Speed 2 gives rise to the opportunity for regeneration or development of any land, the Secretary 5 of State may acquire the land compulsorily…

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