The Government needs to clarify many areas of its high-speed rail proposals before those affected know where they stand, according to agricultural lawyer Alex Robinson, of Stratford-upon-Avon based Lodders.
Her comments follow a pledge by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to fast-track the controversial £32 billion HS2 London to Birmingham and beyond infrastructure project.
Mrs Robinson said: “The problem all along has been the level of confusion surrounding the scheme – will it be built or won’t it be built, how soon will we see progress, what is going to happen about compensation for landowners.
“Mr McLoughlin says he would like to complete the project within five years, but accepts it will probably take longer. He is talking about working with Labour to get cross-party consensus on legislation to be included in the next Queen’s Speech and taken through Parliament before the 2015 general election.
“He says he will also publish a route for the next stage of high-speed rail linking London and Manchester in the next few months
“But there are an awful lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ and ‘maybes’ about this and it leaves considerable scope for further delay.
“The third consultation on the HS2 property and compensation package was to take place earlier this year but in July the DfT announced that it would commence after Parliament returned following the summer recess in September – it is now October and we haven’t heard any more.
“In addition, there are five legal challenges to the scheme which will not be heard until December 3 and we do not know whether the outcome of the cases will have any impact on the route, the development timetable or the viability of HS2.
“So there is a very long way to go. Meanwhile the worry builds up for those landowners and home owners whose properties are on the route and who face the distress and uncertainty of having to put their lives on hold whilst awaiting the details of the compensation package.”
HS2 will see trains travelling at 225mph between London and Birmingham by 2026, cutting journey time to 49 minutes.
Advocates argue the scheme will create jobs and wealth in the Midlands and north of England, as well as reducing domestic air travel. Critics say it will despoil the picturesque English countryside, passing through rural locations including the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.