Public consultation on a done deal

by Jeremy on 29-Dec-2010

In an announcement to parliament today, Monday 20 December 2010, the Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, issued a statement which confirmed that HS2, the planned high speed railway linking London to Birmingham, was going ahead along the previously published route. He added that public consultation on the principle of HS2 would take place alongside consultation on the selected route beginning in February 2011.

In response Bernie Douglas, Chairman of the HS2 opposition group VoxOpp (Villages of Oxfordshire Opposing HS2) said that, “As far as consultation goes this is a sham. When he met with us in Brackley in early October, Philip Hammond was already adament that HS2 would be built and he would be sticking to the previous government’s proposed route. As far as he was concerned it was a done deal. The route map has now been released again with his statement to parliament and, predictably, there is no significant change. Neither, at this stage, has any additional information been provided, nothing on noise mitigation, nothing on the compensation scheme.”

The HS2 plan is intended to shorten journey times between Birmingham and London by up to half an hour and subsequent extension of the HS lines will take them on to Manchester and beyond to Leeds, Liverpool and Glasgow. The government claims it will increase prosperity around those cities, addressing the ‘North-South divide’ and having a transformational effect on the country.

“That is a vast overstatement”, Bernie said, “HS2 is just a means of transport which, in about 17 years time, would provide a faster commuter route from Birmingham to London than is already achieved by the existing rail connections. However, unless the government has other major plans to increase prosperity in the North, the reality is that current HS2 plans would simply make it quicker for around eighty thousand people – approximately 0.1% of the population of Great Britain – to commute to work in London. To achieve an easier journey to work for this tiny segment of the population the government will be spending an estimated £17bn, at 2009 prices.”

“There is another price to be paid as well. HS2 will cut through parts of London, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire leaving a long scar across some of the most scenic areas in the South of England between London and Birmingham. It will create a new blight corridor. Any advantages HS2 could provide for the “important cities” which it would link must conversely disadvantage other cities and towns bypassed along the route such as Coventry, Bicester and Aylesbury. For similar reasons it will, to some extent, disadvantage major cities and towns in all other parts of Britain which will not be included in this grand scheme.”

“As we come up to Christmas, I’m put in mind of a small boy with a shiny new train set – naturally he sets it up straight across the living room without any thought, planning or consideration of the wider view. Grown-ups should do better.”

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