Fight continues against ‘mad’ High Speed Two rail link *H&H Plus*

  • Following the prime minister’s decision to back the controversial project, H&H has spoken to a campaigner, a person who may lose their home and an HS2 spokesman for the latest information...

    Campaigners are continuing to fight the “madness” of High Speed Two (HS2), despite its being backed by the prime minister.

    Boris Johnson gave the highly controversial rail link the “green signal” on 11 February. H&H has reported on its effect on the equestrian community, with some evicted with no assurance of when they will be given compensation (news, 19 December).

    Campaigner Lizzy Williams told H&H the project — the cost of which was set out in the 2015 budget as about £56bn but an independent estimate has recently put at £106bn — does not make economic sense.

     “The £56bn approval is also based on things that won’t happen,” she said. “It was based on 18 trains an hour and now that’s going to be 14, so the number of passengers decreases. It should go to the public accounts committee, which scrutinises government spending, as it’s absolute madness.”

    Lizzy said her priority was working with evicted landowners such as Ali Nicola, who runs a Riding for the Disabled Association group in Warwickshire and whose home now belongs to HS2. She will also support those affected by later phases of the project, such as Louise Nicholson.

    Mrs Nicholson told H&H phase 2b of the route will cut through her land, so her Grade II-listed property, 12 acres and seven stables will be lost.

    “We lived in a caravan for three years while we renovated this property,” she said. “We had to jump through hoops to do anything; they had to approve the colour of the cement we used. Now they can just knock it down for a train. It’s heart-rending.

    “We couldn’t really afford it, but have done it through sheer hard work and they’re just taking it away. If it was for something worthwhile, you might have to think ‘Don’t be selfish,’ but the area won’t benefit and the sums don’t add up.”

    Mr Johnson said in parliament: “You can’t say HS2 has distinguished itself in its handling of the local community.” He also admitted “cost forecasts have exploded”.

    But Ms Williams said the costs will not just be to those whose homes are taken.

    “I’m hearing about fodder shortages because grazing and pasture land are affected, so farmers can’t make hay,” she said.

    “And it won’t stop here. They’re talking about lines to Bristol, the expressway between Oxford and Milton Keynes, rail links to Heathrow; all these areas will be affected. It’s terrifying.”

    An HS2 spokesman told H&H the Nicholsons’ land has been “safeguarded” for phase 2b, so they can apply to the “express purchase” scheme, to get full market value plus 10% or £64,000, as well as “reasonable moving costs”. Should parliament agree this section and no agreement were reached, they should be subject to a compulsory purchase order.

    He added: “HS2 has been 10 years in planning and development, and we are shovel-ready to start building the first new railway north of London for over a century.

    “Building HS2 will relieve pressure on our overcrowded rail network, transform the UK economy by helping bridge the gap between London, the Midlands and the north.

    “Getting more people and freight on low-carbon trains will take cars and lorries off our roads, reduce domestic air travel, and help the UK reach our net zero carbon target by 2050.”


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