HS2 Input, December 2016

Brian Thompson  |  Published: Nov 14th 2016

Well we have been to the House of Lords Select Committee and appeared to make our case for better mitigation for Wendover. For those of you who appeared at the House of Commons Select Committee I have to say the process although similar was quite different. The difference in approach being heralded by the Locus Standi challenges and hearings.

Some people  believed that the hearing was essentially similar to a sales pitch do it wellh and you stood a better chance of closing the deal and getting what you want.  The advice we received was that this was a due legal process with each petition being heard like a separate case. You did not have presenters, you had witnesses. You presented your evidence and if it was robust enough after being tested by the Lords then it was accepted. Another aspect was that while you could voice community concerns if you strayed into technical matters for which you were not qualified then you would get short shrift.

So with that as a background let me tell you what happened. The Wendover story was started off by The Wendover Society. They faced a big challenge. The Select Committee had ruled they would not hear any proposals which required an Additional Provision(AP) – basically the need to reconsult on significant changes which could then be petitioned against. There was a strong suggestion from HS2 Ltd. that a mined tunnel for Wendover would need an AP, but that seemed to be their response to most changes. The Society’s ask was for a proper review of the mined tunnel option. They were heard and their witnesses on tunnelling costs, noise and property blight all manage to convey both the tunnelling cost aspects and some of the impacts on Wendover. I thought they did a very good job.

The Parish Council presentation  with the help of legal representation focused on community concerns and impacts. Good presentations by Sheila Bulpett, Ron Peterson  and Andy Band allowed us to get our message across. Our session was split over lunch time and immediately after lunch David Lidington came and did a summary on the impacts and issues for Wendover and gave good support for the mined tunnel proposal. His contribution was very helpful.

We are now awaiting a response however it does raise the possibility, however  remotely, that a tunnel for Wendover is possible. I believe this is ultimately in the hands of the politicians. Lets hope they see sense.

In the meantime the project is pressing, spending money as they go. I believe their objective is to get Royal Assent for the Phase 1Hybrid Bill by Christmas. It appears to have momentum, at least with politicians even if not with members of the public. A recent survey by ITV of 2000 people showed

  • Less than 20% of people thought they would use it
  • 23% not aware that HS2 is being planned
  • 58% don't think it's a price worth paying
  • 77% of people would prefer that the money was spent in other areas, like the NHS
  • Nearly three-quarters of people thought HS2 would lead to price rises for train tickets

I believe Simon Jenkins called it a ‘zombie train’ and you can see why.

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