HS2 Update for February 2012

  |  Published: Feb 10th 2012

David Lidington MP's response to the delayed HS2 decision

As you are likely to be aware the Secretary of State for Transport has delayed her decision on if the Government will be proceeding with HS2 until January 2012. She announced this via a Written Ministerial Statement to the House of Commons on 6 December 2011. To view the statement please follow the link below.

http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-vote-office/14-Transport-DfTBusinessPlan.pdf

I am aware that several media outlets have commented that the reason for the delay is so an assessment can be made on the feasibility of further tunnelling in the Amersham area. The Secretary of State's statement makes no reference to this and subsequent enquiries have led me to understand that no decisions have been made about further tunneling and that a variety of options are being looked at. Therefore, until the announcement the issues raised in the recent articles are nothing more than pure media speculation.

However, I have written to the Secretary of State for Transport to ask for clarification and to again urge her to consider mitigation measures for Wendover, Stoke Mandeville, Aylesbury and Fairford Leys if the scheme goes ahead and a copy of this letter will be available on my website www.davidlidington.com shortly.

Regarding the case for tunneling of the route in the local area, as I indicated in my consultation response I continue to believe that should HS2 go ahead serious consideration needs to be given to further mitigation measures in the local area, including tunneling. I can assure you that I am making the case to the Government that if HS2 goes ahead it should impact the local area as little as possible as well as making every effort to persuade the relevant Ministers and officials that there are viable alternatives to HS2 that should be considered.

Yours sincerely,
David Lidington
Member of Parliament for Aylesbury

Letter from Steve Bowles, Chairman of Aylesbury Conservatives

I was disappointed with the recent statement by the government that HS2 is to go ahead. However the fight against this proposal will continue and now moves into the next phase. Along with the other members of Wendover HS2 I as one of your district councillors will continue to fight these proposals. I believe that the amendments announced which affect Wendover are due to the well reasoned and substantial representations to the public consultation made by various groups in Wendover as well as the campaigning from inside the government by MP David Lidington.

As Chairman of Aylesbury Conservatives I have and continue to work closely with other local chairman, David Lidington and key decision makers within government. I wrote to Justine Greening when she was appointed Transport Secretary pointing out the environmental impact and lack of any economic case for HS2. In her reply she states ' I look forward to engaging with you once I have announced my decision' therefore I will be contacting her directly to request a meeting to discuss why I believe the enormous cost of this project can not be justified and to also push for further mitigation should the proposal proceed.

We have shown that with campaigning both inside the Government with our MP David Lidington and from the local action groups like 'Wendover HS2' and 'The Wendover Society' we have been able to secure changes to the route for the village of Wendover, which would have been severely impacted by the initial plans. I am committed to fighting HS2 every step of the way and we will support our local councils to persuade the Government to think again.
Steve Bowles

Dear Secretary of State,

Thank you for your letter of 16th December in response to the issues raised in my earlier correspondence.

Whilst I was disappointed that you have decided to proceed with HS2, I was pleased that you announced further mitigation measures for Wendover and Aylesbury and I thank you for listening to the concerns raised by the local action groups, myself and our MP David Lidington. I understand from the recent open day held by HS2 engineers that there are no engineering measurers as to why further mitigation measures cannot be considered for Wendover and Aylesbury.

As a loyal party member I do find it hard to justify this project as I am yet to be convinced by the business case which assumes people do not work on trains, in the age of the Smartphone, laptops, Blackberries and iPads people do. It therefore seems to me that the entire business case is based on ignoring the fact that people work on trains and the time is not therefore wasted.

As you stated in your letter ' I look forward to engaging with you further once I have announced my decision' I would take this opportunity to request a meeting with you and David to discuss the possibility of further mitigation measures for Wendover and Aylesbury.

I hope you able to comply with this request and I look forward to your response

Yours sincerely

Cllr Steve Bowles
Chairman
Aylesbury Constituency Conservative Association

Government to press ahead

As you will know, the Government announced on 10 January that it intends to press ahead with its plan to build the High Speed 2 rail line, at a cost of more than £32 billion. The broad line of route between London and the West Midlands remains unchanged, but there have been amendments to individual sections of the route. One of these does bring some benefit to Wendover. Having examined the route again, the Government now intends to run more of the Wendover section in a tunnel.

The original plan was for trains to enter a very short tunnel below Ellesborough Road, to emerge onto the cricket ground and to continue towards Stoke Mandeville on a five metre high embankment. The plan also involved the permanent diversion of Ellesborough Road.

In the new plan, the tunnel will extend for more than ¾ mile. Trains will enter the tunnel just south of Bacombe Lane, and exit into fields at the Lionel Avenue end of Wendover. The line will then continue onwards towards Stoke Mandeville in a cutting instead of on an embankment, not emerging at ground level until the far side of Nash Lee Road. The lowering of the line means that it will now go under Nash Lee Road, instead of over. It is also proposed to reinstate Ellesborough Road when construction is completed. As well as being lowered, the line will also run 50 metres further west of Wendover.

These changes will provide welcome protection from train noise and visual impacts for the central residential part of Wendover. However, we are very concerned that the Government has not made any improvement to the route as it approaches Wendover from the south. The line would still cross the bypass and Chiltern Railway line on a 500 metre long viaduct. Indeed the viaduct is now slightly higher, in order to angle the line for descent into the tunnel. Where the line passes close to London Road, it remains on a high embankment, and it is still the plan to cross Wendover Dean on a viaduct. (HS2 Ltd say that they looked at a lowered option for Wendover Dean, which would enable the line to be on an embankment instead of a viaduct, but they have rejected it due to cost.)

The Government proposes to construct the Wendover tunnel as a cut-and-cover or
so-called 'green' tunnel. Instead of boring the tunnel from within, a large trench would be dug, a concrete box forming the tunnel infrastructure would be inserted, and the top earthed and grassed over. Unfortunately this means that some houses on Ellesborough Road will still need to be demolished, and that major excavation works would be needed in the fields adjoining Wendover. More disruption for Wendover.

The Wendover HS2 Action Group welcomes the decision to lengthen the Wendover tunnel. We remain highly concerned about the impact on Wendover and the surrounding area of the embankment and viaduct, the effects of construction, and the terrible environmental impact on the Chilterns countryside. We and other groups in the area will continue to fight the scheme and to argue that if the Government intends to force a route through the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it must be in a tunnel throughout. There is a long way to go and we are not giving up.

Consultation responses published

The Government has just published a summary of public responses to the consultation. Unsurprisingly these reveal that a large majority of respondents were opposed both to the scheme and the chosen route. Wendover was named more than any other location on the route in the consultation responses. We are grateful to all the residents of Wendover and the surrounding areas who sent in a formal response to the consultation setting out their objections. This strength of feeling no doubt helped persuade the Government that a longer tunnel through Wendover was essential. We urge residents to keep up the pressure by writing to our M.P. David Lidington and to the Transport Secretary, Justine Greening, with your concerns. We are also told that the Treasury remains extremely concerned about the financing of the project, so please address letters to George Osborne.

Public meeting on 25 February

There will be another public meeting about HS2 at the Wendover Memorial Hall on Saturday 25 February from 11 am-12.30 pm, to update residents and discuss the next steps in the campaign. Please come along if you can.

High Speed Rail will blast through wildlife sites in Buckinghamshire

Philippa Lyons, Chief Executive of the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust, responded to the Secretary of State's decision announced today (Tuesday 10 January) for the first phase of High Speed 2 to go ahead through Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.

"We are very disappointed with the decision to go ahead with this route for HS2, which was chosen without any proper scrutiny of the impacts on the wildlife that will be affected," she said.

"It is an utter disgrace that the Government is not facing up to its responsibilities to biodiversity and the natural environment, and continues to dismiss the environmental impacts of this route on vulnerable wildlife habitats. These include Ancient Woodlands and meadows, two of our nature reserves and several Local Wildlife Sites noted for their wildflowers, butterflies and birds."

More than 2,000 members of the Wildlife Trust responded to the Government's consultation last year. "They will be horrified that the Government appears to have ignored the passionate and informed comments they submitted," said Philippa Lyons.

"Extending a tunnel in the Chilterns may save one group of Ancient Woodlands, but does nothing to protect the Bernwood Forest area north of Aylesbury which will be directly impacted. This will affect the highly-protected Bechstein's bats that are known to use woods on both sides of the proposed route for their habitats."

The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust will continue to lobby MPs and the Department for Transport to raise the issues of wildlife habitats that will be significantly impacted by the route. The Environmental Impact Assessment process for the route will consider mitigation, and the Trust will work to ensure that wildlife impacts are properly recognised and the best possible mitigation is put in place.

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