HS2 - We are not giving up!

Phil Wallis  |  Published: Mar 18th 2016
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HS2 – We are not giving up yet!

The HS2 Select Committee reported back to Parliament on the 22nd February.  They have ignored our request for a fully bored tunnel to protect Wendover and the surrounding AONB., despite the number of petitions and strength of our request.

This is disappointing to say the very least.  Effectively they have refused to accept that the massive benefits of reducing the blight on our properties, the scar on the Chilterns AONB, the noise impact and the potential risks to the hydrogeology of the area that could be achieved simply by the construction of a fully bored tunnel.  This at minimal additional cost, when compared with predicted overall cost of HS2.

The Committee's derisory recomendations are (i) for a 100 metre extension of the so-called “green tunnel” to the South of Wendover.  (ii)  The erection of 6 metre noise barriers (yes 6 metres high!) from the exit of the tunnel up to the proposed viaduct at Small Dene.  (iii)  Further noise barriers to be erected beyond the northern portal.  These noise barriers will further irrevocably degrade the landscape and the environment around Wendover.  They will become a target for graffiti.  It is far from clear that these barriers (unproven as they are) will have the desired effect.  They are also situated at the base of a valley and so the sound contours will spread out further from the source.

It is also worth remembering exactly what a “green tunnel” comprises and how it will be constructed.  In fact it is not really a tunnel at all, and involves digging out a massive cutting, transporting and storing the spoil, laying the tracks, building the electric gantries, putting a concrete lid on it and then covering the lid with the earth and rocks previously removed.  Once completed it will only protect the centre of Wendover from the noise generated by a train passing at some 225 mph but no-one can reliably predict the effect of a train at this speed entering and leaving the tunnel.  Also, as part of the construction, two new 60 metre high pylons will have to be built (currently the existing ones are about 45 metres high), and other pylons realigned.

During the 7 year construction phase Wendover could be subjected to up to 300 HGVs a day (at peak) along our approach roads (many of which are already at saturation point at peak times).  The dust and filth that will drift over the town will make our gardens virtually uninhabitable during the summers. There will be construction camps to the North and the South of Wendover with an influx of workers which will mean our already stretched local services (doctors, dentists, schools etc) will become overloaded.

All this disturbance and aggravation would be alleviated by a tunnel bored one way (i.e. from the South) which HS2 and the Select Committee have refused to consider.

Having got this far we feel that we cannot just meekly accept this dismal outcome without a final appeal to the House of Lords whose Select Committee has yet to be appointed.  What this will mean is submitting petitions again, employing some subject-experts and possibly a QC to present the Wendover case.  Whilst the Lords cannot force a change in a Parliamentary Bill, they can make strong representation (as they did with the recent Finance Bill) with so-called Transport Work Orders. 

For the Wendover Community to have an effective attempt at influencing their Lordships, the following is required.

1. Support for our fundraising campaign.

2. We would ask everyone to consider a petition to the House of Lords.  There is with no need to appear in person as Role B agents can represent you.  We will be advising on this later.  The window for petitioning could start as soon as April 11 and only last for 2-3 weeks.

3. Support and help to prepare the village and surroundings when the House of Lords Select Committee visits Wendover.

Finally, we would like to thank all of you for your continued support throughout this lengthy process.  To get so many petitions from Wendover was a magnificent effort.  So far HS2 Ltd has spent around £225m of tax-payers (i.e. your) money on this fool-hardy, ill-conceived project just buying up houses.  They have spent a fortune with consultants and lawyers.  For what?  Saving a few minutes on a journey between Euston and Birmingham?  Providing additional rail capacity where none is needed on Intercity trains?  Experience in France and Spain with High Speed Trains shows that far from “unlocking the Northern Powerhouse” it will have the opposite effect and simply expand London as a business centre.  Even the Treasury Select Committee said there were serious shortcomings with the Business Case and the National Audit Office is reviewing the value and risk.

It is now 6 years since WendoverHS2 was formed.  Many of you will already be aware that Antony Chapman has recently retired as our Treasurer.  We are so appreciative of all his work and commitment and would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank him.  He acted as treasurer and committee member but also gave invaluable help and encouragement to local petitioners.  Nearly 10% of all petitions submitted to the HS2 Select Committee were from the Wendover area i.e. approximately 190.

We have one last chance to save Wendover and the surrounding area including the Chilterns AONB.  Let’s go for it!

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