Let’s cancel HS2 high-speed drain
Dear Sir, — The arguments to complete the HS2 project continue, even though the majority want rail modernisation in other areas of the North to be completed.
In Sunday’s papers, it was reported that bosses warned the PM that calamitous job losses would be the consequence of axing the controversial HS2 rail project, not to mention addressing the London–North divide. There would initially be 10,000 to 15,000 jobs lost by the end of this year and eventually 30,000 if the “advanced” project was axed, thus job opportunities to train and upskill the next generation of young people would be lost.
As I have said in several letters over the last five years, our money would be best spent on the Pennine link from Manchester to Leeds (and Liverpool).
Electrification and track improvements would improve the North–South divide.
Lancashire MP Jake Berry said that the East–West divide was more of a priority, as he could get a train from Stockport to London, arriving in London one hour and 53 minutes later, but if he was to travel to Leeds, he would choose his car.
The East–West project would provide jobs to train and up-skill the next generation and be less costly and, as HS2 rolling stock can use the existing track, we should concentrate on improving and maintaining the existing network.
I have a nagging thought, though, as the various Governments over the years did not appear to want to protect British jobs and British industry, including British Steel, ICI, ICL, British Leyland and many more, which cost hundreds of thousands of jobs.
In addition, top adviser Andrew Gilligan told Boris Johnson to axe HS2 in the South and use the cash in the North, and that the £108bn budget could be diverted to rail services in the new Tory “heartlands”.
Then there was the leaked HS2 review document, which was disowned by the co-author Lord Berkeley, who said that the cost had spiralled to £103bn, passengers would be hit with inflated fares, there would be a reduced number of services and much more. Apparently, he requested that his name was removed from the report as it was a whitewash.
Surely the money could be better spent on our existing systems? We have had, over the past months, newspaper headings such as “17,000 rail users claim for hold-ups every day”, “Brace yourself for weeks of misery on railways as operator axes almost half of its trains” and “End of the line for failing rail firm, ministers drawing up plans to replace Northern Rail”.
We have to take notice of residents who will be directly affected, or are fighting for our heritage. Campaigners fear that HS2 will wreck the countryside and Dame Cheryl Gillan has been quoted as saying, “put the brakes on HS2 now”.
Other articles have said the HS2 tunnel is a risk to rare chalk streams that provide rare, valuable and irreplaceable habitats for wildlife by damaging the aquifer in the Chilterns.
Obviously the population in the South and the South-East are not in favour of HS2. HS2 is a “threat to 1,000 woods and HS2 and road schemes put our ancient and irreplaceable sites in danger” — even Robin Hood’s grave is in danger.
Of the 1,064 ancient woodlands at risk, at least 108 areas of the Home Counties to the North-West are threatened by HS2.
HS2 has said it will replace any destroyed woodland with saplings. With all due respect, this is nonsense as once these woods are gone, they have gone for ever — not to mention more than 250 species of wildlife. Given the Government’s wishes to be associated with climate change and ecology, this will represent a retrograde step.
In addition, HS2 faces a legal battle over tunnel disaster warnings. Tunnels being built under central London could collapse. Colin Elliff, construction engineer, warns rail bosses that they are risking disaster, especially with regards to three tunnels approaching Euston Station.
It is, in my opinion, of interest that HS2 makes a fortune renting houses bought on the cheap.
It has made nearly £30m this way in the last five years, aided by compulsory purchase orders.
Scrap HS2, spend money on East–West electrification to realistically support the Northern Powerhouse, and spend some of the money saved on such things as the resolution of dementia. — Yours faithfully,