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Cheryl Gillan MP: High Speed 2 – In the Warpath!

2 min read

Chesham & Amersham MP and former Cabinet Minister Cheryl Gillan writes ahead of her final HS2 debate before dissolution. She describes the project as "highly destructive, extortionately expensive" and says it "fails to fulfil a vision of a better connected transport strategy".

All of my colleagues whose constituencies are directly affected by HS2 are condemned by some people as NIMBYs: we are the unlucky constituencies in the part of the infrastructure project that will supposedly transform our Northern cities forever. I am not a politician who stands in the way of progress or technological advancement, but this project continues to devastate and fails to deliver on the exaggerated claims often made for it.

In Westminster Hall this week, for the last time before the General Election I will, after six years, summarise the position and ask for some rethinking of this project - always presuming it progresses.

Currently, the proposed line for HS2 will not yield the benefits it pledges. The business case remains weak, connectivity inadequate (particularly connections to Heathrow and the failure to produce effective plans for Euston) and the costs to the taxpayer are gargantuan. The sacrifice for residents and of the natural environment along its route is also monumental and irreversible.

To regenerate the economies of our Northern cities, the links between those cities should be prioritised. Plans for an integrated transport system with strong connections across the country, including to our airports and HS1 should be reappraised and the upgrading of our existing rail networks maximised to use existing transport corridors more effectively. Even after 5 years of planning, HS2 does not yet really deliver.

It remains paramount that those affected receive the fullest and most generous compensation, and that our environment is protected to the highest degree, particularly a nationally designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that is still only partially protected. But this project needs “re-engineering” after publishing – the up-to-date pricing, to replace the current 2011 figures; the business case, last revised in 2013; and the publication of the Major Projects Authority reports, detailing the risks of HS2. It beggars belief that £50 billion plus of taxpayers’ money is being spent on a project with this key information withheld even from the MPs deciding on its progress.

I will continue to do everything I can to improve the status of this project. If we are to have a railway that it is highly destructive, extortionately expensive, and fails to fulfil a vision of a better connected transport strategy, then, at the very minimum, I want to protect our local communities and the swathes of irreplaceable countryside who are unjustly in its warpath.

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