HS2 has been slammed as a ‘vanity project’ by Aylesbury Vale District Council in a draft response to consultation on the controversial scheme.
A 10-page document, outlining the council’s case against the proposed high speed link between London and Birmingham is to be discussed at a meeting of the full council this Wednesday, July 13.
The response, which is due to be submitted by July 29, also questions the ‘validity and accuracy’ of much of the data used by HS2 Ltd and the Department of Transport, saying assumptions such as passenger demand forecasts could not be substantiated.
Other points raised include:
> Consultation questions are ‘biased’ and ‘attempt to lead the respondent to answer in a specific way;’
> Concerns about how the consultation has been carried out including the fact consultation on the overall principle was carried out before the full details of the complete route had been scoped;
> Alternative improvements listed in the report would achieve an increase in capacity for a smaller price tag; and
> With nearly half of the journeys on HS2 estimated to be made by the top 20 per cent of income earners, the benefits of the investment ‘are accrued by the highest earners at the expense of the general public purse.’
It adds the HS2 proposals were not tested against the best alternative scheme but instead were compared to a proposal which included ‘unnecessary and costly infrastructure leading to a wholly distorted picture of the benefits of HS2.’
The report goes on to say: “This is simply not acceptable and for the Government to be using such techniques to artificially inflate the benefits of what increasingly looks like a ‘vanity project’ is improper.”
The council also attacks the business case for HS2 and has listed a number of archaeological sites which would be affected including ridge and furrow and remains of a deserted medieval village in Twyford.
It sums up: “We do not believe the secretary of state can make a decision to proceed with this proposal with so many fundamental flaws and the fact that so many aspects of the process associated with the project have been inadequate and unfair.”
Jackie Phipps, AVDC councillor for Marsh Gibbon, which includes Twyford, said she was pleased with the council report but had hoped more would have been said about how HS2 would effect the Twyford area.
She said as well as impacting on the historic St Mary’s House, which would be only 80 metres away from the proposed railway line, it would have a negative effect on wildlife.
She added: “There are all these species along the route like Bechstein’s bats which are protected by EU habitat directives and Defra are saying we ought to make a big effort to protect these species, but another arm of the Government is trying to destroy a lot of them.”
She said many of the issues around HS2 had not been thought out as she had found when she attended a roadshow in Calvert Green and was told some issues, particularly surrounding the proposed maintenance depot at Calvert Green, had not yet been sorted.
Once the report has been discussed by the council, it will go before AVDC’s cabinet with the council chief executive to be delegated to finalise the council’s response.
AVDC is a founding member of 51M, a group of 14 local authorities affected by HS2, which is also to submit a response.