AN alternative HS2 route passing through or close to Bicester has been branded “bizarre and highly unlikely” by campaigners.
Criticism followed shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle’s announcement of the alternative HS2 route on Monday.
The proposal, announced at a meeting of the Airport Operators Association, is for a direct rail link to Heathrow with the line following parts of the M40, before rejoining the currently-proposed route somewhere in Warwickshire.
Stop HS2 campaign spokesman Joe Rukin said: “For this proposal to come from Labour at this time is quite bizarre and it is highly unlikely that anything will come of it.
“The results of the public consultation are due in the next month or two, and Labour are now suggesting starting the whole idea from scratch.
“The strangest thing is of course that the route currently on the table is what they decided was their preferred route when in Government, while what they are proposing now is similar to what the Conservatives proposed when in opposition.”
He said moving the route would not change the fact the plan had no environmental or business case, and was unaffordable.
Backers of the high-speed rail plans estimate the first phase will cost £20bn, while opponents say it could cost up to £45bn.
Mr Rukin added: “Wherever it goes, high speed rail is still a project which will only benefit the richest in society.
“We cannot understand this obsession with using high-speed rail to connect airports.”
In her speech, Ms Eagle told airport operators: “Taking the line via our major hub airport would remove the need to build an expensive spur later while opening up the prospect of private sector funding, potentially saving the taxpayer billions.
“It would lead to a new route that makes better use of existing transport corridors and avoids an area of outstanding natural beauty where residents were wrongly insulted as NIMBYs by Tory ministers.”
Bernie Douglas, chairman of Villages of Oxfordshire Opposing HS2 (VoxOpp) said: “We don’t know too much about the proposals so we don’t know how much it impacts the business case.
“I don’t believe what is being expounded stacks up. But at least it offers more integration with the existing transports infrastructure at Heathrow.
“The second positive thing about it is there seems to indicate a willingness to listen to people rather than the previous secretary of state, who seemed to be saying, ‘This is the way it is’.
“I don’t think HS2 is a goer, and I think it’s a bit of a white elephant. But we’re keen to listen to everyone, and I do try to be realistic about things.”