'HS2 impact will be devastating'
MP David Lidington and county council leader Martin Tett have expressed their dismay for residents at the HS2 bill being given the Queen's seal of approval this week.
The parliamentary bill to build the line from London to Birmingham received royal assent on Thursday morning, opening the way for construction work to begin.
It has had more than three years of scrutiny including a failed eleventh-hour bid to defeat it in the House of Lords last month.
The Department for Transport said HS2 will create around 25,000 jobs during construction as well as 2,000 apprenticeships.
“It will also support growth in the wider economy, worth an additional 100,000 jobs.
Mr Tett, who is also chair of the 51m group of councils which oppose HS2, said: “I continue to believe that HS2 is the wrong solution with a poor business case and a devastating impact upon the Bucks environment.
“Regretfully this has now received Royal Assent and in the best interests of our residents we must now work to ensure that HS2 Ltd is held to account for the mitigation assurances it has given.
“ We must also ensure that communications between this project and Bucks residents and businesses is radically improved.”
Mr Lidington, who as Leader of the House of Commons must vote with the government on matters like HS2, said: “This result is clearly disappointing but not altogether unsurprising.
“The scale of the majority in the Lords was bigger than in the House of Commons. It’s not a day most people locally will want to cheer and look back on fondly but we can’t say it was unexpected.
“In terms of where we go now, there are two key elements. The first is that we need to continue to push for environmental mitigation. I will be taking a small Wendover delegation to see the minister responsible for HS2 and to have another push for the mined tunnel to reduce the environmental and noise impacts.
“Secondly, it’s important to ensure that as the works start to prepare for the construction, we get a much better quality of public engagement from HS2 limited than they have previously shown.
“A code of conduct for construction companies and workers needs to be established, with clear rules and limits on noise, dust and disturbance. Residents also need a complaints mechanism so they have a means of quick redress.
“There is a lot of detail that needs to be ironed out but I think the prime responsibility must lie with the senior managers at HS2 limited. They have to raise their game.”
HS2 will start at London Euston, and trains will call at a new interchange at Old Oak Common before heading north through and often under the Chilterns, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire. The next stop will be at Birmingham Interchange, providing connections with the West Coast Main Line and Birmingham International Airport. East of central Birmingham a triangular junction will be built, allowing trains to turn right and head for a terminus at Birmingham Curzon Street, while other trains will be able to continue north as far as Lichfield, where a connection will be made with the existing West Coast Main Line.
Phase 1 is expected to open in 2026, while a further section known as Phase 2a is set to follow a year later which will extend high speed running to Crewe.
The rest of Phase 2 should open in 2033 and consist of two spurs. One will be between Crewe, Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly, while the other will link the West Midlands with the East Midlands and Yorkshire, with connections in South Yorkshire and a terminus at Leeds.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling described the process of getting the legislation through Parliament as “long and arduous”, and said getting the go-ahead to start construction is a “massive boost” to the UK’s future economic prosperity.
He went on: “HS2 will be the world’s most advanced passenger railway and the backbone of our rail network.
“Royal assent is a major step towards significantly increasing capacity on our congested railways for both passengers and freight; improving connections between the biggest cities and regions; generating jobs, skills and economic growth and helping build an economy that works for all.”
Joe Rukin, campaign manager at Stop HS2, claimed the parliamentary Bill receiving royal assent was “a triumph of spin over evidence-based policy”.
He said: “This is a terrible project which will not deliver on its promises, come in years late, miles over budget, create havoc during construction and have disastrous environmental consequences. The fight against phase two of HS2 will continue.”