Proposals for an extended HS2 tunnel which would better protect Wendover could heap more misery on people in Stoke Mandeville and Aylesbury.
A new study commissioned by Chiltern District Council and supported by Aylesbury Vale District Council, Buckinghamshire County Council and the Chilterns Conservation Board calls for a 24.2km tunnel throughout the whole of the Chilterns, emerging at Stoke Mandeville.
They claim the £1.85bn tunnel reduces ‘so far as is possible the impact on Wendover’ – but critics argue that it would lead to traffic chaos and devastate Aylesbury’s economy due to the massive increase in construction vehicles required to build it.
Marcus Rogers, who advises Aylesbury Town and Coldharbour and Stone Parish councils, said: “Big building sites on the edge of town are bad enough, but suggesting another on top of a medieval village that creates gridlock across the area is a step too far.”
He said extending a bored tunnel to the edge of Aylesbury could add at least 5,000 traffic movements per day to the roads across the town leading to major gridlock.
He said the councils’ report gives little assurance that these impacts can be managed, despite local petitions for materials to be imported or exported by rail.
“Its construction may be classed as temporary but HS2 building work will last seven years. It will have a huge impact on the economy here in Aylesbury.
“When you look at HS2’s impact on places such as Stoke Mandeville or Hawkslade and see the very limited mitigation one does question whether [building the tunnel] would give the right balance.
“It could be seen as shifting the problem further along the line.”
Keith Gray, clerk for Aylesbury Town and Coldharbour Parish Councils, added: “Whilst the AONB is clearly important, I’m sure those affected by HS2 would rather see money spent on local mitigation than on a tunnel.”
The case for the Chilterns long tunnel will be seen by parliament’s HS2 select committee. HS2 Ltd has always been against the tunnel, but the select committee can ask them to investigate it further. If this is the case, the councils Mr Rogers represents will then have the chance to give their feedback.
Under the current government plans, a deep bored tunnel will run only under south Bucks, with the line emerging overground near Great Missenden and a cut and cover structure (a ‘green tunnel’ in HS2 Ltd vocabulary) running past Wendover.