As HS2 opponents once again prepare to man stalls at party conferences, the man leading the fight believes they are in a stronger position than 12 months ago and about to see a wave of new supporters.
Martin Tett, the chairman of the 51m group of 18 councils which oppose the scheme, says campaigners have lots of ammunition for this year’s conferences after a series of critical Parliamentary reports into HS2 – and it being given an amber/red warning status by the Cabinet’s Major Projects Authority.
Mr Tett, who is also leader of Bucks County Council, has been in contact with groups further up the line and expects to see a surge in opposition once the West Midlands to Leeds and Manchester sections (the Y-route) are announced.
He said: “I think we have really won the argument. The government is pretty isolated with its position on HS2, which it was not 12 months ago.
“I think we have come a long way. We have a new transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, and I have written to him to ask for an urgent meeting,”
“He has said he was going to publish the Y-route later this year and that is going to open up a whole new debate about the business case and potentially bring a whole new group of opponents.
“We have already established contact with all the local authorities along the route, as we are pretty sure we know where the route will run.
“Most of the authorities we are speaking to are not convinced it is a good scheme and value for money.
“The hope is that when the route is announced they will join 51m.”
Mr Tett, who is also involved in bringing a legal challenge against the decision to approve HS2, will be taking part in a debate on the subject at next month’s Tory party conference.
He will be promoting the 51m group’s alternative, which he claims will deliver the same level of capacity at a 10th of the cost of HS2 by upgrading existing roads and rail lines.
He believes the plan could start to gather momentum at this year’s conferences because of the weak economy, which he says officials had ‘anticipated would be rebounding by now’.
He said: “Our alternative will bring real jobs and prosperity now, not 2026 like HS2.”