Case for £1.85bn HS2 Chilterns tunnel launched

Map showing proposed HS2 route through Bucks and the alternative long tunnel
Map showing proposed HS2 route through Bucks and the alternative long tunnel

Campaigners have launched a detailed report arguing the case for a tunnel which would better protect Wendover from the HS2 rail line.

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.

However, 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.

The report, produced by Peter Brett Associates, mitigates ‘so far as is possible the impact on Wendover’ and actually makes gives HS2 a ‘more economic route to operate’.

The cost of this alternative route, dubbed the Chilterns Long Route, is estimated at £1.85bn, making it £400m more expensive than the current section.

It is also claimed that the tunnel meets new EU safety standards, with an underground firefighting station taking the place of the previously required mandatory open air gap on tunnels over 20km.

Councillor Neil Blake, leader of AVDC, said: “While we accept that investment in our rail infrastructure is required, I don’t feel that the proposed HS2 project is the best use of public money, nor is the cost of damaging irreplaceable natural heritage acceptable.

“However, if the project is to go forward, I urge the government to consider our alternative tunnel options that help to avoid permanent environmental damage.”

Kath Daly, acting chief officer at the Chilterns Conservation Board added: “The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is one of England’s finest landscapes, subject to the highest levels of protection.

“We expect those responsible for designing the HS2 railway to take seriously their duty to conserve this special place. A long bored tunnel is the only acceptable mitigation.”