HS2 given green light despite 'extortionate cost' and damage to wildlife

HS2 has been given the green light by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in a speech in the House of Commons on Tuesday February 11.
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Boris Johnson, who has expressed scepticism about the High Speed Rail project, is said to have been keen to approve the project to 'repay' voters in the north who swept him and the Conservative party to a huge majority at the December election.

However, Sky News is reporting that Boris Johnson now faces a potential rebellion from up to 60 Conservative MPs who are against the scheme because of the cost and the destruction of beauty spots in the home counties, including Aylesbury Vale.

Sajid Javid, the chancellor, told BBC Breakfast on Tuesday: “It is right that whether it’s HS2 or any other major infrastructure project we always have to make sure that it’s costed properly, delivered within that costing envelope and everyone can see that with HS2 that hasn’t been the case.

The Bucks Herald says HS2 - Enough is Enough!The Bucks Herald says HS2 - Enough is Enough!
The Bucks Herald says HS2 - Enough is Enough!

"So if it goes ahead we have to be clear about how we can control those costs.”

Despite this, we have seen the cost of HS2 spiral from an initial estimate of £56bn to more than £106bn.

It now has a projected completion date of 2040, but as things stand it is already way behind schedule and massively over budget.

The project is set to decimate Aylesbury Vale, cutting a swathe through the surrounding countryside.

The Prime Minister has announced 'to soften the blow' that £5bn will be allocated to improve bus and cycle links across the UK, with simpler fares, thousands of new buses, improved routes and more frequent services.

This includes a commitment to introduce more than 4,000 zero-emissions buses which will upgrade '10% of the UK's buses'.

Speaking to the Bucks Herald today, our MP Rob Butler said:

"I am extremely disappointed and incredibly frustrated by this decision, as I know people will be throughout the Aylesbury constituency, in both town and villages. I believe there are better alternatives and very much regret that the government doesn’t agree.

"HS2 has been the number 1 issue raised with me by local people since the beginning of my election campaign. I share their concerns over both the eye-watering cost of the project and the damage that will be done to our local environment, especially ancient woodlands.

"Today's announcement will cause alarm for families and businesses who have already suffered at the hands of HS2 Ltd, especially the owners of small farms. Local residents have written to me, come to my surgery and approached me in the street to express their utter frustration at the way the company has treated them. I have been appalled by what I have heard.

"The company is damaging ordinary people's livelihoods, and worse, it is harming their health, through the stress and anxiety caused by its arrogant attitude. It has failed to pay people the money it owes for the property it has taken, it has ignored explicit legal instructions and time and again, it has simply not bothered to respond to legitimate questions.

"This must stop now.

"I have directly raised all the cases brought to me with the company and with ministers, who have promised to act on each and every one of them.

"I am pleased that the Government intends to introduce a much more robust way of holding HS2 Ltd to account, and I expect that to be both fair and fast.

"I have already spoken to the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps MP, and emphasised to him that it is vital that the Aylesbury area benefits fully from the additional investment in infrastructure, including buses, that has been announced today.

"As MP for Aylesbury, I will stand up for my constituents as they face the repercussions of the decision to proceed with HS2.

Speaking previously he had describe the project as 'out of control before the first piece of track had been laid.'

Other Bucks MPS are also furious with the decision.

Dame Cheryl Gillan MP for Amersham and Chesham said she regretted the governments decision

Dame Cheryl commented: “Today’s news is hugely frustrating. This gross expenditure of public money is set to cost in excess of £100 billion and won’t provide

the predicted benefits.

"HS2 is an ineffective means of enhancing connectivity and addressing capacity problems on our national network, particularly when investment is desperately needed elsewhere.”

She added: “HS2 has long been associated with a variety of problems, not least substantial environmental destruction in my own constituency.

"I am not convinced this project will deliver value for money for the taxpayer, and its construction will prove highly disruptive and by a construction industry who by its own admission lacks the capacity to deliver on alongside other infrastructure projects in the pipeline.”

HS2 is set to destroy swathes of the beautiful Buckinghamshire Countryside, and local campaigners from the Buckinghamshire Berkshire and Oxon wildlife trust said they were 'dismayed' by Boris Johnson's decision.

They described the project as 'disastrous', and said all of their efforts must now go towards mitigating the areas that will be most damaged by the train.

They have said they will now try and save as many species as possible in the affected areas.

Matthew Stanton, Head of Planning, Policy and Advocacy at Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) said: “Now that HS2 has been given the go ahead by the prime minister, it must incorporate a greener vision and deliver biodiversity net gain.

"At a time when 41% of wildlife species are in decline across the UK, we are asking Boris Johnson to stop and rethink.

“As currently planned, HS2 will be bad for wildlife, bad for the environment and destroy precious, irreplaceable habitats.

“Over the last few years BBOWT has met with politicians, HS2 representatives and their key contractors to set out the devastating effect on wildlife the project would have. However, works have continued with scant regard for the environment. In early December 2019, HS2 undertook clearance works at our Calvert Jubilee nature reserve in Buckinghamshire without advance warning.

“HS2 will destroy or significantly impact 108 irreplaceable ancient woodlands, which have been around since the 1600s, 33 Sites of Special Scientific Interest, 693 Local Wildlife Sites and 21 Local Nature Reserves, among other precious habitats.

“A flagship infrastructure project must demonstrate an exemplary regard for the environment. The Wildlife Trusts’ Greener Vision is not just to prevent further declines in species and habitats, but to restore our natural environment.

"Our vision is a 1km ribbon of wildlife-rich landscape either side of the line where recreated and naturally regenerated habitats would buffer, link and provide ‘stepping stones’ between wildlife sites. Funding for ongoing maintenance would be part of the HS2 legacy.”