Lidington: Vale visit made big impression on HS2 committee

David Lidington, pictured left, at the select committee's visit to Coombe Hill
David Lidington, pictured left, at the select committee's visit to Coombe Hill

Last Thursday, the cross-party Select Committee considering the High Speed Rail Bill spent a day touring Wendover, Stoke Mandeville and Aylesbury.

This was an important opportunity, as the Committee has power to require HS2 to modify its route, put in better environmental mitigation and press for more generous compensation for people affected by the project.

The Committee consists of MPs with no personal or constituency interest in HS2.

They all abstained on the Bill to ensure that they approached their task with open minds.

I’d worked with the Committee clerk, local councils and campaign groups to put together an itinerary to give Committee members the chance to see as many as possible of the locations affected by HS2.

During an eight hour tour, we included 25 stops: not only the obvious places like the Misbourne Valley, Wendover Parish Church and Stoke Mandeville village - but also London Road, Nash Lee Lane, Hawkslade, the Willows and Fairford Leys that have been less in the public spotlight.

Between stops, I was also able to talk to the Committee about general problems like the impact of HS2 construction on already crowded roads.

I thought that local campaigners organised themselves brilliantly.

The number of people who turned out demonstrated the depth of feeling locally against HS2 but the Committee were welcomed in a courteous and friendly manner.

The presentations were short and effective.

Tapes along Nash Lee Lane and Oxford Road showed clearly where the railway would cut across and a helium balloon was used to show the height of the line near London Road as it approached Wendover.

Understandably, Committee members were not going to prejudge the evidence they will hear on petitions, but I know that this visit made a big impression on them.

The fight goes on.