Aylesbury and Buckingham MPs slam HS2 rail project during Parliament debate

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A debate calling for the rail project to be scrapped was discussed in Parliament yesterday evening.

Two Bucks MPs called for HS2 to be scrapped during yesterday's (13 September) Parliamentary debate hosted at the House of Commons.

A petition led by naturalist and television presenter Chris Packham was signed by more than 155,000 people triggering yesterday evening's government debate.

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Of the thousands who signed, the second highest number came from Aylesbury, with 2,999 supporting the motion.

Aylesbury MP Rob Butler speaking in Westminster HallAylesbury MP Rob Butler speaking in Westminster Hall
Aylesbury MP Rob Butler speaking in Westminster Hall

MP for Aylesbury Rob Butler and MP for Buckingham Greg Smith both launched scathing criticisms of the rail link.

Mr Butler called the project a 'white elephant', while Mr Smith said he feared people had lost their lives due to the anxiety caused by HS2.

During the Westminster Hall debate, Mr Butler said: “I completely share the views of the vast majority of residents across the Aylesbury constituency that HS2 should be scrapped; as I stated from the very beginning of my election campaign, I do not believe we need this railway.

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"It makes no sense economically, with a weak business case and spiralling construction costs. It makes no sense environmentally, with more than a hundred ancient woodlands being destroyed for a line that will never be carbon neutral over the course of its 120-year lifespan.

"I remain absolutely convinced that the scheme will do enormous damage to our area with zero benefit to the people of Aylesbury and the nearby villages.”

Mr Smith was equally damning of the HS2 rail plans in Bucks, during the Parliament debate he said: "I'm devastated to tell this house that among the hundreds of people in that state of stress and anxiety there have now been cases of people suffering heart attacks and losing their lives which I fear is not a coincidence.

Mr Smith added that evidence had been uncovered of "limestone being applied to land taken which renders it useless for future agriculture use." He said people could guess what the "endgame" was.

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He added: "I stand with the protestors calling for HS2 to be scrapped. At a time when the state is reaching deeper into peoples' pockets I put it to this house that it's obscene to throw money into this unwanted project. The latest estimate was £146 billion, that is ten times more than the original estimate."

He said that, "the case for HS2 was ropey to start off with." Saying that, "if rumours of the Eastern leg being scrapped are true that must surely make the business case utterly untenable."

Mr Butler went on to highlight to his fellow ministers the consequences for local villages and Aylesbury itself relating to the construction of the railway. He drew particular attention to the impact on Stoke Mandeville, Fairford Leys and Wendover.

He added: “There are so many things the HS2 budget could be better spent on.

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“I have three suggestions: local train lines, both across the north of England and indeed in my own constituency – notably the Aylesbury link of East-West Rail, which has a better business case than HS2, would dramatically cut traffic congestion and reduce environmental harm, but is still waiting for funding approval.

Or we could use the money for high-speed broadband, which would enable the new ways of working that are now becoming embedded following the pandemic: parts of my constituency still struggle to get Wi-Fi despite being less than 50 miles from central London. Or indeed we could just save some of the huge bill, given the hundreds of billions of pounds we have had to borrow in the past 18 months.

“Any of those options would be much better for my constituency and for the country than this painful, lumbering white elephant project.”

During the debate HS2 minister Andrew Stephenson defended the project saying: "I know that HS2 is a project that inspires strong feelings on all sides, as all major infrastructure projects do.

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"Members present know that the Government carefully considered the merits of proceeding with HS2, which has almost certainly been subject to more parliamentary scrutiny than any other infrastructure project.

"Our firm conclusion was that HS2 should go ahead, and it is now progressing, as I have outlined. In setting out the decision to proceed, we made a clear commitment to draw a line under past problems. This is a once-in-a-generation major infrastructure project that will shape this country for well over 100 years."

Mr Smith, like the Aylesbury MP, was equally keen to highlight the impact of the rail link specific to his constituency, including Calvert Jubilee, but also said the impact would be detrimental up and down the country.

Mr Smith said: "Sadly Westminster Hall debates do not change government policy, but this was a vital opportunity to restate the case as to why the government should scrap HS2."My speech focused on four specific areas.

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"Firstly that HS2 is unaffordable and costs are still going up. Secondly that the Covid pandemic has fundamentally changed travel and working patterns. Thirdly the environmental destruction it brings. And finally the human misery construction of this monster brings. There is more to this gravy train than just the train. HS2 should be scrapped."

Mr Butler was slightly more optimistic speaking after the debate, he said: “Parliament needed to be reminded of the absolute opposition of Aylesbury constituents to this ridiculous railway, and I am glad I had the opportunity to hammer home the message of the harm it is causing.

"The sheer number of people signing the petition demonstrates that HS2 is unwanted and unnecessary. I hope the government has heard the powerful arguments made in this debate and will put HS2 out of its misery.”