Bucks MP confronts HS2 Minister over 'countless issues' with rail project

Another MP has made the minister aware of local concerns surrounding the major rail project.

By James Lowson
Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 11:55 am
Updated Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 11:56 am

Buckingham MP Greg Smith confronted HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson over his concerns with the rail project yesterday (August 17).

Mr Smith was speaking with the HS2 minister within his constituency, raising problems people in Buckingham have with the project.

Mr Smith said: “Every single day I and my team raise issues relating to the construction of HS2 with the Department for Transport, HS2 Ltd and their contractors.

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Buckingham MP Greg Smith with Calvert Box representatives

“The sheer level of failures reported to me on a daily basis by constituents and witnessed with my own eyes - from unacceptable handling of land acquisition, commercial compensation (eg for crop loss), road diversions, road surface failures, environmental damage (eg hedgerow removal in nesting season), HGV movements off agreed routes - is seemingly endless."

Mr Smith raised his concerns just weeks after Mr Stephenson dealt with similar complaints on a visit to Wendover.

Local officials including, Aylesbury MP Rob Butler, told the minister that the planned construction, would have no benefits and cause major disruption to people's lives.

Mr Smith added: “Having raised countless issues with the HS2 Minister, Andrew Stephenson MP, I have been asking him to come to the constituency for some time. Sometimes, no matter how many times Ministers are told of problems, it is so much more powerful for them to see the issues themselves and talk to local people who are affected. Whilst the Covid restrictions got in the way of that visit for many months, I was pleased the HS2 Minister was able to spend a couple of hours in the constituency earlier.

Greg Smith and HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson at Fleet Marston

“Firstly, alongside Councillor Paul Irwin, I took him to meet the Hunters, who are farmers in Fleet Marston, where he heard first hand about the challenges they have faced around land being taken from them, as well as road safety on the A41 and HGV movements. In a manner that literally could not be scripted, and perfectly highlighting one of the problems, whilst we were there an HS2 HGV drove onto his land (straight past a no HS2 traffic sign').

“Secondly, alongside Cllr Iain Macpherson, we went to Quainton, meeting the Parish Council chairman John Knox, local farmers the Goss family and landowner Christopher Prideaux. A detailed discussion focused on issues such as bad planning and communications from HS2, the excessive level of de-vegetation and land take and much more.

“Finally, in Steeple Claydon we met representatives from parishes and businesses around the 'Calvert Box' area - Phil Gaskin from Calvert Green, Roger Behagg from Edgcott, Roger Landells from Twyford, Dan Price from Langston & Tasker bus company and Buckinghamshire Councillors Frank Mahon and Angela Macpherson. Further to issues raised in the previous two discussions, other areas such as access to the environmental mitigation funding were raised."

A petition to stop the HS2 rail project in the Chilterns will be debated in parliament after easily surpassing the 100,000 vote threshold. That campaign has received significant support from famous naturalist Chris Packham.

The petition raises similar issues to the ones brought up by the local politicians, by questioning both the environmental and economic benefits of HS2.

The debate is scheduled for September 13.

Mr Smith announced that he would be meeting with the HS2 minister again next month, commenting: “The Minister was left in no doubt about the strength of feeling locally and has vowed to come back to me over the next month with real practical steps to improve the way HS2 Ltd treat Buckinghamshire communities.

"I will continue to pressure him to get us the improvements we need and deserve in North Buckinghamshire from this monster project (whilst at the same time never giving up on making the case to scrap HS2 altogether). I will report back on the Minister's response when I have it - and am also pleased he committed to returning to the constituency to see progress on whether things are indeed improving once his actions are in place.

“In the meantime, please do continue to report to me all unacceptable behaviour by HS2 Ltd and their contractors, I will continue to follow each and every one up with the Government and the company.”