hs2 route through Chliterns

A view from King's Ash: The tranquility and beauty of this area could be ruined by the Government's proposals for the HS2 route. Further updated 23 March 2010. See News item 'Concern over route for HS2' Image© Chiltern Green Party

Latst on HS2 from Nick Wilkins, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Chesham and amershamon HS2
The Chiltern Green Party will oppose any plans to wreck the Chiltern AONB.

However, it is important to note that four of the five parties standing in this constituency support HS2 in principle (including us).  Although all the candidates have vehemently expressed their opposition to the proposed route, my question is whether this will actually count for much?  I will not be happy until each of the parties settle on an alternative to which they are all agreed.  This is Labour's choice of route, so Anthony's local opposition, while laudable, may also be in vain.  Norman Baker for the Lib Dems has indicated that this might be the least bad damaging of the ones put forward.  He, sadly, may have a case for saying that, but that doesn't make the current route acceptable and I can understand the view that the second choice may be even worse!

Most worrying of all, however, was David Cameron outlining his vision on the Prime Ministerial debates for a high speed network with Heathrow as the hub.  At the moment, the proposal on the table for HS2 is for there simply to be an interchange between HS2 and Crossrail (feeding Heathrow) at Old Oak Common.  However, plans for a full spur to Heathrow are part of the options to be considered at a future date.  If the spur proposal (consistent with David Cameron's vision) stays on the table, I can't see how this line is not going to pass through the AONB.  Consequently, we feel we need to have a plan B in case we cannot stop these proposals going ahead - thus we are also exploring damage limitation options.

So I think we need to fight smart on this.  First, we need to lobby against the spur proposals, arguing that an interchange with Crossrail is sufficient.  That interchange also buys us the opportunity of opening up a corridor potentially for the Heathrow Express to go to Euston.  One would imagine that if the Heathrow Express can currently serve Paddington within 15 mins it would be able to serve Euston in 20.

Connecting to Euston in this way may allow the M1 route to Birmingham to become more of a horse with legs.  There are some quite detailed proposals from the "2M group" on this that are worthy of more detailed examination.   The obvious advantage of this route is that it exploits the break in the Chiltern AONB around Luton.  I have struggled to find any significant discussion in HS2 Ltd's literature to the pros and cons of the various routes they considered.  However,  I suspect that the M1 route was ruled out because they very much want to sell the idea of a high-speed spur to Heathrow.

Another quick win we should strive for is the reduction in speed.  I see no clear case for travelling at 250mph.  200mph (as HS1) would allow the railway to run much closer to existing transport corridors.  This will help us when proposing alternatives as it should enable them to be more acceptable.  And it will also serve us if we need to adopt plan B and damage limitation measures.

The Chiltern Green Party will always endeavour to support residents in campaigns with which it agrees in so far as it can.  We are also, however, an endangered species and those of us that are active are also quite time poor, most of us having heavy family and work commitments.  We rely on the food of voter support to keep the belief that our contribution is valued! 

It may be, though, that this issues is best approached in a non-party manner provided there is consensus.  I am sure that a number of individuals within Chiltern GP would support a unified campaign to protect the AONB.

Nick Wilkins
Green Party Candidate
Chesham & Amersham constituency