Today, as the New Economic Foundation publish a report calling for HS2 to be scrapped, business owners from Birmingham who are still waiting for payment from HS2 Ltd will join a delegation of residents from Buckinghamshire outside the HS2 Ltd headquarters in Birmingham. The residents will be delivering a petition, asking HS2 Ltd CEO Mark Thurston to explain why he intends to start work and destroy 200 acres near the village of Steeple Claydon, before the HS2 project has been given notice to proceed by Government. They will be joined in solidarity by businesses owners from Birmingham who have had their businesses seized by HS2 Ltd, without being paid.
The study from the New Economics Foundation was commissioned by Friends of the Earth. The study has found that if HS2, phase one of which has yet to receive ‘Notice to Proceed’ from Government, would widen the North-South divide and that the prime beneficiaries would be the richest in society. The report concluded that the £56bn budget would be better spent on upgrading the rest of the rail network and small-scale local projects as part of a comprehensive rail strategy.
Penny Gaines, Chair of Stop HS2, responded:
“The shocking truth is that is that even if you only look at what HS2 Ltd themselves say, HS2 won’t meet the grandiose promises of politicians. The NEF researchers have carefully looked at the evidence and the HS2 Ltd documents, and found exactly the same things as Stop HS2 has since day one. Politicians talk about rebalancing the economy, but the unadulterated data shows HS2 will only exacerbate regional imbalances.”
“HS2 will not help ordinary working people in their everyday commutes. Like the NEF have found, it’s a fast train for fat cats, and won’t help the crush hour conditions faced by many people across the country. We call on politicians of all colours to look at the evidence and scrap HS2, so that the enormous budget can be used on the services used by ordinary people all across the country.”
Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin added:
“Since day one, we have always said HS2 is nothing more than a fast train for fat cats, and that in line with every single piece of international evidence, far from being a magic wand to cure the North-South divide it would make it worse and reinforce the economic dominance of London.”
“Whilst some proponents pretend that construction has already started on HS2, it has still not received notice to proceed from Government. So whilst this white elephant can still be but out of its misery, HS2 Ltd themselves seem determined to cause as much damage and – besides paying people for their land and businesses -spend as much money as possible to try and convince politicians it is too late to realise the error of their ways.”
On Wednesday, a delegation from Buckinghamshire will be met by members of the Stop HS2 campaign, along with business owners, some of whom have reported HS2 Ltd to the police for fraud as whilst HS2 Ltd have seized their properties, they have still not paid for them months later. Amongst them will be Darren Bartlett who has been recently given 14 days to pay business rates of £2402.63 by Birmingham City Council, despite the fact HS2 Ltd took possession of his property eight months ago. He said:
“It’s been eight months and I’m still waiting for full settlement from HS2 Ltd, the city council are threatening to take me to court for non-payment of council tax, and I’m very much one of the lucky ones.”
Representing residents from Steeple Claydon, Charlie Clare said:
“HS2 Ltd are massively behind schedule and there are no designs, no contractors and no costings for the proposed work at Steeple Claydon. Indeed, none of the proposed line has got a final design or cost as of yet and the whole project is already over budget and well behind schedule. The whole thing is in complete chaos, and no more work should start until the Government give HS2 Ltd notice to proceed.”
More on both these events later.