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Not a Done Deal – Theresa Villier’s speech at Lobby Day

The text of Theresa Villiers’s speech at Monday’s Lobby Day is available on the Department for Transport website.

Ms Villiers’s speech covered two main topics – the impact on communities afflicted by the proposed High Speed railway, and the timetable for consultation.  She stressed that HS2 was “not a done deal”.

The consultation – due to start early next year – will cover four main areas:

  • the principle of whether new high speed rail lines should be built;
  • the broad corridor for a new line;
  • the detailed route;
  • the approach to blight and how best to assist those whose properties are negatively affected by the proposals.

The consultation will last five months, and they expect thousands of responses.  When the government announces its preferred strategy – probably late in 2011- they will also announce the route.

In the question session afterwards, Ms Villiers said that the consultation would look at the detailed parameters of the line, such as the speed of the trains.

Three issues come out of Ms Villiers presentation, and the questions afterwards.

  1. If the West Coast Main Line (WCML) runs out of capacity 5-8 years before the high speed link is completed, then people will find solutions to the problems that result.  These solutions – whether they are changes in travel patterns, or adoption of different working patterns – will affect the demand for HS2.
  2. The government is proposing a scheme which will have a drastic negative effect on real individuals and communities, with no benefits at all for these people.  It is only right that the government should mitigate the broad losses which are already resulting from this scheme, and ways of doing this should be included as an integral part from the earliest stages of planning.
  3. It seems odd to consult about the overall principles of high speed rail and the broad corridor at the same time as the minutiae of one particular route.  If either the overall strategy is wrong, or the broad corridor is wrong, the money spent on the details will be wasted.  The government will be at risk of adopting a second-best or worse option, unless they are willing to spend further time and effort on looking at the right option.

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