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Press Release: ‘DESPERATE’ HAMMOND CALLS ON TRAIN DRIVERS TO SUPPORT HS2 IN PUBLIC CONSULTATION

‘DESPERATE’ HAMMOND CALLS ON TRAIN DRIVERS TO SUPPORT HS2 IN PUBLIC CONSULTATION

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has taken the unprecedented step of contacting train drivers to bolster numbers supporting HS2 before the public consultation closes on 29th July.

A statement, titled “A message from Secretary of State for Transport, Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP about the HS2 consultation”, published on the employee-only East Midlands Trains intranet reads;

“Developing and delivering a new national high speed rail network is an urgent priority for ensuring the long-term sustainability of our railways, as well as for spreading economic growth and tackling the persistent north-south divide.”

“That is why I am urging all East Midlands Trains employees who have a very significant stake in seeing HS2 come to fruition to get involved in the public consultation which runs until 29 July.”

“As you are well placed to know, our trains are becoming increasingly crowded. Between 1994 and 2009, the number of miles travelled by rail passengers in Britain soared from 18 billion to 32 billion and demand is predicted to continue rising.”

“If we fail to tackle the problem of capacity on major inter-city routes, severe overcrowding on the rail network will inevitably spread, and reliability will deteriorate. The Government is doing what it can by investing heavily in the existing rail network. But we need a more radical and visionary solution if the railway is going to compete effectively with road and air travel.”

“That solution is high speed rail.”

“As countries across the developed world have already discovered, high speed rail transforms journey times, capacity, reliability and comfort for passengers while also delivering huge economic benefits. A national network running from London to Leeds and Manchester, with direct connections to Heathrow and HS1, would be capable of carrying 18 trains an hour, each with up to 1,100 seats. And moving many intercity services to a high speed rail network would free up more capacity on commuter routes.”

“How often in the past has Britain baulked at big decisions, while other countries modernise their infrastructure? We have before us a once in a lifetime opportunity to reshape our economic geography and build a railway fit for the 21st century. This time, let’s take it.”

“I hope that many of you will have already have responded to the Government’s consultation on high speed rail. If you haven’t, there is still time to have your say. Go to http://highspeedrail.dft.gov.uk/“

This step follows a recent mailshot from train drivers union ASLEF to all members, claiming that the creation of ‘jobs for all’ should not be prevented by a privileged few.

Stop HS2 chair, Penny Gaines, said:

“When Stop HS2 was sent this statement from Philip Hammond, I was appalled at his attempt to manipulate the public consultation process set up by his Department.  For a government minister to act in this way is an abuse of his position and shows a complete contempt for the great many ordinary members of the public who are taking part in the HS2 consultation process in good faith.”

Stop HS2 campaign co-ordinator Joe Rukin said;

“For Philip Hammond to take this step at this stage shows quite frankly that he is desperate and it is clear not all train drivers agree with him or this private communication and one sent to ASLEF members would not have been sent to us at Stop HS2.”

“The worst thing is that his statement is full of things he knows are not the case. HS2 Ltd have already privately admitted that 18 high speed trains per hour is not feasible, as the best you can expect anywhere else in the world is 15, and these trains are meant to be going faster and train drivers will know this. They may also have spotted that HS2 was meant to carry 18 trains an hour before the links to HS1 and Heathrow were added.”

“We are amazed that Mr Hammond is still talking about what high speed rail has done in other countries, when all that has happened is financial failure due to soaring costs and predicted passenger numbers that never materialised. Portugal has been told to stop building high speed rail as a condition of the bailout, Spain has already cut services, in the Netherlands the company is almost bankrupt and they have given up on plans for a line from Amersterdam to Germany, in Taiwan the company has had to be bailed out by the Government and in China high speed rail is around $304 billion in debt and they can only just  cover the interest on the loans of about $18bn per year.”

“Even in France, following a doubling of TGV ticket prices in the last decade, SNCF President Guillaume Pépy has said ‘The whole basis of the high-speed rail revolution – that the TGV should be the “normal” means of travel, not just something affordable by the business elite – is under threat.’ Here, HS1 in Kent should be carrying 25 million passengers by now according to the forecasts, but it hasn’t even managed 10 million. Why on Earth we are so desperate to follow these examples of massive financial failure?”

Notes to Editors:

1.For more contact Joe Rukin on 07811 371880 or Penny Gaines 07765 780553

2.he Stop HS2 HQ is located at 129-131 Warwick Road, Kenilworth, CV8 1HY.

3.The public consultation on HS2 runs until 29th July. For more details, visit www.stophs2.org.

4.People can sign the petition against HS2 at; http://www.gopetition.co.uk/petitions/stop-hs2/sign.html.

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