HS2 at Prime Minister’s Questions

On Wednesday, Cheryl Gillan put a question to the Prime Minister about HS2 compensation, asking whether he was going to study the final package and

“ensure that those people whose homes, businesses and lives will be totally disrupted by the scheme if it goes ahead are both fairly and generously compensated?”

In his answer, he said that the HS2 compensation scheme was “as good as the scheme for HS1” and referred to the “voluntary purchase scheme to allow home owners outside the area to have their homes purchased“.

This shows major misunderstandings about the HS2 proposal and the compensation scheme currently under consultation.

Firstly, HS2 is a much different railway to HS1.

HS1 runs alongside trunk roads and motorways for much of it’s route – such as the M20, M2 and the A2. HS2 will cross through tranquil rural countryside in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and South Northamptonshire. As we noted when we visited HS1 in 2010 “Standing next to these major roads is unpleasantly noisy even when there is no train passing near.”

And HS2 Ltd say there will be more trains on HS2 – 28 trains per hour when it opens. At HS1 there were gaps of up to 20 minutes between trains. The HS1 trains are significantly slower that HS2. Domestic trains – the ones that are stop at the local Kent stations – travel at 140mph and the Eurostars at 186mph, significantly slower than the 225mph that HS2 Ltd say the trains will be travelling at.

Secondly, HS1 has more stations, in spite of being a shorter railway than HS2: HS2 has no stations between London and Birmingham, but HS1 has intermediate stations at Stratford, Ebbsfleet and Ashford.

Thirdly, there have been problems getting compensation in Kent – according to David Lidington, MP, on a separate trip, a parish councillor “said that compensation had been ungenerous and taken far too long to get settled.”

(It was unfortunate timing on the Prime Minister’s part: yesterday it was announced that many Kent communters face fare increase of nearly 6%.)

In addition, the Prime Minsiter only referred to property owners: but there are plenty of people who live close to the route and will be affected by HS2 but who do not own the land on which they live.

The Bucks Advertiser today has an interview with people living at a mobile home site who have not heard anything about possible compensation, and as they do not own the land, they may not get any compensation.

And just to emphasise the point that HS2 goes through tranquil areas – unlike HS1 – Mr Elvin described his home like this:

“It is a lovely place to live at the moment, really quiet and peaceful. You can sit out in your garden in the summer and hear the birds and the wildlife and it is really lovely.

“I used to live in Ruislip but I have loved living here because it is so peaceful, but that is all going to change.”

In addition the voluntary purchase scheme is actually quite a narrow band: no more than 120 m from the centre of the railway.

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