Mid Cheshire Against HS2 Public Meeting report

On Friday, Mid Cheshire against HS2 had a public meeting: this is from their report of the meeting.

Stephen O’Brien MP (C Eddisbury) stated publicly at our meeting that he was AGAINST HS2. To our knowledge this the first time he has stated this publicly.

He said he abstained from voting at the end of the last debate in regard to the Paving Bill, since that Bill also contained clauses in relation to compensation. He felt he was in a dilemma, on the one hand he knew that HS2 Ltd’s Business Case did not hold up to close examination or make economic sense – but on the other hand, if by some stroke of extremely bad judgement by a majority of MP’s – HS2 became reality, then he felt the compensation element had to be protected. Throughout the meeting he maintained his opposition to HS2.

In fact on our panel, the three politicians were in agreement in their opposition to HS2.

Paul Nuttall (MEP N West) & Deputy Leader of UKIP, highlighted the unsupported (by empirical evidence) assertion that wealth and jobs will flow from the centre to the Regions. He quoted the example of Lille in France. Following the creation of the TGV line to Paris and Brussels, business’s with Head Offices in Paris closed their Regional Offices in Lille – because with much shorter journey times between Paris & Lille, all their business in the Lille Region could be conducted more economically from their Paris HO. Joe Rukin (Campaign Mgr of STOPHS2) further said that Lille had now become a commuter town for Paris!! So the assertion by Patrick McLoughlin that the reverse will be true for the UK, is shown to be completely flawed. The benefits will be Capital Centric!

Howard Thorp ( Green Party) also voiced strong opposition. His party’s MP – Caroline Lucas – voted against the Paving Bill. He supported the New Economic Foundation report which came out in opposition to HS2 and put forward at least 6 alternatives to HS2, which would achieve the Government’s HS2 economic objectives much quicker with the benefits being felt in the Regions not in the Capital.

Deanne DuKhan (Director of AGHAST) quoted continental examples of Governments turning away from Ultra High Speed Projects. She quoted the example of France. Recently, Guillaume Pepy, head of SCNF, said that the traditional SCNF network in France had suffered because most of their Rail investment had poured in to TGV. Therefore this policy will be reversed, and future TGV development halted. The Dutch have abandoned the principle of HS, the financial case falling apart. The current financial situation in many European Economies precludes any thoughts of a Vanity Project like HS2. I just wish Patrick McLoughlin would listen & see what is happening over the Channel – then perhaps he might regret bullishly comparing Leeds with Lille, Sheffield with Strasbourg, Birmingham with Brussels.

Taking one of the NEF alternatives – upgrading the existing network. Proponents of HS2 rather withering call anything the Victorians did as way out of date and completely devoid of improvement possibilities. I sometimes wonder at the stupidity of that school of thought – Infant school maybe but Senior School – no way. If funds were made available to remove the current track bottlenecks and to upgrade the current signalling infrastructure, then the new generation of Pendolinos could be introduced and could run at their maximum speed of 145mph.

Here in Cheshire, if we have to catch an HS2 train, we would have to travel into Manchester – journey time 1 Hour approx at an average speed of 29 mph, the same speed achieved by Stephenson’s Rocket!!

The recent announcements by Network Rail to improve the existing network and connectivity within Manchester plus improvements to the Trans Pennine routes, will be far more beneficial for Economic Growth in Manchester and the surrounding areas than anything Ultra HS2 could and with a greatly reduced cost and timescale.

The host of our Meeting, Phil Smallwood, will lose his house and 15 acres of his current holding. He and his family have held the Tenancy for 60 years. He will have to sacrifice his livelihood to satisfy the ego’s and vanities of some politicians and decision makers.

He also pointed out something that has almost always been overlooked. He and two of his neighbours who are dairy farmers will lose between them 90 acres. These acres support herds which produce 600000 litres of milk pa. How will that be replaced? – by imports from Ireland and the near Continent? Uk Food Production is vital, we need to protect and produce as much here in the UK and thus be able to reduce reliance on imports. HS2 will cut a swathe through some of the most productive farming land in the Midlands and the Northwest. Deanne Dukhan said that many country bodies such as the CPRE were not fighting on behalf of their members. The local exception is the Cheshire NFU who have given us tremendous support but, more importantly, to their members. Deanne said they were an exception, as countrywide, this was not the case.

Another Cheshire based industry that is threatened, is the Brine Industry as well as the new Underground Gas Storage facilities recently constructed in the Whatcroft and Lach Dennis areas. No sub soil surveys have been done. As Chris Hindle (Transport & Planning Mgr for Cheshire West & Chester Council) pointed out, whilst the Council Have held preliminary Technical Discussions with HS2 Ltd, the latter has no certainly no hard and fast plans to carry out such work in the near future. Thus, he said, the financial implications are unknown. Here is another unknown cost to be added in.

Turning again to Patrick McLoughlin. He recently stated that HS2 was more popular in the North than in London. This flies in the face of the latest YouGov Poll which showed the complete reverse. If I were Patrick I’d send back my crystal ball and ask for a computerised model that told the truth not fairy stories.

Finally Trevor Forrester put his case for a Class Action and also described the progression from fourteen small Action Groups in Staffordshire an Umbrella Group for that County. He asked those present to join in his Class Action – at no cost to themselves – and he also urged Action Groups in Cheshire to follow the Staffordshire Model. Unity is strength.

One member of the audience asked how they, as individuals could help; and with one loud voice, both Deanne & Joe said join up and support your Action Groups.

The meeting ended with a universal rejection of HS2.

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