Letter to new Under Secretary for Transport.

Letter to Robert Goodwill, new Parliamentary Under Secretary for Transport, sent last week.

Dear Mr Goodwill,

Congratulations on your appointment as Parliamentary Under Secretary for Transport.

I am writing to you as Chair of Stop HS2, the national grassroots campaign group against HS2.

We think HS2

  • is based on flawed assumptions about 21st century communications and travel (the Transport Select Committee criticised the make up of the HS2 challenge panels)
  • had inadequate scrutiny early on
  • ignores the growth in digital technologies
  • has exceptionally poor community engagement
  • is opposed by the public because it’s a bad project (according to the latest yougov poll, 55% of the public oppose HS2)

HS2’s flaws have been seen by many organisations. As well as this week’s report from the Treasury Select Committee asking for a Treasury review of HS2, the Public Accounts Committee said in September that the Dft had not “presented a convincing strategic case for High Speed 2” and was making decisions based “on fragile numbers, out-of-date data and assumptions which do not reflect real life.”

Patrick McLoughlin said earlier this year that the speed of HS2 is “almost irrelevant”. However most of the environmental problems, and the poor connectivity with the existing railway, arise because of the design speed of HS2. A conventional speed railway could have stations between London and Birmingham, and would be able to curve round sensitive sites, causing less damage to the countryside.

In addition, the Department for Transport also say that a conventional speed railway would cost about 10% less than HS2. At £50 billion for HS2, this means that around £5 billion is being budgeted on something that its proponents say is unnecessary.

For someone interested in history and steam vehicles, it might seem ‘cool’ that the main HS2 stations in Birmingham and London – at Curzon Street and Euston – were originally opened in time for the coronation of Queen Victoria. However there is no room for vanity projects. Any new railway built now should be designed with the needs of the 21st century at the forefront.

For example

  • Transport for London has questions about the viability of the proposed link between HS2 and HS1: the link was considered unworkable for use by Eurostar trains.
  • Milton Keynes was rejected by HS2 Ltd for a station on the grounds that too many commuters would use HS2 trains.
  • HS2 does not go directly to Heathrow (the spur is currently “paused”), which was part of the original Conservative thinking for a new high speed line..
  • HS2 Ltd say around a quarter of HS2 passengers will use it simply because it has been built, but long distance travel across all modes is falling.
  • Digital technologies such as videoconferencing are easy to use now, as well as being more environmentally sustainable.

This is the 21st century: why does the proposed new north-south railway not go directly to the Docklands or Stratford International in East London which have grown in recent years, rather than into Euston which has already got good links to northern cities?

In addition, the community engagement from HS2 Ltd is wholly inadequate. They have shown themselves unwilling to address the problems and issues raised by individuals and groups at community forums and elsewhere. I wrote to Justine Greening in July 2011 to tell her this, and the situation has got significantly worse. Attendees at the September 2013 round of community forums have been told that HS2 Ltd is moving to a “petition management mode” and HS2 did not intend to give out any more information as such things as the route, design, noise, mitigation etc. This is in spite of numerous questions raised at community forums still being unanswered.

We have raised just a few issues here, but would be very happy to meet you to explain our objections to HS2 in more detail at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely

Penny Gaines

Chair, Stop HS2

2 comments to “Letter to new Under Secretary for Transport.”
  1. He must now come clean on the implications for existing services as all I get when I ask dft is a standard paragraph of too early to say when they must know
    Please ask your mps to ask questions

  2. When the last main line (Great Central Railway) was built between London, Rugby, Leicester, Sheffield, Manchester this was built to the highest standard with generous loading gauge and followed much the same route proposed as the HS2 (which in fact would be using parts of the old route). To re-instate this would not only be a cheaper option, but would mean very little upheaval for places blighted by the threat of this new line carving yet another route through the Chilterns and displacing so many settlements in its wake. Unfortunately much of the built structure through Leicester is still being demolished, but at least this City is already well served with rail links and the course could be re-routed at this point. Although Birmingham would not be on a direct route passengers could change at Rugby or have a separate London-Birmingham service, and then re-instating the line to Manchester and beyond. We still have the Woodhead Tunnels which could be re-opened to connect Manchester once more.

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