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Cabinet responds to high speed rail plan

Archived press release

Date Published: 22/07/11

High speed train

High speed train

Aylesbury Vale District Council is set to formally lodge its opposition to the proposed high speed rail link between London and Birmingham.

At a meeting on 19 July, AVDC’s cabinet approved the council’s draft response to the government’s consultation on High Speed 2 (HS2).

The council has major concerns about the national benefits of the scheme and whether there is a robust business case for HS2 being in the national interest.

The preferred route would pass through north-west London, the south-west of Aylesbury, then across country via Calvert to the west of Buckingham and the east of Brackley and Banbury. If the scheme is given the go-ahead by the government, construction of HS2 would begin in 2018/19 with the first trains running by 2026.

AVDC voted unanimously to oppose the scheme last year. Since then the council has been working with members of the 51m group which represents the local authorities along the route, the action groups and HS2 Ltd to gather data and information about the scheme and its likely impact on the area.

Amongst the points raised in the council’s consultation response are:
• The business case for investing £34 billion in HS2 doesn’t stack up
• There are serious doubts about the regeneration benefits claimed for addressing the north-south divide. Most of the jobs that are likely to be created as a result of HS2 will actually be in London and the south east rather than in the north
• Consultation questions are biased and attempt to lead the respondent to answer in a specific way
• Concerns about how the consultation has been carried out including the fact consultation on the overall principle was carried out before the full details of the complete route had been scoped
• With nearly half of the journeys on HS2 estimated to be made by the top 20 per cent of income earners, the benefits of the investment are accrued by the highest earners at the expense of the general public purse
• The HS2 proposals were not tested against the best alternate scheme but instead were compared to a proposal which included unnecessary and costly infrastructure leading to a wholly distorted picture of the benefits of HS2

The response also questions the accuracy and validity of much of the data used by HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport, saying assumptions such as passenger demand forecasts could not be substantiated.

AVDC has put forward a number of alternative options to HS2 that would achieve an increase in capacity and reduce journey times on the existing network. These include increasing the length of trains and improving the existing infrastructure at certain locations.

The improvements listed in the council response would achieve an increase in capacity similar to what is being proposed for HS2 at a cost of around £2 billion rather than the £34 billion estimate for the high speed rail link. These improvements could also be delivered much quicker than HS2.

The council has also listed a number of archaeological sites which would be affected by the proposed route including the remains of a deserted medieval village in Twyford and areas of ridge and furrow in Quainton.

Councillor John Cartwright, Leader of the Council, said: “At this time the council can see no justification for such an investment and the business case is fundamentally flawed. There is no benefit at all for Aylesbury Vale and we have expressed strongly our objections to the scheme. Not only does it not stack up financially, it poses a real threat to our beautiful countryside, and to the way of life in many communities. I believe we have a duty to fight to protect Aylesbury Vale for future generations and also ensure the country is not saddled with a project that ends up being a costly white elephant.”

AVDC will now formally let the government and the Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, know its response before the consultation exercise ends on 29 July. A decision on whether the proposal will be approved is expected at the end of this year or early 2012.

Residents should send their views in through www.highspeedrail.dft.gov.uk/proposed-route

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Related links

Information about the proposed high speed rail link.

20/08/10

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Support Services

Telephone:

01296 585010

Email:

economicdevelopment@aylesburyvaledc.gov.uk