Thursday 16 May 2013
The Chiltern Hills will be permanently scarred by a railway for which there is no convincing business case. The National Audit Office report on HS2, published today, is scathing. The Government’s independent financial watchdog investigated the claims for HS2 and found them wanting on almost every level: the demand forecasts are unsound; the benefits are overstated and the estimates of economic impacts unproven. It also questioned the Government’s claims that capacity on the existing railway is about to run out.
The Chilterns Conservation Board has opposed High Speed 2 from the outset because of the damage it would do to the nationally protected Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Mike Fox, Chairman of the Board, said:
"If there was a compelling case for High Speed 2 and it was clear it could not avoid the Chilterns, then we might have taken this on the chin for the greater good. But plainly there isn’t a compelling case so we think High Speed 2 should be cancelled. The Chilterns AONB should not be ruined by a railway for which there is no business case."
He went on:
"Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds all have fantastic rail, road and air links already. To claim that HS2 will heal the north-south divide is preposterous and does not stand up to even the most rudimentary scrutiny. Before it is too late politicians should do the right and brave thing and pull the plug on High Speed 2. The £41 billion saved should be spent on transport improvements which really are needed."
According to Steve Rodrick, Chief Officer of the Conservation Board:
"If the Government goes ahead with this massive vanity project, future generations will not wonder at fast trains but despair that we permanently despoiled our treasured natural heritage. It is ours to cherish and care for, not to squander."