Times dateline 19/12/2012.
Tories attack 'flawed' high-speed rail plan.
was last night heaped on the Government over the future of the £32
billion high-speed railway link from London to Birmingham and beyond
when Conservative transport experts damned the
plan as disastrously flawed.
After a fortnight of
embarrassing revelations during a judicial review of HS2, the
Conservative Transport Group is urging the Government to go back to the
The group, a
special-interest arm of the Conservative Party, is hugely critical of
the Department for Transport and its subsidiary HS2 Ltd in a letter that
Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary,
is due to receive today.
The letter, seen by The Times, says that the DfT and HS2 Ltd have already lost the argument because their plans — which affect voters in the
Tory shires of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire — have whipped up so much animosity.
The letter, signed by
Graham Nalty, of the transport group, states: "The route chosen is the
wrong route for the simple reason that it has polarised opinion and
seriously damaged the case for
high-speed rail with the public. The technical issue of whether or not
it is the best route for the highest line speed loses all its value when
set against the massive organised opposition to HS2.”
It continues: "Much of
the political support for HS2 comes from people who see HS2 as the
opportunity to enjoy through trains from their regional centre to the
European continent. Northern business
people seeking to visit new export markets want the improved access to
Heathrow (or whatever might replace it as a national hub) for
long-distance international flights on routes not available from
Birmingham or Manchester. This constituency of high-speed rail
supporters is treated with contempt by HS2 Ltd.”
The letter says that the
HS2 route and station modelling is "unsound and disastrously flawed.”
Plans for so-called parkway stations means that northern cities will not
be directly served by HS2,
which instead will interchange at new locations. It heaps scorn on the
plan to enter Birmingham at Curzon Street station, rather than New
Street, meaning that there will be a ten-minute interchange for
passengers rather than a cross-platform connection. The
Conservative Transport Group, like the Bow Group, the Tory think tank,
believes that the main southern interchange for HS2 must, as things
stand, be Heathrow.
It admits that if the
Government is to delay a decision on future Heathrow expansion until
2015, then a decision on HS2 cannot be made until then either.
The group also sees
merit in the proposals of the Railfuture lobby group, which says that
HS2 should go north from London Euston and follow the M1 corridor.
The Tory grassroots
attack on HS2 follows a chastening time for the DfT during the past
fortnight, with five separate judicial reviews brought by 15 local
authorities and 70 affected residential
groups. The groups have accused the DfT and HS2 Ltd — the body set up to
present legislation for the new railway by the end of next year — of a
The hearings were told
that property prices along the route had fallen by as much as 50 per
cent; were shown previously unseen data which found that some peak-time
trains on the existing Euston-to-Birmingham
route were only 50 per cent full; and heard that by some estimates HS2’s
wider economic benefit could only be 30p for every £1 spent.