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21/06/2011
Open letter to Northamptonshire County Council from SNAG


Northampton County Council is being forced to make swingeing and damaging cuts to its services in many parts of the county. Against that background is it right to support the principal of a high speed rail project costing at today's prices some £17bn and a staggering £33bn if as planned the route extends north ?

The business case for HS2 is deeply flawed and the environmental case already lost. Local economic benefit is nonexistent and there are better cheaper ways to improve Northampton's transport Infrastructure.

In advance of any formal response to the Department for Transport by the County Council and the debate scheduled for thursday the 23rd of June we in South Northants Action Group (SNAG) have tried to ensure all elected representatives throughout the whole county are well informed on the issues involved.

Many Northamptonshire residents directly affected by the proposed route feel the original Cabinet papers put to elected representatives of NCC when HS2 was first discussed in May last year placed too much emphasis on upsides claimed by HS2 which on closer examination lack an evidential base. Our position was confirmed at a meeting with Philip Hammond in Brackley when the Secretary of State stated and I quote

"There will be no local benefit whatsoever. This is a city to city initiative"

Any case for NCC supporting HS2 has therefore to move onto a wider national agenda or be based on the assumption that construction of a new line beneficially reduces congestion on existing rail routes.

Spending £17 billion pounds to simply reduce congestion is a very expensive solution when there are cheaper and better transport alternatives.

Please look at the information available on our website and elsewhere that compares HS2 with Rail Package 2(RP2). As you may know RP2 is an alternative proposal that enhances the West Coast mainline , costs approximately one quarter of HS2, adds 135% extra capacity and will cause by comparison no harm to Northampton's environment.

SNAG is not a NIMBY organisation. It is true that many of us have focussed our attention on the case for HS2 because of its direct impact destroying as it will village tranquillity, homes, schools, businesses and beautiful countryside in Northamptonshire. Nevertheless we have always remained open to the national interest provided we can be convinced of the need. To date we are not and if you look at the evidence impartially we don't think you will be either.

There are better ways to improve existing Northamptonshire transport links that do not harm a substantial part of our County, have more direct benefits and will make better sense to the electorate as cuts take effect. There is already real anger in the south of the county at the position NCC has taken so far re HS2 and we urge you now that so much more information is available regarding the flaws in the HS2 proposals to oppose its construction and support RP2 as a viable alternative.

We hope you will look carefully at the facts and challenges we have made and take note not only of the position adopted by every other County and District Council along the route but also that of Andrea leadsom our local MP who after careful examination of the facts has clearly come to the conclusion in an open letter to all councillors that HS2 is a poor deal for the country as a whole and a bad deal for Northamptonshire.

Yours sincerely

David Edwards

Chair SNAG

CC David Summers Editor Northampton Chronicle and Echo

Willy Gilder BBC Northamptonshire

Andrea Leadsom MP

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