by John Whitehouse on 15 June, 2010
As the county councillor whose electoral division includes the village of Burton Green, a community which would be split in two if the preferred route went ahead, I have been engaged actively in the issue since it was first announced on the 11th March. I have both attended and organised public meetings on the subject, and have kept in close contact with the various local action groups that have been established up and down the route.
My first duty is to defend the best interests of the residents of Kenilworth Abbey, many of whose lives would be blighted in perpetuity if this plan goes ahead. However, as the opposition spokesman for the Environment and Economy on the County Council, I also need to consider the best interests of Warwickshire residents as a whole. If I thought for one moment that the current plan could bring overall environmental or economic benefits which might possibly justify local blight then I could have had a problem, but I do not.
The business case supporting the HS2 plan simply will not stand detailed scrutiny. It relies on passenger growth forecasts that have no substance. For Warwickshire residents in particular it would entail a significant worsening of current rail services connecting to London, trying to force passengers on to a much higher price high-speed service that they would have to drive some distance in order to be able to catch. Ticket prices would be astronomical and/or high ongoing levels of public subsidy would be required – probably both. Train speeds of up to 250 mph would certainly not bring environmental benefits, quite the reverse, due to the energy demands required.
And for what? To enable a relatively small number of passengers to make a high speed dash between over most of the short distance separating London and Birmingham, shaving a few minutes off the current timetable. In this crowded island of ours, do we really need what would be the fastest scheduled rail service in the world, or is the whole thing political machismo gone mad among our national politicians?
I am totally opposed to the current High Speed Rail plan, and will continue to urge the County Council as a whole to take a strong lead on behalf of and in defence of its residents.