High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from the Ruislip Residents' Association (HSR 55)

I write to you on behalf of Ruislip Residents' Association. We represent the people of Ruislip, a London suburb in the Borough of Hillingdon, with over 8,000 households. The proposed route for HS2 passes through Ruislip and causes great concern to our members. We recognise that your Enquiry is concerned with the broad issues surrounding the proposals. We wish to submit the following such factors that appear of particular significance to us, or cause local concern.

1.  ENQUIRY QUESTION 3—Business case

(i)  Electricity supply

The proposals do not identify the source of electricity for HS2. We regard that as a priority factor that must be resolved before HS2 decisions are taken.

(ii)  HS2 Fares

The proposals are based on increased demand from leisure usage, but that will only be achieved if fares are attractive to this market. Otherwise the necessary traffic volume will not be achieved. Projected estimates of income are therefore considered over-optimistic by our members.

(iii)  Impact on national social factors

A policy of using local labour, local materials and British components would benefit the local and national economy, impacting on both employment and welfare benefit factors and in part justifying the heavy financial burden of implementing the proposals. An avowed policy of buying British when possible could be a powerful spur to British innovation and invention, to meet the EU competition rules.

(iv)  Hybrid trains

If the proposals go ahead we urge that hybrid trains are the norm, in order to permit seamless interchange with domestic and continental routes. Although initially an expensive option, a policy of gradual introduction across all UK lines would promise the high volume necessary to reassure manufacturers and reduce unit costs.

(v)    Training courses for young people

Again, if the proposals go ahead, we urge the early introduction of training courses for young people in skills related to high speed networks, both to provide a trained workforce for implementation of HS2 and similar developments, and to provide young people with worthwhile careers.

2.  ENQUIRY QUESTION 4—The strategic route

(a)  Stations

(i)  Heathrow

There is strong local support for the alternative Heathrow route, Route 1.5, which we urge should be re-examined because:

—  It should be a priority to include Heathrow from Day One to boost the national economy. increase flexibility of operation, Heathrow should be on a through route, not a spur or terminal. That is supported by evidence from continental experience.

—  Incorporation of Heathrow from Day One would reduce both total costs and local disruption in the Northolt-West Ruislip corridor.

(ii)  Old Oak Common

We urge that if a station is built at Old Oak Common it should allow interconnection with the London Underground's Central Line as well as HS2, GWRML and Crossrail—which would greatly enhance rail travel options for people of West London and reduce strains on Euston Station.

(b)  HS2 and HS1 linkage

We believe that this link should be introduced as soon as possible, to reinforce the vision of HS2 as part of an international network and as a boost to tourism in Britain, an important source of national income and employment.

(c)  Routing through residential areas

We believe that the personal impact on residents living near a high speed line has been under-considered and that the consequent financial impact would be much higher than admitted in the business case.

(i)  Personal impact

—  Disruption during line construction: Even if personnel and materials were conveyed by rail rather than road, the rebuilding of road bridges in suburban areas would cause huge public inconvenience during the HS2 line-construction phase.

     In Hillingdon in general and Ruislip in particular, in consequence of east/west railway lines from central London, there is poor road access between the north and south of our Borough, and we already suffer regular and severe traffic problems on our major highways. The prospect of the proposed HS2 route requiring bridges to be rebuilt across all our major north/south access routes causes widespread dismay. Reconstructing any one bridge would hugely exacerbate existing traffic problems on alternative routes and since it would be essential to limit construction to one bridge at a time the total construction period would run into years of misery for local people.

—  Noise and vibration caused by operation of high speed trains: Noise and vibration factors are expected to have far reaching impact on those who live near the route. It is stated policy that compulsory purchase will be applied to the minimum of properties. In consequence, if the proposals go ahead, large numbers of families will continue to live in their current homes, trapped there since no one will want to buy their properties, a consequence which is already seriously reducing property values.

—  In Ruislip, a densely populated area, this means that large numbers of local people are threatened by the HS2 proposals, since noise and vibration factors impact on properties a substantial distance from the line, threatening a reduced quality of life for occupiers, and a reduction in the financial value of properties acquired from a lifetime of investment.

—  Many residents of all ages expect to have to stay indoors behind triple-glazed windows, even in summer, with adults unable to relax in their gardens and children unable to play outside. Sleep patterns are likely to be disrupted, particularly for children. These and other chronic stress factors can lead to poor mental and physical health, poor educational attainment, and can contribute to breakdown of families.

—  Visual impact of the line and its noise barriers: Poor visual outlook, loss of light and sunshine are all depressing factors, with potential for adverse impacts on health. Large numbers of mature trees are threatened and they must be replaced by suitable alternatives which are compatible with the overhead power lines required by HS2.

—  Community response: Fear of the above factors has already caused the formation of very volatile and assertive community groups along the suburban section of the proposed HS2 route through London. Increased public anger and disquiet is to be expected if the proposals go ahead as the local populations become increasingly aware of the threats. Whether that has the potential to boil over into civil unrest is unclear. Political consequences should be expected.

(ii)  Financial consequences of routing through suburban areas

We believe that a number of financial factors have not been adequately considered or costed:

—  Extension of compensation: In order to placate community fears it would be necessary to very considerably extend the compensation packages for residents continuing to live near the line, who would suffer permanent problems related to the operation of the line as well as loss of property values. We believe that the number of suburban homes in this category has been grossly underestimated.

—  Mitigation of noise, vibration and visual factors: Here too we believe that community unrest would make it necessary to spend considerably more than envisaged on both mitigating physical factors and compensating those for whom no satisfactory mitigation could be provided.

—  Extension of compulsory purchases: The total number of compulsorily purchases envisaged for the whole route is unbelievably small. Large numbers of appeals are to be expected from people who believe they should be enabled to vacate their properties without financial loss. Also out-of-date maps were used in initial assessments of which properties would need to be demolished, and in our own area there have been recent expensive developments along the route, which would almost certainly also qualify for compulsory purchase.

(iii)  Alternative options

In view of the factors outlined above, we believe that there should be re-evaluation of the options for routing HS2 through the London suburbs.

—  A tunnelled route: This, at a stroke, would remove the majority of adverse personal impacts noted above and the additional costs of a tunnelled route would be offset in part by the unconsidered financial costs also noted above—as well as bringing substantial community benefits.

—  Heathrow route: We have noted elsewhere our support for HS2 to be routed via Heathrow from Day One. We believe there is a strong case for that option in its own right but, since that options always accepted that the route would run in a tunnel out of London to beyond Heathrow, if it were accepted it would also deal with all the separate issues arising out of the currently preferred surface route through London suburbs. That option seems to us to have huge combined attractions and we ask that it is given very serious consideration if the underlying justification for HS2 is agreed by the Transport Select Committee.

May 2011

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