High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill

Written evidence from Tonge and Breedon HS2 Action Group (HSR 19)

I write as a representative of Tonge and Breedon in North West Leicestershire
We are concerned about the impact the proposed HS2 route will have on our community and specifically the effect a 10m high viaduct running above our villages will cause. We were so concerned that we scrutinized the plans to try to find ways to mediate the noise and environmental damage.
We were surprised that in N W Leicestershire the proposed HS2 route required a twin tunnel under East Midlands Airport which subsequently and following representations by commercial interests, the Secretary of State extended to pass under the adjacent planned Roxhill Strategic Rail Freight Terminal.

With the help of a transport and planning expert, in March 2013 we identified ways in which savings of approximately £ ½ billion could be made but the Secretary of State and HS2 Ltd appear totally disinterested.
The alternative route, which saves £500m cost, it
Ø No crossing over the A42,
Ø No additional motorway crossings,
Ø Considerably greater use of the existing M1 corridor,
Ø No impact on SSSIs,
Ø No adverse topographical implications,
Ø Reduced overall impact on villages in N W Leicestershire,

Having met the Secretary of State and HS2 Ltd we understand that our amendments ‘were too late’ to be included in the upcoming public consultation. This was surprising particularly because the savings are so large that they deserve the most serious and thorough consideration. Indeed, so enormous are these savings that we want to bring them to your attention also.
We appreciate that this posed a dilemma for HS2, if they ignore our amendment it stands accused of wasting public money, if they wait until after the Public Consultation, it will incur the significant additional costs demanded by a second consultation and will face delays and / or judicial proceedings.
This issue illustrates an area where the Bill can be strengthened.
!. Will the Scrutiny Committee ensure that the Paving Bill requires HS2 engineers to look properly at input and feedback from local communities and regional experts whose in-dept knowledge will help the Government ensure that HS2 Ltd delivers a quality project at minimal cost sensitive to the concerns of its neighbours?  
HS2 Compensation

We are aware that Compensation is subject to scrutiny. It is unfair that those affected by noise and environmental damage and whose homes are already blighted cannot sell their property without losing significant sums- if they can sell at all. This is a particular issue in our community.
Will the Scrutiny Committee ensure that the Bill allows for all property owners affected by HS2 to be properly compensated, ideally by a property bond, and that this compensation is not restricted to those unhappy individuals whose homes and land will be subject to compulsory purchase by HS2?  Indeed the £500m we have identified could help property owners in  N W Leicestershire
Economic Regeneration
The impact of high-speed trains in France has been highly deleterious to wider communities. Will the Scrutiny Committee look at ways to minimse the damage potentially done to out-of-London businesses during construction and ways of preventing HS2 becoming a long commuter link to the Capital? The experience of French communities loke Lille, Marseilles and Montpelier has demonstrated the impact of high-speed trains on business, which have relocated to Paris, resulting in significantly increased levels of unemployment in regional communities local to the line.  These impacts have been so severe that the French Government has shelved planned extensions of high-speed rail.
July 2013

Prepared 16th July 2013