On Tuesday 29 November 2011, I attended a public meeting (pictured) in Kensal Rise about HS2 (high speed rail network project No. 2) organised by the Kensal Triangle Residents Assocation. Nobody had a good word to say about the project.
Joe Rukin of the Stop HS2 national campaign told us first about the history of the proposal - the brainchild of Lord Adonis, appointee of the previous new Labour administration - then the likely impact on residents of Kensal Rise if the proposed route went ahead. On one scenario, from Euston to just north of Sheffield by way of Old Oak Common, construction would last from 2017 to 2026, with a track tunnel normally at 50m below ground rising to as little as 15m below housing in Kensal Rise (only 10-12m if tunnel height is taken into account). This would likely cause significant vibration disturbance and noise to residents when in use (18 trains per hour each way). Moreover, we were told about the massive expense at a time of putative austerity - £32bn on 2009 figures, which did not include interest on the loans nor inflation nor train carriages themselves.
The speaker was continually interrupted by residents from the floor, concerned about the impact it would have on their lives, wanting to find out what they could do to stop it, or simply trying to clarify what was being said, because incredulous that any of this could be true. For example, why would it be proposed not to connect HS2 with HS1 (the channel tunnel rail link)? But true.
The most memorable line, I think, was Mr Rukin's assertion that neither this nor the previous govenment had worked out the question to which this proposal was the answer. That's why it made such little sense, on grounds of feasibility, presumed economic impact, or environmental impact (next to none of which had been assessed).
Residents were left in no doubt about the need to remain vigilant about developments and to step up their campaigning and lobbying of politicians at all levels, with a decision on the public consultation expected from Transport Minister Justine Greening shortly.
The Green Party voted at its conference in Sepember 2011 against the HS2 proposal because, amongst other things, we say that long-distance service provision should not concentrate on high speeds where this will affect local service provision or take up and excessive amount of limited resources.
Recent statement from Green Party of England and Wales. My colleague, Martin Francis, was also at the meeting and has posted here.
Update: on 3 December, the government announced a postponement of their decision to January 2012, pending a review of the Chiltern hills leg of the route, but this contains no review of the London tunnel section.