Let vot­ers de­cide on the fate of HS2

Op­po­nents of un­pop­u­lar rail scheme de­mand a ref­er­en­dum

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - By Jack Abell jack.abell@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

CAM­PAIGN­ERS in Bucks have called for a ref­er­en­dum into whether HS2 should be scrapped.

Pro­test­ers against the deeply un­pop­u­lar rail pro­ject want to see a Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence-style ref­er­en­dum which would al­low the pub­lic to de­cide for them­selves whether the scheme should go ahead.

The Con­ser­va­tives, Labour and Lib Dems have all pub­licly backed HS2, in­sist­ing it will boost Bri­tain’s econ­omy and trans­port sys­tem.

Bucks en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists have been forced to switch strat­egy from fight­ing for the pro­ject to be scrapped to ar­gu­ing for bet­ter ways to min­imise the im­pact of the rail line on the Chilterns, as HS2 moves closer to re­al­ity.

But a de­bate by MPs about a ref­er­en­dum has breathed new life into the fight and fu­elled calls in Bucks for British vot­ers to go to the polls to de­cide on HS2.

MPs dis­cussed the is­sue in the Com­mons on Fri­day, look­ing into whether pub­lic money should be used to fund the £50 bil­lion pro­ject.

The pos­si­bil­ity of a ref­er­en­dum was put on hold un­til af­ter May’s gen­eral elec­tion, but pro­test­ers be­lieve that if the pub­lic were given the chance to have a say on the sit­u­a­tion, the gov­ern­ment would be forced to scrap the pro­ject.

Although the pro­posed ref­er­en­dum would fo­cus on pub­lic spend­ing on HS2, if a poll showed that peo­ple did not want their money to be spent on the pro­ject, it would ef­fec­tively de­rail the en­tire scheme, which is de­pen­dant on pub­lic fund­ing.

Chris Wil­son, a mem­ber of Amer­sham Against HS2 group, said: “Polls in na­tional news­pa­pers have shown about 80 per cent of peo­ple are against HS2, so I’m sure if there was a ref­er­en­dum on HS2 we would get a sim­i­lar re­sult. I think the pub­lic would want the money used on other things.”

Che­sham and Amer­sham MP Ch­eryl Gil­lan took part in the de­bate on Fri­day.

Af­ter the meet­ing she said: “This pro­ject needs pub­lic money to go ahead so if there was a ref­er­en­dum, and peo­ple didn’t want that, then it would be dif­fi­cult to see how it could progress.”

HS2 Ac­tion Al­liance di­rec­tor Hi­lary Wharf said: “I think it would be great if a ref­er­en­dum took place. It would put the is­sue right back in the pub­lic’s mind.

“The gov­ern­ment will not want to do it, but it’s some­thing I would back.”

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