HS2 con­firm route will not span en­tire Chilterns AONB

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - by Jack Abell jack.abell@trin­i­tymir­ Twit­ter: @Jack­_84_A­bell

THERE will be no tun­nel un­der the en­tire of the Chilterns Area of Out­stand­ing Nat­u­ral Beauty, it has been con­firmed.

The HS2 se­lect com­mit­tee pub­lished its fi­nal re­port on Mon­day, Fe­bru­ary 22, and re­it­er­ated its po­si­tion from July last year that the tun­nel which pe­ti­tion­ers had been ask­ing for would not hap­pen.

It in­stead con­firmed the ex­ist­ing plans for a shorter tun­nel would be ex­tended to South Heath, and that Man­tles Wood near Amer­sham would be af­forded ex­tra pro­tec­tion.

The HS2 se­lect com­mit­tee is made up of MPs from dif­fer­ent par­ties, who vis­ited the ar­eas af­fected by the first phase of the con­tro­ver­sial rail pro­ject be­tween Lon­don and the Mid­lands over the past 18 months.

The sec­tion of the re­port on the Chilterns tun­nel says: “In weigh­ing the case for a tun­nel through­out the en­tire AONB, we con­sid­ered the ex­tent of mit­i­ga­tion of the pro­moter’s [HS2 Ltd] scheme in the AONB com­pared with that of­fered by the tun­nel op­tions, the fea­si­bil­ity of the tun­nel op­tions, the traf­fic ef­fects of each scheme and the cost. We had in mind that sub­stan­tially greater rel­a­tive ben­e­fits might de­rive from a shorter tun­nel ex­ten­sion op­tion.

“We an­nounced on July 22, 2015 that we had not been con­vinced by the ar­gu­ments for a tun­nel un­der the en­tire AONB as pre­sented by the bod­ies which might have been ex­pected to present the most per­sua­sive case. We re­mained of that view hav­ing heard other pe­ti­tion­ers in the au­tumn of 2015.”

The re­port also con­firmed that there would be no tun­nel un­der the Colne Val­ley in Den­ham, for which pe­ti­tion­ers

had pressed, and that ex­ist­ing plans for a viaduct would go ahead in­stead.

The com­mit­tee stated that: “The Colne Val­ley viaduct will be the most sig­nif­i­cant vis­i­ble en­gi­neer­ing fea­ture of the HS2 phase one route.

“It will have in­ter­na­tional sig­nif­i­cance and its de­sign should re­flect that.

“Hav­ing ar­gued against a viaduct, lo­cal peo­ple de­serve that its de­sign be re­spect­ful and re­spectable. We hope the pro­moter will be open to that chal­lenge.”

The com­mit­tee also con­firmed that while plans to move the Heathrow Ex­press de­pot to Lan­g­ley would have to go ahead, HS2 Ltd should con­trib­ute £1.4m to the cost of a re­lief road in or­der to ease traf­fic prob­lems which will be cre­ated in the Iver area; and that Ban­gors Road South in Iver should be avoided as much as pos­si­ble by HS2 con­struc­tion traf­fic.

Fol­low­ing the pub­li­ca­tion, anti HS2 cam­paign­ers crit­i­cised the se­lect com­mit­tee for not do­ing enough.

A state­ment from Wen­dover HS2 fol­low­ing the fi­nal pre­sen­ta­tion to the com­mit­tee, which took place shortly be­fore the pub­li­ca­tion of the re­port, said: “We are deeply dis­ap­pointed but, re­gret­tably, not sur­prised by the House of Com­mons HS2 Se­lect Com­mit­tee which has so far failed to rec­om­mend ex­tend­ing the Chiltern Tun­nel through­out the whole length of the AONB to the north of Wen­dover.

“The com­mit­tee has failed to con­sider the ev­i­dence put to it, see through the shock­ing HS2 cost es­ti­mat­ing process and failed to fol­low through its own rec­om­men­da­tions made in July last year.”

Stop HS2 chair­man Joe Rukin tweeted: “Blink and you’d miss it. HS2 com­mit­tee sum up 19 months work by say­ing they’ve made five changes.”

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