HS2 tun­nel ar­gu­ment ‘blown out of wa­ter’

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS -

NEW re­ports sug­gest ex­tend­ing the HS2 tun­nel through the bor­ough would lower the cost of the project and ‘re­duce its dev­as­tat­ing im­pact’ on res­i­dents.

Hilling­don Coun­cil com­mis­sioned two in­de­pen­dent stud­ies look­ing into the vi­a­bil­ity of a tun­nel through the Colne Val­ley, to re­duce the im­pact of the high speed rail­way.

The coun­cil – along with bor­ough MPs, ac­tion groups and cam­paign­ers – has re­peat­edly re­quested that the en­tire route through the bor­ough should be in a tun­nel, if the project goes ahead.

It said it com­mis­sioned the re­ports – one from de­vel­op­ment and in­fra­struc­ture con­sul­tancy Peter Brett As­so­ciates (PBA) and the other from eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment con­sul­tancy Re­generis – after HS2 ‘re­fused to pro­vide a ro­bust ap­praisal of the ex­tended tun­nel op­tion.’

The line would be tun­nelled through cen­tral London (known as the Northolt tun­nel), but it is planned to emerge next to West Ruis­lip sta­tion.

High-speed trains would then travel over­ground, then cross a 3km viaduct over the Colne Val­ley, be­fore en­ter­ing the Chiltern Tun­nel near the M25 mo­tor­way.

HS2 ar­gues a tun­nel through the Colne Val­ley was con­sid­ered but ‘end­ing the tun­nel at West Ruis­lip of­fered the best so­lu­tion from an en­vi­ron­men­tal, con­struc­tion and cost per­spec­tive’.

With­out a tun­nel, peo­ple liv­ing in Ruis­lip, Ick­en­ham and Hare­field say they are the ones who will suf­fer, with heav­ily con­gested roads, HGV lor­ries, noise pol­lu­tion, 24-hour work­ing, con­struc­tion sites where spoil will be dumped and the de­struc­tion of some of the bor­ough’s best beauty spots.

And that is just dur­ing con­struc­tion. Once op­er­a­tional, op­po­nents fear noise from so-called ‘tun­nel boom’ as the high speed trains exit close to Ick­en­ham High Road, more noise in the Colne Val­ley, and the de­struc­tion caused by, and visual im­pact of, the viaduct.

The first study, by PBA, pro­poses a 7km tun­nel be­tween West Hyde and West Ruis­lip as an ex­ten­sion to the Northolt tun­nel. The re­port says: “There is a fea­si­ble tun­nel so­lu­tion which will al­low HS2 to tran­sit the Colne Val­ley in a man­ner which avoids the ex­ten­sive work pro­posed on the sur­face, the con­se­quent neg­a­tive con­struc­tion im­pacts over a seven-year pe­riod and the per­ma­nent op­er­a­tional noise and visual im­pacts.”

There are huge tech­ni­cal ben­e­fits from tun­nelling, the re­port con­cludes, and it will have sig­nif­i­cantly less im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment, com­mu­ni­ties and busi­nesses.

It also found the ex­ten­sion would ‘en­able pro­vi­sion of the turnouts in-tun­nel for a fu­ture Heathrow Spur’. It has been ar­gued con­nec­tions be­tween the spur and the main line HS2 track could not be placed in a tun­nel.

HS2 ar­gued they had to con­nect above ground, which is the rea­son past re­quests to ex­tend the tun­nel beyond Ick­en­ham were dis­missed.

The cost of the tun­nel was es­ti­mated at £1.16bil­lion, 5.8 per cent more than the HS2 op­tion, ‘but this does not take ac­count of prop­erty or com­mu­nity costs,’ the re­port says.

Ruis­lip, North­wood and Pin­ner MP Nick Hurd (Con), who will join the se­lect com­mit­tee of MPs scru­ti­n­is­ing the HS2 Hy­brid Bill when it vis­its the bor­ough to­mor­row (Thurs­day), said: “For years now, HS2 have tried to fob us off by say­ing that a tun­nel ex­ten­sion was not fea­si­ble or cost ef­fec­tive.

“Th­ese re­ports blow that ar­gu­ment out of the wa­ter.”

The sec­ond re­port, by Re­generis, val­ued the eco­nomic, fi­nan­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal cost of HS2 to Hilling­don at be­tween £41.9mil­lion at the lower end to as high as £157.5m, with no eco­nomic ben­e­fits be­cause there would be no ‘stop­ping sta­tions’ in the bor­ough.

Ac­cept­ing the lower range of im­pacts, the cost dif­fer­ence be­tween the PBA pro­posed tun­nel ex­ten­sion scheme and HS2’s viaduct scheme re­duces to £22.13m – just a two per cent gap.

HS2 has al­ready es­ti­mated its com­pen­sa­tion costs at more than £54m, so the cost of ex­tend­ing the tun­nel through the bor­ough would there­fore be con­sid­er­ably lower.

HS2 chief ex­ec­u­tive, David Hig­gins, has said the company’s view on the tun­nel has not changed.

In a let­ter to Mr Hurd he wrote: “We have never ques­tioned whether a tun­nel is fea­si­ble but, from an early stage, it was clear that it was not a prac­ti­ca­ble so­lu­tion to the chal­lenges in the area.”

HS2 is now work­ing on its own study to find out the con­se­quences of tun­nelling un­der the Colne Val­ley, which it says ‘re­in­forces’ its con­clu­sions.

Mr Hurd said: “In­stead of us­ing tax­pay­ers’ money to back up their old ex­cuses, I will be chal­leng­ing them and min­is­ters to be open minded and en­gage prop­erly with the ar­gu­ment.

“If a tun­nel ex­ten­sion could be the cheaper op­tion, and im­poses less grief on the com­mu­nity, then it is their re­spon­si­bil­ity to look at it very se­ri­ously,” he said.

The se­lect com­mit­tee will be treated to mag­nif­i­cent views across the Colne Val­ley such as this, from The Old Or­chard pub in Hare­field, when it vis­its to­mor­row (Thurs­day)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.