Politi­cians need to think over HS2 again

Harefield Gazette - - OPINION - JOE RUKIN Ad­dress sup­plied MARK BRYCE Ayl­sham Drive Ick­en­ham M ROBERTS Ni­cholls Av­enue Hilling­don

A RE­PORT which is highly crit­i­cal of HS2 has been pub­lished by the House of Com­mons’ pub­lic ac­counts com­mit­tee.

The re­port – ‘Lessons learned from ma­jor rail in­fra­struc­ture pro­grammes’ – looked at a num­ber of rail projects in­clud­ing the pro­posed HS2 and HS3.

It was crit­i­cal of the gov­ern­ment for mak­ing de­ci­sions on trans­port with­out a long-term strat­egy in place and of the large con­tin­gency for HS2, which could hide cost over­runs.

Com­ment­ing on the con­tin­gency, the re­port says: “This fund­ing in­cludes a gen­er­ous con­tin­gency and we are con­cerned that, with­out ap­pro­pri­ate con­trols, it could be used to mask cost in­creases.”

When you have the chair­man of HS2 Ltd thank­ing a nine-year-old for spot­ting bad maths, it re­ally is time to throw in the towel on this gar­gan­tuan van­ity project. Over the past five years, the costs for HS2 have kept go­ing up and with the of­fi­cial es­ti­mates still be­ing based on 2011 prices they can only con­tinue to spi­ral.

Last week, at the Com­mons HS2 com­mit­tee, HS2 Ltd ad­mit­ted that parts of the route where there are sig­nif­i­cant en­gi­neer­ing con­straints have not been de­signed yet, so how they can have been ac­cu­rately costed is beyond me. When th­ese de­signs are done prop­erly, the costs will cer­tainly go up, but HS2 wants to do this work after the hy­brid bill has been passed, when it will be too late for any­one to stop this white ele­phant tram­pling through the coun­try­side.

It is time for the politi­cians to think again, and it is cer­tain HS2 will be a big is­sue at the gen­eral elec­tion. in­trigued by the ‘Stop HS2’ plac­ards which, from time to time, in­form me and lo­cal res­i­dents of the po­ten­tial cost im­pli­ca­tions of the high speed project. This hot potato will rum­ble on to­wards and beyond the com­ing elec­tion I’m sure.

With this in mind, I’d like to con­jure up a the­o­ret­i­cal fu­ture edi­tion of ‘Downton Swake­leys’, the fic­tional drama set in Ick­en­ham in late 2014 where I have taken on the role of drainage per­son.

A sec­tion of the Swake­leys Park has be­come a mini-river; some of my fel­low Ick­en­ham res­i­dents have voted with their pens and writ­ten to the trans­port sec­re­tary of their dis­ap­proval of HS2, as well as men­tion­ing the many nat­u­ral de­lights of their pub­lic park where you can see an ar­ray of wildlife and fauna whose habi­tat must be pro­tected, like parts of the Chilterns on the mooted HS2 route.

The master of the es­tate beamed like the Black­pool il­lu­mi­na­tions when in­formed that the train project would be his legacy, but his sub­jects voiced their doubts and ob­jec­tions, say­ing that more af­ford­able hous­ing still needed to be built and the af­fected en­vi­ron­ment pro­tected.

I wish I could help more, as I do won­der from time to time about the chil­dren who were in care.

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