Commons told HS2 impact ‘unbearable’
Residents and small businesses take their campaign to Parliament
ANTI-HS2 petitioners from Hillingdon blasted the government’s proposed rail scheme in the House of Commons last week.
It came as the project took a major blow from the House of Lords, which published a report calling for a review of the proposals, saying there was “no convincing evidence” HS2 was needed.
Then on Thursday, March 26, a select committee published its own interim report, calling for better compensation measures if the project does go ahead.
The High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill Select Committee said the Need to Sell Scheme, for those faced with no option but to sell their properties, needed to be seen working “effectively and fairly – long before the end of the Select Committee process”.
The report added: “Applicants may have to accept some element of detriment, but there must be substantial improvements.”
The committee issued its findings after hearing from MPs, traders, residents and councillors from Hillingdon, among other affected areas.
On Wednesday, March 25, Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP Sir John Randall; Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner MP Nick Hurd; and Beaconsfield MP the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve voiced their concerns to the committee.
They argued for a tunnel extension across the Colne Valley and criticised the current compensation package, which ignores property blight and construction.
Mr Hurd told the committee: “The disruption to thousands of residents in Ickenham, Harefield and West Ruislip will be immense.
“These are communities where people choose to live because of the relative tranquillity and semi-rural nature.”
He said there would be “no direct benefits to the area”, yet residents were being asked to live with major construction, “unbearable” lorry traffic, a viaduct across Colne Valley and other blights – some permanent, others lasting several years.
On Monday, March 23, representatives from The Small Traders and Businesses of Harefield addressed the panel.
They said added congestion caused by lorries, particularly those travelling along Harvil Road, would pose a health and safety hazard, while also hurting trade.
The traders said cutting down trees to build a viaduct over the lake near to The Old Orchard, in Park Lane, would ruin the pub’s view – one of its main selling points.
They said this would have a knock- on effect for small businesses throughout the village, which benefit from residual trade brought in by the pub.
In its interim report, the committee praised the Harefield petitioners, who also included representatives of the Harefield Tenants and Residents Association and councillors, for making their case so well.
HS2 execs ‘riding salary gravy train’
TWENTY-SIX HS2 Ltd employees are earning more than £100,000 a year, figures released under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed.
The FOI, submitted by the Express & Star newspaper, also found that 18 members of the Government company’s staff earn more than David Cameron, whose annual salary is £142,000.
Additionally, it has been revealed that HS2 Ltd spent almost £1million hiring lawyers to appear in front of the HS2 Hybrid Bill Committee in the House of Commons up to January.
Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin said: “We have always said HS2 is all about jobs for the boys, and the bosses seem to be running their own gravy train.
“It seems there are an ever-increasing number of snouts in an everexpanding taxpayerfunded trough, as the only thing anyone at HS2 Ltd seems to know how to do is to chuck money at this financial black hole.
“Those in charge of HS2 don’t seem to care what the costs will be. They just all want a slice of the action.
“These levels of pay are absolutely disgusting and it is everyday taxpayers who have to pick up the cheque.”
HS2 Ltd’s new chief executive, Simon Kirby, remains the highest-paid civil servant in the country, on a salary of £750,000.
Managing director of infrastructure Jim Crawford is the second highest-paid on the list, earning between £350,000 and £400,000, with strategy director Alistair Kirk at between £250,000 and £300,000 and programme delivery strategy director Colin Morris on between £220,000 and £230,000.
Mr Ruskin said: “The chief executive’s £750,000 salary is about 28 times that of the average wage in the UK.
“This is a grotesque salary for anyone in the public sector be getting, and can anyone really agree that the man in charge of putting together a giant train set is over three times the value of the person in charge of the NHS?
“It now turns out that Simon Kirby stayed on an extra couple of months at Network Rail just to cash in on a £300,000 loyalty bonus and then immediately left.
“This displays there is a complete lack of integrity shown by those at the heart of this project.”
HS2 spokesman Ben Ruse said: “We are determined to deliver HS2 on time and on budget. Investing in the right people now will allow us to reduce construction time and save money in the long term.”
Those in charge of HS2 don’t seem to care what the costs will be... It is everyday taxpayers who have to pick up the cheque”
PROTEST: Campaigners from Ealing. Inset, representatives from Harefield speak out in the House of Commons and
GRAVY TRAIN? Simon Kirby, chief executive of HS2 Limited