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March 2015
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newlsettersHS2 Update
By Simon Morris, Chairman of CRAG

I was lucky enough last week to have a personal email from David, our Prime Minister. It was surprising given that I have not supported the Conservative Party since the announcement of HS2. However, he obviously believes it is time to make up and be friends again, so I felt obliged to read it.

Unfortunately he came unstuck in his first sentence. He writes: “I believe that if you have worked hard and earned your own money, you should be able to spend it how you like. It’s your money, not the Government’s – so you should keep it. That is why I believe in cutting taxes.”

Splendid sentiments, I totally agree but our sadly misguided and uninformed Prime Minister has no idea what is happening on the door step of Chequers, his country residence. Presumably he is too busy to venture out here and learn about the severe blight that is devaluing our homes. That is what much of our hard-earned savings is spent on and yes it is indeed our money and not the Government’s. Needless to say I will be responding appropriately.

Parliament will shortly go into recess and electioneering is already in full flight. This is an ideal time for those of us petitioning the Select Committee later this year, to hone our presentations and to liaise with our local petitioning groups. We must ensure that our time together in front of the Committee packs a convincing punch.

We are gleaning some useful information from friends to the north of us who have already petitioned and have told us about some of the pitfalls. For instance we must be ready to put HS2’s barristers right if they try to wave aside our arguments with sweeping generalisations. They appear to be adept at this but are often not well-informed on local detail. Another tip is to have a strong point to end on because we will have the last word and we need to finish on a point that the MPs will remember.

The ‘Chiltern Long Tunnel’
At the February CRAG Public Meeting, Chiltern District Councillor, Nick Rose, gave a slide presentation on the ‘Chiltern Long Tunnel’ (CLT), which he summarises in an article in this Newsletter. The CLT is Chiltern District Council’s proposal for a bored tunnel to replace the 11 kilometre section of HS2 in the Chiltern AONB which, under the Government’s proposal, would be on the surface. It is very similar to the CRAG T2 Tunnel (CRAG T2), which was first presented to HS2 Ltd some three years ago. The CLT follows the same route as CRAG T2 from the M25 to Leather Lane where it then goes to the west of the CRAG T2 route and surfaces north of Wendover and north-west of the CRAG T2 northern portal.

Its northern portal location is preferable for Wendover residents being further from Wendover than the CRAG T2 portal. Instead of a surface gap to meet current safety standards for long tunnels, it has an underground fire-fighting point, which is expected to be permissible following a change in the safety regulations.

The CLT has some benefits over the CRAG T2 Tunnel. It would be more acceptable to Wendover residents and avoids a surface gap in the AONB. However, the CLT is estimated to be more expensive than CRAG T2. In addition, the acceptability of the underground fire-fighting point would need to be confirmed by a special safety investigation which might delay the schedule and would add an additional element of uncertainty. CRAG T2’s proposal with a surface gap does not have this problem.

Our plan is that CRAG will support the CLT but we will also put forward CRAG T2 as an alternative in case the cost and the timing uncertainty of CLT are unacceptable to the Select Committee.

The real issue for both long tunnels is their higher construction costs compared to HS2 Ltd’s proposed route, estimated by HS2 as being in excess of £300 million. HS2’s estimates ignore the value of the damage to our AONB landscape, the local economic costs and much of the mitigation that would be required to try to lessen the effects of the surface route. It is vital that we impress upon the Select Committee the value of the Chiltern AONB. The ruin of it may not be a cash cost to the Exchequer but it would be a major loss for this and future generations.

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