New Government pressing on with HS2
The new Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, has confirmed that the Government intends to press ahead with HS2.
Proposed Heathrow spur is dead
The original HS2 proposal contained a link to Heathrow Airport, which would have created even more damage and blight in the area. I campaigned with local MPs against this so-called “spur” as there was no business case for it. We won the argument; however, the government were minded to keep an option open. However, I am pleased to confirm that the Transport Minister, Andrew Jones, wrote to me over the summer to confirm that they no longer intended to make “passive provision” for the link. You can see the letter here. So the Heathrow Spur is dead.
HOAC relocation approaching a decision
It took time but we persuaded HS2 that HOAC could not survive on the current site if HS2 went ahead. This would have been a huge loss to the thousands of young people who get so much out what is a very special facility. HS2 committed to finding and funding a relocation option, and a planning application has gone in for development of a site in Denham, which the management team are comfortable with. Decisions are expected by the end of October.
HS2 continue to oppose tunnel extension
For many years, we have made the argument that the simplest answer to all the local problems generated by HS2 is to extend the proposed tunnel. HS2 are dead against that option and managed to persuade the House of Commons Select Committee that it was too expensive an option. We persuaded the last Secretary of State to set up a working group to include Hillingdon Council, to look at the costings again, and we pressed for an independent review of its findings. The group has finished its work, and the new Secretary of State has written to me advising that he is minded not to support the tunnel extension on grounds of cost. However, he has asked one of the Departments’ independent non-executive directors to review the costings.
Some progress made on reducing traffic and soil dumps
As a result of our petitioning, HS2 agreed to work with TfL and Hillingdon Council to consider new options for reducing peak HGV movements on key roads to a max 550 per day and to reduce the number of soil dumps. Their report was published over the summer, and you can access it here. The Secretary of State has confirmed that in principle he would like to accept the main recommendations. This is welcome but we continue to press for confirmation that other options, such as a haul road, remain in play.
Next stop: House of Lords
MPs have regrettably not been allowed to present petitions to the House of Lords Committee. The Council and some resident groups will be presenting petitions on behalf of the community in the House of Lords, probably in mid-November. Boris Johnson and I have invited the Committee to see the area for themselves ahead of those petitions and that invitation has been accepted.
In short, we carry on the fight to get proper local protection from HS2.
Please do not hesitate to contact me, if I can be of help or if you have a view.