HS2 Update, December 2020

The WPC HS2 working group has had a busy few weeks. Lord Berkeley has, through a few strategically placed questions in the House, learnt that while government was telling us and Rob Butler MP that there was no way to “reopen the Act” for Wendover, at Bromford in Warwickshire the DfT is asking for a Transport and Works Act Order to substantially extend tunnelling there. The impetus behind the change at Bromford apparently came from the construction consortium up there, BBV. EKFB has always been “encouraged” by HS2/DfT to only deliver to the Act. So even if the Wendover tunnel is the greatest “good idea” ever, it’s not in their gift.

Lord Berkeley has also been involved in a House of Lords debate on HS2 phase 2. He was able to use the way that Wendover has been treated as an example of poor practice by HS2/DfT.
We have received a response to our Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request. As with many of these things what is left out is as interesting as what is left in. A classic example is on the construction programme. The DfT/HS2 have always insisted that our tunnel took longer to build. It’s not the case and, on 8 December 2017 a document shows that it was possible to mitigate the risk of delay. By 10 April 2019 this has morphed into an unacceptable significant delay. No reason is apparent but HS2/DfT have clung to that negative interpretation ever since.

We have also had sight of responses from the Minister triggered by two letters, one written by us and a quite excellent one written by Rob Butler MP. The responses do reinforce the feeling that Wendover has not been treated fairly in this matter. Much is made of cost. A notional £500k to evaluate our scheme looks like a number made up by someone who didn’t want to do the job. We’re told that £80k is more realistic. It is an interesting insight into government thinking that a proposal that saves the AONB, simplifies the most complex section of construction outside of an urban area, saves time and £300,000,000 isn’t worth even that modest investment.

On a local operational level we have received complaints that HS2 vehicles are being driven aggressively in the Bowood Lane area. This has been reported to Fusion’s community engagement team. Action is promised.

All of the letters referred to here can be found on the WPC website, www.wendover-pc.gov.uk.
Tom Walsh