Letter to David Lidington regarding HS2

Dear Mr Lidington,

First of all I’d like to offer my belated congratulations on your appointment as Minister for the Cabinet Office.

It was a beautiful day today and I walked with my wife up to the end of Hogtrough Lane and took in the view across the valley. We pondered how awful it will be when this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is defiled by the elevated section of HS2 with trains thundering past 36 times each hour.

I realise that the government considers policy on HS2 to be settled but for me it is important to ask you to consider this once again before the AONB is irrevocably harmed. Clearly it would require political courage for policy to be reversed but it would be the right thing to do.

As you know there has never been a respectable business case for this very high speed train. If it is supposed to be for transporting people, who will be able to afford the premium fares that will be charged? Increasingly people use Skype and video conferencing to communicate remotely. Investment in superfast broadband would be better for the economy. If the plan is to move freight, is there really a need for moving it at 250mph? And won’t lorries be needed anyway to move it around the country?

Surely the government has other calls on upwards of £60 billion of capital investment (which will no doubt end up nearer £100bn) to invest in a range of other priorities such as:
• Transport infrastructure that needs replacing or improving such as around London where points and signalling often create problems for commuters and in poor performing areas such as southern rail.
• Train links where they are actually needed – joining up the northern cities and trans-Pennine links. Also in the north, investing in roads like the stretch of the A1 in Northumberland that is only one lane each way?
• Power generation capacity? Energy security? Power stations are to close and electric powered cars will need to replace many of the diesel and petrol vehicles to be banned from 2040. And can’t the government make a priority of enabling development of the technology needed to exploit wave power using the seas around these islands with a view to British companies exporting the technology across the world?
• Housing: where are the affordable starter houses for sale or rent in this area? Something must be wrong with the way the market operates. How is it that Germany apparently has a viable affordable, long term rental market? In defiance of policy in recent decades is more public spending needed to achieve this?
• Assets to protect our nation – such as a viable navy. We don’t have enough warships to fulfil our commitments to patrol in the Gulf region when a type 45 destroyer breaks down. We risk being a laughing stock with aircraft carriers lacking battle groups to protect them, without which they are sitting ducks.
• Fishery protection vessels to safeguard our fisheries post-Brexit and vessels to patrol our coast line to prevent drug and people smuggling.

There must be many other urgent priorities that as a minister you are aware of. Like many today I’d welcome some good news from the government, preferably creating something with long lasting benefits for our country. HS2 is not the answer to anything.

Please, Mr Lidington, please take another look at HS2: just cancel it. Don’t throw good money after bad. This was a political wheeze from the Gordon Brown administration: even Peter Mandelson said so in an FT article. If it goes ahead, please fund a fully bored tunnel through the AONB but better still just use the money where it can help this nation meet real needs.

Can you please use your influence to challenge this egregious waste of public money and cancel the project?

I’m also sending this letter to the editor of the Wendover News.

Yours sincerely

Dale Smith