Response to Government’s giving HS2 Notice to Proceed
This article represents the opinion of the contributor and Wendover Active Resistance Camp
Loss of Trust of Boris’ Government: Actions Speak Louder than Words
HS2’s Notice to Proceed has been seen by Wendover residents and many more as a breach of trust by our Government during the worst crisis the world has seen in many years; COVID-19.
We listen to repeated speeches from Boris Johnson and his colleagues that staying at home saves lives; to save the resources in our NHS so it can cope with the sheer weight of numbers of people falling sick during this Pandemic.
Mr Johnson states we are being guided by science in the approach to COVID-19 the Government are taking.
Their actions however tell a different story.
The HS2 contractors are still at work. Despite the spread of COVID-19 and prior to the Notice to Proceed, the Government continued to allow HS2 contractors to work, travelling great distances across the country in order to carry out non-essential work with complete disregard to safety of their workers, families and the communities within which they work. Notice to Proceed has now been granted and they have been given the status of “key workers” to continue “legally” this blatant disregard of safety both to themselves and that of the communities. Now our towns and villages are seeing influxes of dozens of HS2 contractors. As covered by press in the construction industry, any workers asking about their safety during the Pandemic, are told where to go. Already there have been instances of HS2 security workers in the local Co-op in Missenden refusing to social distance when repeatedly asked to.
In addition, laws against processes such as applications for closing public pathways are continually being disregarded. The Wildlife laws are being disregarded enabling the felling of our ancient woodlands to continue during bird nesting season. This is less surprising if you know that HS2 has offices with Natural England.
The money borrowed against returns for HS2 steadily rises, whilst the NHS is on its knees. We have realised the effect that starving the NHS of money over the last decade has had when it is not even supplied with the most basic of needs, PPE. Who knows how advanced our medical services would be had those investments been made. Mr Johnson makes speeches about how glad he is to have had his very life saved by the heroes of the NHS, yet he continues to run the risk of giving them more work and yet more patients from the HS2 workers and families.
|Four Ecologists from SES on behalf of HS2 at Jones Hill (Roald Dahl) Woods on 7/4/20.
No warning was given to self- isolating protectors when the ecologists had prior knowledge they were there. They only socially-distanced once they saw protectors.
They said they travelled up from Essex. They were reported to Police under COVID-19 regulations.
That’s a total of 7 ecologists visiting in just two weeks.
There is not enough money to run an efficient NHS, yet somehow there is – so far – £106bn on a railway for which there has been no proper review to date. There are alternative priorities on which to spend the money such as the greatly needed update to the Victorian railways of the North. The list against this project, its cost and how it is being run, goes on.
Two people died this week of COVID-19 in Stoke Mandeville Hospital, and yet the HS2 workers are digging up the fields around us. We are unheard, betrayed, overlooked and furious. We feel disempowered after ten years of arguing against this project being built, along with countless others from all sorts of organisations, from the Wildlife Trusts to politicians.
Paul Hills, a local resident says, ‘The timing could not be worse for this Notice to Proceed. Talk about hitting us when we are down. Mr Johnson and his government have made a huge mistake when not taking into consideration our votes at the next elections. We have been let down and are angry’.
‘There seems to have been no real justification for this railway being built other than it has been started. Meanwhile my son, a carer, has had COVID, my sister works in the local hospital without sufficient PPE and my daughter, who lives with us, is one of our most vulnerable, having MS and has received a government letter telling her to isolate for three months. Are we supposed to be OK with finding more people, who have travelled from outside the area in our local shops and petrol stations? Surely, they should be staying at home and saving all our lives!’ said Kim Worthington, another member of the Wendover community.
Boris Johnson began his COP26 introductory speech with these words ‘(welcome to) what I hope will be a defining year of action for our country, and indeed for our planet, on tackling climate change but also on protecting the natural world’.
In a recent BBC TV interview, ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair said he thought the UK’s deficit caused by Coronavirus could reach £200bn. Surely the ever-increasing estimate, which stands at more than £100bn could be put to far better use than HS2.
HS2 will not be carbon neutral for 120 years. Nobody will use it because the world is changing because of COVID-19 and already proven technologies that mean we don’t need to travel to work. We don’t even know if we need to increase capacity for the existing railways any more. We certainly cannot afford this project at the current time. The defining action Boris speaks of, needs to be an immediate stop to this ill-advised project so that the 106 remaining ancient woodlands can contribute to the very tackling of climate change Mr Johnson refers to.
Or is his COP26 speech all just more hot air?