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Campaigners say new rail route through Lichfield would be a waste of money

Campaigners fighting to stop plans for a new high-speed rail line through Lichfield have told the Chancellor that the route would waste “considerable sums of public money”.

The letter to George Osborne from the HS2 Action Alliance details a number of reasons why they believe the economic case for the new line is flawed.

If the HS2 scheme gets the go-ahead, the route would see an viaduct cutting across large parts of the city to accomodate the 250mph trains.

However campaign groups along the length of the route have raised concerns about the new line.

And in the letter to Mr Osborne, the director of HS2 Action Alliance director Hilary Wharf said that the benefits of the line are “considerably overstated”.

The letter adds:

“We are concerned that the economic case for HS2 is inadequate, and that if it proceeds it will result in the waste of considerable sums of public money. As you know, such funds can only be provided at the cost of real deprivation to some and a reduction in the quality of life for many others.”

Among the issues raised in the letter include what the campaigners say are three points on which the Government is favouring HS2 – but that they say are “transparently incorrect”. The letter says they are:

  • That HS2 will be part of the low carbon economy, when the Department for Transport’s own White Paper on HS2 says that it is only broadly neutral on CO2, and induces a major increase in travel that would otherwise not occur – which seems opposed to the aim of the new portfolio responsibility within DfT for ‘non travel’.
  • That there will be considerable regeneration benefits to the regions, when the analysis commissioned and published by HS2 Ltd shows that the wider economic benefits of high speed rail in the UK will be minute, and the forecast increased demand is predominantly leisure trips to London which will increase spending in London at the expense of the regions.
  • That high speed rail will greatly reduce domestic flights, when domestic air travel is already declining, and with the growth that there is being on routes that will be unaffected by high speed rail routes. Furthermore, if domestic flights are reduced they will be replaced by more polluting long-haul ones.

The HS2 Action Alliance has also called on the Government to give more consideration to the alternatives to the new high-speed link between London, the Midlands and Manchester.

They claim that the Department for Transport has not looked hard enough at other options on the table and the group are urging Mr Osborne and his coalition colleagues to look at increases in capacity through extra rolling stock on the West Coast Main Line and a similar expansion when the Chiltern Railways route between Birmingham and London is upgraded next year to accomodate faster services.

Hilary Wharf explained:

“The treatment of alternatives is profoundly unsatisfactory – partly because the best alternatives are not developed and partly because the alternatives are not given proper consideration in the assessment [by the Department for Transport].

“In these circumstances the abandonment of HS2 seems an obvious and painless means of saving money, which would allow expenditure to continue where it is genuinely in the national interest.”

The letter comes as the Lichfield Action Group – who have taken up the campaign against HS2 locally – held an event in Lichfield city centre to highlight the damage they say the route would cause.

The were also raising awareness of a public meeting being held on the issue on October 1 at Boley Park Community Hall.

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