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Lichfield high-speed rail opposition among the fiercest along the HS2 route

Decision makers behind the proposed HS2 line through Lichfield have revealed that opposition to HS2 in the city is among the fiercest along the entire route.

Chris Pincher, Philip Hammond and Michael Fabricant examine a map of the HS2 route

Chris Pincher, Philip Hammond and Michael Fabricant examine a map of the HS2 route

As the battle to prevent the coalition government from ploughing ahead with the route proposed by its Labour predecessors intensifies, Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant has joined his Tamworth colleague Chris Pincher in more meetings over the line.

The duo met the Secretary of State for Transport Philip Hammond and HS2’s chief engineer Andrew McNaughton to look at ways to prevent the line from scything across Lichfield and the surrounding countryside.

And Mr Fabricant believes the decision-makers are in no doubt about the strength of feeling in the region. He said:

“We again re-emphasised that the original Adonis route is unacceptable.  We also made it absolutely clear that an alternative route which would take the line close to Hopwas and to the very outskirts of Whittington was equally unacceptable.

“We told the Secretary of State that this route had been ‘disowned’ by Hints Parish Council. Even HS2 say that it is a non-starter as it takes trains far too close to homes in Whittington.

“HS2 reported that they had received many objections to both routes and indeed the email, petition, and letter writing campaign, from Lichfield and Tamworth constituents has exceeded any response from any other part of the route so far.”

With a decision over the route likely to be reached before Christmas, followed by a possible five months of amendments, the pressure is mounting on those behind HS2 to review their plans.

And Tamworth MP Chris Pincher believes it is time to “think again” on the HS2 line. He explained:

“Any route that skirts Mile Oak and Hopwas is just not acceptable and HS2 must realise that.  The original Adonis plan also does damage from Drayton Bassett and Hints all the way to Boley Park and beyond in the Lichfield constituency.  So HS2 must be made to think again.”

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12 Comments

  1. TomR

    29th November, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    I’m pleasantly surprised that Lichfield is stronger in its opposition to HS2 than even the Chilterns. Clearly the efforts of Lichfield Action Group are being rewarded. Anyone who hasn’t offered their support can do so by emailing lahs2t@gmail.com and signing the petition at http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/stop-hs2.html. Anyone in any doubt should check out the website http://lichfieldagainsthighspeedtrains.org.uk/Index.html to find out why you should care. But I’m puzzled by which route Messrs Fabricant and Pincher think will be acceptable. The only sensible response is total opposition. Anything else is simply pushing it into someone else’s backyard.

  2. Peter Davidson

    1st December, 2010 at 10:14 am

    I’m confused

    Has Philip Hammond actually asked the fair citizens of Lichfield a rather obvious question;

    If the routes proposed to date are not acceptable, please show me one that is acceptable

    I have an idea why he hasn’t bothered with this common sense approach.

    The answer will be, no route that goes anywhere near Lichfield – in fact can you just move the route somewhere else – doesn’t matter where, just as long as it’s not in our backyards?

  3. Pingback: Campaigners critical of David Cameron’s backing for HS2 - The Lichfield Blog

  4. TomR

    1st December, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Peter Davidson misses the point. Philip Hammond did visit Lichfield. See https:https://lichfieldlive.co.uk/2010/10/06/lichfield-mp-praises-constructive-hs2-meeting/. He made it clear in that meeting that he hadn’t come to discuss the big question, the principle of HS2 itself, on which he was only prepared to accept a limited discussion, but was eager to discuss alternative routes. His tactics were clear – he could report that because the discussions concentrated on alternative routes, the opposition to HS2 itself could be ignored, or at best discounted. And since alternative routes would by definition set community against community, he was using a well-worn political strategy – divide and conquer. Since then he has vacillated on whether the principle of HS2 should even be part of next year’s public consultation, despite originally promising that it would be. Even David Cameron, that champion of the ‘big society’ where local decisions are taken locally, recently pre-empted the consultation by insisting that HS2 will go ahead. This has nothing to do with common sense and is all to do with political vanity. Hammond last week proudly announced an £8billion rail investment programme. Did you notice that the vast bulk of that was for London? If the national interest is a guiding principle, why wasn’t some of the money being wasted on HS2 diverted to provide an improved infrastructure for the rest of the county? Hammond’s Folly (or is it Cameron’s Calamity?) is bad for Lichfield but it’s also bad for the country at a time when front-line services are being cut.

  5. Peter Davidson

    1st December, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    With respect I haven’t missed the point at all, which you’re merely adroitly sidestepping

    Firstly, please stop conflating the current period of cutbacks/austerity etc. with apparent HS2 based profligacy. You and I both know that the vast bulk of this budgeted cost is some distance off in the future, post fiscal deficit reduction, so it’s disingenuous of you to link these two periods in time.

    Secondly the transport secretary has repeatedly stated that the DfT will robustly rebut all challenges to the business and environmental case for HS2

    Thirdly you have a warped perspective on what “Big Society” means – it’s supposed to relate to empowered localism, ie. more localised control over local policy issues – note the use of the word “local” – please explain to me how HS2 could even remotely be described as a local policy issue – because that’s one thing it definitely isn’t (by the way, please do not interpret my words as tacit political support for David Cameron, Philip Hammond et al, because I’d never vote for them in million years!) 

    I posed a perfectly reasonable question, which I think you answered in an oblique fashion – the reality is that you are seeking to challenge the entire principle of HS2 period, simply because questioning the precise route would smack of NIMBYISM so instead you disguise this real motivation in apparently rational argument about potential costs and benefits – would you be protesting so much if the route was nowhere near Lichfield – somehow I think you’d be absolutely silent on the subject?

    By the way, I’m not a lobbyist for HS2 or anything to do with the project – just an ordinary citizen living in a peripheral UK region (NW.England) who can see the very obvious benefits investment in this project would bring.

  6. Andrew Gibbs

    1st December, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    Hi Peter,
    You raise a number of interesting points to which I’d like to chip in my opinion for what it is worth – and for the record I’m also just an ordinary chap, but one who happens to live near the proposed route.

    Firstly the point of finance: you are right that it does not matter that the country is currently broke – HS2 is an investment, and as such should be expected to pay the money back with interest! I would point out however that the planned spend in this parliament is still going to be just shy of £1 bn so is not exactly small change.

    On your second point – Let’s wait and see. At the moment the ‘robust rebuttal’ of the challenges to the business/environment case seems to involve vague promises and repeating the word ‘robust’ and other buzzwords (‘transformational’, ‘green’, …) without anything behind the spin. The current case is very flaky, but the new improved ‘Y’ route should manage better.

    Thirdly, I would agree that the ‘big society’ (whatever it is) has nothing to do with a national infrastructure project. However it should also be pointed out the David Cameron should not be in the business of pre-empting the results of a consultation process – I hope he is just being naive with his words rather than being a complete idiot!

    But coming back to your original question (which was not really a question but a statement) which can I think be put in more clear terms as ‘are you not all just a bunch of NIMBYs?’ The answer to this is a resounding NO – don’t confuse a personal interest with the inability to look at things rationally. Now you may or may not believe that which is fine, but all I would ask is that you bring the same dose of healthy scepticism when reading stuff produced by the various ‘pro-‘ groups who all have their own personal interest in this matter too.

    The problem with the current proposals for high-speed rail seems to be that we are starting from a position of having designed a new railway, and are then trying to come up with various ‘needs’ to justify it – It’s noticeable that when first announced there was a lot of talk of the robust business case and the need for speed, but now you hear more about ‘wider economic benefits’ and the need for capacity. We should start with the problems (there are many real ones!) then come up with the best solutions, certainly we should not be worried about the exact detail of where a line might go at this point.

  7. TomR

    2nd December, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Peter Davidson, I’d have more respect for your views if you’d stop resorting to the tired old nimbyism claims.
    Firstly, you show complete disrespect to the citizens of Lichfield whose countryside will be destroyed, whose property will be blighted and whose lives will be devastated by HS2. It would be insane not to protest.
    Secondly, it would be equally valid to say that someone from the North West is showing breathtaking arrogance in criticising those directly in the line of fire.You don’t say where in the North West you live but I wonder if it’s Neston, on The Wirral, home to Chris of the multiple alter egos fame. In fact I wonder if you are just another Chris alias.
    Misused finances are a waste of money whether they’re spread over one or 20 years. The North West would benefit far more from an improvement in its infrastructure, electrification for instance, than a single glory line. Incidentally, I’m from the North West too and I look forward to your views on the environmental benefits HS2, or HS4 as it may be, will bring to the Lake District National Park.
    Philip Hammond doesn’t robustly rebut, as you put it. He sidesteps, he shifts the goalposts, he and HS2 Ltd consistently refuse to engage with opponents of their folly.
    And so kind of you, Chris/Peter, for putting me straight on the big society, but I already knew it was a sham – I can have a say on who runs my local library but not on a project that will ruin the lives of thousands in my local area.
    And I couldn’t care less about your political views. I am becomjng increasingly respectful of the thousands of Conservatives, including many Tory party bankrollers, who oppose this madness.

  8. Peter Davidson

    2nd December, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    @Andrew Gibbs

    Thank you for your considered and thoughtful response

    I live in Alderley Edge, NW.England, within sight of the WCML approaches to South Manchester.

    I’ve followed the HS2 project from an early stage, even before it really got off the drawing board. Two years ago, perceived wisdom within govt. circles was no major investment in new rail lines, future expansion of intra-UK demand accommodated via an exponential increase in airport capacity – from an environmental viewpoint this was a nightmare scenario. Then Adonis comes on to the scene bangs a few heads together at the DfT and hey presto a volte face within the previous Labour administration. HS2 is set up to deliver a strategy – we know the rest.

    The concept of HS2 is supported by some robust evidence:

    • Relentlessly increasing demand for railborne transport links, even in the face of adverse economic conditions
    • Widely accepted (amongst policy makers at least) notion of ongoing climate change and associated negative impacts
    • Short Haul Intra-European airlinks are not pereceived as sustainable long term growth strategy to accommodate increasing passenger demand
    • Economic growth provided by previous examples, such as Lille – even today a new report from Ashford in Kent demonstrates this positive effect – see this URL
    http://www.insidermedia.com/insider/south-east/43368-/
    • Potential problems inherent within more conventional pathways to improved capacity – witness the prolonged disruption associated with the 10 year WCML upgrade project.
    • Need to future proof any substantial public investment programme – this is the driving rationale behind the 400km/h max speed threshold
    • Simple physics – High Speed Lines require a max curvature threshold/vertical deviations in trajectory – this precludes many of the more obvious routes, such as the M1 corridor
    • Speed is integral to the potential success of the scheme in delivering modal transport shift – intra-European airtravel to HSR equivalent

    I’ve looked at all of this evidence (and more) and for me, the case for High Speed Rail is proven beyond doubt. The question then moves on to where. I’ve already highlighted a number of factors that rule out certain route options. One last killer factor determines why High Speed Rail needs to be built in an incremental manner – MONEY!!!

    It would be great if a comprehensive HSR network could be announced as a simultaneous strategy but we simply can’t afford that desired outcome (don’t eat the elephant all at once) so any new HSR network needs to built in stages. HS2 phase 1 represents the first stage, phase 2 (Yorkshire and NW.England arms) represents the second stage – this all seems perfectly logical to me.

    If you perceive this concept in the very long term, perhaps over the next 50 years or so, HS2 is an entirely rational strategy for future transport investment.

    I’d be perfectly happy with a carefully thought out route to take any future HSR line over the Pennines between Leeds and Manchester – I’m sure large sections of the line would be tunnelled/culverted anyway?

    I’m convinced by the arguments in favour of HS2 and HSR in general but I do feel genuinely sorry for people who are adversely affected by the construction process. However if it’s a trade off between the needs of the many (the millions of potential users) against the sacrifice of a relatively tiny few, I’m with the many, every time

  9. Peter Davidson

    2nd December, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    @TomR: you show complete disrespect to the citizens of Lichfield whose countryside will be destroyed, whose property will be blighted and whose lives will be devastated by HS2

    …….and I’d have more respect for your viewpoint @TomR when you stop using such deliberately emotive terminology?

    The countryside will NOT be “destroyed“, the entire property portfolio of Lichfield will NOT be “blighted” and lives will NOT be “devastated” by HS2. Go take a look at HS1 where the environmental impact of the M20 far exceeds that of the approx 22m wide strip taken by HS1.

    The potential impact of HS2 needs to be put into some kind of context but the very vocal campaign against HS2 has everything to gain through distortion and gross exaggeration of reality?

  10. Andrew Gibbs

    3rd December, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Hi Peter,

    Thank you for your kind words, I hope I never descend into the slanging that one sometimes sees on these blogs!

    But still I would take issue with a few of your implications
    1) Demand for rail is not ‘relentless’, but a product of need/availability/price/speed and many other factors. Probably there is a shortfall of capacity on the WCML, but it is far from certain that the forecast from HS2 Ltd even remotely resembles the reality of need. Look at the forecast for HS1 to see how the models can fail.
    2) I agree climate change is a real issue, which is why I also think that encouraging travel is not a good solution
    3) Short haul air is not good. But it is not a large percentage of travel in the UK, does not require new infrastructure, and is at least flexible. HS2 is never going to replace a flight from Aberdeen to Exeter, or more significantly London to Dublin – but neither does it really matter.
    4) Local economic growth will occur at places with stations. But how much of this is ‘new’ and how much of it is simply moving from somewhere else? If the people of Ashford had paid for HS1 themselves we could look at the local benefits in isolation – but in fact every taxpayer in the land has paid for this so we have to look at the benefit to the country (which then takes account of the worse off places where the business and people have moved from, and a much less rosy picture)
    5) The last WCML improvement was a horrendous scheme involving signals and other bad things. Lengthening trains and a few platforms to hold them is not exactly in the same league – and on the basis of the purported capacity needs this has to happen anyway as HS2 will take so long to arrive.
    6) Trains will never ever go at 400 km/h on this line – see point 2 about climate change. Going at 300 km/hr makes no difference to all the real arguments for the line, and gives a lot more flexibility in the route, less noise, etc etc.
    7) See point 6.
    8) See point 6.

    Ignoring the whys of High speed rail for a moment your comment on HS1 shows exactly why the planned route of HS2 is so wrong – it does not follow existing transport corridors at all! So your comments as to how HS1 is no worse than the M20 are without meaning here. Other possible route choices (perhaps as described here http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/downloads/file/1773/heathrow_and_high_speed_rail) are thrown away as part of the mad drive to shave a couple of extra minutes off the time to Birmingham.

    BTW. Alderley Edge is a nice little town which I’ve visited often (I’ve never seen so many Ferraris outside of Kensington before!) but while its line might technically be part of the WCML I was under the impression that most fast trains go via the Stockport route? I could be wrong, but anyway the case of normal Pendolinos in a cutting compared to the Lichfield situation of 200 mph trains every few minutes on a raised viaduct is not really a fair comparison – I’m certainly sure that if the situation was reversed the ‘few’ in Alderley would also be using phrases such as ‘destroyed’ and ‘devastated’.

  11. Jim Rodda

    3rd December, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    As regards alternative High Speed routes/network the London Boroughs in 2008 published a plan for improving Heathrow rail links (Google ‘high speed train 2M group proposals’. This provided a strategy for connecting Heathrow, Crossrail, HS1, to a ‘points of the compass’ plan for improving UK rail links in general. It seems to have been written by someone who understands railways. Wandsworth and Hillingdon council chairmen wrote open letters to Adonis reconfirming their support for this alternative strategy after HS2 was published. Their summaries of the strategy behind the proposals is convincing (imho.) They proposed, inter alia, that the high speed route to the north follow the M1. linking Birmingham and Manchester by spurs (for the latter using old unused tunnels) and getting fully to the north for about the same cost as just HS2. The rationale for the High Speed spine being the lack of extra environmental degradation. The M1 is the straightest and flattest motorway but 400kph trains demand extra straight lines (France Germany and Spain run HSTs at 300kph due to halved energy consumption and noise envelope despite much longer distances between cities) . The M1 route can I am told be made graded for later 4 track operation unlike the present preferred route, thus gretaly improing robustness and future proofing. (If government traffic forecasts are achieved the HS spine will be running at intensity levels way above any current operation. The government has not published an overall transport strategy (see the penultimate Yes Minister for a reason) nor indeed an environmental assessment for HS2 which given the route includes the widest part of the chilterns AONB is doubly disgraceful. This indicates the political imperative of rushing this out before the election. Another alternative is to hand the project for a high speed network over to the Chiltern Line (20 mins improvement for £250M using private capital and now running the best line in the country on a route once scheduled for closure by British Rail) and Arup (engineered HS1 along the M2/M20 following uproar over the 5 original routes). There are real alternatives to HS2 which require a full debate – sign the petition for one. .

  12. TomR

    6th December, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    So sorry, Peter Davidson, if I allow emotion to play any part in my thinking. For anyone who can only reduce the human experience to the analysis of a set of statistics, or a balance sheet, it must be very annoying. But I find your views incredibly dispiriting. Emotion is the driver of the human race – why don’t you join in?

    You claim the concept of HS2 is supported by some robust evidence, like…

    • Relentlessly increasing demand for railborne transport links, even in the face of adverse economic conditions.

    The 2009 DfT National Travel Survey shows that trips/person over 50 miles (strategic routes) have not increased since 1995; average long distance trips over 100 miles have remained at 7 to 8 /person/year dropping to 6 in 2009. Network Rail’s 2010 document Planning ahead, the long term planning framework, forecasts long distance passenger route demand increasing by 65% by 2034, rather than the 267% suggested by HS2 Ltd/DfT. So overall travel is decreasing and the modal shift to rail has been grossly exaggerated.

    • Widely accepted (amongst policy makers at least) notion of ongoing climate change and associated negative impacts.

    Even DfT say HS2 won’t reduce carbon emissions but will be broadly neutral. And 360km/hr trains use more than twice the power of 200km/hr trains.

    • Short Haul Intra-European airlinks are not pereceived as sustainable long term growth strategy to accommodate increasing passenger demand.

    So why, when Heathrow’s third airport has been ruled out, does HS2 and its northern extensions go from airport to airport? To take pressure off Heathrow and invite air passengers to look north, to Birmingham and East Midlands for instance? But the bulk of those passengers will be using short haul intra-European flights, and they won’t be bringing their wealth to the Midlands and the North, other than to Tie Rack and Caffe Uno franchises within the airports. Domestic air traffic for London is declining, even with the North West and Scottish Lowlands, and there are no flights between Birmingham and London.

    • Economic growth provided by previous examples, such as Lille – even today a new report from Ashford in Kent demonstrates this positive effect – see this URL http://www.insidermedia.com/insider/south-east/43368-/

    Ashford has a station. HS2 will bypass most of England without stopping. The benefits of HSR in France are restricted to towns with stations. See this http://www.french-property.com/news/travel_france/high-speed-tgv-rail-projects for proof that all is not well with the French model. And try this http://www.economist.com/node/16889039 for the problems facing an integrated European network.

    • Potential problems inherent within more conventional pathways to improved capacity – witness the prolonged disruption associated with the 10 year WCML upgrade project.

    Capacity on the WCML can be increased by 65% by upping the number of carriages to 12 and within that reducing first-class carriages from four to two. An example of an incremental approach which doesn’t include HS2. And the Chiltern Line’s capacity will increase before and despite of HS2. And coincidentally Network Rail forecast a 65% increase in long-distance demand by 2034 as against HS2 Ltd’s guess of 267%.

    • Need to future proof any substantial public investment programme – this is the driving rationale behind the 400km/h max speed threshold.

    Future proof? You refer to a 50-year strategy. 50 years ago the Beeching philosophy was decimating rail travel, no doubt with future proofing in mind. Proof that the future is pretty difficult to forecast and that the Government may have another Concorde on its hands. Vanity over sanity.

    • Simple physics – High Speed Lines require a max curvature threshold/vertical deviations in trajectory – this precludes many of the more obvious routes, such as the M1 corridor

    Only makes sense if HS2 is the only choice – it isn’t.

    • Speed is integral to the potential success of the scheme in delivering modal transport shift – intra-European airtravel to HSR equivalent.

    The UK already has quicker rail travel times between the capital and the next largest cities than any other major West European country (averaging 145 mins in UK, 151 mins Spain, 184 mins Italy, 221mins France, and 244 mins Germany). And who is going to travel on high-speed trains to Europe instead of taking cheap flights? Unless there’s a loss-making pricing strategy it won’t be holidaymakers, with their three kids and bulging suitcases, or day-trippers from Manchester to Eurodisney. That only leaves the rich and businessmen on expense accounts – and who thinks they’ll fill 14-18 trains an hour each way?

    I have a suspicion that Peter Davidson isn’t as much of an ordinary bloke as he suggests. He is either an anorak or has a vested interest. I wonder if he is ‘using sophisticated research methods to produce realistic transport solutions, and applying state-of-the-art transport modelling techniques?’