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Chief of HS1 rail scheme questions plans for new high speed route

Campaigners fighting plans for high speed rail have been boosted by the news that HS1 questioned plans for the new HS2 route.

Rob Holden made his comments in an interview with Rail Magazine, suggesting more examination of the proposals is needed.

“We need to have a good argument for building HS2 in the first place,” he said. “It shouldn’t necessarily follow that we have to have high speed rail because other countries do – the distance between London and Birmingham is not that great.”

The article is sure to add further flames to the fire when it comes to the high speed rail scheme, which would see the line cut through parts of Lichfield and the surrounding villages.

Mr Holden also warned that the French TGV rail scheme should not be used as the benchmark for the scheme, adding that “someone needs to get a grip of HS2 and manage the engineers.”

Stop HS2 campaign coordinator Joe Rukin has welcomed the latest comments from a key figure close to the issue and insisted the weight of pressure on the project needs to be investigated.

“We’ve already seen with the West Coast franchise farce that the very figures the whole case for HS2 is based on can’t be trusted – and when the person who is running HS1 can’t see the point of HS2, it really is well past time for the Government to think again,” he said.

“The whole problem with HS2 is it came from a starting point of ‘we need to do this’ without having any strategic thinking besides ‘it sounds like a good idea’ to arrive at the conclusion. As a result, all the arguments which are used to support the idea have had to be retrofitted after the decision to proceed, which is why none of them fit.

“We have never been able to figure out or have any satisfactory explanation of why 250mph was chosen as the design speed for HS2. It seems to have been plucked out of the air. So many of the problems with HS2 are due to the design speed. Because it goes so fast, it has to go pretty straight, meaning you hit far more residential and ecological sites than you otherwise would and options for mitigation are severely limited.

“It will also mean HS2 will cost far more to operate, both in maintaining a higher specification track and the cost of energy.

“This leads to another unanswered question, with an energy crisis forecast for the next decade, where exactly is all this electricity going to come from? This issue has been completely ignored so far because energy requirements are not in the remit of the Department for Transport.”

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