Berkswell Parish Council formalises opposition to HS2

Berkswell Parish Council formally rejected proposals for High Speed 2 in the recent public consultation. For anyone interested in what they had to say we have reproduced their formal responses to the 7 questions in full here:

Berkswell Parish Council’s response to the seven consultation questions:

Q1. Do you agree that there is a strong case for enhancing the capacity and performance of Britain’s inter-city rail
network to support economic growth over the coming decades?

No, over-crowding is limited to a few trains, and growth is modest. There is no capacity problem with the London Midland local services, as the number of carriages can be doubled when required.

However, the two services per hour that stop at Berkswell do so at irregular intervals. Residents would like three services spaced uniformly, but this isn’t practicable because the single track in each direction has to be shared with Virgin expresses.

Over-crowding on the Virgin services is limited to a few trains, which could be solved by converting first-class carriages to second-class. The RP2 proposal from the Department of Transport shows that additional rolling stock can provide all of the capacity growth offered by HS2, and this can be
bettered by going further to 12-car trains and re-balancing the seating classes 9. This work can be done incrementally as and when required.
Public transport requires investment, but additional carriages and improvements to existing services will meet transport needs for decades to come at much less cost.

Berkswell residents fully understand the need to stimulate employment and economic activity. However, there is deep scepticism about the figures advanced by HS2 Ltd, which is confirmed in the independent analysis commissioned by the Transport Select Committee 10. There is no detail or
causative reasoning in any of the assertions about job creation, while the cost of £1 million per job is way beyond want is needed to create employment.

Furthermore, there is good reason to believe that improved access to London will see a drain of economic activity and key employees in that direction. In addition, it is feared that high quality entertainment and retail concerns will gravitate to London. The new station at Bickenhill will impose high costs on the Airport and NEC without any guarantee of increased patronage.

More capacity on WCML: an alternative to HS2, Paper prepared by HS2 Action Alliance, February 2011 Review of the Government’s case for a High Speed Rail programme, Oxera, 20 June 2011 Berkswell Parish Council response to Department for Transport Consultation on High Speed Rail 7

Q2. Do you agree that a national high speed rail network from London to Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester (the Y network) would provide the best value for money solution (best balance of costs and benefits) for enhancing rail capacity and performance?

No, local transport is a far higher priority. High-speed rail will only serve a tiny minority, and the energy consumption (3 times that of standard speed trains) is unsustainable. The effect of HS2 would be to channel jobs and money to London and the South-East, and the West Midlands could be reduced to a suburb, with major losses of facilities, employment, and key workers.

Berkswell Parish Council notes that Centro wants to double the WCML to 4-tracks, whether or not HS2 is sanctioned, and before HS2 is completed. However, with the present under-utilisation of the track, this seems unnecessary. Government now accepts that growth will be 2% per annum.

The case for 4-tracking through Berkswell is far from established, and looks like another instance of promoting projects because they can be done, rather than because they’re necessary. The most heavily-used part of the Coventry-Birmingham corridor is at the New Street end.

Now that the Chiltern line has been improved, and the Metro tram system is to come out to the Airport, it seems unlikely any additional tracks are needed in the Berkswell area for many years.

Even if necessary, the removal of pinch-points on the WCML should not cause the degree of disruption that occurred when the line was rebuilt virtually along its entire length.

Certainly, any work on the WCML would be less disruptive than the construction of HS2, which would be the largest civil engineering project carried out in this country in peacetime. Berkswell Parish Council understands why High Speed Rail is superficially attractive and why some
businesses relish large-scale public expenditure. Overall however, our local interest coincides with that of the wider public. We conclude the claimed benefits of this particular scheme provide no justification for the gross environmental damage and massive public expenditure.

Q3. Do you agree with the Government’s proposals for the phased roll-out of a national high speed rail network, and for links to Heathrow Airport and the High Speed 1 line to the Channel Tunnel?

No, other parts of the rail network should be a higher priority for modernisation. There is greater scope for time savings on lines between Scotland and northern England and between English regions. Improving access to Heathrow will disadvantage regional airports. With the fast link to Heathrow and the extensions of HS2 to East Midlands and Manchester, our local airport will be exposed to further competition from larger airports with looser night-flying policies.

Q4. Do you agree with the principles and specification used by HS2 Ltd to underpin its proposals for new high speed rail lines and the route selection process HS2 Ltd undertook?

No, current speeds are adequate and could be improved with modest signalling and junction improvements. The proposed design speed of 400 km/h requires profligate energy consumption, heavy maintenance, and a straight-line green-field route. Running speeds in China have been reduced significantly due to maintenance and safety concerns. In addition, this prestige project would be a magnet for terrorists, requiring intrusive security precautions.

Construction of HS2 will not bring new technologies to the UK, and will not reverse the chronic under-investment in product planning, research, and development that are needed for us to share in the unparalleled opportunities created by global development.

HS2 is wrong in concept, and wrong in detail. It is the unfortunate product of the decision by central Government to develop the scheme in secret. An open process would have resulted in a more realistic specification, a less damaging route, and a degree of public acceptance.

Centro statement, Geoff Inskip,, 16 Feb 2011 Berkswell Parish Council response to Department for Transport Consultation on High Speed Rail.

The route selection process has involved a cost-benefit analysis that places no monetary value on rural employment, landscape, amenity, the natural environment, or flood risk. These omissions are deplored by Berkswell Parish Council.

Q5. Do you agree that the Government’s proposed route, including the approach proposed for mitigating its impacts, is the best option for a new high speed rail line between London and the West Midlands?

No, it is fundamentally flawed and causes massive damage and intrusion. The four stations are incorrectly sited: any high-speed line to the North should start from St Pancras where HS1 ends, there is no point in diverting the route west to serve Heathrow, the Bickenhill station in the Meriden
Gap Greenbelt is only accessible by car and will impose high running costs on Centro, the Airport, and NEC, and the Curzon St station in Birmingham provides no onwards connectivity. The planned green-field route imposes unacceptable visual and noise intrusion and damage to rural employment and wildlife the whole way, and severs numerous footpaths. Additional tracks are unnecessary for many years, and should follow the existing line when and if required.

The destruction of the Kenilworth Greenway, the viaduct over the WCML at Berkswell Station, and the intrusion of the line into the Berkswell Marshes are unacceptable.

There is also concern that use of the Hybrid Bill process will remove any effective planning controls from local people and the Borough Council.
Q6. Do you wish to comment on the Appraisal of Sustainability of the Government’s proposed route between London and the West Midlands that has been published to inform this consultation?

The AoS is incomplete, lacks detail, will not be completed until too late to influence the consultation, places no fiscal value on the environmental damage, and provides no realistic prediction of noise or visual impacts. The future operator of HS2, and passengers, should pay regular compensation to everyone who has had their quality of life impaired. An enduring
consultative apparatus should be set up to control the environmental impact of the line’s operation.

Q7. Do you agree with the options set out to assist those whose properties lose a significant amount of value as a result of any new high speed line?
No, compensation for losses should be paid now, not in 20 years, and debited from a fund that would be reimbursed by the HS2 operator in due course. The preferred form of blight compensation should be a Property Bond, which by providing a financial safety net, would allow the property market to operate near to un-blighted prices.


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