Community Engagement or Community Enragement?

Since the route for HS2 was given the go ahead at the beginning of this year, Hillingdon Against HS2 have been asking a simple question: “Why can’t the Ruislip tunnel be extended through Ickenham?”

Since the first community forum in March we have waited for a meeting with HS2 engineers to discuss the complicated technicalities which were implied when the question was asked over and over again at local community forum meetings with HS2 Ltd.

Well this week we were given the answer to that simple question. And the long awaited answer given at the meeting held on Tuesday 20th November 2012 was “health and safety”.

Apparently a longer tunnel would be ‘ unsafe’ and an extra tunnel shaft would be required.

HS2 are under the impression there couldn’t possibly be any suitable area for an extra shaft (which would need to be 10m x 10m) to be built and HS2 Ltd want to keep land take to a minimum!!!…. It would seem though they are happy to rip up lots of Ickenham for tunnel portals (3 and counting if the Heathrow Spur goes ahead), new bridges and multiple construction sites and blight homes by not building a tunnel.

So we are expected to believe this ridiculous excuse, and if it was truly the legitimate reason all along, why could engineers not explain this in the first place? Instead of wasting our time by consistently not answering this very relevant question that has dominated community forum discussions and given hope to residents that there were still options on the table.

The reality is that HS2 Ltd could overcome any engineering difficulties if they chose to but it seems clear to us the reasons they are refusing to consider extending the tunnel is based on cost and the location of the spur junctions to Heathrow. Not just health and safety.

The Heathrow route is part of the phase 2 construction of this project, and has yet to be consulted on or even approved. We are therefore prevented from getting any answers from HS2 Ltd that relate to the route to Heathrow. Our community is expected to accept construction plans that provide for a second wave of destruction – just in case it might happen…

And don’t even get us started on the business case for the Heathrow spur.

We have been told the purpose of the community forums is for HS2 Ltd to engage with the community and for us to feed back suggestions for mitigation. However it would seem that anything we suggest gets ruled out or simply ignored.

We are supposed to be placated with the words ‘ we understand your frustration’.

We have requested a comparative study be carried out on an extended tunnel option and for it to be costed. It is a real shame that these options have not been looked at before and we do not accept HS2 Ltd excuses for not having done so.

Similar and just as frustrating issues face Ealing and the Colne Valley. HOAC for instance is not being tunnelled under due to cost but HS2 is planning to tunnel under a neighbouring lake in phase 2 (Heathrow Spur).

Whilst they fail to take into consideration the cost of the disruption to communities, businesses, properties and roads whilst a surface route is built, any argument from HS2 against tunnelling based on cost (whether presented as health and safety or engineering difficulty) is a joke!

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