Consultation has got my blood boiling

Appeared on the Gazette website on 7th March 2011:

Ooooh my blood is really boiling this week. The HS2 consultation has officially started and with a glossy launch and a load of PR tricks the documents are now available on line and a HS2 roadshow will follow shortly.

The most important thing is that EVERYONE must respond to the consultation. Not just those directly affected.

It is everyone’s tax paying for HS2 so everyone has a right to a say. It may well be your child whose school is now not being rebuilt or improved due to the Coalition cancelling Building Schools for the Future, or you may be facing a loss of Child Benefit or even worse, your job.

The Government are choosing to do this, they are choosing to prioritise this above many other services. So you have the right to tell them whether you agree or not. If you have friends and family you can convince to respond, even if they live nowhere near the route, they have a right to have a say too.

On my own initial look through the consultation these things jumped out at me: What have they been doing since March 2010?

The documents don’t tell us a great deal that we didn’t already know. They are hard to read with lots of jargon and they still don’t tell us the whole story or provide the detail that worried residents need. The maps they used this week are no clearer for affected residents and businesses than a year ago. The line representing HS2 is still not to scale. How can people truly be consulted on mitigation and compensation if they do not know whether they are facing Compulsory Purchase or having to live with unbearable noise.

The Department of Transport only used five simulated pictures on its website. Of these, four showed tunnels. Using misleading pictures of lovely green tunnels through the countryside and trains running along the motorway does not allow people to gain an understanding of the real impact of HS2. There is not a single picture of the train in built up areas or villages where people will have to live near the train.

I find it distasteful and dishonest that 80 per cent of the pictures show tunnels when only around 10 per cent of the route is going to be tunnelled.

A potentially further devastating impact on Hillingdon of HS2, is that in Stage 2, they are planning to link Ruislip to Heathrow. Can you imagine how it is going to get there? Through Hayes, Hillingdon, Yiewsley? Possibly round by the M25 and looping in near Iver. This route may be underground or overground, no one knows yet, but any such route is going to be a nightmare for residents of the borough and affect more homes and schools.

As for the PR spin there was a news story this week saying half of Britons back the scheme. I think that is very unlikely in the current climate of cuts and job losses. HS2 is increasingly being seen as a white elephant (this government’s very own Millenium Dome). Stop HS2 have told us about independent research they are aware of that got a 100 per cent negative reaction to HS2 from the general public when they were presented with the facts about the proposal.

What can you do this week?

Reply to the consultation at http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/rail/pi/highspeedrail/ and ask everyone else you know to do it too.

Make sure you read the Appraisal of Sustainability report (volume one), hidden away in the library section of the consultation website, not as daunting as it sounds and full of information you will want to know.

Put March 30 and 31 in your diary this is when HS2. are coming to Ruislip (Winston Churchill Hall) to meet local residents. Come along between 8am and 8pm and ask them questions about how HS2 will affect you.

Ruislip Against HS2 will be protesting on both evenings from 6 till 8pm – come and join in – Ruislip (and Ickenham and Harefield) needs you!!

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