Exploding the transport corridor myth

Appeared on the Gazette website on May 11th 2011

ONE thing circulated by officials at the Department for Trainspotters is that HS2 will use an existing transport corridor in West London.

Well actually, the clear truth is that HS2 would be a new transport corridor adjacent to the existing one. This is a root cause of some of the biggest local concerns in Ruislip.

Historically, Ruislip grew with the 1920-30s boom in house building. Government statistics show that almost 3m homes were built in this period in Britain, peaking in 1936 with 370,000 new houses built. That’s nearly four times as many homes as built in 2010, a statistic that highlights what a real ‘national interest’ construction project should be.

That visionary period of building enabled families with aspirations to leave crowded inner cities for space and peace in the suburbs, with lower densities, open spaces, gardens and gaps between buildings.

The attraction then is the same as it is now – decent size house, with a good garden in a respectable area. But did those architects and designers also have some sort of collective vision of the future, and purposely design their gardens, spaces and gaps to allow room for another railway? Of course they didn’t.

Now the ragbag collection of politicians, unelected officials and paid lobbyists Ð who like to think of themselves as ‘progressives’ Ð want to squeeze their noisy, expensive white elephant through those carefully designed spaces and gardens. Literally a few metres away from schools, children’s play areas and family bedrooms.

Ah, you might say, the government surely would not allow such a thing and they would move people away. Well hang on a minute, let’s look at what the devious officials have actually put into print:

They say that when statutory blight provisions apply (probably mid to late 2012) people can apply for their homes to be bought. But the government will take into account whether the property would need to be compulsorily purchased or would otherwise be rendered uninhabitable. So in other words, if your home isn’t actually across the train tracks then you’re at their discretion.

What about compensation? If they decide your home doesn’t need to be bought, you might be eligible for statutory compensation. But claims could only be submitted once the railway line had been open for a year – so in 2027! Building work is planned to start in 2017 so that’s 10 years after the disruption, noise and chaos starts.

Fortunately, the government consultation does have a section called ‘Reassuring Now That Fair Compensation Will Be Paid’ – so let’s look at what reassurance is being given right now. Well none actually, because it states that they will merely consult on a preferred approach to this, and that the consultation would be in 2012. And alarmingly, their considerations would include ‘considering’ if steps can be avoided which encourage or incentivise people to move home.

So … trying to make it so people have to stay in their home.

‘It is unlikely to be in the local or national interest for the state to buy up large numbers of properties.’ Is that our problem when they are spending £34billion?

‘The Government is considering whether purchasing properties along the proposed route can be avoided except where absolutely necessary.’
I’m just speechless now!!

‘It would therefore be an option for government to do nothing to supplement the existing statutory arrangements.’

Philip Hammond, transport secretary, has promised in interviews to give ‘millions in compensation to homeowners affected by the line’. He loves to give such soundbytes to the press but with no substance behind them. Then the majority of viewers and readers are given a false sense of fairness about the scheme whilst those affected are left truly shafted.

THEY have a cheek to talk about ‘now’ anyway, considering many properties have already been blighted for a year and will have no blight provision for another year at least. I thought now meant well, er, now!

At least there is still an existing scheme called the ‘Exceptional Hardship Scheme’ to fall back on. But this is only for families doubly unfortunate in being poorly or jobless as well.

For families not meeting strict criteria, they are left with unsellable properties with no reassurance at all that they can move in future to match their aspirations, as families since the 1930s have done. The government has apparently taken this approach because it wants to enable ‘the normal functioning of the property market’.

So let’s get this right – the government doesn’t want to help families it has directly affected because it doesn’t want to affect a particular market, while at the same time proposing the most expensive railway in world history, publicly paid for and to be publicly subsidised, with dubious and unprovable benefits to London and Birmingham, and no benefit at all to Ruislip. It can basically be summarised in three words: “Stuff you, Ruislip”.

It’s not fair and not right, and it could happen to your community too.

YOU can sign the Stop HS2 on-line petition at www.gopetition.com/petitions/stop-hs2.html

Visit our website for more information www.ruislip-against-hs2.co.uk

The most important way to have your say is to reply to the consultation at http://highspeedrail.dft.gov.uk/

Hillingdon council have given some guidance on how to respond at http://www.hillingdon.gov.uk/index.jsp?articleid=22901 but please personalise your response so it is individual – this is your only chance to have a say!!

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