The campaigning group Stop HS2 is urging those against the controversial rail line to ‘keep on fighting’ despite the fact the Hybrid Bill has now passed its second reading.

Although dozens of Tory MPs defied a three-line whip to vote against it, cross-party support ensured that construction work moved a step closer to starting in 2017. ‘Everyone opposed to HS2 has to keep on fighting,’ says campaign manager Joe Rukin. ‘The MPs who spoke for HS2 were sickeningly ill-informed. You have to remember-as [former Shadow Transport Secretary] Frank Dobson keeps pointing out-that the original plans for HS1 got all the way to committee stage and the committee threw them out. That is why everyone concerned about HS2 must petition against it.’

Boris Johnson enraged campaigners when quoted by Total Politics magazine as saying: ‘They’re [HS2’s opponents] not campaigning for forests, they’re not campaigning for butterflies. They pretend to be, obviously, but what they’re really furious about is that their house prices are getting it.’ He added that it was ‘tragic’ to worry about ancient woodland ‘when actually there’s no tree in this country that’s more than 200 years old’.

Hilary Allison of the Woodland Trust, comments that this statement shows ‘breathtaking ignorance’ and that at least 84 ancient woodlands would be damaged. Paul Wilkinson of the Wildlife Trusts, which has produced a vision for creating new ‘natural’ areas along the line, adds: ‘HS2 will have a massive impact. Fortunately, MPs have decided that the HS2 Select Committee can consider how to mitigate for the loss of these muchloved woods.’

Neither Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin nor his opposite number, Mary Creagh, mentioned the effect on people-the CLA predicts that some farmers will be ruined. CLA president Henry Robinson says: ‘HS2 Ltd has demonstrated a total lack of interest in the plight of landowners and businesses. Many are still waiting to see if their businesses will survive.’ The CLA’s chief surveyor, Andrew Shirley adds: ‘It’s extremely difficult to see your business ruined at the hand of an unsympathetic acquirer using antiquated compulsory- purchase powers that give you no say.’

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  • Michael Wand

    That Commons debate saw only a tiny minority of MPs pointing out that HS2 won’t deliver what the majority of them seem to believe. Very few seemed to be aware:

    1. HS2’s speed-first route can’t follow existing motorway corridors and risks adding central Birmingham to the London economy.
    2. After Birmingham, HS2 sends one fork to Manchester and another to Leeds, but neither will send a fast link between these two city centres. They’re scarcely 40 miles apart.
    3. The Leeds fork avoids East Midlands Airport: that region’s potential growth driver.
    4. And, HS2’s Euston terminus is awkward for south of London and east of City users.

    I drafted a Plan B route to meet these shortcomings. It starts with a fast link between Manchester Victoria and Leeds:


    And, the BBC’s recent ‘Mind The Gap’ two-parter, with Evan Davies reporting, had a similar idea of a joining up an ‘agglomeration’ in the North to compete with the world-city attractions of the South: