Before last Monday’s announcement, I looked in detail at the HS2 project aware that my constituency may or may not be affected by the proposed route. I considered the alleged economic benefits, proposed costs and the blight caused to communities on the proposed route between London and Birmingham. I decided that I was not satisfied that the widely disputed economic benefits that HS2 might bring in the future outweighs both the financial and human costs.
Last Monday morning, I along with many of my constituents discovered exactly what those costs are. While the widely disputed economic benefits of the HS2 project might or might not be realised in 10 or 20 years, the blight, fear and anxiety took effect immediately with the announcement of the proposed route. Several of our idyllic rural villages are set to be ravaged by the proposed HS2 route. Many people in my home village of Appleby Magna as well as the villages of Measham, Packington, Tonge and Diseworth along with Ashby de la Zouch are facing this blight. Already people have found their houses have now become unsalable, house purchases in the affected area have collapsed, and there is a feeling of uncertainty as people are unsure whether or when they will be compensated. I know exactly how my constituents feel as I found out on Monday that my own home was just 100 feet from the preferred HS2 line.
I have great concerns about the financial cost of the route, and there are several issues in my constituency which make me doubt whether this project can come in on budget. Major road links will need realignment in order to accommodate HS2 which will cause significant disruption. HS2 is planned to tunnel under the East Midlands Airport, something I do not recall happening under an existing, functioning airport and could be fraught with cost issues. Perhaps most significantly though is the lack of account given to the proposed Strategic Freight Interchange proposed North of East Midlands Airport. This represents a private sector investment worth nearly half a billion pounds and which is forecast to provide 7000 jobs in 2015, not 2033. The route ploughs straight through the middle of the development site and HS2 have no answers of how the development can work with a rail line in the middle of it. The developers have stated that if this issue cannot be resolved in weeks then the plan will be withdrawn. My suspicion is that like every other large, public sector project of this sort HS2 will be massively over budget.
This was a Labour idea. Lord Adonis dreamed it up. Frankly it is reminiscent of those old Soviet block projects which had nothing to do with real need in the real world. Planning for projects two decades ahead, in a rapidly changing world is fraught with danger. I believe that with technology developing as fast as it is, there will be many more video conferences, conference calls, more people working from home and so much less need for this sort of travel in 20 years time.
This proposal is very unfair on North West Leicestershire. People may accuse us of being NIMBYs but that's ridiculous. We are in the top 20 constituencies in the country for economic growth. We already have East Midlands Airport, Donington race track, the M42 and the M1 and have agreed to have several thousand new houses to further benefit the economy. HS2 for us in North West Leicestershire is all of the pain and none of the gain.