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We've been given no choice on HS2, says campaigner

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ROLFE PEARCE is an anti-HS2 campaigner. Here he sets out why he thinks the £50bn project is a white elephant

HS2 is a choice, an option to address those needs. It is not a necessity, or by any means the only option.When other options link up to 100 towns and cities and are a third cheaper and harm the environment less, it makes you wonder why the government chose HS2.

  • It is a choice to plough through the national landscape, rather than going up an existing motorway corridor, a possibility set out by very experienced engineers.
  • It is a choice to increase the cost of HS2 over and over because of a fixation on it being the only solution to the infrastructure needs of the country.
  • It is a choice to plough the route not just through villages communities but farmland and ancient woodlands, when alternatives are tabled.
  • It is a choice to spend £50 billion when we are asking the country to cut benefits to the disabled and to cut working tax credits for millions of working people.
  • It is a choice to ignore the real and significant impacts on the environment, in the same way the government seems intent on ignoring worries of people about fracking.
  • It is a choice to spend billions on consultants all of whom seem to just scurry around collecting information to back the case for HS2 alone, paid for by the taxpayer.
  • It is a choice to ignore the 60-80 per cent of the public who, when asked, say even in places where HS2 does not run that it is a poor return for the taxpayer and that is roundly opposed by the general population.
  • It is a choice to ignore parliament scrutiny committees who endlessly state so clearly that the project is way off base and spiralling out of control.
  • It is a choice to ignore the growing clamour of experts from every field opposing the project as being the wrong project at the wrong time.[/breakout]

The Government and HS2 have a choice, the people affected by HS2 do not.

Thousands and thousands of people are hurt by the project, trapped in their homes in some kind of Faustian nightmare of project regulation, stressed, hurt, losing money, trapped in a vacuum of government policy.

Ordinary people in ordinary homes with ordinary lives, their only crime is being in the way of a government project. For five years now their lives have been on hold as the government exercise its choice – to impoverish some, to tear down the family homes of others, to uproot the dead, destroy communities.

Yes they have the right and they have the choice, the question is are they making the right choice? The people affected have no choice, one compensation scheme outdated by decades – no choice; homes destroyed – no choice; villages devastated – no choice.

The government has many choices and refuses to exercise any of them, so fixated is it on the majority in the political parliament, that it no longer hears the clamour for a change of direction.

The Government has invested billions so far in HS2, yet apart from a few hundred MPs and a few hundred councillors, the country seems to be against it. The needs of the UK are clear, yes we need more rail capacity, but HS2 is not the right choice, other options could double the capacity of HS2 and futureproof the rail network for decades.

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We need extra network capacity that links directly with our existing network to ensure more cities and towns are able to connect, HS2 fails to deliver.

How HS2 could look
Mr Pearce addresses protesters in Great Haywood

We need a solution that will not plough through 90 ancient woodlands, HS2 and 3 will create more environmental carnage with our collective heritage than any other project proposed. Once an ancient woodland is gone it has gone for all generations.

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The people of the UK who will not be connected by HS2 like Scotland and Wales and the North and south west of England are angry that so much is being invested for little return for such a large part of the population.

The people in the UK who are technical professionals involved in this project – who are also against it – set out in paper after paper their professional reasonings, but are also being ignored.

So many people. So many opinions. All ignored. This is why the people of the UK cannot understand the government taking on a 'Communist China' approach to HS2, not caring not listening not heeding the warnings, just ploughing on relentlessly regardless of the seemingly endless chorus of professional people, communities, ordinary people, protest groups, telling the government that they are wrong.

If the government has identified a need, that is one thing. But picking up just one tool from the carpenters box – a mallet – will not build a piece of Chippendale furniture, you will end up with just a crude stool.

The whole discussion has moved on from those days a decade ago when the plan was first put on the table, failure to heed right scrutiny from so many capable people seems just pig-headed. Failure to understand that HS2 is already obsolete, and after a decade of scrutiny does not deliver its initial intention is vanity and more akin to the Emperor's new clothes.

The public will pay billions, it will overrun in costs, it will be sold at a massive loss to a private investor and once again the taxpayer will look at the latest white elephant, delivered to the nation.

The EU is littered with existing HS projects all needing massive public subsidy.

In times of austerity with so many questions over HS2, and so many alternatives not considered in detail, this will become a money pit the country cannot afford.

Future

The plea is Stop HS2, not because we do not need extra rail capacity, but because over time more credible alternatives have emerged that suit the future needs of Britain better, saving our ancient woodlands, costing billions less, with less harm to the environment, because HS2 no longer delivers on any of its original aspirations.

Stop HS2 because it is the right thing to do, its time for a realistic look at the whole idea and for the voice of the majority of the people of the UK to be heard.

The government has rights, but not at the expense of the people, the government has responsibilities to the future generations, but to completely ignore such a chorus of dissent is not the act of responsible government. The choice of the people is to stop HS2.

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