Star comment: Those in path of HS2 cannot be forgotten

When HS2 finally takes to the rails, it will do so after a seemingly unimaginable struggle. Vast numbers of individuals, communities, naturalists and special interest groups have opposed the hugely expensive plan to improve the nation’s infrastructure. Though economists forecast an opportunity to improve connectivity within the UK and generate considerable growth, there are many who consider the cost too high and the environmental damage too great.

HS2 has proved controversial.
HS2 has proved controversial.

Hundreds of small battles will rage as the project moves forward and a significant number of communities face disrupted lives as construction traffic gets on with the heavy lifting. It will be a time of patience, of fortitude and of being resilient for people whose lives face considerable inconvenience.

Many will lose their battles as the State moves forward with the political heft of the Government behind it. The key battle for HS2 has been won. It has earned the support of Parliamentary decision-makers and they are determined to press ahead, despite considerable opposition.

While the route itself is unlikely to be changed or stopped, it is important that those who are paying the price are shown some respect. Proper compensation must be paid to those whose lives will be turned upside down. They must not be short-changed, the wheels of the State must not simply roll over them. They are human beings with legitimate claims that must be fairly met.

People who are out of pocket financially must be treated as right-thinking individuals would expect. That will include people in Staffordshire, some of whom already believe they have been shown dishonesty by the company behind HS2.

While the infrastructure project is going ahead, it must not think it can ride roughshod over ordinary people along the line. The Ombudsman has already made a stand on their behalf and we hope this will set a precedent going forward. They are the innocent victims of a project that politicians want to deliver.

It’s difficult to remember a Bank Holiday in recent times that will have generated more enthusiasm, optimism and hope. Yet on Monday, people will take advantage of the easing of restrictions as they look to get away for a short while.

Millions of people are starting to ease their way out of a lockdown that seemed to go on forever and a spring that brought wet, cold weather. In a short space of time, the wheel has turned and people are looking to go out once more as they make the most of restored freedoms. The warmer weather and an end to incessant rain only aids matters.

Businesses serving tourists and day trippers will be looking to make hay as the sun shines and fun-seekers will feel justified in letting their hair down.

There is the inevitable note of caution. The pandemic is not yet defeated, though the immunisations bring us closer. There are no guarantees surrounding June 21 and we are unlikely to know the position for two or more weeks. People should have fun but also be vigilant and remember the deadly power of Covid-19. This race is not yet run.

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