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Ex-cabinet minister slams HS2 as a ‘boy’s toy’

HS2 is a “boy’s toy” that will “saddle future governments with huge debt”, former Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan has said.

After she was sacked from the Cabinet in the September 2012 reshuffle, the Chesham & Amersham MP vowed “total opposition” to the high-speed rail line.

The Queen’s Speech this week set out legislation to allow the Government to go ahead with the £3bn project. Gillan said in Parliament following the speech: “For the last four years this Government has spent hundreds of millions of pounds on a project that's never been discussed or voted on in this house.

“Instead of relying on a real voting process or even the Hybrid Bill, that will take a great deal of time, the Government is going to rush through a quick little Paving Bill. Much of this has been conducted behind closed doors. The Government must be far more open before slipping through this.

“I have serious misgivings about HS2. This project was pulled like a rabbit from the hat by the last Labour government.

“It will cause irreparable damage to the Chilterns. The route doesn't even try to stick to existing transport corridors and it drives a steel arrow into the heart of the Chiltern hills, deemed so precious before now as to be designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]

(Image of Cheryl Gillan with David Cameron at Cardiff station in May 2010 courtesy The Prime Minister’s Office, Crown Copyright. Used here under a Creative Commons licence.)


Dale Green   10/05/2013 at 16:02

As a regular user of rail and other modes of transport for nearly 40 years the obvious increase in rail patronage is there to see. For once we have a goverment forseeing FUTURE needs and putting in place a plan to answer that instead of past experiences of pricing people away when loadings became unmanageable- leading to the inevitable road chaos we see now. Living in a semi rural area, myself, I can appreciate the change to a landscape that people fear. Surely the well hidden "steel arrow" as described by the ex minister is much more appealing than the very visible "blunderbuss" of the M40 that also appears to be in this area! I am looking forward, hopefully, to the time that when I go to my local city by car, as I have to do, I can glance up at the fleeting rail bridge carrying a state of art railway built and designed in the country that gave the world Railways.

Lesf   10/05/2013 at 17:46

Great that the government is willing to spend big on rail development and I'm all in favour of new tracks north from London because it's almost certain we'll need them. The problem that will not go away is the abysmally poor HS2 plan. If the last government wanted to enrage the tories of Bucks, Northants, Warks, Staffs, etc., they couldn't have done a better job than the route they picked. Add to that the inefficiency of HS2, calling at a few cities while bypassing others; the ingrained London-centricity of the route that guarantees HS2 Ltd's own forecast that 70% of the benefits would go to London with the crumbs being shared out among a few other cities while some communities would be worse off; the hunger for speed that destroys rail's CO2 credentials; the aim for Scotland via the west coast even though there are no cities between Manchester and Glasgow, only lots of hills; the inevitable split at Carstairs to serve Edinburgh whilst Andrew McNaughton has correctly said it isn't worth building a new line for two trains/hour; need I go on? If we want a "state of the art railway" we'd best not start by making all the wrong decisions on the back of a fag packet then spending £250m progressing the daft plan towards the national disaster that HS2 would be. Let's start again and make some sensible decisions like: new tracks integrated with the network to maximise the benefits by serving existing city-centre stations and giving much enhanced connectivity; follow existing transport corridors where the noise and visual intrusion are established so property acquisition and compensation payments are slashed and objections are vastly reduced; incremental development so the benefits begin to flow earlier than 2026 and the most congested areas are relieved first. The recent radical rethink of Euston after 3 years of clinging to the same plan shows that a) the plan was not well thought out and b) there is scope for further change such as the route. If the transport secretary can't bring himself to effect that change, then the Liberals have the opportunity to resurrect their credulity by being the first to point out that the emperor has no clothes.

Chris Robertson   10/05/2013 at 17:53

I think residents of Chesham and Amersham probably make quite a lot of journeys to London, Heathrow, Birmingham - and maybe even further afield on occasion. But it looks as if they're not convinced that others should have the same opportunities. At least, having been sacked as a cabinet minister, Cheryl can be an honest nimby rather than a closet dissenter. We are going to see a lot more of this, and the capacity benefits will need to be rolled out much more courageously if the project is going to come to fruition.

Jb   10/05/2013 at 18:27

Would not the money would be far better spent re-establishing several rail links that have been broken in the 'classic' system? Filling in the gap between Matlock and Peak Forest would immediately increase capacity for Manchester - London traffic on this long disused through route. The former GC main line to the north could provide another route for freight too if required. Mancunians had the choice of three routes to London once; is it any wonder the remaining one can get overcrowded at peak times. Oxford to Princes Risborough, Skipton to Colne and others seem far more desireable than HS2 with its devastating effect on thousands of people and their homes. And, I'm left wondering who and why are the people travelling who are going to use these trains in their thousands given that British industry has been so contracted and electronic communication is now available. Surely it would be better to repair the damage done to our existing railway system and develop it where necessary at a fraction of the cost of building this new line which will only serve a few cities anyway. While we are about it, perhaps many of the stations closed on existing lines could be re-opened now that so much traffic has returned to the railways. It must be galling for local communities to see trains rushing through their closed stations and having to drive to the next town to get on.

Peter Jarvis   10/05/2013 at 23:35

Milton Keynes Council is in favour of HS2 and I agree with them. More capacity is needed on the WCML which seems to have a train every two or three minutes. Traffic is increasing and the obvious way to shorten times to distant places is to have a direct line with no stops en route. The existing WCML can probably cope with the stopping traffic. For what it is worth, I have been helping with building a new railway through a delicate part of the Snowdonia National Park. The screams at the outset were dramatic, but now it is built, all is peace and quiet. The trains really do not obtrude. I am sure the same will be true of HS2. The alternative seems to be yet another motorway through the Chilterns, and by the time that is built, there will be not much oil left.

Graeme Phillips   13/05/2013 at 09:02

Um, so what? Cheryl Gillan has been a known NIMBY and high-profile opponent of HS2 for a long time and I don't know why RTM is even bothering to report this.

Kevin Sowden   15/05/2013 at 21:18

A question for Peter Jarvis: Could you be more specific and either give details or the UR of the new railway. That way we can see whether the comparison with a new, arrow straight HS2 cutting damagingly through a National Park (yes, the Chilterns AONB has the same legal standing as our National Parks). A question for Dale Green: What makes you think that HS2 will be a well hidden "steel arrow"? As an example, see Wendover, Bucks - a Market Town of 7,500 will be approached on a viaduct across a lovely valley; don't be fooled by the word "cutting" either; suggest you check out how the govt (Hs2 Ltd) define a cutting. If it's a few feet below ground what about all the electricity gantries towering over the railway. No, it won't be "well-hidden", neither will it be quiet and unobtrusive! Noise is far worse than vision for annoying a human being. A general question: if you don't agree wth HS@, have you sent an email to your MP?

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