5th Aug, 2020

Prime minister launching 'war' on Warwickshire countryside claim HS2 protesters

Laura Kearns 11th Feb, 2020 Updated: 12th Feb, 2020

THE PRIME minister has been accused of launching ‘war’ on Warwickshire’s countryside after approving HS2.

Campaigners who have been camped for months in woodlands in Cubbington and Kenilworth hit out at Boris Johnson after he gave the green light for the controversial high speed rail line.

Matthew Bishop, who walked 100 miles from Cubbington to London in opposition of HS2, said despite the go ahead campaigners would not be abandoning camp.

He told the Observer: “By approving HS2 Boris Johnson has declared war on the countryside.

“A week ago he was standing next to David Attenborough talking about the importance preventing species loss and loss of habitat – now he has given the green light to fell all this woodland and do the huge amount of damage that comes with it.

“He should fell the first tree following on from this review and take full responsibility for what he has approved.

“This will be his legacy, and it will never pay for itself. Middle England will take hundreds of years to recover from the devastation HS2 will cause.

“We are still camping and protesting at the site and we are calling on people to stand with us.”

Warwickshire Wildlife Trust also feared the consequences of Mr Johnson’s decision.

Trust CEO Ed Green said: “The potential damage from HS2 is too great – especially while we are facing a climate emergency.

“Green and sustainable transport is vital, but we won’t solve the climate crisis by making the biodiversity crisis worse.”

Mr Johnson said the line – 54 kilometres which will cut through Warwickshire’s countryside – was needed to bring ‘prosperity’ to the rest of the country.

But he admitted there were issues with HS2 Ltd’s management and he was putting plans in place to ensure the project did not go over the current £106billion estimate – already more than double the original proposed cost.

Mr Johnson said: “We can try to get by with the existing routes and consign the next generation to overcrowding and standing in carriageways, or we can make a difficult decision which will deliver prosperity to the rest of the country.

“The task is not made easier by HS2 Ltd, the company concerned. It has not distinguished itself in the handling of the local communities. The cost forecasts have exploded and poor management to date has not detracted from the case of high speed rail.

“But there will be extraordinarily faster journey times, with passengers at Birmingham Airport able to get to London in 38 minutes. It is about linking the West Midlands to the Northern Powerhouse. None of this makes sense without HS2.

“If we start now services could be running by the end of the decade, so the cabinet has given high speed rail the green signal.

“We are restoring discipline to the programme to ensure no more cost or timeframe blowouts. I am employing a minister to oversee the programme and changes will be made to the way HS2 is managed.

“We are going to get this done.”

Mr Johnson announced the entire high speed line from London to Birmingham, then on to Manchester and Leeds would go ahead.

But it is understood government will seek a review of the second northern phase.

A HS2 spokesman said:

“Today’s announcement from government provides much needed clarity on the future of the project for our contractors and the wider community. HS2 has been ten years in the planning and development, and we are shovel ready to start building the first new railway north of London for over a century.

 

“Building HS2 will relieve pressure on our overcrowded rail network. It will transform the UK economy by helping to bridge the gap between London and the South East and the Midlands and the North. And, by getting more people and freight onto trains, taking cars and lorries off our roads, and reducing domestic air travel, HS2 will be crucial to the UK reaching the net zero carbon target by 2050.”

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