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Government policy chief says Britain will be ‘grateful’ for HS2 in years to come

Oliver Letwin (right) with Simon Marcus. Picture: Nigel Sutton. Oliver Letwin (right) with Simon Marcus. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Friday, December 20, 2013
10:00 AM

A key government policy-maker insists Britain will be “grateful” for HS2 in decades to come and must not allow criticism to de-rail the £43billion project.

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Tory MP Oliver Letwin, 57, who helped to formulate the Conservative Party’s election manifesto and draft its coalition agreement with the Liberal Democrats, gave a staunch defence of the HS2 high-speed rail project during a visit to Hampstead and Kilburn Conservatives’ HQ, in Heath Hurst Road, Hampstead, last Thursday.

The Hampstead-born politician, now serving as minister for government policy in the Cabinet, told the Ham&High: “I’m absolutely clear that this country needs a very large increase in the capacity of the West Coast Main Line... in order to provide the crucial rail connection [between the south and the north]. It makes no sense to build a conventional line.

“It’s usually the case in Britain that all the great infrastructure we now take for granted and rely on was, in its time, hugely controversial and I think it’s very, very important that we don’t get put off by that and we carry forward and build what Britain needs and will be grateful to have 30, 40, 50 years from now. This country is in a serious global race.”

Mr Letwin’s comments follow reports last week that although the major impact of building work for HS2 will be seen around Euston and Camden Town, Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) would be passing through Hampstead’s Rosslyn Hill, Haverstock Hill and Hampstead High Street for more than a decade.

The recently published 50,000-page draft HS2 Bill revealed these vehicles would “adversely affect the amenity of residents”.

Cllr Jonny Bucknell, representing Belsize ward, was in the audience for Mr Letwin’s visit and took a very different stance to his fellow Tory on HS2, arguing that commuter numbers to London were “tailing off” and that technology such as video conferencing could replace the need for cross-country business trips.

He said: “HS2 will do more damage to Camden than the Luftwaffe and to be pushing this project through at a time when we have no idea what modes of communication we will have in the future is absolutely daft.”

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