Camden councillors protest against HS2 costs in open letter

FIVE Camden councillors have signed an open letter sent to The Guardian today protesting against the “colossal expense” of the High Speed Two project.

Among those who have put their name to the correspondence are the former leader of the Conservative group Cllr Andrew Marshall and the council’s environment boss Cllr Sue Vincent.

The letter backs columnist Simon Jenkins criticisms of Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond for splurging millions of pounds in public money on HS2, while deep cuts are being made to other services.

It reads: “In Camden - promised over our heads as the increasingly-reluctant London terminus - local groups have joined borough-wide to challenge the business case for HS2.

“In our minds it is a massively over-priced tower of cards, flimsily founded on specious assumptions; and despite its green aspirations the environmental arguments just don’t stack up.

“Both the Green Party and Friends of the Earth have rejected HS2.

“We wholeheartedly support Mr Jenkins challenge to spending at this colossal scale, and we look forward to a more forensic examination of the business case.”

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The councillors are part of a borough-wide campaign called the Pan Camden HS2 Reference Group – set up to challenge the government’s claims about the benefits of the multimillion pound rail scheme.

Peter Jones, a spokesman for the group, said: “The claim by Phillip Hammond that �44billion of benefit would accrue as a result of HS2 is a case in point.

“The projection of benefit over a 60 year period is a wild and unsustainable claim as far as most leading railway economists are concerned and is akin to the economic modelling and slight of hand that led to the banking crisis.”

“The gains in transport capacity claims for HS2 which might emerge in 2026 after �34 Billion has been spent, could be put in place immediately at a much lower cost by improving rail infrastructure nationally.

“As we see cuts in essential services in Camden and nationally it is wrong to gamble on our children being able to pay for infrastructure which we do not need as a country when there are cheaper alternatives which can provide high speed connectivity by rail incrementally and more economically.”

A public meeting about HS2 is due to be held at 7.30pm on March 16 at St Mary’s Church in Primrose Hill.

Councillors who signed the letter include:

Cllr Maya de Souza (Green)

Cllr Sue Vincent (Labour)

Cllr Thomas Neumark (Labour)

Cllr Chris Naylor (Lib Dem)

Cllr Paul Braithwaite (Lib Dem)