High Speed Two’s eco claim ‘rubbish’

ECO-CAMPAIGNERS have savaged government claims that its super fast rail link will be environmentally friendly - while warning that it will only benefit the rich.

The damning indictment was made at a Town Hall meeting to discuss the impact the controversial High Speed Two project will have on Camden.

The �17billion Euston to Birmingham rail line is set to go through Regent’s Park, before running under Primrose Hill, Belsize Park and Swiss Cottage.

HS2 Ltd, the company set up to build the line, have previously promoted the scheme’s green credentials by claiming that HS2 will be carbon neutral.

But just a week after Transport Minister Phillip Hammond launched a five month consultation on the project, environmentalists have branded this claim “fraudulent nonsense”.

London Assembly Green Party member Jenny Jones, who attended the meeting on Monday night, told the Ham&High: “They made all sorts of claims about it being carbon neutral, which is absolute nonsense.

“They are cutting straight lines spanning 75 metres through the countryside, going through villages and important heritage sites.

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“They also say that it will reduce cars and air travel, which are hopeless claims. Most of what the government has said is based on hope and belief, not science and fact.”

Highgate Green party councillor Maya de Souza, who orgainised the meeting, said HS2 would push up emissions rather than decrease them.

She said the increase will come from the large amount of fuel used by the high speed trains and the rise in commuters likely to result from the new rail link.

Ms Jones also argued that the line will be the preserve of wealthy businessmen, using it to shave 30 minutes off their journey time.

Her view was backed by leading transport economist Stephen Plowden.

He said that based on the experience of High Speed One - the Channel Tunnel route - then “more than half the trips will be made by the 20 per cent richest people in the country, whose average income is about �70,000-a-year.”

Despite promises that HS2 will deliver �44billion in economic benefits to the UK, Mr Hammond has come under further fire for the huge funds he has allocated to the scheme while the government is slashing spending on frontline services.

For this financial year alone, the budget is �46million and a further �773million is expected to be spent before work even begins in four years time.

The final bill for the project is predicted to be in excess of �32billion.

Such has been the anger at the spiralling costs, residents from across the borough have formed a pan-Camden alliance to challenge the government’s financial case for HS2.

Lib Dem councillor Paul Braithwaite, who is a member of the group and put his name to an open letter criticising high speed link last week, said: “It’s a macho bling project from the Coalition like selling the forests.

“We’re not opposed to high speed rail, as long as it doesn’t duplicate a 100-mile route from Euston to Birmingham that’s already well serviced. I’d hugely support a high speed link from London to Scotland.

“It gives government politicians a bad name. They’re serving up this bling project while on the other hand they’re imposing the most eye-watering cuts on local authorities including our own.”

A HS2 spokeswoman said: “Rail has lower carbon dioxide emissions per passenger compared with other forms of long distance travel.

“The country can’t afford not to invest in its future. All other major economies are pressing ahead with ambitious high speed rail plans - we cannot allow Britain to be left behind.”

She added: “The majority of passengers (70%) would be travelling for reasons other than business, with leisure trips likely to be particularly important.”

Another HS2 meeting is set to be held at St Mary’s Church in Primrose Hill on March 16. For more information go to http://www.phhs2referencegroup.org/page18.php.