I want to update residents on my campaign so far to protect our beautiful environment, and to explain clearly what my position is on the latest changes to the route proposed by HS2 Ltd.
The Campaign So Far:
1. Since May 7 I have written and forwarded around 1000 letters to/from constituents and to/from Dept of Transport and HS2 Ltd. The subjects covered in these letters range from objections to High Speed Rail, challenges to the business and environmental case, opposition to the current proposed route and questions/concerns about both the Exceptional Hardship Scheme and statutory blight provisions. I encourage every resident to keep writing letters to the Sec of State, copying me each time!
2. I have held numerous public meetings on High Speed Rail to update residents on the facts around the Coalition plans as they emerge. I helped to establish the South Northants Action Group (SNAG) to represent local residents.
3. I have met both formally and informally with Theresa Villiers MP and Philip Hammond MP numerous times to try and press the concerns of this constituency, and have submitted parliamentary questions on specific issues raised by constituents. Both Philip and Theresa have been very willing to talk to me and are very aware of our concerns in regard to the project, the route and the compensation.
4. Philip Hammond MP, Secretary of State for Transport attended a meeting in Brackley on Wednesday 22 September 2010. The meeting was attended by Tony Baldry, MP for Banbury whose constituency is also affected. Cllrs Mary Clarke and Ken Melling also attend, along with the Chairman of SNAG. Philip walked parts of the route with HS2 engineers and spoke to local press following the meeting. I held a public meeting afterwards at Brackley Town Hall to give an update to local campaigners on what took place at the meeting.
5. The strength of local feeling has persuaded HS2 Ltd to review their proposed route as it crosses through 3 constituencies - S Northants, Tamworth and Kenilworth and Southam. I was invited to meet with HS2 Ltd on September 8 to see their proposals, and sent out an email to my entire 'HS2 email distribution list' on that same day. If you would like to add your email address to this distribution list then please let me know at email@example.com.
6. I have met with senior staff at Arup Ltd to review their proposal for an alternative High Speed Rail. This proposal in my opinion fits much more closely with our existing transport network and infrastructure and uses an existing travel corridor. I have asked both Philip Hammond and Theresa Villiers on many occasions if they will look at this alternative.
7. I took part in SNAG's 'Walk the Route' campaign with residents of Aston le Walls and Lower Boddington, and had the chance to talk at length with residents about how they can get their views heard.
8. I pressed very hard for the district and county councils to form a 'coordination' group with SNAG and myself to better represent the views of local people and to present a coherent strategy for fighting the proposals. This group now meets regularly to discuss HS2 related matters.
9. I arranged a 'National Lobby Day' in Westminster on October 25 2010 to enable Action Groups up and down the line to challenge High Speed Rail. The Secretary of State has agreed to attend, together with many affected MPs, members of the Transport Select Committee and representatives from HS2 Ltd.
10. I have asked many Written Parliamentary Questions and Oral Parliamentary Questions on this subject. Before Christmas I asked the Prime Minister if he would ensure that the consultation was fair, open and wide ranging.
11. I attended the 'Stop HS2' convention at Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire, listened to a number of speakers and spoke with many campaigners.
12. I have spoke in many debates regarding transport infrastructure and raised the question of high speed rail at every available opportunity.
13. On Thursday 31 April I secured a debate specifically on HS2 in Westminster Hall which was extremely well attended by many MPs. I feel this is the time to be talking about HS2, now that the consultation period is open and the roadshows are underway.
As you would expect I am in constant and regular contact with local press, local Councils and with the South Northamptonshire Action Group on the subject of HS2.
My Position On HS2:
a) I do not support the current route, even in its changed guise.
b) I strongly question whether 250mph is realistic in our small, crowded island.
c) I do not believe the business case is sound - in particular I challenge the economic value ascribed to each minute of journey time saved.
d) I believe that new train infrastructure is vital - anyone getting on a train from MK to London, or travelling on our motorways regularly can see that congestion is getting worse. Freight movement onto the railways and off the roads is critical.
e) I believe that any new train infrastructure needs to fit clearly within our existing train network, with the possibility of additional 'spurs' that allow trains to switch from the high speed to the normal network.
The Coalition Government's Proposed Consultation: Draft Timetable:
February 2011 - Formal public consultation
During this Parliament - Hybrid Bill laid before the House of Commons
2015 - Construction could start
Pictures show Andrea addressing attendees of the High Speed Rail Lobby Day and Andrea showing support for demonstrators at the Conservative Party Conference