Why HS2 remains at top of agenda in Ruislip

Hillingdon Times: White elephant: familiar symbol of HS2 protesters, seen here in Ruislip High Street White elephant: familiar symbol of HS2 protesters, seen here in Ruislip High Street

DEVASTATED by the prospect of High Speed Rail Two (HS2) tearing through her back garden, a 53-year-old mother of two has spoken out about her living hell.

Sandra Seco has lived in her home in Irwin Close, Ruislip, for 30 years but now faces the prospect of losing her back garden to HS2.

The £33bn project, which is said to increase rail capacity, create faster and greener alternatives to cars and meet international rail standards, plans a route that cuts directly through Sandra’s land.

The project is under widespread scrutiny from national groups, as well as Hillingdon Against HS2.

The latest blow for affected residents is that HS2 has revised, for the fourth time, figures estimating its economic benefits – meaning that the project may never break even.

“When this first broke and we heard about it, it was devastating news and, even to this day, it’s still devastating,” said Sandra.

“I love my home and I think I am really lucky to be in this part of Ruislip. It’s the not knowing what will happen to my property that upsets me.”

Sandra said that, once she heard the news about HS2 cutting through Ruislip, she began writing to the project and attending its meetings.

At one, she was told three different things about what would happen to her land, including that she might lose up to 16 metres of it.

“I feel like I’m living in a bubble,” she said. “We can’t plan things. There are things we wanted to do, but we still don’t know what the future holds.

“It’s horrendous because I have always said that, no matter what goes on in your life, no matter what life throws at you, you should always be able to go home at night, shut your front door and have some sort of peace. We haven’t got that.

“We are in limbo. It is like a living hell and I could cry.”

In a bid to fight for the people whose lives would be affected, Hillingdon Council started legal proceedings against the Government, filing for a judicial review under the umbrella of the 51m group, formed of more than 70 local community groups challenging the high speed network.

The council has earmarked a contingency budget of £200,000 for the 2012/13 HS2 challenge.

Council leader and member of the 51m group, Ray Puddifoot, said: “The proposed HS2 scheme is a monumental folly and an example of how to get it wrong in practically every aspect, from the enormous cost to the transport needs of the country and the environmental damage to completely ignoring the views expressed by the public in the consultation process.

“Even the Government is not above the law, but it is always a matter of regret when, as local politicians, we have to resort to using the law to protect the people and the environment from such economically disastrous vanity projects.”

Martin Tett, chairman of the 51m group, said: "We are doing this with great reluctance but feel the Government has left us with no alternative.”

Hillingdon people have also united to raise funds for a legal case by the national group. Hillingdon Against HS2 has collected more than £300 for the cause.

Keri Brennan, chair of Hillingdon Against HS2, said: “At all of our events, we have displays and collection boxes to raise money for the HS2 Action Alliance Judicial Reviews.

”Most of our time and resources are spent helping residents, especially those who are not aware of the proposals or those who do not have access to the internet, maps and compensation information.”

Sandra, who regularly attends Hillingdon Against HS2 meetings said: “We will never give in and we will never stop fighting to stop this. I am not against high-speed rail and I am not against progress, but I am against the route. The route is totally wrong.”

She added: “It’s not just about fighting for my own home but fighting for the community because it’s our taxpayers’ money they are using and it’s appalling.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: "HS2 is a project that will deliver jobs and prosperity across the entire country.

“Network Rail predict that the West Coast Main Line will be full by the mid-2020s and have concluded that building a new line is the best option, with HS2 delivering £4 of benefit for every additional £1 spent, compared to a new conventional-speed line.

"The line of route between London and the West Midlands has been continually improved to mitigate the impact on those living near it and the environment.

“We believe we have struck the right balance between the reasonable concerns of people living on or near the line, who will be offered a package of compensation measures, the environment and the need to keep Britain moving."

Fact file: Proposed benefits of HS2:

Large increase in capacity and network able to carry up to 18 trains per hour

A network built to international standards, which could potentially carry double-decker trains

More space on conventional railways for commuter, regional and freight services

Improved intercity connections

Faster rail services, offering an alternative to many domestic aviation and car journeys.

Better rail links between regional cities

Improving links for business travellers, providing wider access to markets and enabling growth and productivity

Tens of thousands of new jobs and regenerated areas

Potential for future expansion of high-speed rail

From the Department for Transport’s online handbook ‘High Speed Rail, Investing in Britain’s future’.

Opposition objections:

HS2 ignores the views of thousands of people who are opposed to it

Alternatives to HS2 have not been fully explored – despite £32billion being allocated to this project

HS2 will not reduce CO2 emissions but will be ‘broadly neutral’ according to the Government

HS2 is not a not value for money – economic benefits are unproven. (There has been great debate over the ‘real’ amount allocated to HS2. Campaigners believe the project will go over budget)

The 72-metre ‘vegetation management’ width is wider than Wembley (69 metres)

HS2 will not deliver regional benefits, as three times as many passenger journeys will be towards London, bringing redistribution there

Journey times between cities are already faster than our European competitors

Predictions on reducing domestic air travel are based on unrealistic demand

From HS2 Action Alliance and The 51m Group websites under ‘facts’

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