Michael Fabricant has met urgently with Justine Greening for a preliminary discussion on how best to mitigate the effects of HS2 on his constituents, following the Secretary of State for Transport’s statement to the House of Commons on 10th January. “We had a constructive and positive meeting. She made it clear to me that there is still a long way to go before any construction commences and minor changes to the route are still possible. She says she will do all in her power to minimise the visual and acoustic impact of the line as it passes through the district”, says Michael Fabricant. "We discussed a number of possibilities including the use of earth embankments to hide some of the elevated lengths of track so that all that might be visible would be a grassy or wooded bank. Sadly tunnelling isn’t an option due to the flood plain and high water table." Michael has also had a separate meeting this week with HS2 engineers.
Michael continues: "But of course I do realise that many of my constituents will be extremely disappointed with the Government’s decision to give the green light to HS2. They will be particularly concerned that the Government has rejected options for enhancing existing rail routes instead of constructing a new high speed rail line.
"They will also be concerned, as am I, that the Government hasn’t re-examined alternative routes using existing transport corridors such as the M40. I have told the Prime Minister and both Justine Greening and Philip Hammond that routing HS2 through virgin countryside is highly undesirable.
"However, the political reality is that with David Cameron, Ed Miliband, and Nick Clegg all enthusiastically backing HS2 and with only 20 or so MPs – out of 650 – bothering to turn up to state any objections to HS2 with the current Transport Secretary, Justine Greening, at a meeting I attended before Christmas, it is clear that Parliament currently has an overwhelming and fixed view in favour of HS2.
"MPs, companies, and trade organisations from Birmingham, the north of England, and Scotland are particularly vocal in support of the new high speed line. Many MPs have emphasised this in recent Parliamentary debates.
"In her Statement to the House of Commons on Tuesday, Justine Greening spoke of her willingness to meet with local councils and I shall soon be discussing alternatives with Lichfield District Council. We shall then all meet the Secretary of State in London or Lichfield to present a series of proposals to minimise the effect of the line in our area and get the best deal for the district.
"But first, I will be meeting with local campaigners and plan to work closely with them. I see my immediate role as two-fold: firstly, to assist individuals and organisations in the constituency effect further local route changes where it will help and discuss what options might be available to minimise the acoustic and visual impact of the line; and secondly, to maximise the compensation available to those affected along the route. I know that if HS2 does go ahead, the Government plan to offer a very generous compensation scheme.
"However, the Government’s intention to proceed with HS2 is still not necessarily a done deal on three counts. External factors could scupper the project.
"Firstly, I understand that a number of national anti-HS2 campaigners plan to take the Government to court over the manner in which the ‘consultation’ into HS2 was conducted last year. Secondly, the legislation required in Parliament is fraught with difficulty as the relevant Committee may decide that the route is fundamentally wrong. Crossrail in London had to be substantially changed and its entire legislation totally rewritten after it entered its Committee. And finally, any further downturn of the European economy could cause a delay or complete cancellation of the entire project.
"I’m afraid this is going to be a long and drawn out campaign. The House Committee set up to examine the route, metre by metre, won’t even be formed until late in 2013 and could sit for a couple of years or longer.
"Local and national anti-HS2 campaigners might understandably feel they have lost a battle. But they may not have lost the war."