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'We're not being a bunch of nimbys' say HS2 opponents
MIKE Kerford-Byrnes bristles when he and his neighbours are accused of opposing the £32bn High Speed Rail link just because they are “nimbys”.
As expected, the Government yesterday signalled the go-ahead for the first phase of the link between London and Birmingham following a route that will skirt villages in North Oxfordshire including Finmere and Mixbury, drawing anger from residents who have fought against it.
But Mr Kerford-Byrnes says the fight has not been just about retaining a pleasant panorama from his land – which will be about 200 yards from the HS2 rail line – but because he believes the economics of the scheme do not add up.
“I’m not a nimby,” he said soon after Transport Secretary Justine Greening made the announcement.
“By the time the judgment is made on this project I will be dead, but my children and grandchildren will have to pay for it.
“Nothing has changed except the strength of the argument against it and the strength of the resistance to that argument.
“I have yet to see in all evidence they produced that it is viable economically. They are going to start building in 2016 and all the prices that are being quoted are fixed at 2009 values. I do not believe there will be zero inflation between 2009 and 2016.
“I do not believe it will still cost £32bn in 20 years’ time.”
He said in Finmere, Warren Farm, a small settlement of 12 homes would be sliced in half, and parts of the village would be “uninhabitable”, adding: “There are houses in Newton Purcell that will be wiped out completely.
“Homes have been blighted since the announcement, but the blight has become a bit more credible.”
It is contrary to what Mrs Greening, right, said about the financial and environmental benefits to the project.
She said: “The faster journeys on HS2 – Edinburgh and Glasgow will be just 3.5 hours from London – could transfer around 4.5 million journeys per year who might otherwise have travelled by air, and nine million from the roads.
“HS2 will also create more rail capacity on existing conventional lines for freight – removing lorries from our busy trunk roads.
“HS2 is therefore an important part of transport’s low-carbon future.”
The announcement highlighted a series of changes to the 140-mile route between London and Birmingham, including new tunnels, or extensions to already-planned tunnels, at Greatworth in Northamptonshire, Turweston, near Brackley, Chipping Warden and Aston le Walls in Northamptonshire.
This first £16.4bn phase, introducing 225mph trains and cutting London-Birmingham journey times to 49 minutes, would be completed in 2026. A second phase, taking HS2 to Manchester and Leeds in a Y-shaped route, would be completed in about 2032/33.
Bernie Douglas, chairman of Villages of Oxfordshire Opposed to HS2, VoxOpp, said: “I think it was a done deal from day one. The consultation was just going through the motions.”
Mr Douglas also warned estate agents told him property prices within three miles of the planned route would drop by 20 per cent.
Banbury MP Tony Baldry said he was not convinced about the business case of the project. He pledged to ensure the economics were fully investigated, that proper compensation was in place and mitigation, such as noise barriers, was built.
Sir Brian Briscoe, chairman of HS2 Ltd, said engineering, design and environmental work would start immediately for plans to go to Parliament.