In the weeks before North West Leicestershire District Council took a vote on their HS2 strategy, my inbox was full. Some residents wanted me to vote “For”. Just as many wanted me to vote “Against”. With good advice coming from all directions, what should a Councillor do?
The NWLDC HS2 Strategy is a forty page document created with the help of SLC Rail, a company with a track record of delivering successful rail schemes across the country. Their report opens with the words ‘HS2 is coming’. It goes on to describe in detail the impact of HS2 on residents and local businesses in our District. There will be adverse impacts on our villages and towns from Measham to Kegworth. The report is highly critical of the proposed new route to the east of Measham.
The final decisions on HS2 will be made in London, not in Coalville. The HS2 circus train is coming and is proposing to trample through our back gardens on its way to the Big Top at Toton. Outright opposition might deliver votes in May but they won't change the situation here in Coalville. As local Councillors, the best we can can hope to do at this stage is keep out of the way of the elephants and guide the wagons away from blighting our prize petunias.
The NWLDC Strategy is strongly of the opinion that the 2016 HS2 route amendment is not viable. With help from SLC Rail they are proposing a “tweak” to the original route that will save Measham’s Plastic Omnium factory from being demolished and avoid the worst of the impacts on residents in Measham.
Whilst supportive of the Council’s position, I remain concerned that the benefits of HS2 for Coalville are still being overstated. The NWLDC strategy document states that the journey to London from Coalville by car and rail will reduce from 1hr 52m to 1hr 31mins. That is fine for anyone with access to a car. The current journey by bus and conventional rail takes 2hrs 26m. After HS2 the journey by public transport will take 3hr 35m.
If HS2 goes ahead, Coalville will be a further 1hr 9m behind in the race to join the London commuter belt. With the final decision regarding HS2 in the hands of Parliamentarians, you will have to wait for the next election before you can change trains.