Victoria Prentis MP writes about her concerns ahead of the House of Commons vote on the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill.

Our area was scarred by the building of the M40 when I was 16.  29 years on and the gash is still as visible, and as noisy, but we have reaped economic benefits that make our area one of real growth and almost no unemployment – an area of which this Government is justly proud. We are not nimbys; we welcome development when we can see its benefits, and are coping with unprecedented housing growth.

By contrast, HS2 brings us nothing but eight years of significant disruption, followed by permanent dissection. It will destroy beautiful habitat, ancient woodlands and pasture. Its construction will cause traffic gridlock to Banbury. And all for what?  If it were to give others the connectivity and economic success we enjoy, we might try to grin and bear it.  But I can’t look my constituents in the eye and tell them it is for the greater good. 

HS2 will not, sadly, heal the north-south divide. Rather, it will reinforce the dominance of London. It will certainly cost us all money – at least £1000 per household. It won’t really save time. In Birmingham, the proposed interchange station in Curzon Street is separate to the primary West Midlands hub at New Street, only accessible via tram or a 15 minute walk in an underpass. The link with Heathrow has been abandoned, and it doesn’t connect with the Channel Tunnel. Euston won’t be ready before the line is expected to open so rail users will have to disembark at Old Oak Common, a station in the suburbs.

Most tragically, it is bad for the environment. Over 130 wildlife sites on the first stage will be affected, including 10 Sites of Special Scientific Interest, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and 50 ancient woodlands. It is supposed to encourage passengers to give up more carbon intensive forms of transport. However HS2 Ltd’s own projections suggest a shift of only 11% from car or air to high-speed rail.

I can look at the M40 and see the benefits. My successor in 30 years’ time will look at HS2, if it goes ahead, and see only division, noise and disruption, and no significant benefits gained for the rest of the country.  That is why I will be voting against this Bill this afternoon.

Victoria Prentis MP (23 March 2016)