How HS2 has blighted my parents’ lives

My dad’s back working in a car factory at 77, a lifetime’s work wrecked by a blighted house

6 December 2014

9:00 AM

6 December 2014

9:00 AM

Waiting to appear before a Commons select committee, my father turned to me. ‘This was not on my bucket list,’ he said.

My father should be enjoying his retirement. Instead, he and my mother are still working full time in their seventies because they cannot sell their home due to the blight of HS2. And here they were now, about to present themselves to Parliament to petition the High Speed Rail Bill.

Theirs is one of more than 1,900 petitions brought by people whose lives have been so adversely affected by the planned rail link that they will need to be heard in person by MPs before the Bill can be passed.

Because of their age, I decided I would be the one reading a statement to the cross-party committee examining the effects of the Bill. The way I felt, standing outside committee room five of the House of Commons, I would need a bucket list myself soon.

Our appearance was the culmination of months of wading through mountains of paperwork, poring over endless maps and gathering evidence that went into such minutiae about our lives that it has all too often felt like we are the ones on trial, not the government’s controversial rail project. I don’t know how anyone fights these battles. No. Let me put it another way: I know exactly how governments and big corporations wear people down so that objections to infrastructure projects by the poor helpless sods caught in the middle are seldom any problem for the guys at the top.

For the past five years my parents and I have been living in the shadow of a rail link that many, including some senior members of the government, believe will never be built. Its cost is spiralling, and now estimated to be the better part of £100 billion. It’s an outdated project, the answer to last century’s transport question. High-speed rail was something Britain needed a long time ago — possibly as far back as the 1960s, when the first bullet train was hurtling through Japan. But the growth in technology like free conference-calling has made nonsensical the claim that economic growth will be boosted now by business people shaving 20 minutes off the journey between London and Birmingham. If the digital revolution continues apace, most of us won’t make this journey soon at all. At around £100 a ticket, the line will be the preserve of rich tourists.

Not since the Millennium Dome has so much taxpayers’ cash been lavished on something of such dubious application. But as one very senior cabinet minister put it to me: ‘They’re being very arrogant about it. Big trains, you see. It’s all a bit macho.’ By ‘they’, I take it he means Cameron and Osborne, particularly the latter, for whom the HS2 link seems to be something of a passion.

Well, he doesn’t have to worry about its impact. In plans showing the second leg of the line going north from Birmingham, it suddenly goes in a £600 million loop around Osborne’s Tatton constituency.

Gallingly, though, it was not Osborne but my parents, with their modest three-bedroomed semi, who were called ‘toffs’ at the height of the HS2 debate. Going head to head with me on Sky News a few years ago, the late Bob Crow denounced my family for not wanting the line near their ‘country estate’. They were, he said, sacrificing transport workers’ job prospects.

Oh, the irony. My father gets up at 4 a.m. to work in the car industry at the age of 77. He can’t slow down because the neat little house he worked all his life to pay for has devalued drastically because of the actions of a remote elite. The fact that neither the left nor the right get this has been uniquely deranging.

When Philip Hammond visited the areas affected as transport secretary he denounced concerned residents as nimbys and luddites. But the reality is, those facing ruin are neither flat-earther nimbys nor toffs in the Chilterns but ordinary people whose only asset is their home. The burden of HS2 falls disproportionately on the hard-up and the elderly because they are the ones who cannot just walk away from their blighted property and start again.

It doesn’t help that whenever we tell anyone that our lives are pretty much taken up with fighting HS2, they always shrug and say, ‘Oh that! But they won’t build it.’

Here’s the thing; it doesn’t make any difference whether they build it. Homes are already up for sale and cannot be sold. It makes me mad as hell to see my mother being brave about the arthritis in her hands as she continues with her hairdressing business.

And it’s not as if staying put will only mean financial hardship. If they are unable to move, they will spend their eighties living next to a massive construction site, with 246 workers stationed in the fields around them. The road on which they live will be closed one way, making journeys to the nearest town to get provisions intolerable, while hundreds of HGVs carrying materials will choke out dust and diesel.

And if they are still alive when it’s finished, they will be nearly 90 years of age and living 335 metres from a massive rail link and right next to a flyover — because the plan is to raise the end of their road into the air and send 225mph trains underneath it every four minutes.

All that upheaval, and the attitude of those in power so far has been to tell them to rejoice and be proud of this wonderful new infrastructure project. Let them eat construction dust, effectively.

What affects me more than anything is the fact that my father put his trust in the process. A Tory voter all his life, he believed a Conservative-led government would do the right thing. And so after the project was confirmed by the coalition, he spent a good deal of time waiting for an envelope to plop through the door explaining what they would do to help him. It took years of receiving only high-handed missives from the Department of Transport for him to realise no help was coming.

At first we were discouraged from even thinking about the only scheme available — called the Exceptional Hardship Scheme — because so few householders had been helped by it. But eventually we realised that other putative schemes were not materialising. So earlier this year we started spending my parents’ dwindling income on lawyers to help us navigate the unbelievably complex process of applying to the EHS and petitioning the HS2 Bill.

Waiting outside committee room five, it all seemed such a blur. My parents went in to take their seats and then it was just me sitting on a bench outside with a clerk swearing me in. As I stared at the laminated sheet on which the oath was written, everything was swimming in my head. On the Wandsworth Road that morning we had got stuck in traffic and so, fearing we would miss our slot and all would be lost, I got out of the minicab and ordered my poor parents to start running. Thankfully, we managed to flag a black cab and sail through the bus lanes. But it was all too much. I had wanted to protect them in their old age, and I felt like I was failing.

I burst into tears. The clerk looked at me askance, before disappearing. He returned with loo roll and a glass of water.

Somehow I said the oath, wiped my eyes and got myself in front of the committee. Our legal team, Simon Ricketts and Evan Milton of King and Wood Mallesons, who have worked incredibly hard for us and way beyond the call of duty in holding me together, visibly exhaled with relief when I took my place beside them. Simon looked a little nervous as I began.

But in the event, I didn’t shout and scream about the injustice of it all. I managed to stick to the facts, calmly referring to maps and reference points in baffling HS2 Ltd documents. And when I had finished, I thought, ‘I don’t care what happens now.’

In fact, Sir Peter Bottomley said he thought our case an obvious one for compensation. Robert Syms, the chairman of the committee, said they would follow our progress and if the compensation scheme ‘is not doing what it says on the tin then we will want to have some words’.

Back in the corridor, the representatives of HS2 Ltd scurried up. A conversation between our legal team and their legal team ensued. I didn’t dare hope. I still don’t. Our case is now being examined by a panel.

In the past few days, we have had to submit bank statements, pension books and savings accounts to prove that my parents do not have vast amounts of money stashed away. We have also had to produce yet more utility bills (we’ve submitted about a dozen) as proof of address. It is as if the government seriously thinks it is possible my parents might be making up the whole story about living next to the HS2 route.

If only.

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Show comments
  • Pootles

    ‘A Tory voter all his life, he believed a Conservative-led government would do the right thing.’ That’s the saddest part of this sad story. ‘Would do the right thing’. Perhaps the Tories, and others, once did, but certainly not now.

    • Blindsideflanker

      Isn’t that the disappointment of the Cameron Conservatives, would do the right thing but never did.

  • Damaris Tighe

    I’ll never forget the road in Worthing blighted by the plans for a bypass. The beautiful detatched houses were boarded up & in semi-ruin when I last saw them, but I remembered their once immaculate gardens. The bypass had been cancelled so this vandalism was for nothing.

    • john

      beautiful mock tudor houses

      That’s a phrase you rarely hear.

      • Damaris Tighe

        I know they’re a bit naff but I like them – very homely & traditional.

        • john

          Well traditional back to 1930.

          • Damaris Tighe

            The 1930s mock tudor was a take on the arts & crafts movement inspired by William Morris at the end of the 19th century. I love all that stuff.

          • john

            OK but its a bit twee and reflects the class consciousness of the British middle class.
            “Rich man in his castle, poor man at his gate” (Middle class in mock tudor).

          • Damaris Tighe

            I wondered whether there was a disparaging point in your original post.

          • john

            Not disparaging but a hint of amusement.

          • Damaris Tighe

            I used to be quite precious about these things but I now love my faux oak beams.

          • Anousheh

            i am beginning to like your humour John, no irony

          • Damaris Tighe

            The point is, whether you like the design or not, these were people’s homes.

          • Anousheh


        • justejudexultionis

          Do you like ducks flying up walls, cloth caps, Robinsons Marmalade and cricket?

          • Damaris Tighe

            None of the above.

            I do like late 19th century arts & crafts furniture – William Morris & MacIntosh.

            And I’d much rather live in a 1930s mock tudor semi than any soulless box built since the 1960s.

          • e2toe4

            all of them except flying ducks

      • Anousheh


        • john

          Glad you like my oddball take on all things Brit. Love the place but had to leave to remain sane.

          • Anousheh

            I also usually bail out after expressing an opinion, as the self-righteousness of others becomes unnerving and I don’t find it productive to get angry. At least you have your English wit as a way around it all!

    • Ngaire Lowndes

      My husband remembers that terrible failed scheme. The houses were compulsorily purchased and boarded up. Then the road was cancelled, so the houses were sold for a fraction of their original value. Then… the road scheme was revived, and the houses were RE-purchased! Current status? According to Google Earth, the houses are in good repair and inhabited. But who knows what the future will hold.

      • Damaris Tighe

        Incredible story. I feel for the original owners. To have to see your home compulsorily purchased for nothing, & then fall into disrepair for years, must be soul destroying.

    • justejudexultionis

      ‘beautiful mock tudor’ —

      You were able to write that without any sense of irony?

    • will91

      Bit off topic, but they’d feel a bit like the industrialists and pioneers of the 19th century were they to revisit the former mill towns of Bradford and Dewsbury. Once great cogs of industry, now run down, third world squats, where the only real exports are of the self-detonating variety…

    • oregun

      That happens here in the states also. The government buys property for a scheme and then when it fails the property somehow ends up in a politicians friends hands for a nifty profit and the original property owner is the only one scammed. I am afraid that government needs to be watched and diminished.

  • johnjefkins

    Why not talk to a few people in Kent? HS1 trains make less noise than lorries on nearby roads. Is it right to let your parents worry unnecessarily? House prices in Kent rocketed in value when people realised that these 2 extra tracks were not the horror they feared. Stop talking your own property value down with scare stories.

    You already have lots of country roads near you.
    These 2 tracks with their embankments are the width of most 2 lane country roads with their embankments or landscaping either side. Same width.

    Yet those 2 tracks will carry as many people as twelve lanes of traffic.
    They save us having to build TWO new motorways across the Chilterns.

    So stop worrying your parents with myths about HS2.
    We need these 2 extra tracks.

    • Arthur Rusdell-Wilson

      You have said what needs saying. Wherever they are now, the Victorian railway engineers must be laughing at or 21st century society.

      • johnjefkins

        Thanks 🙂

        • Jeffjohnkins

          A Victorian engineer would look at this and laugh for a very different reason, saying “Wow, we’ve invented phones. And the internet. And cars. So why on earth are you spending all that money, building the same stuff we did? What a paucity of imagination. Oh, and where do I go to learn how to become a software engineer and to code. That’s where the action really is in 2014. Not building railways.” It is an expensive, ineffective, outdated answer looking for a solution.

          • johnjefkins

            Are roads outdated just because the romans had them?

            You have NO evidence that high speed rail is outdated.

            New faster trains get developed all the time – to run even faster and do it even more efficiently.

            HS2 is being designed for 250 mph trains, not because they already exist (commercially) but because recent development suggests they WILL exist by the time we finish it. HS2 is in effect being FUTURE PROOFED.

          • Jeffjohnkins

            There is a mountain of evidence of high speed train lines across the globe failing miserably to deliver the usage, benefits, and return on investment promised at inception, not to mention the lost opportunity costs of not investing the money elsewhere.

            Your argument re roads makes no sense and does nothing to to invalidate my point.

          • johnjefkins

            There is a mountain of evidence of high speed lines around the world SUCCEEDING so well that THOUSANDS more km have been built. Just open your eyes. They have taken so much air market that airlines like Virgin and Air France now want to run TRAINS.

            Eurostar for example has taken 85% of what used to be the world’s biggest air market – London-Paris.

            Since when have these state of the art trains been out of date ?????

            Which planet are you on?

          • Jeffjohnkins

            Using capitals letters mid sentence all the time for emphasis looks like either a)the author is unhinged or b)writes body copy for The Sun.

            (Well, your last post was a bit rude)

          • johnjefkins

            Sorry to be rude – but you have even created a username to bug me 🙂

            I use capitals as bold. Maybe it is sun-like but it makes the point. That’s all I am trying to do.

            I have no vested interest in this. I just hate people distorting the truth.

            Most rail around the world finds it hard to make money.
            But the most successful lines do really tend to be the new high speed ones. Look at Japanese bullet trains for starters.

            And its a bit rich to suggest that rail is old fashioned when vehicles have used roads for rather longer.

            That really is a fair comparison.
            The vehicles get updated all the time…..

            And if you are going to try imitating my name, you might as well get the number of ffs right.

            Only sun readers spell my name with 2 fs

          • Jeffjohnkins

            As for having no vested interest, you certainly seem to have an extreme level of interest, judging on your ability to shoot out pro-HS2 stats and data fast, frequently and across so much media -in fact commenting pretty much on every article-in support of the idea.

            Not suggesting for a moment that HS2’s PR needs to secure visible ‘independent’ advocacy for HS2 in every news article comment section, or anything…

            Jeff’s the is name, with two ‘f’s. Nice to see you took the style points on the caps though. Not just got to work on that logic….

          • johnjefkins

            The logic is fine. And I’ll still use caps to MAKE a point 🙂
            I don’t comment on much else, so I allow myself this interest.

          • padav

            Well have a go at me instead @Jeffjohnkins

            I also support the principles underpinning HS2 – I want to see railways form a much stronger element within the UK’s future transport infrastructure.

            For that long term goal to come to fruition the UK needs massive new capacity and the most effective strategy capable of delivering that solution is to build NEW rail track, which is precisely where HS2 comes into the equation

            I also have no direct vested interest in HS2, other than being a potential future user, but I’m sure you’ll find some way of implying I do – if you don’t like the content of the message, just shoot the messenger?

          • Chris Morriss

            Far less of a folly than extending Heathrow airport, which will demolish more homes than the whole of HS2 ever will.

      • Ngaire Lowndes

        http://stophs2.org/news/5410-eu-ten-t-programme Check out the EU’s TenT programme. HS2 is an integral part of it. Our masters in Brussels have Spoken, and we must obey.

    • ArthurDent1

      Why not talk to a few people along the HS2 route? My house is about 300m from the line and I have been told by an estate agent that it will not be possible to sell my house on the open market. This is not a myth.

      Do not underestimate the effect this is having on people’s lives. Individuals who want to sell up and move are facing huge financial losses. There are those who have been plunged into negative equity or had their retirement plans scuppered.

      Now I don’t mind doing my bit for Britain. If this situation was just going to last for 3 or 4 years I could live with that. But it will be another 10 years or so and that seems like a lot to ask. The extent and duration of blight caused by HS2 has never been seen before. It is an unprecedented problem and requires a creative solution.

      If ‘we’ need these two extra tracks so badly – a subject of much debate, why are the authorities so mean and miserly when it comes to supporting those who will bear the brunt of it?

      • OldFlashy

        Well said. I’ve got some very close family friends who have worked hard all of their lives and found themselves in a truly beautiful home for their troubles. It could pretty much be the ticket office if the plans go ahead, it has seriously affected their life plans also.

      • johnjefkins

        I of course have sympathy – but you have to ask who is causing that blight?

        Is 3 years of construction work in about 10 years time followed by a 2 track railway 300m away REALLY enough to harm your property value?

        Its fear of the unknown. Myth rather than fact.

        That’s not actually the fault of HS2.
        Its more the fault of the media and people stoking up fear.

        The REAL test is to see what happened in Kent where a real line has been recently built.

        Any construction work is a nuisance for a while. I accept that.
        But it really should not prevent your house being sold.
        If it does, then who is REALLY to blame for that ?
        A lot of that blame falls on people like StopHS2 who are making out that this thing is terrible and is going to make more noise than it really will.

        People are even complaining about TUNNELS near them.
        Its become a hysteria that has no basis in fact.

        • Jeffjohnkins

          Ok, I just read this post and now I am quite convinced you have a vested interest in this project, which is fine, but you should be prepared to disclose it.

          To suggest that major infrastructure projects have no negative effect on land or property values and to go a step further and blame the media and those campaigning against you must be aware is abject nonsense. Why on earth would you advocate this position? Your other arguments at least have some flow but this one not.

          You also keep saying, unprompted in posts that you have no vested interest. Why say that when no-one has asked?

          Would you be prepared to disclose your interest and/or relationship with HS2.

          To declare mine, I am a passionate rail advocate and regular user who has worked in the industry for many years. I have worked for Network Rail, EIMC, Balfour Beatty and Alstom all in the rail divisions.

          People in the rail industry do want HS2 but we all also know that it will cost a bomb and the business case is terrible. Then industry just wants the investment to flow. This island is small and does not need high speed rail. Doesn’t help HS2 that the business case keeps changing -first speed, then passenger numbers, then freight.

          • johnjefkins

            People keep asking if I have a vested interest. I do. Like 31 million users of the WCML I am an occasional passenger on it. I used to work as an Architect (on transport prokects) I have an interest in the subject and have researched it. Apart from that, I have no vested interest.

            Of course I have sympathy for people who are REALLY affected (ie living very close by or really affected by other construction work or traffic). Of course there WILL be disruption whilst the work goes on.

            I have repeatedly said that the construction industry has stated (eg the I.C.E) that this construction work could be done in less time (eg 3 years) rather than have disruption spread over longer. I have pointed out that faster construction means faster payback, less interest costs and less costs in proping up the old lines too. I put that to Higgins at a conference and he went public saying that he wanted the project speeded up.

            Of course people REALLY affected need proper compensation (and I like the value + 10% + moving costs generosity). I’d argue that as property values will rise back up again after the line opens, that sort of deal is actually an INVESTMENT for the buyer – as these values are artificially low now. Compensation should be for the TRUE value + 10%.

            My point remains that the reason those prices are low is artificial. HS2 is NOT the threat people make it out to be.

            If you want to test this, go to Goddinton Park near Ashford, kent. My family and I spent the whole afternoon outside (in June the delphiniums are great). HS1 is about 500m away – and ON AN EMBANKMENT. We heard birds, the occasional plane and trains on another (older) line further away. Eurostar and Javelin trains were running (we saw one cross the road bridge as we left) , but we DID NOT HEAR A SINGLE TRAIN.

            HS2 has had a better business case presented than the M1 ever did. The Jubilee line had a far worse business case presented – yet it still got built and the resulting business proved to be far better than the pessimistic prediction. We’d have never built the M1 on your terms.

          • rtj1211

            The business case for HS2 was always all three things: spped, capacity and freight.

            it’s the media reporting and spin by lobbyists which changes.

          • John Smith

            ‘I am quite convinced you have a vested interest in this project’

            That is how conspiracy theories start . .

        • ArthurDent1

          You sound like the high handed officials from HS2 – i.e. do
          not accept that there is a problem, and if there is it’s not because of HS2. No wonder there is so much anger and resentment along the line.

          • johnjefkins

            I accept there is a problem. I accept that house prices have been artificially brought down. I am just saying that the reason for that is FEAR about something that is not going to be anything like as bad as the myths suggest.

            In effect, those houses are superb investment opportunities for anybody with the time to wait until HS2 opens.

            Because when it does, those house prices will recover – just as they have in Kent.

            But in the meantime, people need help.
            As opponents to HS2 have caused this hysteria, I think they need to be sued by the people that have lost house value.

            StopHS2 needs to cough up for the house price slump they have caused. They need to prove the myths they are peddling.

      • John Smith

        So what is the alternative. If we had an approach like France’s it would have been built by now

  • OldFlashy

    I think the line is less about the 20mins saved to London and more about the connection with HS1.

    • AGB

      However the link with HS1 was cancelled by the Department for Transport earlier this year.

      • OldFlashy

        I didn’t realise. That’s interesting as I saw it as the only real benefit to the project. Not that I particularly feel that was amazing.

        • Arthur Rusdell-Wilson

          The principal gain from the project is the increased capacity between London and Birmingham. Long distance traffic transferring from the WCML will free up capacity for more stopping trains on the existing line, so towns along the route, e.g. Milton Keynes, will have a better service.

          • johnjefkins

            Agreed, but a phase zero could still earn early revenue by linking Heathrow with Europe (by effectively extending HS1 to Heathrow).

            Thats HS2 to W.Ruislip, the HS2 Heathrow spur (alongside the M25 to the GWR and T5) and the HS1 link.

            Early revenue before HS2 even crosses the Chilterns.
            (and the spur could also connect the Chiltern and GWR lines to T5 as well).

            2 million people still fly to Paris and Brussels from just Heathrow. Eurostar could also win about 50% of the 6 million/yr Heathrow markets to places like Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, Lyon and Switzerland (where it is about to extend its 17 extra new trains to).

            The extra APD alone from freeing up long haul slots instead of those less lucrative short haul slots would earn the Treasury enough to fund the Heathrow spur, HS1 link and part of HS2 within 10 years.

            If that Heathrow link was open by 2022 (instead of 2032) it could earn £7 to £10 billion extra APD tax in those 10 years alone. Every short haul swopped for long haul earns £100 extra APD per passenger (at 2013 rates).

            And we’d have less flights over London.

          • e2toe4

            You talk like a politician…or maybe politicians talk like you…either way you make a lot of assumptions about the future 20 and 30 years ahead.

            What was your take on how the internet would develop in 1994?

          • johnjefkins

            I supply IT to politicians rather than being a politician.
            So in 1994 I thought that databases and the internet would be very significant. But transport changes happen rather slower.

            Better communication (phone, fax, internet etc) have INCREASED how many people we communicate with and thus INCREASED the range we want to travel when we want to actually meet those people or see those places.

            Travel demand has INCREASED. You cannot go on holiday or clinch a sale or meet a client by the internet.

          • OldFlashy

            It just seems a lot of expense and upset for everyone to make sure the people of Milton Keynes and the like have a better train service. It just seems like a very convenient way of funneling more business and cash in to London whilst the rest of us look on at how our money has been blown. Then for good measure if we want to jump on the bleedin thing from time to time we’ll no doubt have to pay through the nose !!

          • Arthur Rusdell-Wilson


          • e2toe4

            I haven’t a clue about HS2 (Might have a tee-shirt made) …when I was younger I was always all for the old white hot heat of technological advances Blue Streak, TSR2, Austin Allegro (and the revolutionary square steering ‘wheel’… Concorde, so far ahead of it’s time by the time it’s time arrived it was cancelled.

            Now..I dunno..I have read stuff saying the country is done for if we don’t do it..other stuff saying if built it will deliver minimal CBR advantage if any.

            But I do know a bit about the Edinburgh Tram project and this is starting to look like the Edinburgh Tram project …we won’t get anything like what is advertised it will cost twice as much and at the end of the day it will be a train.

            AND why do people say we need more trains because of the demand, BUT with roads they say if we build more they’ll only fill up…. why doesn’t that happen with trains? or airports?

  • john

    Well that clinches it. Classy Melissa’s dad doesn’t like it. So cancel it.

  • A_Libertarian_Rebel

    None of you so far has mentioned it: but it matters. Hugely. HS2 in a EU-mandated project.

    It doesn’t matter that the costs, even disregarding the ancillary and opportunity costs, are soaring past £100 billion, which would have to be borrowed anyway, despite truly frightening levels of national debt.

    It doesn’t matter that face-to-face conferencing technology is increasingly making a mockery of the claimed business benefit

    It doesn’t matter that making better use of existing rail infrastructure would be both economically and environmentally better than HS2.

    The EU has decreed it must happen, and neither of the next likely UK Governments will oppose it.

    • OldFlashy

      It is partly what I was alluding to below.
      I notice this morning there is a debate about us bringing the drink driving limit ‘into line’ with the rest of Europe. All of the little things have slowly been happening. We need out ASAP.

      • johnjefkins

        So you’d prefer drunk people killing your kids ?

        Actually its SCOTLAND that brought the drink drive limit down.

        Do you want England in line with the rest of the UK (ie Scotland).

        • OldFlashy

          Yes, that is what I propose. Typical hyperbolic response to a reasonable point.
          And yes I know full well it’s SCOTLAND, they have moved into line with Europe and the debate was whether we should do the same, as far as they know on 5Live, this is the case.
          I personally don’t believe that the change in Scotland will make any difference to the sort of people who get drunk and drive like lunatics. What it will make a difference to is the reasonable person who gets pulled over after 1 or two pints, perhaps with a Sunday lunch, who is no danger at all, and then receives a heavy fine. It’s just another example of a little bit more of our personal judgment and freedom being taken away.

          • johnjefkins

            You may have a point, but its nothing to do with the EU.

            None of that is imposed by the EU.
            All of that is controlled by people we elect – at local, federal (Scotland/England), national (westminster) or EU level.

            Even your EU bogeymen are controlled by both MEPs and elected ministers who DO actually control the civil servants (even if those elected ministers pretend its somebody else’s decision).

            The typical problem is that when decisions get made, the person that makes it typically pretends that somebody else told them to do it. They always deny that they decided something people do not like.

            The EU is a very convenient thing to blame,
            Please take your head out of the sand.
            If we left the EU, we’d still have the same decisions.
            The rest of the world would always be “something to follow”

          • OldFlashy

            I was quite enjoying your post and thinking that we weren’t too far apart until you told me to ‘take my head out of the sand’ Rather patronising I’m afraid, unnecessary and unwelcome.

            Whether or not it is directly imposed by the EU, we are certainly making more and more moves towards being a single state. Whilst small matters like this seem inconsequential I think the bigger picture is a worry.

            My worries about the EU are mainly from issues of corporatism and how the potential power of this entity when in bed with the huge corporations of the planet.

            I know full well the our governments use the EU to blame things on, Another reason I’d like to be out, so they have nobody to pass the buck to !!!

          • johnjefkins

            Good point about the sand. Not meant for you. Meant for UKIP supporters who cannot see the jobs advantages of EU. But I got rid of it.

            I think we are making more moves in the OPPOSITE direction to a single state. More LOCAL decisions being made (of which this Scottish one is an example).

            Some decisions (eg on the environment where pollution blows over borders, or on common standards – to compete better with the Chinese- or on tax evasion by multi-nationals or cross border crime) need to be at EU level.

            Many can be more local than now (ie in London or Scotland rather than in Westminster).

            The worst thing would to be like Norway or Switzerland.
            Out of the EU but in the trade area.
            We’d then have no part in the decisions – but still have to follow any decision that was made about the free trade area – and that would INCLUDE free movement of people.

            And your MEP now has more power.
            There IS nobody to pass the buck to.
            If its an EU decision, blame him or her.
            If all you have is a UKIP person that does not take their job seriously, then get rid of them.

          • OldFlashy

            The Scottish one is a move into line with EU measures though, when I believe that we have a perfectly good position on the matter already. The environmental issue I believe is one that could be achieved through co operation rather than an EU rule. If we ham string our businesses competing with China will be irrelevant. As for tax evasion by multi nationals, well they’re not doing much of a job of that, they’re actually facilitating it.
            I have no issue with free movement of people in principal but I do believe it to be wholly incompatible with countries of different economic level. Differing benefits structures etc do make for problems with that system in my opinion. It is clearly one of the major reasons that our membership of the EU doesn’t sit too well with many.
            I feel there is a lot of scaremongering about leaving the EU. I’ve read some very valid reasoning from economists etc. No doubt they would make life tough for us for a while but I don’t feel they could afford to be too harsh.
            I just have a big issue with the EU being the people to negotiate our trade deals when we have a perfectly good CV in such matters. Call me a little Englander all you like!

          • johnjefkins

            We’d get a worse deal on trade deals if we worked alone.

            Fact is, we no longer have our empire and everybody else (the USA, Asia etc) negotiates in trading blocks.

          • OldFlashy

            We could negotiate trade deals with other places, much more swiftly and on our terms. There’s nothing to say we couldn’t strike up some very sweet deals. I’ve read reports that both agree and disagree with your stance so I find it difficult to judge. My instinct is that we’d be A OK.
            I’m just very concerned with the direction we are going. Trade deals inevitably become political unions as we’ve seen with the EU. I definitely don’t want to be signing up to more of them under the instruction of the EU. TTIP being a prime example.

          • johnjefkins

            Except its not the EU, its OUR ministers working in concert with others to make an acceptable deal.

            The EU is made up of our own people – as is the UK.
            That’s whats meant in both cases by the word U for United.
            We are a team.
            Its not as if the EU is some sort of nazi party.

          • OldFlashy

            That’s exactly what worries me. Too many cooks spoil the broth n all that.

            As for your last point, you’ll find a few round here who disagree !!!

          • johnjefkins

            Alone, there is no way we’d get as good a deal.

            If your town tried to do a trade deal with the USA would they bother to even talk to you? (And I think the USA negotiates as part of a north american trading block too).

            We need to work as a team. That’s all the EU is in effect.
            Its a club, made up of its members.

            And that means pursuading your colleagues to trust our neighbours.

            But it sounds like you are not even keen on the UK either (if you don’t like Scotland having the power to decide on its own drinking laws).

          • OldFlashy

            Happy for them to do what suits them essentially. I find it difficult to understand how someone can cross the border within the UK and find themselves to be breaking the law. I’ve got a lot more time for the UK than the EU, I can assure you.
            I think your comparison to a town is a little moot. The UK and the USA have a rich history together and I’m sure that we’d be able to thrash something out.
            Anyway, we’re of a different view but I respect your opinion. Hopefully we’ll get that referendum so we can excercise our differences democratically and then move on !!

          • johnjefkins

            If we left the EU, we’d have to spend a decade thrashing out trade deals with every other country.

            Fine to have a referendum, but I suspect that UKIP’s greatest fear is that referendum. They fear a stay in vote.

            They want the Tories to lose the election so they can carry on existing.

    • johnjefkins

      There is NO evidence whatsoever that the EU has anything to do with HS2.

      The government is so scared of UKIP they even cut the HS2-HS1 link !

      The Tories need get some balls.
      They need to add back the HS1 link and ask the EU for cheap loans for HS2.
      (or do we have to wait for Ed’s “balls” to do that?)

    • John Smith

      ‘face-to-face conferencing technology’ has been around for years

      If it gave air miles it would become popular

  • vvputout


    1. Fund HS2 and blight lives, especially of older people, or

    2. Fund NHS 5-year forward view and improve lives, especially of older people http://www.kingsfund.org.uk/projects/nhs-five-year-forward-view

    Reaaly no choice.

    • johnjefkins


      1) Invest in these 2 tracks, HALVE most journey times between 8 of our top 10 cities (Manchester-Birmingham-London. London-Nottingham-Sheffield-Leeds/York + connections to Liverpool & Newcastle & Scotland etc).

      DOUBLE business hinterlands to thus create billions (the LSE say £1 billion/yr, KPMG say £5 billion per year extra tax for 100 years = £500 billion extra tax) from the 100,000 to 400,000 jobs created (depending on which economist you believe).

      Use that £100 or £500 BILLION extra tax to repay costs and then to help fund the NHS over the next 130 years. Even if its only £1 billion per year (£100 billion over 100 years) extra tax (+ fare income etc) its a lot of extra money to help fund the NHS.

      2) Don’t invest in UK PLC infrastructure. Cause congestion, cost jobs and NOT have future funds for the NHS.

      Really (spelt correctly) no choice.

      • Geoff

        You’re always popping up on forums extolling the amazing miracle benefits of HS2. Wonder why? Would almost think you have an associated interest. Wish I could predict the future with such certainty as you.

        • johnjefkins

          Do you really want a future without faster rail travel ?
          Would you seriously want to hinder our economy ?
          Are 2 extra rail tracks really going to harm the countryside ?

          So is there really any logic in these house prices falling ?
          Did they not recover in Kent ?
          Are these houses thus not a GOOD long-term investment ?

          Presuming we have no world war 3, we will need railways.
          As with any investment, the future is never certain, but the chances are more likely than not that we do need this extra capacity, halved journey times and better connectivity between 8 of our top 10 cities.

          If being a UK citizen and wanting to see a better future is a “vested interest”, yes I declare that interest.

          I do NOT work on the project though.
          Nobody pays me to say these things.

          • Jeffjohnkins

            May I ask politely if there is no commercial interest, why you and your company are among the signatories of this open letter to the Telegraph “British businesses in support of High Speed 2” along with multiple potential beneficiaries of HS2.


            In the interest of transparency, which organisation invited you to contribute please? Thanks

          • johnjefkins

            That was years ago, when HS2 Ltd employed a PR firm (was it Westfield???).

            I am happy to confirm that my little software company has no actual commercial interest in HS2 – except that in order to visit clients, I frequently travel around the country (mostly by train).

            As I keep saying, nobody pays me to say these things.

            My “vested interest” is that i am one of the people making 1.6 BILLION rail journeys each year.

      • Richard W Cowdell

        No we do not need this line. That is just a lie spun by this Government, its sycophantic supporters and the credulous. It is a complete waste of money.
        1. Very few people in Birmingham can afford to travel at peak time on the trains to London nowadays, in fact only those who are extremely wealthy or can claim the fares on their expenses. In fact just how much will the journey cost? Certainly substantially more that the fares at present. Public Transport is for the public not just for the wealthy as this line will be.
        2. The existing services are abominable. For decades the companies have been promising to make journeys better yet commuters are still packed like sardines on the early morning trains.
        3. Lines closed supposedly due to shortages of rolling stock have STILL not been re-opened.
        4. We, in the Black Country, are STILL waiting for our Metro extension, promised years ago, to take pressure off the roads. The route is there but no work is being done – and it never will be either.
        5. This is a service for a tiny minority who just don’t want to travel with us ‘smelly proles’. It will be much less affordable to the majority of us than the railways are at present. It will NEVER be used to capacity as few will be able to afford it.
        6. It will NOT bring any prosperity to the Midlands despite the lies promulgated by its supporters. If it does anything it will merely drain everything down to London (which is exactly what this Government want).
        7. It is just a way of this, and no doubt any Labour government we may get, paying back its big donors.
        8. The existing infrastructure will deteriorate and services will inevitably by being drastically cut – I am told there are already plans in place to slash the Coventry-London timetables – as all money will be channelled into this white elephant. Local services in the late evenings are, at present, abominable and they will only get worse.
        9. It will destroy acres and acres of land and blight people’s lives – still that doesn’t matter as long as its not those supporting it being affected,.
        10. It’s a bit ironic that the party which committed one of the worst environmental crimes in this country – the destruction of the railways – perpetrated by a gang of corrupt lying politicians with investments in road building, is now committing a further one by building this monstrosity – by the same equally corrupt lying individuals.
        11. To claim that, all of a sudden, freight will move back onto the railways is utter garbage. For a start how will that freight get to the tracks – on lorries of course – and secondly the majority, if not all, of the old Marshalling Yards have been built over and factories adjacent to railway lines, thanks to Thatcher destroyed. Freight will NEVER move wholly back onto the railways because the Road Haulage firms donating to the major parties will prevent this happening.
        HS2 is one of the biggest wastes of money perpetrated on this country. I suspect all of its supporters are the typical NIMBYs. As long as it’s nowhere near them and not blighting their lives it’s good for us all (how do they know this?). They will use lie after lie and falsehood after falsehood to justify the building of it and the credulous will believe every word they say

        • johnjefkins

          HS2 is supported by Labour and SNP who certainly don’t support the Tories and nobody wants to waste money.
          1) This capacity will keep fares down (ie keep the £9.50 fares from Birmingham to London that we currently have). You cannot argue that price is not a factor of supply and demand. You cannot argue that fares will not rise without this extra capacity.
          2) HS2 makes existing (not bad) services BETTER. You cannot complain! about this IMPROVEMENT.
          3) Lines reopen if there is demand. There IS intercity demand along the route of the HS2 Y

          4) The Metro IS being extended – aorund central Birmingham and then past the new HS2 station east.
          5) High speed rail around the world is used by NORMAL people/ They don’t sell seats if they are too expensive.

          After that you started to ramble.
          But briefly, on the land point, the alternative to HS2 is to build TWO new motorways that would destroy rather more land (those 2 tracks carry the equivalent of 12 lanes of traffic).

  • The Laughing Cavalier

    A colossal and hideously expensive vanity project that should have been strangled at the beginning. Cheaper to demolish Birmingham and rebuild it twenty minutes down the line.

    • Damaris Tighe

      Yes, please demolish Birmingham.

    • johnjefkins

      Do you also want Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and York moved AN HOUR down the line?

      How about blowing up Glasgow, Newcastle and Edinburgh too and moving them AN HOUR down the line – as those journey times get cut too.

      HS2 also LOWERS rail fares – as all that extra capacity will bring back the cheap fares that will have gone by 2025. No HS2 = No seats.

      Official stats show that half of us would have to stand all the way to Birmingham without HS2. And also to Manchester, Leeds or London too.

      But of course you don;t care. You want all our major cities demolished.

  • Damian Hurts

    A good piece. I am hopeful topics like these will not require cash for questions in Parliament.

  • rtj1211

    What you’re basically saying is that we can never again build any national infrastructure again, since any and every project, be that roads or rail, will cause ‘blight’ somewhere to some people.

    I’m afraid that this must be filed under ‘that’s life’. What’s important is that the lawyers don’t delay and delay the process for years because that’s what’s doing for your parents.

    Target lawyers who will make millions from delaying the project by 5 years. That’s who you should be going after……..

  • justejudexultionis

    Let’s not do anything because it might offend someone. Let’s not build desperately needed new railways because it might upset some retired people in the Home Counties. Let’s not do science or research because it might change things. Let’s just stay in our bourgeois fantasy world of old maids cycling past the village green while the mist lies like a blanket over the fields by the Norman church and time stands still and we all live in caves or twee mock-Tudor semi-detached houses and drink Rington’s Tea and fight colonial wars in red tunics and sneer at those silly foreigners. Let’s allow our self-interest to destroy the economic chances of millions… for that is what these people are saying.

    You do realise that the argument for HS2 is capacity, not speed? There are two things wrong with HS2: firstly, construction should start in Scotland and the north of England and work its way down (not south to north) and secondly, there should be two additional HS routes i.e. one up the eastern side of the country via York and Tyneside, and another to Bristol and Cardiff…

    • Penny

      My reading of this article is that the couple concerned are seeking compensation. If, as a result of a project like this, your home is greatly devalued, restricting your ability to move away, then it seems only fair to make the move possible by awarding compensation.

      • johnjefkins

        And of course HS2 Ltd should compensate people close to the line.

        But if the house is a long way away, and the reason for the devaluation is hysteria brought on by myth – then the people causing those myths should pay.

        Ie if StopHs2 are causing unnecessary loss of property value, then StopHS2 should pay.

        In Kent property values shot back up when HS1 opened and it became clear that lorries on nearby roads made more noise than these 2 extra tracks.

        Could it be that these properties close to HS2 are actually golden investment opportunities – with prices likely to shoot back up if you can just wait until 2025 ?

        • EnosBurrows

          Compensation yes, but why +10%?

  • johnjefkins

    The 3 old lines (WCML, ECML and Midland Mainline) will be FULL by the 2020s.
    We simply cannot widen all 3 of them without spending MORE than HS2 will cost.

    The recent Atkins study showed that it would cost MORE than the £28 billion cost of HS2 to upgrade those 3 old lines – when you took into account the cost of closures of 10 years (and those upgrades would only deliver a THIRD of the extra capacity that HS2 delivers).

    HS2 is thus the best value for money of the alternatives.

    No HS2 = NO SEATS and higher fares.

    HS2 frees up the 3 old lines to each carry MORE commuter trains. So it ADDS more choice. Trains on the old lines will compete with HS2 on a price v speed basis. So HS2 is the best plan to increase capacity that thus brings down the average route ticket price.

    Yes – construction will cause about 3 years of disruption for some people.
    But so does any other type of construction. This is MUCH smaller than a new road.

    And the two tracks of HS2 save us having to build TWO new motorways to the north.

  • cecile10

    //My father gets up at 4 a.m. to work in the car industry at the age of 77. He can’t slow down because the neat little house he worked all his life to pay for has devalued drastically because of the actions of a remote elite//

    If the house is bought and paid for, why does Melissa’s father have to work at the age of 77 because the house has devalued?

    True, he may wish to sell up and may be suffering emotionally at the thought of forthcoming building works, but the bottom line is that HS2 has not increased the cost of living in that house.

    I hope this isn’t all about the size of Melissa’s inheritance.

    • johnjefkins

      Melissa must be making a mint from all these HS2 scare stories she writes (eg in the Daily Mail). She has a vested interest in selling stories.

      As SHE is talking these property values down – could SHE not contribute to the compensation for those affected?

      I’m not saying HS2 should not pay (value + 10%) for people close by.
      Its property values further away that SHE is affecting though.
      (or is she one of those buying them cheap now – to sell after the line opens?)

  • John Smith

    A modern day lesson of not relying on your house value for a sound retirement.
    House value can go down, as well as up

  • Terence Hale

    “HS2 “. Which will be more expensive HS2 or the cost of talking about it?

  • EnosBurrows

    Nimbyism at its purest.

  • Greyfox

    Farage describes HS2 as a vanity project and UKIP is against the incredible waste of money involved. So there could be a solution.

  • firgo

    I would suggest that everyone who is opposed to the financial waste and environmental damage of HS2 should make a mental note never again to vote for any of the political parties that have promoted the project. If enough of us did this then they would get the message.

  • majentah

    Why on earth would you think that these people would care any more for Tory voters who are not rich than anyone else? You simply had the misfortune not to live in Osbourne’s constituency where he would be sure to guarantee his electoral prospects by ensuring no distress to his constituents .

    Do the right thing? You must be joking .

  • Bill Thomas

    My copy of the magazine only arrived at 2pm today. I read the article – then I looked at the Hansard report of Melissa Kite’s evidence on behalf of her parents.
    I often don’t care for some of her narcissistic weekly articles – but I congratulate her on her efforts before the Select Committee. Other posters may think they know better- but it is NOT an easy thing to go before a Parliamentary Committee and present a coherent case.
    As a lawyer, it looks to me as though the party required to compensate is doing the classic thing of waiting and waiting and hoping that the claimants die

  • What an outrage! Destroying people’s lives and wasting billions all for a clapped-out technology that’s already obsolete and has no business benefit whatsoever!

  • Rockingham

    I have long said the argument against HS2, should switch to what does the country need more urgently, and that is affordable housing, that people can buy and rent, if the cost of HS2 is £100 billion, then that would build three quarters of a million affordable houses, which if profit on sales was only half of that which builders make, it would create one rentable house for every six sold, and return to local councils the housing stock they have lost, due to right to buy, it would also stabilise prices in the housing market, and give our young a chance to get on the housing ladder, and building the houses, would create more than double the jobs of HS2, and give the economy a boost that leaves the HS2 boost for dead.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    The convenience of the many over injustice visited on the few: A tough call.

  • Jackthesmilingblack


  • tomcmc

    This is NIMBYism, pure and simple. Of course some people will be affected, and should be compensated at the market rate, but the country needs quality infrastructure – for a multitude of reasons. We are one of the few modern European countries without a proper high-speed rail system and it is long overdue.
    As for £100 a ticket, that sounds pretty standard for UK railway ticket prices, at least this will be a top-quality service.

  • Ray Wade

    Tory pleads for benefits.

  • amisfit

    I could not think of anything less worthwhile than the ability to get to Birmingham quicker. At a time when some large towns have had their A&E departments closed down and some conurbations of Greater London the Government plans to spend £50bn on this white elephant. Do not expect support from local MP’s as I doubt they will vote against it. In the words of Ian Dury “what a waste”, of money that is. Where I live it is unlikely it will affect me but that does not mean I do not support those it will affect but more importantly I would much prefer this money is spent on more worthwhile projects such as improvements in the NHS and new hospitals where required. I think this should be urgent and important.
    I have friends who are the opposite to this chap as in they are at that point of buying their first house but have no idea of where to buy as all areas appear to be affected by HS2 from Great Missenden all the way up to Thame so it has created a lot of uncertainty. I even thought about moving to Wendover a year or so ago but HS2 is going to run right through the middle of it so that is a no go area now which is such a shame as it is lovely.