The Campaign for High Speed Rail has called for HS2 to become ‘the people’s train’.
The rally cry was made at an industry event attended by rail operators and passenger groups, where it was agreed that a ‘passenger taskforce’ should be created to look at the plans – and find ways to ensure the £33 billion scheme offered ‘low fares’ to a broad base of passengers.
It follows comments last year by then Transport Secretary Philip Hammond that Britain’s railways were a ‘rich man’s toy’.
Anthony Smith, chief executive of Passenger Focus, said: “It is never too early to start thinking about the potential customer experience even if a new high speed railway line is years away.”
Fabrice Morel, director of international development at SNCF Voyages, said: “In a context of ever higher infrastructure building costs, increasing the stakes in getting it right, early involvement of an experienced rail operator in the design of a new high-speed rail system would ensure trickle down benefits for passengers after the launch of services – both in terms of operational excellence and fare affordability. “The first high-speed rail lines in France showcased this and in Brazil, for example, a tender is about to be launched for a new high-speed line in which the operator will be selected first and tasked among other things with specifying what infrastructure will need to be built.”
Meanwhile Aylesbury MP and HS2 opponent David Lidington has produced a 15-page guide with frequently asked questions about the scheme – which is set to open in 2026.
It discusses the initial plans for a London-West Midlands line, eventually extending to Leeds and Manchester by 2033. There are also sections on compensation, mitigation and the ongoing community forums.
Mr Lidington said: “The HS2 proposals have dominated my constituency postbag since March 2010 and I thought that it would be useful to produce this document which is designed to answer some of the questions I have been asked on the scheme.
“During 2012, the great majority of letters and emails that I have had about HS2 have been about the environmental impact of the scheme on particular locations, prospects for mitigation measures and compensation issues.
“I have therefore concentrated on those matters in the document and I hope local people find it of use. I intend to update the document periodically to take into account any developments in the scheme.”
To read the document visit www.davidlidington.com
On Wednesday it was announced that a series of HS2 property compensation information events will take place.
Alison Munro (pictured), chief executive of HS2 Ltd, said: “The new high speed rail network will help to grow the economy by providing capacity to meet the rising demand for train services and by improving connections between our major cities.
“But we do understand the impact it will have on people living close to the line and the Government has recently published a range of property compensation measures for consultation.
“The information events we are running are an opportunity for those directly affected to come and discuss the proposals in more detail with our property teams.”
The events in Buckinghamshire will take place:
• Monday November 26– Chalfont St Peter Community Centre, SL9 9QX. (12–8pm)
• Saturday December 15 - Stoke Mandeville Stadium and Olympic Lodge hotel. HP21 9PP. (9am-5pm)
• Friday January 11 – Calvert Green Community Centre, MK18 2FJ. (Midday-8pm)
• Saturday January 12 – Wendover Memorial Hall, HP22 6HF. (9am-5pm)