My argument has always been that, although I think there is real merit in a high speed rail network in the UK, high speed railway lines would achieve their objectives with much less damage if they follow existing transport corridors, running alongside roads or railway lines which have already been constructed and which have already caused blight to the areas in which they are located. I regret that this argument to change the route of HS2 was not accepted.
As a result of much work by many people, the proposed route for HS2 as it now stands is less detrimental to Kenilworth and Southam overall than the route first announced in 2010. Although I am not suggesting of course that the revised route is better for communities near it than no HS2 at all, I am in no doubt that for the villages of Burton Green, Stoneleigh and Ladbroke, for example, the current route is a considerable improvement on the original. It is also the case that, for example, traffic management measures in several locations have been improved, the tunnel under Bascote Heath has been lengthened and the effect of the line on Kenilworth Golf Club markedly lessened. I would, of course, have preferred these improvements to have been delivered with less resistance on the part of HS2 Ltd and with less effort required of many of us who argued for them, just as I would have liked to have seen more of them, but they are real improvements which mitigate the effect of HS2 on many of those I represent.
I consider the compensation arrangements for HS2 to be a very important aspect of the project. I have shared the frustration of several local residents affected by the route at the often slow, sometimes downright obstructive approach of HS2 Ltd to negotiations about buying their evidently blighted homes, especially under the now defunct Exceptional Hardship Scheme. Justified frustration remains in a number of cases which still have not yet been resolved. However, I recognise that the Need to Sell Scheme, which effectively replaced the Exceptional Hardship Scheme, has been a real improvement and, in my experience, it has paid out to more homeowners and in amounts generally fairer to those claiming. This is not to say that all problems have been resolved, but the situation is now significantly better.
The review that the new Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps announced is an opportunity to look again at the way the project is designed and how it is being delivered. If HS2 is to proceed, and it is worth keeping in mind the considerable Parliamentary support for it thus far, I intend to continue to press for improvements.