High-speed rail: most of the worst victims will be in London

High Speed Rail Two could affect Londoners most of all (Photo: Alamy)
High Speed Rail Two could affect Londoners most of all (Photo: Alamy)

Everyone thinks of the Government’s whizzy new high-speed rail route, due to be confirmed tomorrow, as mainly affecting relatively affluent people in the Tory shires. But in fact, as I explain in this morning’s paper, the vast majority of the worst victims will be poor and middle-income Londoners.

Near Euston, the London terminus of the route, the line will on present plans demolish much of a council estate, with the loss of 220 flats, home to at least 500 people. That’ll do wonders for Camden council’s waiting list!

Euston station itself will be extended several hundred yards to the west, swallowing up a further 20 homes and 25 businesses employing hundreds, including two major hotels. Most of a park next to the station, St James’s Gardens, will also go. See the plan for the area here.

In South Ruislip, again no great bastion of privilege, the local council says that seven streets – Bridgewater Road, Roundways, Lawn Close, Almond Close, Bell Close, Herlwyn Avenue and Blenheim Crescent – are “at risk” from the extra land take needed to widen the existing railway line.

And tens of thousands of Londoners in Primrose Hill, Swiss Cottage, Kilburn, Queens Park and Kensal Green are also at risk of vibration from tunnels under or near their homes. They include plenty of celebs (Joan Bakewell, Adam Ant, David Miliband, etc) – expect to hear more from them.

Tomorrow’s announcement might, I suppose, announce some measures to relieve the misery for London. But from the briefings we’ve been given, it doesn’t look like it.

The London end of this story has been almost totally unreported on until now. All the running has been made by the Chilterns. That seems likely to change. Many residents near Euston are very angry indeed at how invisible Labour-controlled Camden council has been in opposition to the scheme, unlike the local councils in Buckinghamshire and Ruislip. The local Labour MP, Frank Dobson, by contrast, has been outspokenly opposed, calling it “devastating” for his constituents.

I have a feeling that Labour as a whole could be waking up to the social, fiscal and environmental costs of the scheme, and coming round to opposing the link. The party’s transport spokeswoman, Maria Eagle, has recently appeared less than enthusiastic about the great dream. There’s nothing more dangerous than cross-party consensus, and one of the most encouraging things to happen to this deeply questionable project is that that consensus appears to be breaking down.

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