The Independent London Newspaper
26th April 2019

NEW JOURNAL COMMENT: Will dire warnings in the Lords be enough to stop HS2?


    The scene in Camden Town on Tuesday

    Published: 15 September, 2016

    THE tragic death of the 79-year-old woman under the wheels of a cement mixer lorry this week focuses the mind on the mayhem that HS2 could bring to Camden. 

    The grimly familiar scene of a police cordon, forensic tent and anxiety-ridden passers-by has triggered calls for HGVs to be banned in peak hours. These calls will no doubt grow louder if HS2 construction work begins in Camden, as claimed, early next year. 

    By its engineers’ own estimates, HS2 says there will be at least 700 more lorry “movements” in and out of Camden every day.

    Concern over this coming danger has been hammered home to the House of Lords by residents giving evidence to the Select Committee in the past fortnight. 

    HS2’s lawyers have mechanically pointed to its prized list of “assurances”, agreements reached with Camden Council. They have also made commitments to set up robust traffic management plans. But these can only go so far in terms of protecting the public.

    This week we should be asking what are the odds against HS2 actually happening at all? 

    The resignation of chief executive Simon Kirby has hung a large question mark over the project as a whole. Did it come alive to him that the job is about to get a lot more difficult in the next two years? He surely will not have forgotten how he was unceremoniously barracked by a large, and fierce crowd of Camden residents when he visited HS2’s new office in Euston earlier this year. 

    Prime Minister Theresa May expressed a degree of support for HS2 in a letter to council leader Sarah Hayward last month. But her wording was not emphatic. And on Tuesday, the public accounts committee published yet another stinging report into the project as a whole, warning it will be delivered late and is already billions of pounds over budget. Pressure is beginning to mount against it nationally. 

    It is admirable that so many residents have taken their fight against HS2 to the House of Lords. But perhaps it is time for Camden’s activists to mount a different kind of protest. Isn’t it time our outrage spilled out into the street? 

    Future roads

    THE transformation of the roads in Bloomsbury by Camden Council is part of a very English revolution on London’s roads. 

    The policy of reducing lanes of traffic, to make better cycle routes and wider pavements, is bent on a future where cars and lorries no longer rule the roads of central London. 

    Cllr Phil Jones, the environment chief, has made no secret of his support for more cycle lanes in Camden. Results of consultations have failed to determine Town Hall decision-making in the past. Will this happen again with this one?