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High speed train would cut through Bucks countryside
A HIGH speed train route should follow a new track through Chalfont St Giles and Old Amersham and near to Great Missenden, the Government said today.
The move ends months of speculation over plans for the 225mph trains and rules out using the other Chilterns line through Beaconsfield and High Wycombe.
The move is likely to cause concern as the trains – set to make London to Birmingham a 45 minute journey – will not stop in Buckinghamshire and cut through the protected Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Detailed maps (pdfs, right click to save):
For the first Chalfonts map click here.
For the second Chalfonts map click here.
For the Amersham map click here.
For the Great Missenden area map click here.
Click the link at the bottom of this story for a map of the proposed route or click here (pdf, 6mb, right click to save).
The new line would be part tunnelled and open and run through Chalfont St Giles and Amersham and to the north of Great Missenden.
The move will be consulted on.
Aylesbury MP David Lidington today questioned the Government over the proposal in the Commons.
He told The Bucks Free Press: "This will be devastating news for a lot of my constituents.
"I want the Government to explain the environmental benefits the scheme would bring and the cost of driving a new railway so close to homes of hundreds of people."
He said he is meeting transport minister Lord Adonis this afternoon to discuss the plans.
Wycombe MP Paul Goodman said: “It is rather less of a matter for Wycombe. I think the main practical question from my constituents will be whether or not there are serious knock on effect to Chiltern line services.”
Yet he said it was ‘doubtful’ the plan would go ahead as the Conservatives ‘are not committed to it and we may form a Government’.
And he said: “We are going through a public spending contracting and therefore there must be a question mark against the proposal taking off at all.”
He said he was ‘not convinced by the economic or environmental case’.
The Amersham Society conservation group said it was ‘alarmed and shocked’ by the move.
In a statement it said: “The announcement includes details of the preferred route through the Misbourne Valley passing between Old Amersham and Coleshill.
“The Society considers this outrageous and completely inappropriate possibility given the narrowness of the valley, its AONB status and proximity to a number of historic and important local communities such as Old Amersham.”
The move would have ‘huge destructive implications in terms of construction and operation for local residents and business’.
It said: “Therefore any national benefits accruing from such a possible route would be at enormous and unjustifiable damage to communities such as Amersham were this route to be selected, initially in the form of complete ‘planning blight’.”
The group urged people to ‘join together to resist this particular destructive option’ and said it would call and ‘emergency public meeting’.
It said: “This is a huge threat to the quality of our lives and all living within the Chilterns and surrounding area.”
The Chilterns Conservation Board, charged with protecting the AONB, also hit out. It said: "The board believes that the net benefits of the new line, both environmental and economic, have not been proven and therefore there is not a strong enough case to justify causing irreversible damage to the Chilterns AONB."
Buckinghamshire County Council leader Councillor David Shakespeare said: “It's ironic that HS2 will give Buckinghamshire all the environmental disadvantages while promoting economic benefits elsewhere.
“Our residents won't benefit as the trains will pass through the county without stopping, simply leaving Buckinghamshire with huge damage to our environment and Green Belt.”
It said councils in the county had backed using the West Coat Main Line route by Berkhampstead and Tring, which had also been supported by Network Rail.
John Taylor, chairman of The Chiltern Society conservation group, said: “The proposed route will have a very damaging impact on the Chilterns particularly along the beautiful and historic Misbourne Valley.
“Even though tunnelling is planned, the effect on the tranquilty and landscape either side of the tunnel will be devastating.”
Chesham and Amersham MP Cheryl Gillan said: “The Chilterns are a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with a rich variety of unique assets and must be protected.
“Whilst we all want to see the infrastructure developed to make the UK competitive, we have to take account of our precious natural environment.
“This is a sensitive landscape and must be dealt with sensitively.
"I will be doing all I can to ensure the final route - which under a Conservative Government would be re examined - does not damage the homes and environment of people in Chesham and Amersham."
The Government's report today says the line will ‘best meet the Government’s objectives for minimising journey times and cost, and managing impacts on the local environment and communities in an acceptable way’ it said.
It says: “This route would run in tunnel from a rebuilt Euston Station, surfacing in West London to follow the route of the existing Chiltern Line, leaving London near Ruislip.
“The route would proceed largely in tunnel from the M25 as far as Amersham, and then continue to the west of Wendover and Aylesbury, partly in tunnel and partly following the existing A413 and Chiltern Line corridor.”
Chairman of Chiltern Railways Adrian Shooter said:
“Chiltern Railways has always believed in innovation and investment in the rail network, and is a strong supporter of High Speed rail which we believe has the potential to attract significant new customers to rail travel.
"Although the proposed high-speed line passes through the Chiltern hills, the route is separate from Chiltern Railways. The only location at which the High Speed rail route is proposed to run adjacent to the Chiltern Railways route is between South Ruislip and West Ruislip stations.
"At Wendover, the High Speed route runs adjacent to the Chiltern Railways station but on a completely separate alignment.
"We will work closely with HS2 to ensure that the service we offer to our passengers is not impacted by this development. I would also like to reassure our passengers that it will not distract us from our own, separate investment programme.
"We will be spending £250m on a comprehensive upgrade of the existing Chiltern Railways route to reduce journey times by 20%.
"We will also be creating a new route from Oxford to London via the Chiltern mainline, the first new link to London from a major British city for 100 years.
"The project to create the Chiltern Mainline is the largest rail passenger infrastructure upgrade since before the first world war not to call on the taxpayer for support and will be paid for by Chiltern Railways through encouraging new passengers onto the existing rail network.”
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