Letter from Andrew Stephenson MP in response to letter sent to the Prime Minister on 24th Feb 2021
Councillor Sheila Bulpett Chairman Wendover Parish Council The Clock Tower, High Street Wendover, Aylesbury HP22 6DU From the Minister of State Andrew Stephenson MP Great Minster House 33 Horseferry Road London SW1P 4DR Tel: 0300 330 3000 E-Mail: email@example.com Web site: www.gov.uk/dft Our Ref: MC/341756
28 May 2021 Dear Councillor Bulpett, Thank you for your letter of 24 February to the Prime Minister, about HS2 and Wendover. Your letter has been passed to this Department and I am replying as the Minister for HS2. I apologise for the delay in responding to you. As you may be aware, my officials and HS2 Ltd have previously addressed all of the matters raised in your 24 February 2021 letter in a series of comprehensive replies to Councillor Tom Walsh and others since 2017. I remain convinced that the mined tunnel proposal(s) in the Wendover area have been considered, fairly, honestly and with appropriate levels of internal and external scrutiny, and to repeat those arguments here will not provide you with the answers you and your councilmembers are looking for. I will however, for the avoidance of all doubt, reiterate the Department’s position against the points raised in your letter. 1. Provides significant savings of between £322-£325m Both HS2 Ltd and the Department dispute these savings. An independent report commissioned by the Department and taken forward by engineering consultants (Steer Davies Gleave, Nichols Group and KPMG) found that mining through this area would be more difficult than Wendover Parish Council suggested and more expensive than the consented solution. A separate IPA report found that the Department had assessed the proposal put to it fairly and honestly.
2. Saves £750 million on a whole life basis including long-term maintenance costs Neither the Department nor HS2 Ltd have undertaken an assessment of this figure, as an independent review had already raised issues with the mined tunnel’s relative cost, impact to the HS2 programme and constructability. However, whole life costs for tunnels are generally higher than for above ground infrastructure due to access difficulties, reduced ease of maintenance and restricted movement of materials. We do not believe this level of whole life cost savings can be made when compared to the scheme approved by Parliament. 3. Reduces the construction programme time by up to 2 years Main civil works preparation, mobilisation and detailed design is now well advanced. Any changes to plans at this stage would incur significant delay in Wendover and to the wider HS2 programme compared to the consented scheme. 4. Protects 8,000 homes in Wendover and the Chilterns AONB from visual, noise and environmental damage caused by the current complex above HS2 scheme The House of Commons Select Committee deliberated the Wendover HS2 impacts and concluded in February 2016 that: We do not believe that a bored or mined tunnel would be justified. We believe that the SES4 proposal (of mitigations) constitutes a proportionate and adequate package of mitigation for Wendover1 I am aware that Wendover Parish Council and Wendover HS2 have continued to raise their environmental concerns with my officials, HS2 Ltd and EKFB. I am pleased that all parties concerned continue to engage in order to find optimal mitigations in the Wendover area. I must reiterate that HS2 Ltd remains committed to delivering a railway that reduces noise and other environmental concerns as far as reasonably practicable, and is following the process agreed with local authorities, with that end in mind. 5. Can be easily constructed by using the TWAO procedure A Transport and Works Act Order could, in principle, be used to secure the powers for a tunnel at Wendover. However, as there are no plans to change the consented scheme at Wendover, this means that no new powers are being sought.
I must praise you and your predecessor for championing your local area and admire the tireless work conducted from all involved at Wendover Parish Council, but I maintain that the alternative mined tunnel proposal isn’t a viable solution when compared to the consented scheme ratified by Parliament. I will ensure my officials, HS2 Ltd and EKFB continue working with you in relation to explaining or mitigating the impacts of the consented scheme.
ANDREW STEPHENSON MP MINISTEROF STATE FOR TRANSPORT
The original letter send from Wendover Parish Council can be viewed here