'We Won't Be Railroaded By HS2'

Say campaigners against the high speed rail link through Ealing

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Alex Nieora, chairman North Ealing Against HS2

ActonW3.com, ChiswickW4.com and EalingToday.co.uk

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Dozens of local residents took to the streets of Ealing (23rd March) to show their opposition to the High Speed Rail Link (HS2).

Campaigners from Northolt, Greenford, Perivale, Hanger Lane and North Acton will all be affected by the development and are urging the Government to tunnel this phase of the route.

The Department for Transport has said that HS2 will virtually halve journey times between London and Manchester from two hours and eight minutes to one hour and eight minutes. The London to Birmingham section of the £33bn rail project aims to be running by 2025.

Critics argue that the benefits have been overestimated and say countryside and communities will be destroyed.

Alex Nieora, chairman of North Ealing Against HS2, tells us why he is passionate about the campaign.

How and why did you get involved in this campaign?

I grew up in Ealing and have lived in West Ealing, Northfields and, since 2007, in Perivale. I know the area extremely well and care passionately about Ealing and my community. I am in my late twenties but I have headed a residents' association representing 250 homes in Perivale for the last five years and already campaigned on numerous other issues locally. I realised very quickly the extensive impact HS2 would have in the north of the Borough. So I decided to take the government's Big Society concept at their word and stand up for my area and community. After all it is the government that has put us in this situation and there are very strong business and environmental arguments against building HS2 at all. 

Perivale has so much going for it that few people outside of the area realise. It is home to England's second oldest nature reserve and an ancient wood, a beautiful little church dating back to 1135 and some incredible examples of art deco architecture. We have the Grand Union Canal and the highest point in North West London, Horsenden Hill right on our doorstep. However, Perivale was split in half with the widening of the A40 in the 1970s, which created a corridor of blight for those living immediately on either side. I am determined to prevent Perivale from being impacted in this way again. A surface HS2 route through north Ealing would run on embankment through Perivale and Greenford and up to 18 250kph double decker trains per hour in each direction would be seen and heard for a large distance either side. 

Explain why the people of Ealing - as a whole - should be concerned. Do you think many realise what is at stake?

If the current plans for a surface HS2 route go ahead then 20 bridges through Ealing will need to be replaced. This includes three and a half years of bridge replacement works at the Hanger Lane roundabout, used by tens of thousands of vehicles on a daily basis.

But it is not only Hanger Lane that will suffer. The Piccadilly Line bridge over the Central Line and bridges over major north south arterial roads through LB Ealing including: Mandeville Road in Northolt, Greenford Road and Oldfield Lane in Greenford, and Horsenden Lane and Bideford Road in Perivale will also need to be replaced. Each of these bridges will undergo at least a year's worth of replacement works, and this is likely to bring much of the north of the Borough to a standstill.
HS2 Ltd - the company wholly owned by the Department for Transport responsible for taking forward the HS2 project - have also safeguarded a large amount of land including hundreds of homes and businesses through the Borough. This means that while these homes will not necessarily be demolished - although many homes in Perivale and Northolt and two scout huts in Perivale and Greenford definitely would be - they have effectively prevented all these homeowners and businesses from doing anything with their land without HS2 Ltd's permission.

The safeguarding zone also includes the whole of the old Guinness Brewery site in Park Royal, which means that it cannot be redeveloped and 1,400 jobs will be lost in Park Royal until 2026 at the very least.  
I think many people were initially slow to realise the impacts of HS2 coming through Ealing but are now waking up to the reality of it.

Do you feel the campaign is gathering momentum?

Absolutely! The fact that so many local residents and councillors came out and marched along Ealing Broadway on Saturday 23 March in protest against HS2 plans for Ealing despite the snow and arctic temperatures shows just how much of an issue HS2 is for people in Ealing and how determined they are to fight the plans. Although all the people who took part in the march were from north Ealing - Hanger Lane, Perivale, Greenford and Northolt - many passing cars sounded their horns in solidarity as we marched. Ealing and Central Middlesex Hospitals' A&Es face imminent closure, Greenford Police Station is closing and people are simply fed up. HS2 is the last straw for the vast majority of people in Ealing who never asked for HS2 and will not benefit from it.

Do you believe that tunnelling for Ealing will be given the go ahead?

As a campaign group we have argued from the start for further tunnelling along the 'Northolt Corridor' - in other words, under the section of HS2 route through LB Ealing if HS2 was to be built on this route between London and Birmingham.
Tunnelling will avoid the unnecessary demolition of two scout huts in Perivale and Greenford, properties in Perivale and Northolt and blight for thousands of people living near the planned surface route as well as businesses, schools and Perivale Wood (England's second oldest nature reserve and bird sanctuary which is attracts thousands of visitors a year from home and abroad).

 Tunnelling would also be a win for the government as it would avoid unpopular traffic chaos caused by costly bridge replacements, safeguarding and the payment of compensation to thousands of people in Ealing. Also by avoiding all this surface work, tunnelling - as Ealing Council has confirmed - will also cost barely any more than a surface route in the context of the £36 billion net cost of HS2 itself to the taxpayer.

What's the next step in the campaign?

We are expecting an announcement on further tunnelling for Ealing by Easter, but we are prepared for all eventualities. There are hundreds more people prepared to march again when the weather is a bit more clement and businesses in prominent locations ready to put up Stop HS2 banners... What is clear is that North Ealing is not a pushover and will not be railroaded.

The website link is here: http://www.ealing-against-hs2.co.uk

27th March 2013