HS2 is 'unnecessary, wasteful and ludicrously expensive' and a newt marina is an example of the costly fiasco, says octogenarian Banburyshire campaigner
An 80-year-old retired businessman from Banburyshire is calling for volunteers to make daily reports on the construction of the 'wasteful, ludicrously expensive' HS2.
Nicholas Ward has been campaigning against the waste and expense of the high speed rail line since 2010. He expressed irritation at the formation of a newt sanctuary he describes as a 'newt marina', which he says exemplifies the waste of public money which should be invested in people.
"The Halse Copse newt marina has five ponds, some basking banks for sunbathing newts and a chalet hotel called a hibernaculum for newts who want to overwinter there," he said.
"HS2 installed five life belts for newts that may get into difficulties as they swim in the ponds. HS2 then found that the newts could not get to the marina without the risk of being run over by contractors vehicles on the adjoining track so they installed an underpass and a system of plastic fences to funnel the newts into the marina safely.
"Of course, HS2 should take appropriate wildlife conservation measures but this is not the way to do it. All that was needed could have been done by a local farmer in a couple of days. Instead it took several months and will have cost a huge amount of money. This fiasco would be funny if it did not involve such a waste of taxpayer’s hard-earned cash."
Mr Ward said he was sick and tired of seeing money being wasted on HS2.
"The project as a whole is unnecessary, wasteful and ludicrously expensive," he said. "Our nation is struggling with more setbacks in the fight against Covid, adapting our economy to Brexit and we face huge demands for additional public services. There are much greater priorities for the money being squandered on HS2 including ending the NHS backlog, proper social care and improving the local transport infrastructure."
Mr Ward questioned the Government's plan to raise taxes to fund public services when they could save more by abandoning HS2.
"Every day, people up and down the line of HS2 see more inefficiency and waste, workers standing around doing nothing or asleep in their vehicles, vehicles dawdling backwards and forwards along country lanes, people cleaning their personal cars or vaping on HS2 sites, plant sitting idle, transport infrastructure being damaged, structures and fences being built to the wrong specification or in the wrong place, farm land taken but not used, constant changes of mind, countless meetings , meaningless 'community engagement' and grants being given to communities far from the line and for irrelevant projects," he said.
"HS2 is supported by all the major political parties so we cannot rely upon them to watch over the way our money is spent upon it."
Mr Ward tried twice to highlight HS2's problems by standing for Parliament as an anti-HS2 candidate. He also raised a personal petition to the HS2 Select Committee in the House of Commons.
He said: "The committee was supine, nodded the project through and in due course several of the Committee’s members received knighthoods. The whole exercise has proved largely pointless because the scheme now being implemented is different in many respects from that put before the Select Committee. The House of Lords Select Committee was even worse with a former Law Lord driving the project through ignoring the pleas of most petitioners."
Mr Ward wants to mobilise volunteers to monitor daily what is happening on every stretch of the HS2 line and report on inefficiencies and waste they see.
"If at present we cannot stop this ghastly project, at least we can make sure that as little as possible of our money is wasted on it. And we can then rigorously hold HS2 Ltd and the Government to account for all the waste we will certainly unearth," he said.
An HS2 spokesman said: “HS2 is critical to Britain’s recovery to the pandemic and is already supporting 20,000 jobs. Longer term it will provide a greener way to travel, bring much need extra capacity to our railways, and investment in towns and cities across the Midlands and North - supporting 500,000 British jobs by 2050.
“HS2 is proud to be delivering replacement habitat for newts and other protected species, as well as planting seven million new trees and shrubs along the route between London and Birmingham.”