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Critic of HS2 is given key role in government review

Inquiry launched by Prime Minister as protesters campaign to save tree

22 August, 2019 — By Tom Foot

Protestors on Tuesday evening by the plane tree

A PEER who has spent years campaigning against HS2’s plans to build a station at Euston is one of the key players in a high profile review of the project’s overall cost.

Rail expert Lord Tony Berkeley, who lives in Bloomsbury, is the deputy chairman of an advisory panel to a new government review, launched yesterday (Wednesday).

The Labour lord has previously suggested that more than £8billion could be saved by abandoning the Euston works and halting the high speed railway line at Old Oak Common, west London.

Holborn and St Pancras MP Sir Keir Starmer yesterday told the New Journal: “The government should take this opportunity to cancel HS2 or to save costs by bringing it into Old Oak Common.”

The terms of reference of the review say the probe will look at terminating the railway in Old Oak Common on a temporary basis. The former chairman of HS2, Sir Terry Morgan, had suggested earlier this year this should be done as the Euston leg of the project was proving more complicated than first anticipated.

Campaigners have been calling for the Euston stretch of the railway to be scrapped since the project was first conceived by Andrew Adonis, Baron Adonis of Camden Town, 10 years ago.

The New Journal last year reported on fears of a potential scenario whereby the scheme is scrapped but years of development are allowed to continue involving the sale of public land worth an estimated £7billion (expected to go to company Lendlease).

Council leader Cllr Georgia Gould said: “If HS2 is scrapped completely, or if the line is terminated elsewhere, we would want our land back. With the land and the funding, we estimate that we could create thousands of homes and jobs in the Euston area.”

The review was launched by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the back of warnings that the final cost of the project was not known and could spiral to beyond £100m. Its agreed budget is £55.7bn.

The announcement came the morning after a protest next to a plane tree at the junction of Euston Road and North Gower Street.

Jo Burford with the tree

The tree was named after Benedict Cumberbatch by anti-HS2 campaigners. The actor filmed episodes of the Sherlock series in the landmark Speedy’s café near the tree.

John Myers, who is the secretary of the Camden anti-HS2 umbrella group CHARGE, said: “Millions of people have seen this historic tree in scenes out- side Speedy’s café in BBC’s Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch. It is the only big London plane tree left near Drummond Street.

“HS2 does not need to kill it for a few phone lines and a power cable. With a bit of effort and imagination there are plenty of ways to save it. Science shows street trees make people happier and healthier – much needed in an area with illegal pollution.” Mr Cumberbatch is at the Edinburgh Festival and could not be reached for comment.

HS2 said: “We understand the importance of trees to residents in Cam- den, and will use all reasonable endeavours to reduce impacts on them. This includes planning construction works so that we can retain trees for as long as possible, and providing replacement trees to help mitigate for the loss of each tree removed as a result of HS2 works. We’re working on options to see if we can save this tree.”


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