HS2 And East London Crossing: The Best Laid Plans…

By Jonn Last edited 68 months ago
HS2 And East London Crossing: The Best Laid Plans…

Why, we've sometimes wondered, is it so difficult to get anything built in this town? Every time we visit one of the great European cities, it seems, they've just completed some new grand-projet or another, a new chunk of RER or S-Bahn to bring the transport network one step closer to perfection. In London, by contrast, we can still remember the first leaflets appearing at our local station bringing the exciting news that Crossrail was coming. That was 20 years ago; we're still changing at Stratford.

Two bits of news today highlight one of the reasons these things are sometimes a tad on the slow side. First up the HS2 Action Alliance – a pressure group that, when it comes to building high speed rail links, remains firmly committed to inaction – has released figures showing that the government has rejected the vast majority of compensation claims relating to the new rail link to the north.

To win payment from the 'hardship fund', applicants need to demonstrate that the project creates a pressing need to move. This, a correspondent points out, doesn't necessarily mean demolition, but can refer to a range of personal circumstances, including health reasons or a particularly dire financial situation.

Nonetheless, many of these claims, we'd guess, are from people who don't need to move: they're just annoyed to find tens of thousands of pounds knocked off their house price. It's a form of nimbyism, sure – but imagine it happening to you and you can see why they're getting grumpy about it.

The other relevant story is the continuing row over whether to build another Thames road crossing. The near impossibility of crossing the river anywhere between Blackwall and Dartford means that the idea is very popular: a recent TfL consultation found that 71% of respondents backed the idea of a fixed crossing somewhere in East London.

But that support is for a theoretical bridge: people are rather less enthused when it becomes a more concrete proposal, and they realise they might have to deal with the downside of noisy construction or increased traffic. Consider Gareth Bacon, a Tory AM and councillor in Bexley, who said he simply adores the idea of a new bridge – just so long as it doesn't send more cars into his borough. Since that's pretty much the point of the bloody thing, it's hard to see what solution might satisfy him.

The lesson here is that everyone loves the idea of new transport infrastructure – in the abstract. But when it comes to specific proposals, there are losers as well as winners. The latter may be more numerous, but the former tend to shout louder.

And, as annoying as those of us who actually want to get somewhere might find it, this may be no bad thing. Consider the alternative, in which a perennially cash-strapped government found it easy to punch a railway line through your house whenever it felt like it, without worrying about compensating you.

Anyway, if anyone needs us, we'll be in the queue for the Woolwich ferry.

Last Updated 13 May 2013