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Protest petition launched over HS2 financing
AN ONLINE petition has been set up in protest at proposals to give more money and power to the company in charge of planning the route of the HS2 railway line.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced this week the controversial project could be subject to a Paving Bill, which would make scheme eligible for money normally not available until a full bill has been granted Royal Assent by Parliament.
The Bill can also be used to provide additional powers for HS2 Ltd, the company tasked with planning the route of the line, to access land and properties needed for surveying.
Mr McLoughlin admitted in the House of Commons this week he had not yet been able to secure enough Parliamentary time to present the proposed Paving Bill, leading to criticism from campaigners.
An e-petition on the Government's website has been set up in protest and has so far been signed by more than 1,000 people.
Penny Gaines, chairman of the Stop HS2 campaign group, said: "It's clear that this [the Paving Bill] is for politically expedient reasons, as Patrick McLoughlin admitted in the House of Commons that there is no Parliamentary time allocated to it.
"There are huge concerns that the bill is to circumvent the democratic process by pushing through a hastily thrown together act of Parliament. As HS2 will be the largest peacetime infrastructure, it is ridiculous that this £33 billion project is being cobbled together in this way."
Stop HS2's campaign manager Joe Rukin added: "Suggesting a Paving Bill is simply an admission that spending on HS2 is already out of control, years before brick is due to be laid."
Chesham and Amersham MP Cheryl Gillan asked the Transport Secretary in the House of Commons this week if he could give assurances the Bill would not remove landowners' rights to refuse HS2 Ltd access to their land.
He replied: "In order to put [improvements] in place, we will need access to some of the land.”
Mr McLoughlin added: "Introducing a Paving Bill will allow Parliament to make a clear commitment to High Speed rail. Crucially, it will also give us the spending powers much sooner that will enable us to get moving on the detailed design work for the scheme.
"This is an opportunity for all three main political parties to reaffirm their support for High Speed rail and maintain the ambitious programme we have set for HS2."