ANGRY campaigners have slammed the news a controversial high speed rail link will be built through the Chiltern countryside, branding it 'the next Great Train Robbery'.

The route of the High Speed 2 project was confirmed in Parliament by Transport Secretary Philip Hammond on Monday

See link to previous story below.

As expected it will cut through the Chiltern Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, although 'green tunnels' will be constructed where the line runs between Amersham and Wendover in a bid to minimise the visual impact it will have on Buckinghamshire.

The Chilterns Conservation Board branded the multi-million pound scheme a “white elephant” which would “destroy” ancient woodlands and the area's unique chalk streams.

Chairman Mike Fox said: “This is not just about protecting one of the finest areas of countryside in the UK. No clear case has been put forward yet that High Speed 2 will benefit the country.

“Even the political consensus on it has vanished now that Labour is questioning the economic case for the line. It would be far better to spend money on the existing rail network, improving services which are actually needed and wanted.”

Joe Rukin, Campaign Director of the StopHS2 protest group, said: “High speed rail is the wrong priority for Britain. At a time when 100,000 public servants - including nurses, teachers, coast guards and police - are set to lose their jobs, spending £750 million on HS2 during this Parliament is a scandalous waste of money.

“High Speed 2 will be profligacy on wheels. At a cost of £1,200 each for every family in the UK – at a time when child poverty is set to rise as a result of the cuts - this will be the next Great Train Robbery.”

Mr Hammond told MPs yesterday that when opened the new line would increase rail capacity on other routes and was key to Britain's long-term transport strategy.

He said journey times between London and Birmingham would be cut to 49 minutes and, eventually, the capital could be linked with Edinburgh in three hours.

But Mark Adams, Conserve the Chilterns and Countryside Spokesman, said Mr Hammond was “making a huge mistake by not considering the enormous environmental impact that HS2 will have on the Chilterns”.

He added: “We will participate fully in the consultation, but are extremely disappointed that the Secretary of State has missed this opportunity to change the preferred route.

“There is understandable anger in the Chilterns that the Secretary of State is not listening to the large number of very real concerns.”

HS2 was criticised by some MPs in the House of Commons yesterday, with former Labour Health Minister Frank Dobson being particularly critical of the plans.

Amersham and Chesham MP Cheryl Gillan said afterwards she was “disappointed” with the announcement but would continue to fight the proposals along with her constituents.

Mrs Gillan said: “We now need to respond to the consultation in such a way that we have the best chance of protecting our environment in Chesham and Amersham.

“I have written today to key campaigners in Chesham and Amersham inviting them to a meeting at the start of the New Year so that I can ensure that I am able to make the strongest possible case on behalf of the constituency.”

Meanwhile, a lorry broadcasting the noise of a high-speed train will take to Wendover High Street at 11.30am today to demonstrate what HS2 will sound like.