A release from the office of London Mayoral candidate MP Zac Goldsmith stated that a new working group has been set up for Hillingdon – bringing fresh hope to residents for the tunnel proposal, which had appeared to be no longer an option.
The announcement comes following a meeting in Ruislip between Hillingdon based HS2 campaigners and Mr Goldsmith, in which they made the case for the tunnel extension.
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In a statement, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin did not specifically refer to the tunnel proposal, but appeared to indicate this was now being seriously considered again.
He said: “HS2 will have a transformative effect on the whole of the UK but it is essential that when we build it we get it right. Part of this process will mean looking again where necessary.
“Zac, Nick Hurd, Boris Johnson and Ray Puddifoot (Hillingdon Council leader) have made a strong case on behalf of Hillingdon and I have asked for a working group to be established between Hillingdon Council, HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport. I expect this group to work through the important issues raised in our meeting and report to back to me.”
Leading campaigner Charlotte Jones, pictured below, who lives in Ruislip, has been instrumental in the fight against HS2, and met with Mr Goldsmith in recent days, prompting today's developments.
She told Hillingdon is Here this evening: "The fact that the Secretary of State for Transport has agreed to reconsider the possibility of an extended Colne Valley tunnel is great news for Hillingdon.
"After the House of Commons Select Committee ruled it out last year HAHS2 were determined not to give up the fight and we have spent much of this year lobbying our MPs and more recently Mayoral hopeful Zac Goldsmith, to help us highlight the serious problems that HS2 causes here and the lack of any acceptable mitigation solutions.
"Zac Goldsmith was instrumental in helping to secure the meeting with Patrick McLoughlin and we are grateful to him for taking our concerns seriously.
"He along with leader of Hillingdon Council Ray Puddifoot and our MPs have ensured that we have a real possibility of a Colne Valley tunnel back on the table."
Mrs Jones said: "Whilst we are really encouraged by this positive news we know this is just a first step and there will be much work to do to make sure we are successful.
"The Minister has given a directive to the council and HS2Ltd to work together to produce an objective analysis of a tunnel extension.
"There will be other practical and political hurdles to overcome but this could make a huge difference to West Ruislip, Ickenham, Harefield and of course HOAC."
The MPs involved in this latest development came under strong fire from Hillingdon campaigners a month ago when they failed to vote against HS2 in the latest House of Commons Vote.
Nick Hurd, Boris Johnson, and Mr Goldsmith all abstained, rather than choosing to register their opposition through the vote. Sadiq Khan, Mr Goldsmith's Labour rival for London Mayor, also abstained.
But Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP Mr Johnson, pictured below, said today that the new working group was an excellent development in the fight to get a tunnel in the area.
He said: “This is great news, this fresh work will now look again into the possibility of the Colne Valley tunnel. I believe we can show it makes good sense in terms of both cost and efficiency. If the tunnel can be delivered for the same cost, it’d be crazy not to do it.”
Mr Goldsmith said: “This was a productive discussion. I am very pleased that the Transport Secretary listened to our concerns and we can make the case for a tunnel under Hillingdon.
“I will continue to apply maximum pressure to ensure that HS2 is tunnelled under Hillingdon, protecting the environment and our community. I want to minimise the potential disruption that HS2 could cause.”
The news that the tunnel will be reconsidered comes as Hillingdon residents get to vote for a new London Mayor next week on Thursday 5 May. See details of candidates here.
In a message to voters, as he announced the HS2 working group today, Mr Goldsmith claimed he was “the only candidate who can work with the Government to protect London’s economy and investment in transport infrastructure”.
Cllr Ray Puddifoot, leader of Hillingdon Council, said: “I am grateful to Zac for leading on this initiative and the Secretary of State for agreeing to look at the case for a tunnel. It is without doubt the most cost effective solution and will cause the least amount of damage and disruption to our environment and our residents.”
The working group will be made up of six people - three from Hillingdon Borough Council, two from HS2 Ltd and one from the Department for Transport.
Ickenham's MP Nick Hurd MP said: "We have argued for a long time that a tunnel extension is the best solution to all the problems that HS2 causes in the area. Up till now that option has not been taken seriously. I am pleased that we have managed to put it back on the agenda."