At our January meeting the Society was presented with a Civic Day Award for its imaginative project held at the Charterhouse. We focussed on the importance of the city’s main watercourse—the Sherbourne and it’s potential for improving the environment. As well as practical work clearing an area, we put on a slide show to capacity audiences and displayed a new set of wallboards that traces the course of the Sherbourne and its tributaries.
A blasé attitude to our city With the General Election just a few weeks away one of the burning issues will be whether current proposals for High Speed Rail are acceptable to Coventry. Last year the Secretary of State for Transport invoked emergency powers to ban publication of a damning Whitehall report into HS2 that labelled the scheme red /amber. So what are the true economic benefits? Who are the likely winners The Lord Monks or losers? Lord Monks in front of a recent House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee spelt it out. He said: “...we are fairly clear who the likely winners [will be] out of this, including London, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester. What about the losers? What about the ones who do not have easy access to HS2? What about their position and their rail services? We note that the strategic case said that all towns and cities that currently have a direct service will retain broadly comparable or better services once it is completed…....” Government estimates include £8.3 billion in savings that would mean Coventry losing many of its fast services. In his reply Transport Secretary the Rt. Hon.Patrick McLoughlin said: “Coventry is 11 miles from Birmingham International, so it is very close. There will be connectivity into Birmingham International as far as Coventry is concerned and, indeed, the whole West Midlands conurbation.” These are weasel words from someone who should know better. They need to be challenged. Would anyone in their right mind and travelling to London consider taking a train 11 miles in the opposite direction first, then Patrick McCloughlin MP make a transfer to a remote Midlands
Interchange where a connection is finally available to HS2? In his words to the committee McLoughlin claims to have knowledge of the area having grown up just north of Birmingham. But he clearly wants to evade the exact question. McLoughlin cites the proximity of Birmingham Interchange to Coventry as some sort of compensation. Neither does he say anything about the predicted service reductions on the West Coast Main Line route (Virgin Trains have said that 40% of its current revenue from this line would go to HS2, and question whether the rest would be profitable). It’s obvious that, as some cities, towns and regions reap the benefits of being better connected, other places away from HS2 will pay a price. That’s precisely Coventry’s situation. McLoughlin’s blasé attitude to Coventry is reprehensible. High Speed is clearly an election issue and we need to ask local candidates how they stand on this hugely important matter. With the economic future of Coventry at stake many electors, whichever their political leanings, will surely choose to vote with their feet. We don’t know what McLoughlin knows about an alternative High Speed Rail but he’s clearly in the grip of his officials, so there seems little chance of budging his opinion. ►The project has reached a crucial stage and Society members can help by asking their respective Member of Parliament for their stance on HS2. Fortunately, there is a solution that will please everyone. It's an alternative new railway northwards from London using the existing West Coast Mainline through Coventry (widened to four tracks as proposed by Centro regardless of HS2). It would run alongside the M1 where the noise is already accepted, and east of the Pennines to serve no less than 10 times as many places as HS2 for less cost. The alternative plan is known as HighSpeedUK and is the work of two experienced railway engineers. You can see details at HighSpeedUK.com
Next monthly meeting: An illustrated talk by interior and architectural designer Adrian Baynes who was responsible for Browns Café & Bar Monday, February 9 at 7.30pm The Shop Front Theatre, City Arcade Visitors welcome at £2 Refreshments
More news and views on our website: www.coventrysociety.org.uk