Extinction Rebellion protest at Pendle MP's office over 'destructive' HS2 project

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The Pendle branch of Extinction Rebellion held a voal protest outside the Barnoldswick office of Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson aginst the environmental and economic impace of the ongoing HS2 project.

The group described the High Speed 2 rail track as a "financial and environmental disaster" and called for it to be cancelled immediately.

Mr Stephenson, who was appointed Minister of State at the Department for Transport in February, has long championed the controversial and costly rail project.

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George MacSween from Extinction Rebellion, said: "Not many Pendle people realise that the person ratcheting up the cost of this hugely expensive scheme is their own MP. A month ago he admitted it needed another £800m.

Extinction Rebellion protesters make their feelings clear outside the Barnoldswick office of Pendle MP Andrew StephensonExtinction Rebellion protesters make their feelings clear outside the Barnoldswick office of Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson
Extinction Rebellion protesters make their feelings clear outside the Barnoldswick office of Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson

"Of course, for a project that has already tripled in cost to £106billion, that’s just small change, though goodness knows, Pendle could find some excellent uses for £800m.

"It’s ridiculous that the government is spending this kind of money when this government can’t properly fund the NHS and social care, or find the money to save the jobs at Rolls-Royce."

As well as the soaring financial cost, Pendle XR also pointed to the environmental damage of HS2, cutting through the countryside and destroying woodland and nature reserves.

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Charlotte Carman said: "The countryside is being ripped apart to make way for HS2. Over 100 ancient forests are being destroyed. This is at the very time we should be planting trees for carbon capture, not ripping them out.

"The loss of woodland also means the habitat for many animal and plant species is being destroyed, many of which are already under threat, just so a few business people can get from Birmingham to London half an hour faster! At a time when biodiversity is plummeting anyway, HS2 is making the situation much worse."

The members of Pendle XR are now challenging Mr Stephenson to explain how HS2, which isn’t going to reach Manchester till 2040, will help ‘level up’ the north and the south, as the government claims.

They also accused the Government of cutting £1 billion from the Transport Budget for Rail Projects mainly in the North.

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Local member Sylvia Godfrey said: "All HS2 does is take money away from existing railway lines – and we’re still waiting for the rail connection between Colne and Skipton, a mere 11 miles which would cost a fraction of HS2.

"HS2 is an expensive white elephant and should be stopped immediately so the money can be spent instead on the real needs of Pendle and the rest of the country. That’s Andrew Stephenson should be fighting for."

The protesters handed in aattached Letter to the MP’s office and encouraged others to contact their MP to voice their objections.

Mr Stephenson, speaking at a conference in Manchester after being appointed to his Transport role, described it as a huge honour to be given responsibility for “the two biggest and most important rail projects for the north of England since the Victorian era."

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He said: “This is an unprecedented opportunity to reverse decades of underinvestment in our northern railways, to fire up the northern economy, just as the original railways did and to create the capacity and the connections that I believe will redefine rail travel for northern passengers.

“To really address overcrowding on the network, and provide the connections required to stimulate renewal across the north, we need to build new capacity. New rail links north to south, and east to west.

“That’s why we’re going ahead with both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. They are both crucial to our future prosperity.”

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