February 5, 2014.




A national campaign group is backing calls from Devon & Cornwall MPs to invest in West Country rail lines so they no longer face disruption and closure due to severe bad weather.

St. Ives MP Andrew George challenged Prime Minister David Cameron in the House of Commons today to spend money on improving the rail line between Exeter and Penzance before spending £50 billion on a new HS2 High Speed rail line between London and Birmingham.

Exeter Labour MP Ben Bradshaw made a similar call for West Country rail improvements when speaking on the BBC earlier today.

Now the HS2 Action Alliance, Britain’s biggest campaign group opposing the Government’s HS2 high speed rail plans, says the £50 billion cost of HS2 would be better spent on improving the existing railway infrastructure including the Cornish main line.

The Local Campaigns Director for the HS Action Alliance, Peter Chegwyn, said today that the recent bad weather had shown how vulnerable the Cornish main line is to severe bad weather.

“How can we even think about wasting £50 billion on HS2 when Brunel’s great railway line at Dawlish is washed into the sea.  We urgently need to spend money on updating and improving the existing network which is hanging on by the skin of its teeth.  Cornwall and Devon now face being cut off for six weeks – just so that a few people can get to Birmingham more quickly.

“There’s a strong case for re-directing some of the £50 billion earmarked for the HS2 high-speed rail project.  Why not spend a bit of it on re -opening the whole of the alternative route via Okehampton that was axed by Beeching?”, said Mr Chegwyn today.

“That line’s reopening would provide an alternative route to Plymouth and Penzance in the event of engineering work or storms on the sea wall near Dawlish, although this would entail a reversal at Plymouth for trains continuing to Cornwall.  Reopening the line would also maintain rail links in the long-term should the line around Dawlish succumb to the sea.

“Of course this would be costly but nothing like as costly as the proposed HS2 high speed rail line between London and Birmingham.  That line has no benefit at all to the West Country.  The £50 billion it is expected to cost would be better spent on improving existing lines and ensuring they can stand up to the increasingly severe weather patterns that are now affecting our country.

“The HS2 Action Alliance is calling on all West Country MPs to lobby the Government for money to be spent on improving existing rail lines instead of on a £50 billion HS2 vanity project that has no benefit to the West Country.

“The Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls questioned the value of HS2 when speaking in Manchester this week.  West Country MPs should also question the value of HS2 to their own constituencies and should consider voting against the HS2 Hybrid Bill when it is debated in Parliament later this Spring.

“It’s all a question of getting value for money and deciding how best to spend £50 billion”, said Mr Chegwyn.  “Opinion polls have shown that most people are opposed to HS2 and believe there are much better ways to spend this huge sum of taxpayers’ money.”

Members of the HS2 Action Alliance were due to meet North Devon MP Sir Nick Harvey in Westminster this afternoon to discuss the case against HS2 and the need to invest in the Cornish main line and the Tarka line between Exeter and Barnstaple.



Notes to Editors:

In the most recent national YouGov Poll, well over 50 per cent of the UK public were opposed to HS2.


Further information:


Peter Chegwyn
Local Campaigns Director
HS2 Action Alliance

07931 177940


Iain Macauley

07788 978800


John Read

07774 476391