Above: the last mainline built through the Chilterns
The news has, inevitably, led to an outcry. The Chilterns Conservation Board said it would cause irreversible damage. This highly prosperous area is sure to campaign fiercely against the new line.
I won’t be objecting. Partly because the line will pass Chalfont St Giles in a tunnel, which will minimise the impact on the village once construction is complete. But mainly because I feel strongly that it’s hypocritical to benefit from motorways, rail line and airports but object violently when someone plans one in your own area.
And I don’t accept the idea that rail lines – even high speed ones – blight the countryside. There’s something special about the sight of a train snaking its way through the countryside. The west coast main line didn’t ruin the Lune Gorge in the north of England; the later, parallel M6 did.
As the photo at the top of this post shows, railway lines already cross the Chilterns. This photo shows the Great Western and Great Central joint line being built at Loudwater near High Wycombe at the turn of the last century. The scars of construction are long gone; the railway is now part of the landscape. As the photo below of the same line near Ashendon shows, the railway merges into landscape.
As a boy, I loved lying in bed at night listening to coal trains making their way along the Rhymney valley line in Cardiff. It seemed the most natural thing in the world.
But will it happen?
It may not need a campaign to stop a high speed line through Chalfont St Giles. A Tory victory at the general election is likely to scupper the plans, and although the Tories say they’ll push a similar scheme, it will probably be for a different route.