FEATURE: 'How HS2 has affected my life for the last seven years’

Vikie Shanks, who lives right next to where the HS2 line will be built on Crackley Lane
Vikie Shanks, who lives right next to where the HS2 line will be built on Crackley Lane

The start of construction work for HS2 is less than a year away, and a Kenilworth woman has described the difficulty of knowing the line will pass right by her home.

Vikie Shanks, who lives just 150 yards from where the high-speed line will be in Crackley Lane in Kenilworth, has had her life affected by the government project for at least seven years.

Vikie (back row, third from left) with her seven children

Vikie (back row, third from left) with her seven children

Vikie was shocked at how little information she received from HS2 when plans for the line were first revealed.

She said: “The only reason I found out about it was because they (HS2 officials) were going down Crackley Lane and I saw a piece of paper on a telegraph pole. I thought ‘what’s this?’”

It advertised a meeting about HS2 at Kenilworth School, which Vikie went along to.

She continued: “When I got there, they put this big map up on the screen - at that time, the track went right through my house.

“I remember looking at it thinking ‘Eh?’”

The line has been moved slightly since then, but its construction will still have a major impact on Vikie and her family’s life.

A mother to seven children who are all on the autism spectrum, Vikie says the family do not want to move away because of the sentimental value of the house, which she has lived in for more than 25 years.

Her husband, Paul, committed suicide in 2007 and the family’s memories of him are connected to the house.

In 2015, Vikie gave evidence at Parliament in front of a Select Committee to argue a case for staying in their home instead of moving away.

During the hearing, she said: “It is not morally acceptable, We do not want to move but my children cannot cope with the noise and disruption that will be on the doorstep.

“My mental health has deteriorated significantly over the past five years because of all this stress. We should not have this responsibility on us.”

And when asked how she thought it went, she added: “The MPs were very receptive. I thought: 'I’m not going to sit here meekly'. So I stood up and blasted them.”

Even after all these years, the line is still featuring heavily in her life, and construction has not even started yet.

Staff from HS2 were near Vikie’s house conducting survey work just a few weeks ago.

She said: “I reckon the time I’ve wasted on HS2-related things must be weeks and weeks and weeks. That’s not just me fighting it but the red tape associated with it.”

While Vikie says the line has had a huge impact, she said there are some who do not take her anger with HS2 seriously.

But she hit out at people who dismiss her criticism, claiming they cannot understand what she is going through unless they have experienced it themselves.

She said: “We get called nimbys, but I’ve started to look at the business case. They could spend a lot less money on upgrading the railways.

“But if you haven’t been directly affected by it you can’t possibly understand.

“I’ll never use it, my children will never use it. It’s something we didn’t ask for and something we don’t want.

“But there’s nothing we can do about it. We have to put up or shut up.”

Work to build the line is expected to start in 2019. HS2 is set to affect Vikie and her family’s life for quite a while longer yet.

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The first phase of HS2 aims to create a high-speed rail link between Birmingham and London. Later phases will create connections to Manchester and Leeds.

The company responsible for delivering the project, HS2 Ltd, was formed in 2009, and the route the line will take was confirmed by the Government in 2013.

An Act of Parliament was passed in 2017, meaning work to design and build the line could finally get underway.

The project has been controversial from the outset, due to the many properties and picturesque areas the line will pass through along the way.

Along with Vikie’s house, the line will bisect Burton Green, and will pass right by the villages of Cubbington, Offchurch and Ufton.

Its cost, which has risen to £56 billion from an initial estimate of £32.7 billion, has also come in for heavy criticism.

The line should open in late 2026. When it opens, HS2 says the standard journey time between London and Birmingham will be 49 minutes, shaving more than 20 minutes off the current fastest train.