HS2 A Step Too Far.
HS2 : A step too far ? It has been a convenient parody for the Secretary of State to label opponents of HS2 as “Nimbys” and “luddites” – focussing on those who oppose the plans in the Chilterns and rural Warwickshire – and overlooking the growing opposition in Camden, Uxbridge, Ruislip, Kenilworth, Aylesbury and beyond. This has now been taken up by the crass and divisive adverts of the pro-HS2 lobby released this week (“their lawns, our jobs – Support Manchester”). It seems somewhat ironic to use such divisive tactics to promote a project that the Prime Minister sees as “essential to reducing the north south divide”. And to promote a train project from the side of a bus ! The fact is that opponents to HS2 have simply had the temerity to ask: what is the justification for this vastly expensive project that will cause significant disruption and cost to their lives ? (compensation is only available to a very narrowly defined number of householders and businesses on up to 80% of the market value of those directly affected). So far – while the opposition to HS2 deals in facts and ask for evidence, DfT and pro-HS2 campaigners respond with aspirations, and changing goalposts. This is not good enough. The Department for Transport’s own figures derived 40% of the “economic benefits of HS2” from an assumption that time spent on inter-city travel was not productive; that people don’t work on trains. The figures go on to state that 7 out of 10 jobs related to HS2 will be in London and the South East, not Leeds and Manchester, and that the majority are not new jobs, but re-located from elsewhere. Furthermore, the effect of bringing Manchester and Leeds closer to London is, DfT have been advised, likely to be a flow of capital TO London and not from it. Who does this help ? Now and then in a nation’s history, communities have had to pay the price for development in the national interest. With weeks left of the public consultation, the jury is out on HS2 – and until the evidence is there that it is in the national interest, it continues to be unaffordable at any price.