The Phase 1 HS2 route was announced four years ago today, in the last days of the previous Labour government, by the unelected Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis. With the need to call the 2010 general election within a few weeks of the announcement, it was a poisoned chalice for whoever was to form the next government.
Peter Mandelson, who was Business Secretary at the time has since said that they rushed into the decision, and that ” there was too much of the argument that if everyone else has a high-speed train we should have one too—regardless of need, costs or alternatives.”
When the Coalition took office, they decided to include high speed rail in the Coalition’s Programme for Government
“We will establish a high speed rail network as part of our programme of measures to fulfil our joint ambitions for creating a low carbon economy. Our vision is of a truly national high speed rail network for the whole of Britain. Given financial constraints, we will have to achieve this in phases.”
However, as the environmental details have come out, this ambition will not be fulfilled through HS2. Whatever high speed rail might do, HS2 is not low-carbon.
Even HS2 Ltd have given up on that claim, with an oblique ‘fact sheet’ that when read carefully admits that HS2 will cause more carbon emissions than savings until at least 2086.
This is in addition to the environmental damage that HS2 will cause along it’s route. Over 200 sensitive wildlife sites are at risk: ancient woodlands are at risk, along with SSSIs, the Chilterns AONB and numerous spices including Bechstein’s Bats and Barn Owls.
With the Environmental Audit Committee oral evidence session next week (Stop HS2 will be giving evidence) the environmental downsides of this fast train for fat cats is getting ever more scrutiny.