According to Labour List, earlier this week Labour’s Shadow Transport minister came out with a rather unoriginal line about High Speed Two having the wrong name:
11.47: Michael Dugher gives his backing to HS2 – “We support HS2″ – but he says the name is a bit of a distraction. It’s not about speed, it’s about capacity….
In reality, HS2 is all about speed: every design decision was filtered through the need to maximise the speed, because the economic case is based on it. Even the very name emphasises the need for speed.
The Department for Transport have said that a conventional speed railway would cost about 11% less, so we might as well spend the extra taxpayer’s money and make it high speed. But as HS2 is currently expected to cost £42 billion (without trains), this means the DfT want to spend around £4billion just for the distraction of calling a new railway “High Speed 2”.
When it was being designed, the decision were made to have no stations between London and Birmingham because they would slow the trains down too much. The HS2 route chosen passes a stone’s throw from Aylesbury Vale Parkway station: other options could have allowed a Milton Keynes station or one at Bicester for use by passengers to and from Oxford. These options, which would have increased the connections for people from the North travelling south were rejected, because they would slow the trains down too much.
HS2’s speed means that it has to be so straight it couldn’t be designed to follow the route of the M40 or the M1. HS1 in Kent was able to follow the route of the M2 and the M20: HS2 blasts through open countryside.
Even the details of the route mean that it goes through ancient woodland and sensitive wildlife habitats.
The economic case for HS2 is reliant on the assumption that time on trains is wasted. Proponents of HS2 say every option that would reduce its speed “won’t have the same benefits”. In essence the DfT are saying we have to build a high speed railway, which costs £4bn extra, because a conventional speed railway isn’t high speed, even though they also say the speed is irrelevant.
However a conventional speed railway would mean lower cost to build and run, greater connectivity, more freight paths, greater versatility, lower energy requirements and therefore a lower carbon footprint, and would be less damaging to communities and the local environment.