Has Labour leadership frontrunner put a huge question over HS2?

According to some elements of the media, Jeremy Corbyn is now seriously questioning the case for HS2, setting out a fundamental challenge to Labour’s longstanding policy of support for the government.
It is claimed that in launching his ‘vision for the North’ in Leeds today, Corbyn will argue that HS2 will drain other rail lines of investment and turn northern cities into dormitories for London business. He will, it is said, criticise the recent government decision to suspend much needed investment in rail infrastructure in the north to fund HS2.
Such a statement by Corbyn would be significant not just because he is the frontrunner in the Labour leadership contest but because such criticism of HS2 is coupled with a strategic approach to reviving the north which should surely win support among northern Labour politicians who have until now been seduced by George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse rhetoric. Corbyn, it is said, calls the Powerhouse proposal a ‘cruel deception’ as Osborne’s approach devolves spending cuts while failing to adequately resource the investment needed for a real regional rejuvenation.
So do we now have serious proposals on the table which directly challenge HS2’s ‘engine for growth’ slogan? In fact, that is not clear. Despite the media speculation, Corbyn’s strategy paper, Northern Future, makes no mention of HS2. We wait for clarification.

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5 comments on “Has Labour leadership frontrunner put a huge question over HS2?
  1. Country diary: HS2 or more car chaos?
    By: Germaine Greer
    Published: 5 August 2015
    Category: United Kingdom

    The Prime Minister’s stepfather-in-law, the 4th Viscount Astor, has has been accused of knifing his stepson-in-law in the back by writing a piece for the Spectator setting out his opposition to the proposed high-speed train link between London and Birmingham. Most opponents of HS2 who read the noble gentleman’s argument were probably more embarrassed than gratified by his support. According to Lord Astor, the HS2 project is supported by “Northern Labour MPs who relish the thought of the beauty of the Chilterns being destroyed”. “I admit I am biased …” he concludes, “in favour of the countryside. I have walked and ridden over the Chilterns all my life.” (In case you are beginning to think he should get out more, he does own a 20,000-acre estate on the island of Jura in the Hebrides, where he goes to kill deer.) The Chilterns are listed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) which might explain why HS2 is costing way more than it needs to do, because the current scheme requires that nearly all of the track that passes through the Chilterns go underground. Travellers on HS2 will not be allowed to see the countryside that so gladdens the heart of his Lordship. Speaking as a rail user, I think that is truly unfair. I am not protected from sight or sound of the trains that convey travellers from Cambridge to Liverpool Street: but then, I live in Essex. Essex can claim only a smidgen of a single AONB, “Constable country,” most of which is in Suffolk. The 33 AONBs in England were so designated by the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Acts of 1949. The criteria applied would appear to be arbitrary at best. The Chiltern landscape is largely manmade, and at best very pretty, rather than beautiful. Anyone can appreciate prettiness, but it takes taste to discern beauty.

  2. Having read a lot about Jeremy Corbyn’s position on HS2 and his voting record (he voted AGAINST the Bill) I am satisfied that were he to win the Labour leadership he would not only withdraw his Party’s support for the project but would also undertake a proper strategic railways plan that would allocate resources where they are needed, and would cancel HS2. I have paid £3 to become an affiliate member of the Labour Party so that I can vote for him. This could be our big chance to kill HS2 completely, once and for all.

    • As you imply, there should be a National Transport Strategy. IT’S OBVIOUS, unless you’re fanatically in favour, despite all the evidence, how many attempts have there been to promote HS2, maybe six, all shot to pieces.
      The Commons vote was skewed, orders from Cameron/Osborne, although Cameron didn’t even bother to vote….

  3. I think that many Labour MPs (indeed Conservative MPs too) increasingly realise it is not only that the huge investment funds for HS2 will deprive the rest of the country of infrastructure funds. Additionally, the HS2 proposal actually builds in the REDUCTION of existing services for many areas. £8.3 billion savings from classic rail are built into the HS2 plan.

    Clobbering existing services to make way for a monopoly for high speed has happened right across Europe. Previous direct express services have been turned into broken services taking many changes and far longer eg between Amsterdam and Paris http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-12-17/high-speed-trains-are-killing-the-european-railway-network
    Additionally, existing freight services, even though recently modernised and given new capacity, have been downgraded, kept underused and had stations shut as part of a plan to build parallel high speed services eg the Frejus service in north west Italy. Although the current services between London and Birmingham may think they have a good competitive position vis a vis HS2, the contracts will likely skew such a possibility.

    So this too should be part of Corbyn’s recognition of the “cruel deception” that is integral to the HS2 proposal.

    • Do this Govt. or HS2 Ltd. have any credibility regarding HS2, with only 22% public support?
      Have Cameron/Osborne secured Chinese funding providing HS2 building starts by 2017?

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