On Tuesday, Jeremy Corbyn published his plan for a publicly owned railway system. Alongside a range of measures like plans for ‘better terms and conditions for rail workers‘ and ‘cheaper and more easily understood fare tariffs’ he also says that he wants to ‘stimulate the economy by increasing investment in new high speed rail, creating jobs and connecting more towns and cities‘.
What is less clear is why he has adopted this position which not only contradicts with reports from two weeks ago but also contradicts his own voting record.
According to the Guardian two weeks ago that a draft of his Northern Future document said that the Conservatives “have suspended the much needed investment in rail infrastructure in the north to fund HS2, a project with the aim of turning our great regional cities into dormitories for London businesses.”
In the event, the “Northern Future” made no mention of high speed rail or HS2.
Corbyn’s voting record is clear: he shows no enthusiasm for HS2, having abstained from the Hybrid Bill vote at the second reading in April 2014. What’s more he voted against the High speed rail paving bill in 2013.
His change of stance has not been prompted by the attitude of either Labour voters or Northerers. According to polling done on behalf of the Sunday Times, only 29% of Labour voters are in favour of HS2, and similarly only 29% of northerners support HS2.
What is clear with the tremendous £50 billion price tag just for High Speed Two, its hard to see how the rest of Corbyn’s plans, with better local transport and widespread electrification, could be put into place as well.