The Government on Tuesday (15th November) announced their preferred route for Phase 2b of HS2.
Although there are some minor changes to the proposed route, campaigners say these are due to the poor design of the original route, and criticised the government for a lack of detail over the proposed services if HS2 gets built.
Whilst announcing some compensation for people affected, campaigners also pointed out this is significantly less than for people affected by other projects, such as Heathrow expansion. Whilst Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is saying the case for HS2 ‘is a strong as ever’, he stated in 2009 that he originally proposed high speed rail as an alternative to a third runway at Heathrow, and whilst the cost of the HS2 project has doubled since then, the links to both Heathrow and HS1 for the Channel Tunnel have been cut.
This announcement comes just week after the ITV Tonight programme conducted a survey which found only 15% of people feel that HS2 is worth the official £56bn price tag and only 11% people thought the high speed rail link would benefit the majority of commuters.
Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2, said
“The government is proposing spending £56 billion or more on a railway line most people don’t want and that won’t benefit the economies of the Midlands and the North.
“There is a real lack of detail in what HS2 really means for the services people use. We’ve heard a lot from Chris Grayling talking about the services people off the HS2 route ‘could’ have, but there is a complete refusal to actually say people actually will get those services. We’ve already seen this with the previous Secretary of State for Transport who promised that you’d be able to go direct from Manchester to Paris, that is until he dropped the link between HS2 and HS1. It’s highly likely that the same will happen with the current set of plans.”
“And its not just the link to HS1 which has been dropped whilst keeping the same budget. Plans to connect HS2 to Heathrow and to HS1 have long since been dropped. There have been numerous redesigns of Euston, adding to the uncertainty.
“Anywhere where there are gaps in the line is continued uncertainty for people affected. Phase 2 was announced in early 2013, and these people have been living in limbo for nearly four years. That’s just going to continue.”
“Meanwhile projects like the electrification of the Great Western Line have been delayed, and there are huge concerns about what is happening with the Midland Mainline electrification to Sheffield.”
Joe Rukin, Stop HS2 Campaign Manager responded:
“When the minister talks about listening to people and making route changes, that’s absolute bunkum. These minimal route changes have been made in a desperate attempt to reduce costs or to rectify glaring errors, not as a reaction to communities.”
“Government are simply trying to con the public that HS2 is needed for capacity reasons, to create jobs and rebalance the economy. HS2 delivers capacity where it is needed least, but is being justified with grossly inflated passenger forecast, as happened with HS1 which is only carrying a third of the projected passengers, which the National Audit Office say will cost the taxpayer an extra £10bn.On top of that, the Government have finally come clean in admitting ‘freeing up capacity’ means for many cities ‘losing the trains you already have’, as the HS2 business case demands £8.3bn worth of cuts to existing services.”
“The idea that a £56bn project would create just 25,000 jobs in construction at a cost of over £2m per job is abysmal value for money, and all international evidence shows any economic benefit wouldn’t be felt in the Midlands or North, but in London.”
“HS2 is being built for one reason only, because the multinationals who have been lobbying for this white elephant for ten years see HS2 as an opportunity to run their own gravy train”
Penny Gaines added
“While the government likes to claim generous compensation with HS2, in reality it is significantly less than with Heathrow. With Heathrow, they will be getting an extra 25% above the full market value of their house and all moving costs. But with HS2 only some people will be eligible for the maximum 10% extra and this will be capped and they may get only some of their removal costs.”