Recently, Chris Howe has set up a ‘yes to HS2’ campaign. Just like Philip Hammond and HS2 Limited, Chris argues that HS2 will bring environmental and economic benefits, and that increasing demand for rail travel is pushing existing capacity to the limit.
These arguments are fundamentally flawed. They fail to recognise that new technologies like video conferencing are already reducing business travel, that freight and market access rather than commute times drive regional business investment, and that actively promoting non-travel is better for all of us.
Also many of the economic studies have been based on the experiences of other countries where cities with no major rail, airport or motorway connections are introduced to a high speed rail network. Clearly in such circumstances there are large economic benefits, but in the UK these arguments are much weaker.
The real economic benefits of HS2 will go mainly to London, and other cities where there are stations. The vast majority of the country will get little or no benefit. Consider the alternative of investing those billions in targeted local transport improvements, that could benefit millions of people all across the country.
Chris says that the anti-HS2 protesters have backing from other organisations. Let’s be clear: the Stop HS2 campaigners are a group of individuals working at the grassroots level, with no corporate support. In contrast, HS2 will get £25 million from the govt this tax year, and the construction industry has a huge vested interest in a mega project like this one.