HS2 has consistently been unpopular with ordinary voters, and with Conservative voters in particular. But for some reason, ministers continue to refuse to listen to the public.
In May, Conservative Home polled their readers on their views of a number of policies which could be in the Conservative manifesto. The published results of this survey show that HS2 was the least favourite policy amongst Conservative Party Members, with it coming rock bottom, 34th out of 34.
Conservative Home were quick to point out that the results did not match the stereotype of the older, home-owning, self-interested Tory, with strong support for housebuilding and a low importance placed on the pensions triple lock as examples of this. 1,469 party members responded to the survey and were asked to give the policies a ranking from 1-10.
Additionally, there was overall support for the other infrastructure projects mentioned in the survey, and the specific suggestion of ‘Spending £100 billion on infrastructure during the coming Parliament.’ received a positive score of 5.82. And yet, ‘Continuing with HS2’ averaged 2.96, just squeezing out ‘Spending at least 0.7 per cent of GNP on overseas aid’ on 2.97 for last place.
These results are in line with public opinion polls which have seen increasing opposition to HS2 over recent years.
For instance, at last year’s Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, a survey conducted by You Gov in that city found that more than half of people in the city thought that HS2 will be a waste of money. Whilst 51% said HS2 to be a bad use of public money, only 32% thought HS2 is a good investment for the area. In the poll conducted for LBC, more than a third thought the money going to HS2 would be better spent on the NHS. And inside the conference itself, when Chris Grayling mentioned HS2 there was a noticeable hiss from the delegates within auditorium.
There is no doubt that HS2 is a policy unpopular with the public. The big question is – will Theresa May and her ministers listen?