British politicians, like Philip Hammond and Norman Baker have argued strongly for HS2 on the grounds that Europe and the rest of the world have been building high speed railways, and we can’t be “left behind”.
But it seems that other countries in Europe are not quite so keen on high speed rail as they may have been a year or so ago.
Last week came the news that Portugal had decided there was “no money to pay for” their high speed link to Spain. The project has now been suspended, for a second time. This is part of a package of austerity measures brought in by the new government.
The Portuguese share of the cost of the line was €3.3 billion (about £3 billion), and would have reduced the time on the train from an overnight journey taking more then 9 hours to under 3 hours. (Spain’s share of the cost was €3.8 billion.) Compare that to a cost of the London to Birmingham section of HS2 of £17 billion, with a time saving of just 20 minutes or so.
More on the Portuguese decision:
Portugal shows austerity zeal, postpones high speed rail.
Spain-Portugal high-speed train link postponed .
Meanwhile, in Italy, there have been a number of demonstrations against a high speed link from Turin, Italy to Lyon in France. Villagers of the Val di Susa have strongly opposed the project, which is being promoted by the government.
The opposition to the high-speed rail link has grown beyond the Val di Susa, winning support from a range of groups, from anarchists to Catholics.
In a remarkedly familiar commentary on the proposed link, Paolo Ferrero, secretary of Italy’s Communist Refoundation Party said “The majority of residents of the valley are against this project which damages the environment and is an absurdity for public finances”.
And Stuttgart 21 protests continued in June.
Maybe when HS2 gets cancelled, Britain will be seen to have had a lucky escape from high speed madness…