Recently, Austin Mitchell, the MP for Great Grimsby came out against HS2. This is his letter as published in the Grimsby Telegraph:
Don’t believe all the propaganda the government is putting out about the high speed train and what it will do to boost the North. It will do nothing. In fact it’s more likely to drain jobs and development away from the peripheries to the centre: the overcrowded, expensive and choking-up South East. All at enormous expense.
It won’t run anywhere near Grimsby. It’s first destination is Birmingham, which it will reach only in 2026, then Leeds by 2036, after which it extends to Scotland. So Doncaster will never see an HST. If we want to board one we’ll have to go to Sheffield. Don’t rush, it’s not until 2036.
All this will be achieved only at enormous expense. £17 billion (minimum) to the taxpayer and £45 billion in total. I’m always saying that we need to spend money on infrastructure, housing and public works to stimulate the economy and generate jobs. Yet that means spending money now on housing and school building, on road and rail improvements, not a vanity project. It means spending it now as unemployment rises in fifteen or twenty years.
What we need are better rail and road communications now. There’s so much to be done but won’t be if so much of the money for railways is drained off by HST. I’ve been trying for years to get the direct rail connection with London which we used to have and which we need to encourage business to come here. What was unprofitable in the eighties will now be profitable because rail travel has increased and there’s far more business travel. Hull trains were interested but then they were taken over by First Group and lost interest. National Express was persuaded when David Ross was Chair but then he resigned and they gave up the contract. Now Alliance have plans but want to develop West Coast connections first. East Coast have developed a spur from the main line to Lincoln but wouldn’t take it any further as British Rail used to. The excuses are always the same. The need for track improvement, and the need for more slots and trains on the overcrowded East Coast main line. All that, even the development of the back line via Spalding to join the main line at Peterborough, can be done for a small fraction of the HST costs. It won’t be if HST drains all the money.
There are many other arguments. A strong one is that the HST will cut through a lot of beautiful countryside, like the Chilterns and Buckinghamshire, and old villages in the stretch between Heathrow and Birmingham, and all to what purpose? To enable overweight businessmen to save 49 minutes on the journey from London to Birmingham, at an expense ordinary travellers wouldn’t be able to afford.
It’s a total waste. Our trains are already pretty fast. What we need is more rolling stock, doubling the track where it’s congested, strengthening it where trains are forced to go slow, more and faster services to places like Grimsby, and big reductions in fares to bring more people off the roads and onto the trains. Make ours the people’s railway. Not a speed track for big business.