Health warning for Minister’s extravagant claims for HS2

When former Transport Secretary Philip Hammond launched the HS2 consultation in February 2011, the Daily Telegraph were scathing about the extravagant claims in his speech. They said

“Pretty much the only thing the Transport Secretary didn’t promise was that high-speed rail would help find Shergar.”

History has repeated itself, in a new speech full of extravagant claims  made by recently appointed DfT minister, Simon Burns to the “HS2 Alliance” on Monday.

He uttered the frequently made claims that HS2 was the only choice, and the usual rhetoric about transformations and the North-South divide.

But as the evening went on the claims got more bizarre. Simon Burns said

“It will help to open up access to employment opportunities and essential services like education and health for millions of people.”

This is a ridiculous claim.

Our health services are distributed across the country, close to where people live.  In Britain, we can get to local doctors and local hospitals, with no need to make a long journey to the capital.  For most people across the country, getting to the nearest hospital is faster than the journey to the nearest HS2 station will be.

Young people find that good quality local transport – like regular buses with low fares – are much more useful for getting to schools and colleges, to make use of the educational opportunities open to them.

It’s a real risk with HS2  that local transport spending will end up being focused on HS2 stations for the few rather getting to local hospitals and colleges for the many.

With every speech it looks like ministers in the Department for Transport are relying on increasingly tenuous excuses for building HS2.

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