Although there has been no ruling yet on five legal challenges against the Government’s proposed HS2 high-speed rail network, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin is expected to announce the route of the Stage 2 links to Manchester, Leeds and Heathrow Airport on Monday (28th January 2013).
When the announcement is made, people can expect to hear a fanfare of tired and discredited arguments, which although they may make HS2 sound like a good idea, do not stand up to scrutiny.
The Stop HS2 campaign has always maintained that the project has no business case, no environmental case and there is clearly no money to pay for a project which will cost well in excess of £36bn. We expect that when the second stage is announced the opposition to this white elephant will only grow.
The Department for Transport has knowingly used out of date modelling systems which bolster the passenger projections and therefore the business case. In addition their predictions assume that demand can grow indefinitely and ignored the possibility that people might look at the price of a ticket before deciding not to use HS2. These assumptions lead Public Accounts Committee chair, Margaret Hodge MP to label their thinking “Potty”, “Bonkers”, “Shocking” and “Not good enough”, adding that she was “Gobsmacked” by modelling assumptions.
Last year the Major Projects Authority rated HS2 as Amber-Red, which mans ‘the successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas. Urgent action is needed to ensure these are addressed, and whether resolution is feasible’, but neither the report or the long-awaited annual report from the MPA have ever been released.
In recent weeks, the DfT have released timings for journey times between cities after HS2, but have failed to mention that they are planning out-of-town stations in some places. These are not only distant from existing stations but any work needed to connect HS2 up to the existing the network is not included in the bill for the project: the existing stations will lose services if HS2 goes ahead. The Dft have also calculated the benefits of HS2 by assuming that no-one ever works on trains and all business users are worth £70,000 per year.
The Dft are likely to argue that we lag behind Europe, but existing railways have met international definitions for high speed rail since 1976. Portugal, Poland, Russia and Norway have all cancelled their planned high speed rail links. Spain has got ghost trains which they have had to cut because and the Dutch have had to bail their high speed network out.
Last year, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has said that those effected by HS2 can expect a generous compensation scheme, but the truth is that in two and a half years of the Exceptional Hardship Scheme running, only 16% of claimants have been paid compensation. A report from South Northamptonshire District Council shows that houses affected by HS2 have lost up to 50% of their value.
Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin said;
“The HS2 proposal is fundamentally flawed and announcing the routes to the north to bolster support will backfire, the Government will soon find that more people know more about HS2 and opposition will only grow. They will say it is good for the environment because it sound like it might be true, but The Green party oppose HS2 saying it is ‘Socially regressive, environmentally damaging and bafflingly irrational’. They will say we are running out of capacity, but long distance travel on the West Coast Mainline is dropping and business use is dropping too. Arriva have applied for an open access long distance franchise, so they clearly think there is capacity to run more trains and it is improvements local sustainable travel which the country needs, not a fast train for fat cats.”
“HS2 has been spun as being good for growth, but only this week 32 academics from the Transport Planning Society said that was wrong. The Department for Transport will say it will be good for jobs and the north-south divide, but HS2 doesn’t create jobs, it simply moves them around and out of the handful created on Stage 1, 75% are set to be in London. All HS2 will do is suck more economic activity to London.”
“HS2 is the wrong investment at the wrong time. The country is supposedly bust, we are seeing cuts in services all over the place, but the Government wants to spend money on a train line which will only benefit the richest in society and line the pockets of construction lobbyists with vested interests. There are more holes in HS2 than a Swiss cheese, which is why the Government faced five legal challenges. To announce the route for Stage 2 before the rulings on those judicial reviews is simply irresponsible.”
Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2 said,
“Stop HS2 will be looking at the new proposals very closely over the next few days.”
“The basic principles for the first phase of HS2 were wrong. Tweaks in the second phase do not change this and cannot make up for the environmental damage and destruction from HS2 between London and Birmingham.”
“Stop HS2 is firmly of the opinion that the whole HS2 project is fundamentally flawed. It should be cancelled as soon as possible, so that we can concentrate on developing the transport infrastructure that will bring more benefits to more people than a fast train for fat cats.”
“Everyone should take a close look at the proposals. If they agree with us that HS2 should be cancelled, we urge them to write their MP, the Secretary of State for Transport and to their local councillors, and make their views known. It is only with the support of ordinary members of the public that we will get this runaway train stopped before it causes any more damage and devastation.”