Following a series of disastrous revelations concerning the HS2 project, a poll carried out by YouGov has shown that members of the public supporting HS2 has dropped by 7% since January 2013, the net effect of which is a 10 point increase in overall disapproval, which has leapt from 2% to 12%. At the start of the year as Phase 2 of the proposed route was announced, the pollsters produced their first poll showing that more people were in opposition that support, with a 43% 41% split. The results published following surveys conducted over the 3rd and 4th of July showed 46% of the general public are opposed to the scheme, with just 34% in support. In the 18 months since YouGov conducted their first poll in January 2012, which saw 37% of the public were against HS2 compared to 42% for, there has been a 17% swing of opinion toward opposing the project.
The polls were conducted at the culmination of a week which saw the costs of the project soar by 30%, the Public Accounts Committee tearing the project apart again, and Labour grandees Alistair Darling and Lord Mandelson expressing severe concerns about the project. The increased disillusionment within Labour politicians was reflected by members of the public intending to vote Labour, with 55% of them against and only 34% supporting HS2. Support amongst Labour voters has dropped by 7% since January, and whilst Conservative voters still support the scheme overall (34% against, 44% for), support has dropped by 11 points since January. With UKIP supporters overwhelmingly against HS2, showing a 66% to 25% split, the only one of the four parties polled whose supporters have increased their level of advocacy for HS2 are the Liberal-Democrats. Lib-Dem support for HS2 has risen by 9% since January, with 28% against and 57% for.
It is possible that if the question used in the poll had been accurate, opposition would have been higher. The stated question was; “There are plans to build a new high speed rail link between London and Birmingham, and then on to Manchester and Leeds. This is expected to cost around £32billion. Do you support or oppose these plans?”, but last week the Transport Secretary announced construction costs has risen £10bn from £32.7bn to £42.6bn, and admitted that the £7.5bn cost of trains would be extra. This announcement put the total estimate for construction and trains, based on 2011 prices, at £50.1bn.
The YouGov press release can be found here http://yougov.co.uk/news/2013/07/05/hs2-public-support-falls/ with the full poll data here http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/wxed2kxr97/YG-Archive-HS2-results-040713.pdf
In a boost to the argument put forward by Stop HS2 campaigners: that London will be the only region which would benefit by HS2 being built, London is the only region supporting HS2, with a 37/43 against/for split. In Scotland, those opposed outnumber supporters by almost two to one, with a 52/27 split. There is a similar level of disillusionment in The Midlands and Wales with a 54/30 split. In the North, which proponents claim will be the big winner from HS2, opposition to the project outnumbers support by 45 to 37, with the South (excluding London) coming in at 44/34.
Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin said:
“This poll shows quite clearly that HS2 is not a vote winner. A 12 point lead is the sort of polling which political parties would kill for, and the implications are stark. The thinking from Government was that when Phase 2 was announced at the end of January that support for this boondoggle would go up, but in the last six months a 2% lead from opponents has turned into 12%.That is a massive gap, and it is only going to get bigger. If people involved in this poll were told HS2 was projected to cost £50bn instead of £32bn, it would probably have been bigger already.”
“We have always said that the more people find out about HS2, whether that be the cost implications, the dodgy case for it which can be knocked down with a feather, or the true environmental impact, the more they realise it is a bad idea. There is never going to be any news which is good news about HS2, there is only going to be more and more bad news and more people will become aware of the realities behind the spin. The bulk of advocates for HS2 are those who stand to benefit from it being built, and an ever decreasing number from within the political class. Support for HS2 will only continue to drop, and finally politicians are starting to realise that blinkered support for this Whitehallephant is going down like a lead balloon.”
Penny Gaines, Chair of Stop HS2 said
“With opposition to HS2 growing amongst Labour voters as well as Labour politicians, it’s clear there is no consensus for building this extravagant white elephant. The sooner HS2 is cancelled the better, so that the Department for Transport and others can start looking properly at the real infrastructure needs of the country.”
Next week, the HS2 (Preparation) Bill Committee will take oral evidence, with campaigners against HS2 appearing at 2pm on Tuesday 9th. The committee will sit in all day sessions that day and on Thursday 11th.