Letter sent to Mary Creagh, the new Shadow Transport Secretary
Dear Ms Creagh,
Congratulations on your appointment as Shadow Transport Secretary.
I am writing to you as Chair of Stop HS2, the national grassroots campaign group against HS2.
Through the Stop HS2 website and mailing lists we are in regular contact with tens of thousands of supporters. This year Stop HS2 held a national convention in Staffordshire, we had a stand at the Labour Party Conference for the third year running, we are frequently quoted in the media, and Stop HS2 posters often form the backdrop to news items. In 2011 we took a petition with 108,000 signatures to Downing Street. We work with a range of organisations, including the European Forum against Unnecessary Imposed Mega Projects, the Civil Society Commission, councils, HS2AA, Agahst and local action groups and numerous others.
As new Shadow Transport Secretary, you will be looking closely at what the country needs from a new north-south railway line in the 21st century, and if you will ask serious questions as to whether HS2 is the right proposal to meet those needs, you will find it is not.
HS2 is a long-distance, London-centric railway, with few stations, that will consume much of the transport infrastructure budget for many decades while doing nothing to relieve existing problems until the first phase opens in 2026. Meanwhile, the business case relies on reductions of about £7.7billion to the existing rail network, reducing rail services to many of the large towns and cities that HS2 bypasses.
As well as today’s report from the Treasury Select Committee, the Public Accounts Committee said in September that the Dft had not “presented a convincing strategic case for High Speed 2” and was making decisions based “on fragile numbers, out-of-date data and assumptions which do not reflect real life.” We have noticed over the last few years that the rationale for HS2 by it’s supporters changes on a regular basis, as we demolish the arguments they use.
Patrick McLoughlin has recently said that the speed of HS2 is “almost irrelevant”. However most of the environmental problems, and the poor connectivity with the existing railway, arise because of the design speed of HS2. The Department for Transport also say that a conventional speed railway would cost around 10% less than HS2. At £50 billion for HS2, this means that around £5 billion is being budgeted on something that its proponents say is unnecessary.
The High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill gives the Department for Transport a blank cheque for spending specifically on a high speed railway: if the need is for more capacity on the railway, this Bill diverts attention and money away from the real needs.
Although there is growth in rail journeys, this is in local and regional journeys: HS2 only adds long distance capacity. Long distance travel across all modes is falling, and the growth in digital technologies such as videoconferencing will accelerate this, as well as being more environmentally sustainable.
Stop HS2 is also concerned that Simon Burns, formerly minister with responsibility for HS2, is standing for Deputy Speaker. One of the responsibilities of the Deputy Speaker is to decide who is allowed to petition on bills. We are concerned that if Burns is elected to this role, he will subvert the democratic process of hybrid bills, by restricting the ability of people affected by HS2 to petition. It is the duty of the opposition to stick up for people affected by decisions made by the Government of the Day, and we hope you will monitor this situation carefully and take action if necessary.
I have attached a copy of the leaflet we wrote for the Labour Party Conference.
Stop HS2 would be delighted to have a meeting with you at your earliest convenience.
Chair, Stop HS2