In a David and Goliath legal case, the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin MP is being challenged for withholding information that campaigners claim will confirm that the £50billion HS2 rail line is not needed.
The Department of Transport has refused to publish railway data that shows how many passengers use each train, claiming that this is commercially sensitive for the railway companies. On Tuesday 20th May, a campaigner will ask a Judge in the Information Tribunal to overrule that decision.
The information was requested under the Environmental Information Regulations, which are similar to the Freedom of Information Act, by Mr Andrew Green from Northamptonshire. Mr Green’s family farm will be cut in half by HS2.
Speaking ahead of the hearing, Mr Green said:
“Successive Transport Secretaries have justified HS2 with the claim that it is needed, not for speed but for capacity. They claim that the existing rail system is close to being full.”
“But in an earlier judicial review in a separate case, the government was forced to reveal that long distance trains using Euston, even at peak times, were only half full with a substantial over supply of first class seats.”
“Overcrowding where it occurs on these long distance trains is a second class experience at the very end of the day when time restrictions on the use of cheaper tickets are lifted.”
“Campaigners now need the train occupancy for the other journeys to challenge the government’s fanciful passenger projections.”
Joe Rukin, of campaign group StopHS2, said:
“It appears that where trains are at all full it is on suburban commuter routes, for short distances and where the trains have too few carriages. The figures are being kept secret because they make it obvious that there is no need for a completely new long distance railway like HS2.”
“Upgrading the existing lines, better and longer trains, and reducing the proportion of first class seats will meet realistic capacity needs well into the future. The flawed business case for HS2 is founded on an £8billion reduction in services on existing lines such as those which serve Northampton, Coventry and Milton Keynes.”
“While the Government hide behind ‘commercial confidentiality’, there is only one real reason why they don’t want to publish the passenger numbers, because they will undermine the case for HS2, show it isn’t needed, and show that the real capacity crunch is not where HS2 is going.”