There are currently over 50 local action groups fighting the proposals for HS2, the high speed rail line, planned to go from London to Birmingham. Stop HS2 is the campaign group working on behalf of them, with the intention of trying to make sure it never gets built.
But why? You may think that all we are saying is ‘Not in our back yard’. It’s true that all the action groups paid attention to the implications of HS2 because it is due to come past (or through) where we live, but that’s the thing, we have paid attention to the plans and the simplest analysis of those plans shows that it’s not a case of ‘Not in my back yard’, but ‘Not anywhere’, and this is why our campaign slogan is “No business case, no environmental case, no money to pay for it.” HS2 is
Politicians say that HS2 is necessary, as it will reinvigorate the economy, it’ll be a low carbon solution and it will provide loads of other benefits. The sad thing is that it’s just another example of something everyone knows, in that there is always a significant gap between what politicians say and the truth. HS2 is one of those things that sounds good, but that is as good as it gets, it just sounds good.
The first question is of course why, at a time when the country is supposedly bankrupt are we doing this? Across the board the country is facing cuts from the Government to pay off our national, generational debt. Whole organisations are being wiped out and jobs shaved across the board, with things like Fire Stations and Police Stations being closed. Other capital projects like schools and hospitals are not going ahead because there isn’t the money to pay for them. Most other transport projects are under threat and just recently we heard that playgrounds are being shelved, but like bunch of little boys on Christmas Day, the Government are insistent that they get their new train set, and a train with extra gravy.
But why? Well according to Secretary of State Phillip Hammond, HS1 in Kent (the little brother of HS2) has been a “National Success Story”. In that respect, it’s going to be bad news for all of us if HS2 is a similar success. Just over a month before that announcement, HS1 announced they were cutting services as there wasn’t anything like the demand there had been expected. Ebbsfleet International station has planning permission for 9000 parking spaces, but only a quarter of the 2000 they built get regularly used. HS1 cost £6bn to build and it’s being sold for a quarter of that, £1.5bn. On Tuesday, 10 November 2009, Lord Adonis ‘restructured’ the books of parent company LCR (London and Continental Railways), meaning £5.2bn of debt was taken off the books to shape up for the sale. The debt was firmly put on our (the taxpayers) shoulders. To go ahead with HS2 given that background shows that the Government, whatever colour(s) it is, not only can’t learn from the mistakes of the past, but have no problem in doing the same thing all over again but on a much bigger scale.