We will continue to oppose HS2 if the route is changed. That’s because the whole project – which will cost taxpayers tens of billions of pounds – is based on a series of flawed premises.
For instance, the government is assuming that digital technologies, such as videoconferencing, will have no effect on the demand for travel within the UK. We know this, because Philip Hammond said it to us, in one of the face-to-face meetings last week.
However, the business case for High Speed 2 depends not just on an ever-increasing growth in traveller numbers. It also depends on a significant number of passengers who are making journeys simply because the railway line has been built. 85% of the benefits of the proposed railway line would go to London and the south-east. People will be travelling away from Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham, to spend their money in London
In addition, building this railway does nothing for the environment. HS2 say that operating the new railway line will probably be carbon-neutral, but may even increase carbon emissions. Domestic air flights are already decreasing. The Institute of Civil Engineers point out that if you double the speed of a vehicle, then the energy needed to power it goes up four-times as much (that’s due to physics, not design). Significantly faster trains need significantly more electricity to run them – and this has to be generated somewhere.
And what about the money? The government will spend two billion pounds on HS2 between 2010 and 2015.
However the government also says Britain’s railways are one of the most expensive in the world to operate. HS1 in Kent has the highest per kilometre cost of any high speed railway in the world. The government tells us they need to find out why they are the most expensive to build – and meanwhile they are pushing ahead with a project that will cost £30,000,000,000 to build a railway line between London and Birmingham. (And even more to extend it further.)
Stop HS2 – no business case, no environmental case, no money to pay for it.