Naturally as we are all human, when we are given six months to do something, the likelihood is always that we will leave it to the last minute. As such, here we are with what barely passes for the public consultation on HS2. Very much like any train does, the opposition to this project started trundling along in March 2010 as more and more people, many who had thought on first glance HS2 ‘seemed like it must be a good idea’, got on board in opposition.
Now the Stop HS2 movement is up to full steam, but if you do not get in your response to the consultation by Friday 29th July, you will have missed the train.
The arguments for HS2 have changed over the 17 months, first it was good for the environment, then it had a good business case, it was to get people off the roads and out of the air, it was then about ‘changing the economic geography of the UK’ and ending the ‘North-South divide’, then it was all about jobs and now finally it is about capacity. All of these arguments have been shot down in flames, as academic study after academic study has proved that these arguments simply do not stack up and there are better, cheaper ways of achieving these objectives. On top of an independent report to the Parliamentary Transport Select Committee backing up everything we have been saying since last March, this week the Institute of Economic Affairs has pointed out the severe and fundamnetal flaws in the project, with IEA deputy editorial director Dr Richard Wellings saying: “HS2 is another political vanity project – like Concorde and the Millennium Dome – being ploughed ahead with complete disregard for properly thought through commercial prospects or the mounting opposition to it. Its environmental credentials are questionable, its projected passenger figures suspect, and its proposed regenerative effects highly dubious.”
One underlying argument has remained though, like a petulant child wanting the most expensive toy in the shop, lots of other countries have high speed railways and therefore we should to. This argument ignores the failure of High Speed Rail across the world; in Portugal, suspension of construction was a condition of their bailout, in Spain the service to Toledo has already been stopped, in The Netherlands the company behind HSR is almost bankrupt and the planned lines to Germany from Amsterdam have been scrapped, there have been riots in Italy this month trying to stop construction the version of the fast train for fat cats in that near-bankrupt country, in Taiwan the company has had to be taken over by Government and in China, the oft-quoted example of what HSR can mean for a country, they have $304bn worth of HSR associated debts and they can only just about cover the annual $18bn debt repayment. Even in ‘egalitarian’ France, TGV ticket prices have doubled in 10 years causing the president of the SNCF, Guillaume Pépy to say; “The whole basis of the high-speed rail revolution – that the TGV should be the “normal” means of travel, not just something affordable by the business elite – is under threat.”
The reason for this international failure is the same reason that Florida Governor Rick Scott has just joined counterparts Ohio and Winsconsin and turned down a $2bn government incentive to develop a high speed rail link from Tampa to Orlando, because passenger numbers are clearly overestimated, and the state would have to pick up the bill for subsidies because the line would be unable to pay for itself. Due to the excessively extra energy required to get to ‘high-speed’, the running costs are astronomical. Here in the UK we only have one example, HS1 in Kent. That service should be carrying 25 million passengers per year according to the forecasts, but it hasn’t even made 10 million and services have already been cut to save money.
Time is running out to respond to the consultation. As such it is imperative that you act, and act now.
There is plenty of advice around on how to reply, but it can be as simple as writing a letter with the word ‘NO’ as the answer to questions 1-7 and putting your name and postcode on it.
Responses must be emailed or postmarked 29th July and can be sent to; Freepost RSLX-UCGZ-UKSS, High Speed Rail Consultation, PO BOX 59528, London, SE1 9AX or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Founder, Stop HS2