Recently, Austin Mitchell, the MP for Great Grimsby came out against HS2. This is his letter as published in the Grimsby Telegraph:

Don’t believe all the propaganda the government is putting out about the high speed train and what it will do to boost the North. It will do nothing. In fact it’s more likely to drain jobs and development away from the peripheries to the centre: the overcrowded, expensive and choking-up South East. All at enormous expense.

It won’t run anywhere near Grimsby. It’s first destination is Birmingham, which it will reach only in 2026, then Leeds by 2036, after which it extends to Scotland. So Doncaster will never see an HST. If we want to board one we’ll have to go to Sheffield. Don’t rush, it’s not until 2036.

All this will be achieved only at enormous expense. £17 billion (minimum) to the taxpayer and £45 billion in total. I’m always saying that we need to spend money on infrastructure, housing and public works to stimulate the economy and generate jobs. Yet that means spending money now on housing and school building, on road and rail improvements, not a vanity project. It means spending it now as unemployment rises in fifteen or twenty years.

What we need are better rail and road communications now. There’s so much to be done but won’t be if so much of the money for railways is drained off by HST. I’ve been trying for years to get the direct rail connection with London which we used to have and which we need to encourage business to come here. What was unprofitable in the eighties will now be profitable because rail travel has increased and there’s far more business travel. Hull trains were interested but then they were taken over by First Group and lost interest. National Express was persuaded when David Ross was Chair but then he resigned and they gave up the contract. Now Alliance have plans but want to develop West Coast connections first. East Coast have developed a spur from the main line to Lincoln but wouldn’t take it any further as British Rail used to. The excuses are always the same. The need for track improvement, and the need for more slots and trains on the overcrowded East Coast main line. All that, even the development of the back line via Spalding to join the main line at Peterborough, can be done for a small fraction of the HST costs. It won’t be if HST drains all the money.

There are many other arguments. A strong one is that the HST will cut through a lot of beautiful countryside, like the Chilterns and Buckinghamshire, and old villages in the stretch between Heathrow and Birmingham, and all to what purpose? To enable overweight businessmen to save 49 minutes on the journey from London to Birmingham, at an expense ordinary travellers wouldn’t be able to afford.

It’s a total waste. Our trains are already pretty fast. What we need is more rolling stock, doubling the track where it’s congested, strengthening it where trains are forced to go slow, more and faster services to places like Grimsby, and big reductions in fares to bring more people off the roads and onto the trains. Make ours the people’s railway. Not a speed track for big business.

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  1. Austin Mitchell is clearly correct. The current rail network, during the rush hour, is mostly occupied by people commuting from home to work and back. This is true for fast and slow, national and local routes. A new, faster rail route is not necessarily going to change this dynamic. We may well see more people able to commute. This happened in Peterborough where more people now commute to London. Reduce the time from the North and more people living in the North will be able to commute to work in London. How does this help the North?
    Let’s also look at the early years of HS2. All the suppliers currently selected by HS2 Ltd are based in or near London (designers, accountants, lawyers, planners, consultants). The first rail depot will be in Old Oak Common, near London.
    We do need better transport – but across the country, not just in one point to point “network”.
    Oh, and the world of work will be very different by 2036 (one of Austin’s dates above).

  2. Agree with all above except of course the usual piece from Peter Davidson.The Epetition for HS2 has not reached 500 as you seem to like numbers.Those against has reachednearly 18,500 and the old petition is still rising.THat should show you what the majority think.

  3. Hard to believe, a letter from a politician that makes sense because it uses common sense! It is blindingly obvious that HS2 is not the best answer to ease perceived conjestion on the railways, to boost economic growth or bridge the North/South divide. As he said and has been proved, a high speed rail link can have a detrimental effect on the areas it passes through, economically and enviromentally, as the focus is on the end terminals

  4. If the money for HS2 was used for improving local infrastructure .This would create a lot of work for businesses around that area,helping local firms and employment which we will all get a benefit from.All HS2 will do is bring in large foreign firms and their workers.HS2 have no idea what the costs are going to be for this project and have not even visited the areas this railway line is going through to price the compensation to property owners.So i would like to know how they come by their prices.

  5. A very clear explanation as to why this project should be shelved. This country needs spending on a range of infra-structure projects to get the areas moving again. All areas, not just the select few, and, we need it now, not in 10 20 or 30 years time. The HS2 project will suck resources away from essential areas of expenditure, costing us all to the dubious benefit of a very few, save the consultants, lawyers and construction companies.
    We do need improvements but these can be achieved at a much lower cost and faster than the ridiculous vanity project that is HS2.

  6. Would that be the same Austin Mitchell who garnered the backing of just over 10777 of his more than 61000 constituents at the last General Election – so more than four out of five of his electorate either didn’t bother or actively supported a n other candidate?

    Why not stop a few people on the Streets of Grimbsy and ask them for their opinions because based on Mr. Mitchell’s democratic legitimacy they’d have just about as much right to speak for the residents of the town as he does!!!

  7. Well said except that the HS2 will not save anyone 49 minutes from London to Birmingham.
    Given that it will go to a new station some 10-15 minutes from Birmingham centre and will only be around 25 minutes faster then the current quickest rail journey, it would appear that the “saving” will only be around 10-15 minutes.
    That seems to be an extravagant waste of money to me.

  8. Peripheral areas like Grimsby badly need more employment opportunities. When the nation’s economy was booming (Mid 2000s) and jobs were plentiful in the South East, Midlands and North West, it was still very hard for people with degrees and experience to find jobs paying much more than the minimum wage in towns like Grimsby, Boston etc. Even worse now.

    As Austin says HS2 is a waste, it fails to address the real problems.

  9. Amen to that…agree with every word.Not able to travel from Spalding to Boston direct,and even talk of closing the station.One small example of why so many people can’t use the train.On the subject of freight,I learned this morning that friends in Sussex have to pay a £50 delivery charge for Welsh anthracite.Another friend,in Snowdonia has to buy imported coal from America.It’s the decline of our once-great manufacturing industries that have ruined this country.Mining,shipbuilding,trains,steel,etc.,etc.HS2 will do nothing to redress this,and is pie-in-the sky.

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