The rational decision for Justine Greening is to cancel HS2

January 2012 is the month when Justine Greening has said she will make an announcement about the HS2 consultation.

She has said she will make a rational decision about HS2.

It is not rational to continue with the HS2 proposal.

The Stop HS2 logo is that there is “no business case for HS2, no environmental case for HS2, no money to pay for it“.

The original business case for HS2 is based on the idea that if you have a shorter journey, that automatically turns into an economic benefit for the country.

But this completely ignores the fact that now people use technology to work on trains. Many long distance trains provide free wifi, enabling a business travellor to use all the computer facilities he or she would have at their desk in their office.

We have been consistent in this argument, because it is a valid and rational argument. At the debate on 13th October – the day before Justine Greening was appointed Secretary of State for Transport – Theresa Villiers, a Transport Minister criticised this position when she said “The fact that Stop HS2 keeps making the point about work demonstrates the overall weakness of its argument.

That was a deeply illogical statement on behalf of the Department for Transport.

It is because we are consistent about it that people know it is a good argument: the changeable nature of the case for High Speed Two shows that the arguments supporters of HS2 use – and previously Philip Hammond – don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Our point about mobile working was made for us in the debate immediately preceeding the HS2 debate, when MPs claimed the use of mobile devices in the Chamber was necessary for their work. They cited many examples of using mobile technology as a tool to work in all sorts of places.

There are other arguments against HS2 from a business point of view – for instance HS2 Ltd have already conceeded that they got their original passenger forecasts wrong, when they dramatically reduced them in February 2011. But we will cover these more over the next few weeks.

Then there is the environmental case, which is heavily against HS2. The original reason the coalition decided to go ahead with high speed rail was because it would help develop a low carbon economy – as they say in their program for government

“We will establish a high speed rail network as part of our programme of measures to fulfil our joint ambitions for creating a low carbon economy.”

However HS2 Ltd themselves – and Philip Hammond in a letter written to all MPs – say that HS2 will be carbon neutral. HS2 should have been cancelled then: it is not rational for the government to push forward a £33 billion plan that does not even meet their basic requirement to reduce carbon emissions.

And this ignores the other environmental damage that HS2 will cause: the Wildlife Trusts say that there are about 160 wildlife sites at risk because of HS2.  The Woodland Trust say it will cause direct damage to at least 21 ancient woodland site, and puts at risk at least another 27. Because of the proposed design speed – which international railway experts agree is only appropriate for much greater distances then between the HS2 stations – it is impossible to avoid sensitive sites.

The last part of our slogan is “no money to pay for it”. It is the government that will pay for HS2 – or rather the taxpayer. Today’s Financial Times headline is Economists see bleak year ahead, and as a former economic secretary to the Treasury, Justine Greening has a better idea than most about the truth behind the headlines on the global economy.

If everyone was in agreement that the HS2 proposal was the best one, there might be some justification for continuing with HS2. But with increasing numbers of groups who are having second thoughts – including the Conservative Bow Group of which Justine Greening is a member – then continuing to spend money on HS2 right now is a shortsided and irrational decision.

The only rational decision is to cancel HS2 as soon as possible.

Justine Greening has said she will make a rational decision on HS2. Going ahead with HS2 is not a rational decision. We ask all our supporters to write or email Greening Justine – copying in their own MP especially if your constituency is not directly affected – to tell her to cancel the HS2 project this month.

2 comments to “The rational decision for Justine Greening is to cancel HS2”
  1. HS2 is the wrong answer to so many questions

    Does Britain need improved rail infrastructure?
    Britain desperately needs improvements to it’s rail network, capacity and journey times. However Britain does not need the world’s fastest high speed rail network. Britain is a small country with the main centres of population close together. The proposal of a 250kph service is the result of efforts to demonstrate time benefits over a 100 mile journey between London and Birmingham; a short distance in which the segments entering and leaving the connected cities and the acceleration and deceleration time have a significant impact. How much of the journey is actually at 250kph?

    Should a high speed line go to Heathrow?
    Other countries have long striven to integrate their high speed network with the principal hub airports, evidenced by the likes of France at Charles de Gaulle, Holland at Schipol and for many years at Frankfurt in Germany. This encourages people to use trains for connections as an alternative to domestic flights, reducing pressure on airport landing slots. To provide a ‘shuttle’ to the high speed line reduces the ease of the rail option and dissuades passengers from trains in favour of domestic flights. Part of the reason that the route does not go through Heathrow is the time this route would add to the Birmingham to London journey time (see also point above) – an extra 3 minutes for a train not stopping at Heathrow. There is something wrong with the business case when the potential extra market of Heathrow traffic is outweighed by such a small difference in journey time.

    Where should the London terminal of a high speed line be?
    Similarly to the point regarding Heathrow above it is logical to not create extra congestion or delays through the choice of route. Any new high speed rail line should be directly connected to the Channel Tunnel route to allow for efficient journeys and encourage people to take this route. A terminal for HS2 at Euston requires either a transfer to St Pancras adding congestion along Euston Road or a spur as proposed to connect the two lines. The result of the latter is either two changes to get from Birmingham to the Channel Tunnel line or extra trains to provide for both routes. If there is insufficient capacity at St Pancras then the route to the HS2 terminus should pass through an interchange with the Channel Tunnel route.
    In the 1980’s a decision was made to site the terminal for trains from the Channel Tunnel at Waterloo. This was due to a commitment to the French to provide a terminal for the beginning of train operation. There was a plan for a high speed route to Waterloo and large amounts of property in South London were compulsorily purchased to make way for this. It turned out that this was completely the wrong location for the terminus and the hundreds of millions of pounds spent on the terminal were a total waste as the terminal is not now used for trains except as the set for the Railway Children!

    Should the line follow major transport arteries to reduce environmental impact?
    The report into options for high speed rail stated that routes were selected to follow major transport arteries as far as possible. The preferred route for HS2 follows a single carriageway A road and commuter rail line with 2 relatively slow trains an hour off peak and 4 at peak times and terminating only 40 miles from London. This is not a major artery. Further the route ploughs through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty creating many times greater damage to the environment than the existing road and rail lines. For example near Wendover the proposed route requires a 3-4m high embankment on which the line will sit; the local mitigation also recommends acoustic treatment because of the proximity to the village which would take the form of a acoustic ‘wall’ some 5-6m high. No-one describes these two in combination – effectively a 3 story high wall across the countryside. What would be the chance of someone succeeding in Planning Permission for a building of such dimensions?

  2. Can anyone tell me why the capacity constraint argument is not being countered by recommendations to re-upgrade the ‘second’ existing mainline between London and Birmingham via Bicester?

    Into the bargain, that existing mainline has a one-time link at Ashendon in Buckinghamshire to the one-time Great Central route to the north via Sheffield then Manchester. Why has re-instatement of the former GC route been overlooked, please? Re-instatement of the link at Ashendon would permit a short connection from near to Beaconsfield directly into Heathrow Airport just a few miles distant.

    All those earthworks have already been done; why have they been overlooked?

    Approval for HS2 would mean then THREE mainlines running between London and Birmingham, and the case for any maintenance/upgrade funding for the existing two will become next-to impossible. That is economic lunacy.



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