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.