Exactly two years ago today, Lord Adonis, the then Labour Transport minister, announced his Government’s intention to build HS2. The following is Newsnight footage from the day of the announcement.
The UK government’s first plans for high-speed rail (HS2) are revealed in March 2010, two months before the general election during Labour’s final few weeks in office. Michael Crick visits Wendover, Buckinghamshire, in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and reveals to residents that a 250 mph railway line is planned to go right through the village. Most residents have not been informed and hear about this first from BBC Newsnight. Report is followed by a studio discussion with Kirsty Wark interviewing the unelected Labour Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis with Theresa Villiers (Conservative Shadow Transport Secretary) and Norman Baker (Lib Dem, Transport).
Two years on and like others who are trying to look on the brighter side, my thoughts remain unconvinced of the merits of HS2. Current news articles about UK railway expenditure and continued debate for the need of a third runway at Heathrow, do nothing for the HS2 cause.
The Government are budget cutting here, there and everywhere – including the Department for Transport – but they insist on lavishing money on HS2 high-speed rail. I see it as Rome (the national rail network and every other essential national welfare provision) burns while Nero (HS2) fiddles.
If HS2 encourages people to switch from internal and short haul flights to high-speed rail, it will also encourage people to take high-speed rail to catch their long haul flights at Heathrow. There is no Great Controller who will decide where HS2 passengers will travel to, so more could go via the HS2 Heathrow link, increasing the need for a third runway there.
I realise that Birmingham, Manchester and other cities have airports too and that these may have room to expand, but if Heathrow offers the flight paths that people want, they will still go to Heathrow. Birmingham and Manchester Airports will probably have to grow too – even if their locals shout objections to additional noise, pollution, increased local traffic congestion and the demolishing of anything in the way.
This is all just big ideas to travel more and faster- never mind about the environment!