Secretary of State for Transport Philip Hammond will outline the route of the first stage of HS2 today, including the reannouncement of route realignments first published in September. Whilst he will state there is a strong business case for the new railway, the business case is due to be revised. Despite the evident recent failures of his department, he has to announce the plan for consultation this week if the consultation, which is being rushed towards, is to commence in February.

Stop HS2 Campaign Director Joe Rukin said;

“Philip Hammond wants to make out that everyone opposing this project is a NIMBY, so he can hide from the fact there is no business case, no environmental case and no money to pay for it. High Speed Rail sounds like a really good idea, but the justification ends there. The business case is exceptionally suspect, with even HS2 Ltd admitting the demand forecasts are ‘very sensitive’ and that all the entrepreneurial risk is placed on the taxpayer. In terms of the forecast 267% passenger increase, they have simply pulled a figure out of the air which justifies the project. In addition, they have assumed all time on trains is wasted and taken no account of how video conferencing will cut future demand for travel despite many firms, including ARUP who drew up the plans for HS2, telling employees not to travel for meetings but uses video conferencing instead.”

“The environmental case is non-existent. Even HS2 Ltd themselves admit that HS2 might lead to an increase in carbon emissions, and this is before emissions caused by construction are taken into account. This week the Wildlife Trusts joined the CPRE, the Countryside Alliance, SPAB and National Trust in condemning the project. 17 Councils, including Coventry City Council, which is not affected by the route have also already expressed positions of opposition.”

“There are better cheaper alternatives which would be quicker to deliver and would give more benefit to far more people, not just this exceptionally narrow corridor, but the Government haven’t worked up the options. There are carriages sat in sidings which could be on the West Coast Mainline today, there are trains travelling through stations but aren’t allowed to stop there and this could change today, but the Government would rather artificially hold down capacity and let commuter suffer crush hour conditions to help justify this millennium dome on wheels. Rail Package 2 could deliver a 65% increase in capacity for just £3.6bn. Longer trains and better signalling could deliver capacity increases too, but they just haven’t done the work to explore these possibilities. The engineering assessment which could allow trains to go from Paddington to Birmingham again consisted of colouring over the railway line with a highlighter pen.”

“The Government will go on about all the supposed benefits for the North, but they won’t say how it will get to the North as they are too scared of the opposition they will get if they are going to say where it will actually go, and it wouldn’t get there for another 30 years anyway. The evidence shows exactly the opposite, not only that all benefits will go to London, but HS2 will not create economic activity, simply shift it from one place to another. HS2 Ltd employed experts at Imperial College to look into new economic activity, but because they said it would be ‘very small indeed’, they ignored their evidence. Professor Henry Overman of LSE recently told the Transport Select Committee ‘Claims about the transformational nature of transport investments for particular areas should be generally discounted in assessing these benefits because they have no convincing evidence base to support them.’ The Government are keen to show how the TGV helped Lille, but in the 70s unemployment there was 20% above national average. The TGV arrived in 1981, and in 2006 unemployment there was 40% above national average. Is this the sort of ‘prosperity’ this Government want to bring to the North?”

“HS2 is the wrong priority for the country. We’re being told we can’t afford the health service, we’re being told we’re can’t afford fire stations, we’re being told we can’t afford the police, the army, the navy or the coastguard. Over the last few days it’s become clear to everyone that Mr Hammond won’t break out his wallet for grit, but he’s willing to gamble 34 thousand million pounds on a fast train for fat cats. Hammond says he won’t say he won’t say we haven’t got the money to invest in the future, well tell that to teachers in crumbling schools, tell that to university students, tell that to any public servant getting their notice for Christmas. We’re now being told we can’t afford lollipop ladies or playgrounds, but like petulant children at Christmas, Messrs Cameron and Hammond are stamping their feet and demanding their shiny new train set.”

Notes to Editors:

  1. STOP HS2 is the national group campaigning on behalf of anti-HS2 action groups up and down the proposed route. See http://www.stophs2.org.
  2. Details of the alternative rail packages can be found at http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/rail/pi/highspeedrail/alternativestudy/pdf/railintervention.pdf
  3. For more details from Stop HS2 contact Joe Rukin on 07811 371880, Lizzy Williams on 07842 164880 or Penny Gaines on 01296 655613.
  4. The mitigated maps, as announced in September can be found at https://stophs2.org/news/148-new-full-maps-out/.
  5. Councils currently opposed to HS2 include; Aylesbury Vale District Council; Buckinghamshire County Council; Cherwell District Council; Chiltern District Council; Coventry City Council; Hillingdon Borough Council; Kenilworth Town Council; Lichfield District Council; North Warwickshire District Council; Northamptonshire County Council; Southam Town Council; South Northamptonshire Council; Staffordshire County Council; Stratford-on-Avon District Council; Warwick District Council; Warwickshire County Council & Wycombe District Council.
  6. People can sign the Stop HS2 petition at via the Stop HS2 website or directly at http://www.gopetition.co.uk/petitions/stop-hs2/sign.html.
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