Here we will look at some of the reasons put forward to justify HS2, and see if they stand up to investigation. Below is a copy of our article in the Grapevine magazine, due out in January.
Do we really need HS2 or is it a very expensive project we could do without. Read on to discover the real facts behind the headlines
Most people have heard about HS2, some may even know quite a lot of the detail. However, how many fully understand the full implications this will bring in reality. The impact on our community, and the effect it will have on all of us would be long lasting. Even those who do not live near the proposed HS2 route will be affected one way or another.
The effects in our local areas
In Trowell and Long Eaton action groups have been set up to protest against HS2, with the objective of stopping it altogether. The reason we feel so strongly about this is not just because of the adverse effects on our local towns and villages, but is more about the huge amount of money that will be required to build it. The Department for Transport has approved this plan with no real justification for it in the first place, as I will explain shortly.
So how much will HS2 cost?
The budget for HS2 has risen from £32 billion in 2010, to £56 billion in 2015, and this year the National Audit Office has put the figure at £63 billion. To many people those figures don’t mean a lot, because they are difficult to imagine in a practical way. Let’s just say that if you spent a million pounds every day, £63 billion would last for 175 years!! It is a HUGE amount of money.
What if the HS2 doesn’t come near my area?
If you think you won’t be affected by HS2 just think on a few probable situations:
- The construction phase will take several years, whilst bridges, viaducts, cuttings and tunnels arte built. The works will cross several main roads. That will create traffic disruption and congestion on a scale we’ve not seen in the past. Your journey by car will be seriously lengthened, for a number of years.
- If you travel by train on the existing rail services, these are likely to be affected if HS2 goes ahead. The loss of revenue to those existing rail networks will force their prices up whilst cutting some of their services. A double whammy.
- The funding for this is being met by the taxpayer, and with amount of capital required that tax will have to come from somewhere, so other services are sure to be affected. The NHS, the emergency services, new housing, and social services, all need extra funding. The priority though seems to be building a railway that we don’t really need.
The wider picture
The Governments justification for needing HS2 has changed numerous times over the last few years, showing that it was ill conceived and not considered properly from the start. It would appear that the decision to go ahead was made before any justification was considered at all.
The case for HS2 has been made using a series of myths and fanciful statistics.
- The first myth was that other countries had implemented high speed rail networks and we were falling behind. The fact is in Europe every country that has invested in high speed rail, is losing money on it and failing to achieve the promised economic benefits. Our existing network is capable of being upgraded without any need for the totally separate HS2 lines.
- Next was the notion that HS2 would provide an alternative to air travel, thereby making a case that the extra runway at Heathrow would not be needed. We now know that this runway has been approved, yet the case for HS2 remains unchanged.
- Perhaps the weirdest case for HS2 was that it would save travelling time. Maybe so for a privileged few travelling from London, but here in the East Midlands, no stations at Derby, Nottingham or Leicester, means it’s more likely journey times will be slower if anything.
- Next the government claim that HS2 is essential to increase capacity and reduce overcrowding. This again shows the lack of any study of the facts. Most overcrowding is on local and regional services. Because HS2 is a national link to major cities, the extra capacity would be put where it is least needed.
- Finally we have the old chestnut of the promise of more jobs and economic regeneration. What does that really mean. I remember hearing the 74000 jobs be bandied about. The way jobs are calculated is in terms of job years. So for example if 500 construction workers are needed for 10 years, that’s 5000 job years right? Of course 5000 jobs sounds a lot better though doesn’t it?
As I said at the start, our main objection to this project is the huge amount of money required for something we don’t really need. Money that would serve far more deserving cases much better. The Government have commissioned studies to assess the effects of HS2. The studies have warned against several pitfalls, but the government has chosen to carry on regardless.
I hope to submit another article in the near future, to explain how we are progressing with the action groups and report any new developments.
If you would like to comment on any of the issues you can do so at the links below, it would be great to hear your thoughts. We are also building a website, which should be ready very soon.