All signals are go for HS2

Alex Hern reports on transport secretary Justine Greening’s approval of HS2 High Speed Rail today.


The government today confirmed that its plans for phase one of HS2, the second high-speed line to be built in the UK, will go ahead.

The project has faced strong grassroots opposition from residents living on the route, which has led to many major revisions to the proposal.

The Campaign for High Speed Rail told Left Foot Forward:

During the debate, issues with the route were clearly identified. We welcome that the government has listened during the consultation and is going to make a package of alterations to the proposed route, specifically to deliver extra tunnelling at Northolt and Wendover.

• Changes to the line of the HS2 route following consultation mean that out of a total length of just under 140 miles, around 22.5 miles (not including the HS1 link) will be in tunnel or green tunnel. This is an increase of more than 50 per cent from the route consulted on.

• In addition, around 56.5 miles will be partially or totally hidden in cutting. Around 40 miles will be on viaduct or embankment – this is around 10 miles less than the consultation route.

This means that around 79 miles (more than half of the route) will be mitigated by tunnel or cutting.

One specific change has a very clear reason: the presence of Cheryl Gillan in the cabinet. The Welsh secretary threatened to resign over HS2, and appears to have received a £500 million tunnel through her constituency in return.

It is understandable that HS2 has received strong local opposition. Unlike many other transport infrastructure projects, the advantage of being on the route appears negligible. As they stand, the plans call for no stops between Old Oak Common in West London and Solihull outside Birmingham.

Instead, the benefit for those between the two termini comes for those who live on the stretch of the existing west coast main line, which will be able to run more, and less congested, stopping trains to towns along the way.

The less NIMBY objection to HS2 is it’s cost. At £16.3 billion, it is certainly expensive, and the cost for the full project is expected to hit £32 billion.

This is all because big projects have big costs. And the advantages are massive.

As we reported last month:

HS2 is a long-term infrastructure investment that could help lead to regional job creation. In a report (pdf) from Core Cities released in June, leading economists estimated the creation of one million jobs outside of the South East rests on the rail capacity that HS2 will provide.

Were the project to be cancelled, the UK would miss its chance to deal with a capacity crisis that would be irreversibly damaging for Britain’s railways. It would lead to increasingly disgruntled passengers and an inevitable political headache for the next Labour government. It would stand in the way of boosting economic productivity and job creation in the regions.

Our railways are critically underfunded. We cannot simply attempt to put plasters over the lack of investment. Instead, we need a major upgrade, to restore confidence in trains as public transport, and make the case for continued investment.

See also:

Rip-off Britain: Our train fares are triple those on the continentSophie Allain, January 3rd 2012

Wheels still on despite HS2 delay – Lucy James, December 7th 2011

Audit Commission to investigate anti-HS2 Tory councils – Shamik Das, September 9th 2011

High Speed Rail: Deconstructing the right wing dogma – Professor David Begg, July 19th 2011

Green challenges on transport policy – Rupert Read, November 15th 2010

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12 Responses to “All signals are go for HS2”

  1. Blarg1987

    I think ther idea of High sped rail is a good idea however I feel they could do more to lesson the enviromental impact on areas of wldlife, and more to ignor whining MP’s as I thought the new planning laws meant to infastructure projects of national interest would overwrite NIMBYism.
    On another note, they should be linking high speed rail with the existing rail network instead of creating a new terminal building up north, after this link is completed they could start remodeling the exisitng main line on a simular principle thus improving the rail network further.

    My only concern though is that we as tax payers are paying for a project that will benefit shareholders of private rail companies who already get tax payer subsidies that should go on the rail network but are not.

  2. sarahjo

    Agree that a major upgrade is needed, and that it’s about time our rail network was given the investment it deserves – however, putting all of our eggs into a basket as expensive as this, on a route that is already reasonably well served, with a resulting service that will no doubt be charged at a premium for business rather than everyday passengers, and that will take 14 years to complete – seems like the wrong outcome to me.

  3. Mr. Sensible

    I am in favour of HS2, but believe it should happen a well as, not instead of, investment in the existing rail network.

    The problem the nimbys have is that every major construction project involves some degree of inconvenience, disruption, ETC, and if we listened to them every time construction would simply stop.

  4. Ed's Talking Balls

    ‘The project has faced strong grassroots opposition from residents living on the route’

    Oh dear. The predictable reappearance of the tired, ill-informed ‘NIMBY’ accusation. What of people like me, who don’t live on the route? Explain away our concerns. Problematically, this might involve engaging with the issues rather than lazily dismissing legitimate concerns out of hand.

    You also mention that the ‘advantages are massive’. No. The potential advantages are. Or, alternatively, the advantages might outweigh the disadvantages. But you don’t have a crystal ball, so can’t say so with certainty; and, as a matter of logic, the advantages can’t be massive yet, as the project hasn’t even been started.

    I’m sceptical that this will deliver real benefits. What I believe will happen, however, is that the state will spend huge sums of our money (at a time when there’s precious little around) on a white elephant which will destroy vast swathes of countryside.

    Getting to Birmingham 20 minutes quicker is not a price worth paying. It’s a shame that those of us who regarded this as a foregone conclusion have been proved right.

  5. Shamik Das

    [email protected] makes the case for #HS2 on @leftfootfwd: #YesToHS2 #bbcqt

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