“Britain still has time to ditch this grand infrastructure project—and should ..... A good infrastructure scheme has a long life. But a bad one can derail both the public finances and a country’s development ambitions.”
HS2AA is part of the broad coalition which oposes HS2. This opposition includes national newspapers, high profile columnists as well as people active in business and the arts. Many established pressure groups, charities and others have made clear their objections too.
The Wildlife Trusts which object on the basis of the unacceptable environmental damage HS2 would cause and long term impacts on irreplaceable woodland and other habitats.
Buglife which oppose HS2 given its impact on insects and other invertebrates.
Freshfield Foundation, a leading environmental foundation, believe the decision making process used to by Government to proceed with HS2 has material weaknesses and lacks transparency.
The Countryside Alliance opposes the proposed plans on cost economic and environmental grounds.
The Taxpayers Alliance are running a campaign to cancel HS2 on the basis of cost, more affordable ways of getting capacity, and higher priorities for families and businesses.
Institute of Directors undertook a survey of 1,200 members on transport priorities showed improvements to existing intercity and commuter lines more important than HS2.
Institute of Economic Affairs believes the business case for HS2 is highly flawed, stating “There is a significant risk that High Speed 2 (HS2) will become the latest in a long series of government big-project disasters with higher-than-forecast costs and lower-than-forecast benefits. HS2 is not commercially viable and will require substantial and increasing levels of subsidy”
Centre for Economics and Business Research believes HS2 is flawed stating “looking at the economics issues dispassionately, the sums don’t add up"
Conservative Transport Group says HS2 proposals are flawed.
New Economics Foundation do not believe a decision can be made from the evidence provided and seek independent & impartial analysis before proceeding further.
RAC Foundation is opposed based on cost, priorities, HS2's economic and environmental case and who benefits.
Chilterns Conservation Board is opposed because the net benefits are not proven and so do not justify irreversible damage to Chiltern AONB.
National Trust - objections are based on proposed route and mitigation measures.
Federation of Small Busineses - only 6% identified high speed rail as the top priority in a recent survey concerns are removing investment from other schemes and they urge the goverment to consider the huge potential benefits from broadband.
Socialist Workers Party issued an article stating “there are also severe problems with the plans. A report commissioned by the last government in 2007 shows that a high speed rail link to Birmingham or Manchester would create more carbon emissions than it would take away from road and air travel. In fact, Birmingham Airport has lobbied for HS2.”
Sustainable Development Commission (before it was abolished) said that spending cash on local transport project would yield greater benefits.
Right Lines Charter Group 13 environmental charity organisations have joined together to put pressure on Government "to proceed with caution and be prepared to give way"
Institute of Engineering & Technology "We believe we have uncovered a number of flaws in the proposals, some of which question the claim that HS2, as proposed, will reduce carbon emissions." See 4 minute video by IET transport expert, here.
Media Comments Against HS2
Despite an expensive PR campaign, HS2 remains resolutely unpopular with the press. Here are some examples:
Independent Editorial: "Rail makes its case for more support... Whether this growth in the popularity of rail travel boosts the case for costly grands projets such as the high-speed connection to the Midlands, costed at about £30bn, is open to question. It is interesting that the highest growth this year was in journeys taken in London and the south-east rather than in long-distance travel, while another growth area was in use of small rural branch lines – precisely the kind of lines that used to be considered the rail network's biggest liability. The argument deserves to continue, therefore, over whether future investment should be targeted towards further improvements to high-speed, cross-country routes, or plugging the woeful gaps in our often neglected commuter and branch line services."
Sunday Times Editorial: “It’s a folly and Ms Greening should think again”
Sunday Telegraph Editorial: “At a time of painful cuts elsewhere,spending such a large sum on a single project that will only benefit a portion of the country is a criminal waste of scarce resources"
Financial Times Editorial: “..this newspaper struggles with the case for the line.. To govern is to choose. Would the benefits of a shiny new high speed line outweigh the less visible but valuable things that could be done with the limited funds available?”
Economist Editorial: “Britain still has time to ditch this grand infrastructure project—and should ..... A good infrastructure scheme has a long life. But a bad one can derail both the public finances and a country’s development ambitions.” (For full article see 'The Great Train Robbery')
The Economist (extract from 'Railroad to Nowhere'): "Yet Britain’s infrastructure demands are different from other countries’. Its regular trains are already faster than most other nations’ equivalents. Britain is sufficiently small that even without pricey futuristic technology, Manchester and Leeds are only just over two hours from London. And a greater proportion of the population is already connected to the road and rail network than elsewhere in Europe. It is also doubtful whether the proposed link would do much to address regional variations. The effect of such projects in other countries has often been to strengthen the competitive advantage of an already dominant city. ...… Far from strengthening the north, then, a high-speed line might end up accentuating regional disparities."
"The £32 billion at its disposal might well yield a higher return if it were spent on less glitzy schemes, such as road improvements and intra-city transport initiatives. If the aim is to regenerate “the north”, the current plan might prove a highspeed route in the wrong direction"
Allister Heath, Editor, City AM "The scheme is meant to bridge the UK’s north-south divide, yet it will probably merely boost London’s power, with more people travelling south. There are better, cheaper ways of regenerating the north, such as tax cuts and deregulation. The estimated regeneration gains are wildly speculative; they need to be set against the certain economic losses from the taxes and debt to pay for the project...There are many more reasons why I don’t like this ludicrous, unaffordable scheme." and writing in The Telegraph (April 2013) "HS2 is already obsolete, David Cameron should be preparing the UK for self-driving cars"
Christian Wolmar - Britain's leading transport commentator stated in the Daily Mail: “I am a railway historian and, naturally a strong rail supporter. But even I have to recognise the compelling evidence that the [HS2] scheme cannot be justified. The cost, together with continued need for subsidy, is likely to cripple the economics of an industry that already receives more than £5bn of taxpayers money annually… upgrading the current line with longer trains and longer platforms would produce a similar increase in capacity for considerably less money.” He has also said, “HS2 is what the French call a Grand Projet, a big idea, when, actually, a lot of little ones would serve us better, improving the railways we already have.” and "The weakest aspect of the case is the ‘green’ argument which virtually falls apart"
George Monbiot, Guardian Columnist: "What's not to like is that the case has not been made. The background data on which these claims are based isn't just sparse – in some cases it's non-existent. Where it does exist, it starkly contradicts other government figures. I wanted to be convinced, perhaps I still could be. But the Department for Transport's argument currently consists of several thousand pages of wishful thinking.”
Camilla Cavendish, The Times: “There is an idea that it will take business to the North. But official documents suggest that the majority of jobs created will be in the South, and that capital is likely to flow from Manchester and Leeds to London rather than the other way round”
Andrew Gilligan, The Telegraph: “The burning need in public transport is not for sexy, pointy nosed high speed supertrains, whose economics (and green credentials) simply don’t stack up. It’s for boring, unglamorous improvements to the quotidian services we actually use”
Paul Routledge, Daily Mirror: "If it’s ever built, which I doubt, the high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham will be the biggest white elephant since Nellie packed her trunk and trundled off to the circus"
Mike Rutherford, Financial Editor, Daily Telegraph: "We seem to be committing ourselves to an eye-wateringly expensive railroad for the few. This high speed plan is madness”
Simon Jenkins, the Guardian: "It is just possible that some new high-speed track makes sense somewhere, but it remains to be proved by independent, rather than interest-dominated, analysis. It certainly should be proved against the value of similar sums devoted to upgrading the existing track, eliminating bottlenecks and improving the reliability of rolling stock and signals."
John Kay, Financial Times: “At a time when public expenditure cuts are focused excessively on capital expenditure, we are in danger of directing too much investment to vanity projects – like the Olympics, high-speed broadband, high-speed rail – whose returns are political excitement rather than tangible.”
Brian Monteith, Scotsman: "High speed train link the fast track to losing out... The economic case for HS2 coming to Scotland should have its own health warning plastered across it - if there was any report for it to be stuck on. Instead, the Scottish transport minister, Keith Brown, has said the case is "compelling, robust and clear". If that is so then maybe he would care to publish it for all to see... HS2 will not provide any service between Scottish cities; all passengers will be going to or coming from points south."
Its not just in the press either. Other leading figures in the world of business, politics and the arts have pointed out the failings of HS2. Some examples include
Tim Leunig (Chief Economist at CentreForum think tank) "The reality is that a new high speed train line is the sort of glamorous project that gets ministers lots of headlines, irrespective of the benefit to cost ratio. It is exactly the sort of project that should not go ahead if we are committed to evidence based policy making.
21 businessmen, including Lord Lawson (ex Chancellor of the Exchequer), Ruth Lea (Director, Arbuthnot Banking Group) Lord Vinson (Former Director Barclays Bank) and Lord Wolfston (CEO Next), wrote a letter to the Daily Telegraph “There is already a fast and frequent service to Birmingham and Manchester, existing trains running at up to 125mph already mean that there are few flights on that route. There are better options to increase capacity more affordably and reduce overcrowding more quickly than HS2, which will take decades to complete… An extremely expensive white elephant isn’t what the economy needs... there are better ways to get Britain growing and make us more competitive thangetting each family to pay over £1,000 for a vanity project that we cannot afford."
Paul Coxhead (BCCC board; CEO of TTP-training firm): "It's obscene to spend £17 billion at a time of austerity, when cuts are being made to basic services, just to save half an hour on the journey to London"
Andrew Dinsmore (former labour MP for Hendon): "I can think of many higher priorities on which to spend £17billion"
Andrew Cook, Chairman William Cook Holdings, Sheffield (Yorkshire steel firm): "I am a very frequent user of East Midlands and East Coast trains between Yorkshire and London. I do not welcome HS2, if it ever happens, for two reasons………. Firstly, the reduced journey times will have the effect of extending London’s commuter belt by at least 100 miles, which risks hollowing out the economies of regional centres like Birmingham and Leeds……….Secondly, the existing two- hour journey time is about what one needs to work, read, have a cup of tea and generally catch up………"
Lord Digby Jones, a supporter of HS2: "Anyone in Birmingham that says that HS2 will do anything other that make Birmingham a dormitory town for London needs to get real"
Archie Norman (ITV chairman): "HS2 is the most extraordinarily expensive “grand project” and could cost every taxpaying household £1,000 each for something that will deliver no great value for nearly 20 years. Even then it will be of benefit to very few. It is based on the idea that we can be like the French, but this is not France. The likelihood of cost-overruns is high and the damage to countryside and communities certain and permanent. Scrap HS2 now and announce instead £17bn of spending – half the amount – to bring about the biggest improvement in history of Britain’s existing railway."
Edmund King (president of the AA), announcing result of opinion poll: "If speed is not the over-riding factor then it seems that the Government is backing the wrong horse with HS2. This scheme will not provide best value for money. Spending the £34 billion cost on conventional rail upgrades, removing road bottlenecks, building bypasses and improving road maintenance would provide much better value for money."
James & Oliver Phelps (Harry Potter actors): “I am very ANTI HS2. Why not invest £32b into the lines already built. And not wreck our fantastic countryside.I think it’s pretty easy to see now the police and other emergency services need better funding not cuts.”
Janet Street Porter: “David Cameron said he profoundly believed it [HS2] was a good way of bringing the North and South closer together. I beg to differ. What will get our economy functioning again is far more prosaic – millions of tons of salt and grit applied to pavements and roads by council workers who are not being laid off.”
Chris Tarrant: "This is, as usual, big business interests being allowed to trample all over everything in their path. Who needs this ridiculous sounding train anyway? I am totally opposed to it [HS2]."
Marcus Brigstocke: “Of all things government can do to improve the railways, HS2 is 11,437th on the list. After mopping up vomit on platform 2 at Liverpool St”
Dom Joly: “We’re investing in the Walkman when the iPod’s already going,”
Bill Oddie: "In case you are wondering what I think..HS2? No no no no no no no no no no no no no"
John Bishop: "HS2 is the wrong choice,other nations with HS trains have the space we don't. Fast train vs NHS?"
David Jason: "There will be huge opposition.What makes me laugh is the figure they gave of £33 billion. You know what will happen. It will be like all these projects. After a few years, they will say the cost has gone up to £40 billion, then it will be £60 billion. Eventually it will be £90 billion"
More details of those making the case against HS2 can be found here.