HS2 is known as the ‘backbone of the national rail network’ which was announced in 2009. The first phase is due to be completed by 2026 and the second phase completed by 2033.
The main reason HS2 was approved by parliament was to improve the rail service and reduce the number of delays and cancellations. Currently the rail service is reaching breaking point and is unfit for purpose. This is supported by the fact that over the last 12 months there have been various trade unions threatening industrial action. This is over concerns of safety of driver only trains. Most recently Merseyrail bosses have been notified of plan strike action by RMT union with 5 overnight strikes planned. This is one example of various strikes taking place around the country.
One of the key selling points of HS2 to the public was the big reduction in travel times with operating speeds of up to 250 mph. In addition we would see an increase in capacity drastically with 400m long trains with an average number of seats at 1100 per train.
One big reason a number of MPs are opposed to HS2 is the rising costs. The initial budget was £56bn, but the HS2 chairman warning costs could rise by another £30bn.
Therefore, this raises doubt over value for money for the taxpayer and more importantly does it actually have greater benefits to both passengers and the economy. At this stage it is important to remember that there are other phases are expected to cost double that reaching over £100bn. This is a lot of money that could be spent better elsewhere. Also, the government hasn’t announced any ticket prices, which is worrying as rail prices are already increasing and becoming less affordable for commuters. The biggest concern is that the works haven’t been started properly so the costs and delays can be avoided for alternative solutions preventing any more mismanagement. As Conservatives, we are known to be fiscally responsible. Surely, we should scrap it if we can’t afford it, so why increase debt and cause greater delays and agony.
Some members of the public are opposed to HS2 due to the demolition of homes, some of which are historic buildings, and relocation needed to make way for the rail-line. In certain areas there is a big increase in noise pollution expected. The wildlife trust has raised concerns about wildlife sites and nature reserves. Is it worth damaging our green belt, and increase noise pollution to make way for HS2?
Essentially it is a white elephant and isn’t offering much to most of country and will only benefit a small minority.
As a local councillor, residents in my ward and surrounding areas have raised concerns that changes to HS2 plans and any proposed extensions will be obstructive. A lot of people have contacted their local conservative councillors in Cheshire East and made us aware that they are distressed and opposed to HS2.
On a local level, I am currently campaigning for an improved local bus system which allows passengers to have alternative travel routes, which are reliable but also improve our roads and make cycleway improvements.
In my opinion, I recognise the desperate need to develop our transport infrastructure and this should be a matter of urgency for our new government. I feel that HS2 is currently at risk and could cost the taxpayer a lot more than budgeted. At a time where we need to spend wisely and focus on a lot of issues such as improving the NHS, increase funding for our school and much more, are we able to ‘waste’ money on risky projects. Instead we should develop our current lines and upgrade them to add extra tracks and increase the electrification of certain lines which would increase capacity at the fraction of the cost of HS2.
Interestingly the Taxpayers’ Alliance and the government have already looked into alternative plans and one proposal is to scrap HS2 entirely and fund 28 alternative projects. It is now up to Boris Johnson and the new Transport Secretary to review HS2 and make a decision, which could involve downscaling HS2 or even scrapping it totally.
Let’s see what our new Prime Minister has in store for us.