Press Release on HS2 from Green Party nationally and locally
Professor John Whitelegg Green Party Spokesperson
Decision to approve HS2 is a mistake says Professor John Whitelegg GPEW spokesperson on Sustainable Development
The case for a new high speed rail link from Euston to Birmingham with the promise of extensions to Manchester and Leeds and ultimately Scotland is based on deeply flawed assumptions that have not been subjected to rigorous, independent audit. The idea that time savings on rail trips translate into job creation gains is not supported by the evidence. The assumption that time spent on trains is ‘wasted’ and is not spent working is simply wrong as any inspection of passenger behaviour on any intercity train will show. The business case depends on this flawed assumption and if the assumption is corrected the case collapses.
Capacity problems on the West Coast Main Line can be solved by more trains, longer trains, passing loops and intelligent city regional planning. Going for extra capacity with a new high speed line ignores the impressive development of sophisticated teleconferencing, videoconferences and on-the-move IT solutions. The demand for rail transport is not an immutable physical law and can be reduced by promoting IT solutions. High speed rail is not a ‘get out of jail’ free card for carbon emissions and climate change. The proposed HS2 trains would burn 50% more energy mile-for-mile than the Eurostar and HS2 would produce more than twice the emissions of an intercity train.
It is justified on the back of very large increases in all modes of transport and increases in energy use. At a time when all our city regions lack the kind of reliable, affordable, sophisticated public transport systems we can find in Frankfurt, Zurich and Vienna it is madness to put all our eggs in the ‘faster, further is better’ basket. The economic, social and environmental gains from spending £3 billion in each of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle and Birmingham far outweigh the gains claimed for HS2. It is a disaster that we will spend so much money on such a useless project at such a difficult time in our economic life when so much useful work could be done for the same amount in most of our large cities.
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