We welcomed the Transport Select Committee report earlier this week when it outlined there was a good business case for HS2 and that the project was affordable.
Committee chair Louise Ellman said,
“A high speed rail network, beginning with a line between London and the West Midlands, would provide a step change in the capacity, quality, reliability and frequency of rail services between our major cities.
“A high speed line offers potential economic and strategic benefits which a conventional line does not, including a dramatic improvement in connectivity between our major cities, Heathrow and other airports, and the rest of Europe.
“High speed rail may be a catalyst for economic growth, helping to rebalance the economy and bridge the north-south divide. But the Government must do more to promote local and regional growth strategies to ensure we get maximum economic benefit from high speed rail.
“High speed rail is affordable: HS2 will cost around £2 billion per annum over 17 years. Construction of a high speed rail network should start with the line between London and the West Midlands, as this is where capacity needs are greatest. But we are concerned that under current plans high speed rail lines won’t reach Manchester and Leeds for more than 20 years.”
However, opponents have claimed the business case is ‘in tatters’ and has ‘fatal flaws’ and that, rather than being given a green light, HS2 was seeing amber, maybe even red.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that opponents chose a motoring analogy.
Despite putting forward environmental arguments many would prefer to ignore growing demand for rail services and build roads instead.
Today (November 11) Stop HS2 has been linking to a clip from Question Time of an audience member asking for the A1 to be widened, rather than funding HS2.
Those who refuse to discuss the issue of growing demand (rail is growing at 6% per year, despite the recession) are simply sticking their fingers in their ears.
And claims that internet technology will reduce the need to travel are not backed up. In fact, the demand for travel seems to grow with enhanced technology.
Within hours of the report’s release opponents had suggested the Committee was ‘partisan.’
But this is a Committee made up of MPs with differing political allegiances based the length and breadth of the UK from Glasgow to Surrey (including Manchester, York, Milton Keynes, Blackpool and Wycombe).
Opponents were quick to seize on the report’s criticism of the word Nimby being used and offer comment to the media.
What they failed to mention was that the Committee asked both sides to show respect.
It is only right and proper that HS2 receives great scrutiny, but sadly there is little or no reported examination of opponents’ alternatives.
RP2 is flawed and does not provide the level of capacity that HS2 brings – as the Committee noted – and UKIP’s plan to run a London to Birmingham shuttle is bizarre as it leaves Coventry, Rugby, Watford, etc with no service.
In fact, it seems HS2 opponents have completely ignored Andrea Leadsom MP’s plan to build a new line from London to Milton Keynes or UKIP’s idea for a West Coast shuttle.
Why might that be?