High speed rail is a fast track to ruination

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Image courtesy of Snag Against HS2

HS2 is the proposed high speed railway which would ultimately link the north of England and Scotland to London. The Gvernment is currently processing the responses to the consultation on the first phase of the project (London to Birmingham) which took place earlier this year. The cost of this phase alone is estimated at a staggering £17 billion. Construction would not begin until 2015 with the first trains not due until 2026.

This is a huge waste of tax payers’ money on what is essentially a vanity project or, to use Transport Secretary Philip Hammond’s own words, a “rich man’s toy” which “might never be used by a factory worker in Manchester.” In other words a fast route to debt and destruction which may benefit the privileged few but will be paid for by all of us for years and years to come and in more ways than one.

So why should we students be concerned by all this – and in Lancaster of all places? There are many reasons. With the recently announced hike in tuition fees, many students will be leaving university in years to come owing around £50,000. It is a sorry state of affairs if our Government feels it is not appropriate to invest in the future of its young people who may go on to become doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, surveyors and accountants and who will provide essential services to the communities of tomorrow. Surely this is a more valued investment than a train system that may shave 20 minutes off the journey time between Birmingham and London.

Whilst the preferred route for HS2 has been announced between London and Birmingham (cutting through the heart of the Chilterns, destroying villages, heritage sites and acres of farmland) people who live north of Birmingham should be wondering where the next lines will be drawn. The plan involves linking in Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Lake District, on Lancaster’s doorstep, will probably not survive unscathed. Whilst this may be years away, if the HS2 project is not stopped in its tracks right now what kind of a legacy are we leaving for future generations? Mountains of debt, a scarred landscape and a railway that they can’t afford to buy a ticket for and which they can’t access anyway because it won’t be stopping anywhere in between!

Yes, we do need to invest in our railway infrastructure but there is a very viable alternative to HS2 that is being swept under the proverbial carpet. Rail Package 2 (RP2) makes significantly better business sense than HS2, costs a fraction of the amount of the HS2 project, would benefit the majority of rail travellers and avoids the need to carve up vast swathes of our beautiful countryside. What’s more it will deliver benefits in a progressive and efficient manner in the shorter term.

Another factor to be taken into consideration is that HS2 is definitely not environmentally friendly. The Department for Transport admits it will not reduce CO2 emissions. Higher speed unavoidably demands more energy. Former Rail Minister, Tom Harris, identified that increasing speed from 200km/h (125mph) to 350km/h increased carbon energy consumption by 90%. Furthermore, construction on this vast scale will destroy the natural habitat of many wildlife species. Unsurprisingly therefore the Green Party is opposed to the project.

Our Government is introducing many cuts in expenditure at present with the Office of Budget Responsibility warning that additional fiscal tightening is likely to be required. Well, here is an excellent opportunity to save billions in one move – Stop HS2!

More: the official petition against HS2 is available at  http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/353. In order for your signature to be added you must provide a valid email address, and then click the link emailed to you confirming your signature.

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