Opposition to the proposed high speed rail link between London and the north grew this week as motorists’ group the RAC Foundation called for the project to be axed.
“Benefits a minority”
RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister told a meeting organised by lobby group the Taxpayer’s Alliance that High Speed 2 (HS2) is poor value for money and offers little in the way of economic or environmental benefits.
“HS2 is an hugely expensive scheme which will benefit a minority of wealthy travellers while doing nothing to solve the dire transport problems faced by the majority of the population,” said Glaister.
“If HS2 offered good value for money or significant environmental and economic benefits then perhaps a case could be made for it. Unfortunately it does neither.
“On all rational grounds it would be hard to make a case for HS2 even in the good times. In this age of austerity it is almost impossible to see why policy makers are giving such blinkered commitment to the project.”
“On all rational grounds it would be hard to make a case for HS2 even in the good times”
RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister
Glaister’s comments came a month after an alliance of green groups signed a charter pledging to hold government to account over its approach to high speed rail.
Friends of the Earth, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Greenpeace, the RSPB, the Wildlife Trust and the Woodland Trust have all united against the government’s proposals.
HS2 ignores green agenda
Friends of the Earth said the government’s current proposals will do little to cut carbon emissions because most passengers will transfer from existing rail services.
“The UK urgently needs a fast and efficient rail system, but the current high-speed rail plans will do little to encourage people out of planes and cars or tackle climate change,” said Friends of the Earth policy and campaigns director Craig Bennett.
“Improving the UK’s overcrowded rail network should be the Government’s priority − so ordinary travellers can benefit from better train journeys.
“High-speed rail could play a part in a low-carbon transport network, but it must be powered by green energy and backed by action to make rail travel cheaper and more attractive than flying or driving.”
“Politicians are ploughing ahead with a white elephant that will, even when it is finally completed, only benefit a fortunate minority of passengers”
Taxpayers’ Alliance director Matthew Sinclair
The Taxpayers’ Alliance, which campaigns for lower taxes, said the scheme is a “monumental waste of money”.
“Politicians are ploughing ahead with a white elephant that will, even when it is finally completed, only benefit a fortunate minority of passengers, whilst cutting spending and hiking taxes for everyone else,” said Taxpayers’ Alliance director Matthew Sinclair.
“This ludicrously expensive proposal is built on a flawed business case and isn’t worth the huge cost.”
But business leaders in the north this week spoke out in favour of the scheme. In an open letter, leaders of seven Yorkshire-based chambers of commerce urged the government to press on with its plans.
“Concerns have been raised about value for money and the environmental impact [of HS2].
“But businesses in Yorkshire strongly support high-speed rail and believe the line is crucial for the United Kingdom’s long-term economic success.
“The network is expected to generate £44bn in economic benefits, as well as fare revenues of around £27bn over a 60-year period. We believe that high-speed rail is essential if the Government is to rebalance the economy by accelerating the growth of northern towns and cities,” they said.