HS2 - Yes or No?
Georgia Peeler | 12 December 2016

Is HS2 a good thing for Britain? Do all the negative arguments stem from biased views? This may be true to a certain extent, but when investigating further into the reasons for and against the new potential high speed rail, two valid arguments are formed, and the strong opinions from both sides are obviously a huge factor in influentially putting across their preferences.

 

HS2 is said to be of national importance. It will link up Britain by building high speed railways between the main British cities and provide tens of thousands of jobs (predicted 400,000), 70% of which will be created outside of London.

 

Three trains will leave from each station every fifteen minutes, and train journey times will be significantly reduced. London-Leeds will be reduced by an entire 50 minutes, and London – Sheffield train journey will be reduced by 46 minutes. This links to an argument put across by the government that ‘people don’t work on trains,’ so therefore shorter train times are beneficial as they give people more time to work when they get home.

 

This would have been the perfect argument, except several flaws are found with it. Firstly, the prime minister (who put forward the argument) was recorded working on the train. More ironically, he was actually working on the HS2 case. Additional studies have also shown that people with spare time (that results from quicker train journeys) will end up doing nothing. Surveys such as these have also shown that on quicker train journeys people have done less work than on longer train journeys because they ‘couldn’t be bothered to get the laptop out’.

 

However, certain arguments used by opponents to HS2 are ingrained with flaws also. For example, some repeatedly claim that the national high speed rail will cost each household £1,000 in taxes. This is untrue. The overall costs of the proposed Y-shaped network will be offset by the fare revenues, and this argument against HS2 ignores the substantial returns to the economy that HS2 will produce.

 

Although, this point doesn’t take into account the fact that the people who regularly travel from London to HS2 stations, will be the only ones who benefit significantly from the change in train times and cost reductions - excluding the people who rarely take these routes around Britain.

 

High-speed Rail is not worth its cost. This stems from the fact that millions will be spent on building the railway, when only specific groups of people will benefit substantially. It will visually and physically destroy beautiful British landscape, which seems to be a very wasteful aspect of the new potential railway.

 

But look at the success of the investment in HS1! Original projections predicted that HS1 would unlock £500m of investment, but an independent report from Colin Buchanan issued in 2009 put the value of HS1 at almost £20bn; 40 times the original estimate. The ‘regeneration effect’ directly included HS1 in helping to deliver tens of thousands of homes and almost 100,000 jobs in the South-East. HS2 is believed to provide the same effect for the West Midlands, the North and Scotland.

 

Biased?

 

The majority of people opposing HS2 are those who live in places directly affected by the High Speed Rail, such as the Chilterns. Families will have their houses knocked down and house prices are already in decline – houses that originally were worth a lot more have declined by up to £1/2 million, which means people have lost significant amounts of money on their houses, and others will lose their homes altogether. The government has a legal duty to recompense on the houses that will be knocked down by the infrastructure, but money will still be lost on the original prices of the houses, and relocation will take up time and money as well. Is this the main stem for the level of protesting in these areas? This is true, to a certain extent, of course. If your home is going to be demolished and you have no say in the matter, you are going to feel resentful – and who could blame you?

 

But more than this, the Chilterns is packed with a rich ecosystem with beautiful scenery, and is therefore buzzing with environmentalists. Places such as Ivinghoe Beacon, Coombe Hill and Wendover Woods are honeypot sites to tourists, and locals are proud to have Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty such as these. An unsightly intrusive railway, charging through breathtaking landscape every fifteen minutes, causing land to shudder and unpleasant rattling sounds should not be running in a place such as this.

 

Organizations opposing HS2, such as Chilterns Conservation board, Buckinghamshire County Council and The Chiltern Society, do not believe that the business case ‘stacks up’ and have produced DVDs and maps documenting the impact brought forward by HS2, including the effect on historic environment of both landscape and buildings.

James Routledge 2016