Greens who oppose HS2 are being short sighted
I must say I’m quite surprised by the enthusiasm for greens opposing HS2, announced to get ahead today. People say the business model doesn’t imply it will cut CO2 and merely increases demand for travel, and that the money would be better spent on improving local services that communities rely on. I can certainly think of a deserving local rail network desperate for investment – the South Wales Valley lines, which would give a huge boost to the chronically depressed regional economy if the lines were electrified and journey times reduced.
But this isn’t a zero sum game, if we are serious about investing to stimulate the economy, why can’t we build HS2 and pump billions into strengthening regional rail networks? This comes today along with news that the Treasury has sold bonds are negative interest and reports that Denmark, who recently elected a Government explicitly committed to increasing public spending, also has investors paying to give the Government money. All this will create jobs in sustainable industries and besides, if we expect people to switch to the train to cut emissions, how are we supposed to keep upgrading the system to serve both an adequate local service and inter-city trains? It sounds hugely expensive and painfully slow to me.
What I think I am seeing is a tendency to oppose a project because the current Government’s vision for it is apparently not in line with sustainable visions for the economy. People don’t believe it will cut CO2 emissions, but TGVs totally killed off domestic aviation in France, why wouldn’t it here, in a smaller country? People say that the Government has no plans to abolish the airport space freed up by high speed rail, but why shouldn’t that stop us happening in the future? People don’t believe it will ever reach beyond Birmingham, but is that a reason to oppose it, meaning if we actually want a high speed network in the future, we’ll be 15 years behind where we could be? I don’t really think that’s fair on Scotland for starters.
The point I’m making here is that we shouldn’t oppose potential progress on sustainable transport just because the people doing it don’t agree with us. Our job is to say “yes, we want high speed rail, but we want a different vision that respects the needs of a sustainable economy” not to oppose it because it’s not perfect. I’d rather have something to work with than holding the country back over issues that can be solved.
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High speed rail is a grren solution to uk infrastructure but not if it only goes to Birmingham which would leave bothe the economic and environmental cases seriously wanting. Nobody flies from Birmingham to London but most of the long distance travel from Scotland is by air. HS rail would kill most of the short haul air industry stone dead and once all the power is generated from renewable resources it is a win-win deal all round. However, as someone already said it musn’t be exclusive. The rest of the network needs reopening in such a way as to ensure that it becomes seemlessly accessible to all.
I’m not too sure Simon Jenkins is the most consistent advocate of sustainable travel, particularly in the capital. The last time I read one of his articles on transport he was complaining about Westminster Council waging war on motorists by increasing parking charges! This might just seem a tad hypocritical when he now criticises HS2 for doing nothing to ease congestion
This should absolutely not be about trying to wrong-foot the coalition. This has to be about principle. The railways need investment but this is not investment in the railway network but the grafting-on of a luxury service for those with the means to pay for it. It will be cheaper to fly.
Simon Jenkins puts it very well. I’d urge people to read his piece in the Guardian
Good to see some joined up thinking on this issue, at last.
Yes, HS2is a difficult topic for Greens, but I agree with Sam Coates that, just because you don’t like a particular (or any) government, that is no reason not to support a decision when it is right.
This government’s record on the environment has been risible, but on two issues – abandoning the Heathrow runway and HS2 – they have called it right and it is churlish, not to say,stupid, not to acknowledge this.
HS2 is far from perfect, but the alternatives – more motorways and air travel – are far worse. I live near the proposed route and will no doubt be inconvenienced by its construction. I regularly use the existing, overcrowded West Coast Main Line and any further upgrading of this line is just not realistic – just sit at any of the stations along the line and watch trains thunder past every couple of minutes or so, or try to find a seat out of Euston on any daytime service.
HS2 has forged some interesting alliances and bedfellows; while I find it strange to be in agreement with this government, for once, I look with some amusement at the other side of the fence that pits some Greens and Inner London action groups with the Countryside Alliance and Lord Astor!
Abandoning HS2 will not result in more people walking and cycling, but to yet more domestic air travel and single-occupancy car use.
Not sure what to think about this – arguments on both sides seem to have some merit. However I understand from a civil service friend that this is seen by him and his colleagues as big ego stuff – gobbling up huge sums that could totally transform the face of local transport. Maybe its not a zero sum game – but perhaps we should focus first on spending where you can get the most bangs for bucks – in carbon savings – and benefits to the economy?
I noticed on the news that the airlines have welcomed HS2 – so I’m pretty sure it wont be putting them out of business anytime soon.
Here in Camden HS2 will be demolishing 600 council houses and cutting a swathe through the poorest parts of the borough.
However, do not despair because when the line gets to wealthy Ruislip the coalition have agreed to 4km of tunnels beneath it so as not to ruffle any feathers.
Cannot imagine thousands of cyclists on new london to Bham motorway for cyclists rushing to their jobs in the city.
GREEN Ideal just will not happen we have to be realists then GREEN
The high speed rail link in my view is overall a positive move, but seems to just fit into the politics of spending on infrastructure to fuel ‘perpetual economic growth’. Spending on cycle paths just isn’t as sexy as decision makers approving a new super-high speed rail link, and projects like this only detract from real debate between politicians.
We need to have a vision (Green party or otherwise) of the entire transport infrastructure which puts walking and cycling (most sustainable) at the top of the transport ‘hierarchy’ to get most government support, then public transport, followed by private or shared car usage, and finally air travel (least sustainable) as the least subsidised or supported option. For walking and cycling to be supported, we need to maximise government intervention and investment of public money into developing a cycling network such as Denmark has done over the last 40 years. That way, you get people more healthy and active, out of their cars and onto the streets, with employers given incentives to actually provide facilities for cyclists to encourage more sustainable travel.
Promoting more sustainable travel encompasses town planning, infrastructure development, even long term health care, and of course how clean our air is!
TGV hasnt completely wiped out regional air travel I remember going on holiday ti france a couple of years ago, we flew first to paris CDG from southampton, caught a bus to the other paris airport and flew a air france flight down to montpellier, this flight was packed as well
I’m all for green transport but it doesn’t matter how green HS2 might be if no one can afford to travel on it.
My peak time fair on a normal train from Bham->Euston yesterday was £158+£8 parking. How much for an HS2 journey in 15 years time?
HS2 has been a difficult issue for Greens. Yes we support rail as a sustainable and low emission form of transport. However HS2 is problematic in that it’s routed through several environmentally sensitive areas and that when completed it may not offer an alternative to flying to people wanting to travel to Birmingham and points north. Part of the reason for that is the wider issue of rail privitisation which has driven up costs as the network has become fragmented.
I recently went to Liverpool by train however the only economic way of going from London was to travel at five thirty in the morning – that way it cost me about £20 to make the trip up and about £20 back on another off-peak train. If I’d gone peak it would have cost £2-300, far more than flying.
I suspect many Greens fear that HS2 will be an elite service catering for business people whose companies pay for their tickets and that most travellers will be priced out.
Your point about France’s TGV and domestic air travel is well made, but you need to factor in the comparitevly low level of fares in France.
If UK Greens were to put forward a vision for rail in the UK it should be to take us back to a pre-Beeching network where every town and every area of the country is joined to a national and nationalised network which perhaps offers opportunities for private operators to compete on certain routes but doesn’t give monopolies to private companies to use to hold commuters to ransom.
HS2 as currently proposed doesn’t take us much further towards that wider vision and many will fear that big high profile infrastructure projects driven by the wants of business travellers will eclipse the more modest needs of millions currently without a rail service.