HS2AA’s response to Government decision on HS2

HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA) today issue the following statement in response to the decision by the government to approve HS2, the world’s most expensive railway connecting London with Birmingham.

Bruce Weston, a Director of HS2AA said;

Justine Greening has just committed each and every household in the UK to pay £1,700 for a railway that is not needed and not wanted. If she had based her decision on cold, hard facts she would have realised that there are far better, far cheaper and far more environmentally friendly ways of investing in our transport infrastructure.  It should not have been difficult for her, as she admits that

  • Uprating the existing railway (‘the 51m alternative’) is three times better value for money than HS2
  • The crucial assumption about the value of time savings (which now accounts for about half the benefits) is wrong, but DfT still use it.   Hardly a robust basis for spending £33bn!
  • The business case for HS2 is even worse than for last year’s consultation
  • Under 1,000 people a day would use the service to go to Heathrow, but they still go ahead with the Heathrow spur
  • Just 3% of HS2 passengers would be won from air (previously 6%) but 24% of HS2 passengers would be entirely new journeys – hardly a green endorsement

“It is extremely embarrassing for the government, which has failed to win public approval in the consultation process and failed to win support from the Transport Select Committee. By pushing ahead now, it is exposing the truth that HS2 is nothing more than a grotesque vanity project for an administration desperate to secure a legacy.

 “At HS2AA, we believe in high speed rail but only if it can be proven to deliver countrywide benefits without saddling the country with debt that it cannot afford. HS2, by trimming a mere thirty minutes off the journey time between London and Birmingham, cannot be a priority when there are other routes that are more heavily overcrowded and more in need of investment, and the business case for HS2 is so bad.”

 “Nor is HS2 a satisfactory economic stimulus for the UK economy. It will destroy four jobs for every one that it creates as other rail projects and vital public services are cut and it will do nothing to drive growth in the vast majority of the country”.

The principal reasons why HS2AA opposes HS2 are:

1. Waste of money and wrong priority – a £33 billion vanity project that costs every family over £1,700 is the wrong priority for us and at a time of austerity. It’s a railway for the rich paid for by everyone.  Two thirds of the British population think it is the wrong spending priority.

2. The business case is flawed – the benefits are exaggerated (relying on time savings that assume people don’t work on trains) and demand is over-optimistic.  A realistic payback is more like 50p for every £1 spent.

3. HS2 can’t cure the north south divide – the evidence from experts and DfT/HS2 Ltd actually points to London and the south benefiting most in terms of jobs and growth.

4. Better alternatives to improving our railways – cheaper, more cost effective and greener ways to meet our capacity needs can be rolled out as required – benefiting more people, more quickly.

5. The environmental case has collapsed – ultra high speed is not ‘green’, passengers say faster speeds are not a priority and CO2 emissions will not be reduced as freed-up domestic landing slots will be replaced by long haul flights. Irreplaceable landscapes will be lost.

6. The call for extra capacity is unfounded –  Research carried out by HS2AA  and verified by independent research firm CRT Viewpoint, has discovered that long distance trains leaving Euston during the week day evening peak period (16.30 to 18.59) on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) had an average occupancy rate or load factor of just 56 percent.

This directly contradicts claims by the DfT and HS2 Ltd that the lack of capacity on the WCML is the central reason why the £33 billion HS2 rail line needs to be built.


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