High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill

Written evidence from John Withington (HSR 11)


The HS2 is yet another disastrous politicians' vanity project, and should be cancelled immediately before any more taxpayers' money is wasted. My objections are as follows:-


1). Costs are completely out of control. At a time when the government is allegedly trying to save every pound of public spending that it can, this week it blithely announced an increase of £10 billion (!!) in the cost of HS2 without so much as a spadeful of earth yet having been dug. And even though the price tag has been increased to £40 billion plus, everyone knows that the project will cost tens of billions more than even this extraordinary figure.


2) If we need to spend money on infrastructure to help repair the economy our politicians have wrecked, there are much more effective ways of investing it. Instead of pursuing divisive policies like HS2, why not for once do something that would be popular and win almost universal approval, such as building affordable housing on brownfield sites. When money is invested in housing, a far larger proportion stays within the British economy than with investment in rail, where sadly the Conservatives allowed the closure of our centres of engineering and manufacturing expertise. Building affordable housing will have important social benefits for thousands of people. Building HS2 for premium fare passengers will benefit only a rich few.


3) The government claims that HS2 will benefit the North (the part of the country form which I originate), but there is no evidence for this, and a great deal to suggest that it will increase the divide between London and the rest of the country. Before ploughing on with HS2, the government should instead ask the councils outside London what they think is the best way of investing £40 billion to improve transport. Much of the rail network is still not even electrified, and many sizeable and growing communities have no access to the network at all, even though lines closeds in the 1960's could be re-opened again at minimal cost. And there are many projects in other forms of transport where benefits could be achieved far more economically than through HS2.


4) The business case for how the line will supposedly improve our economic performance has been holed beneath the waterline. The government claims business people will be able to improve their productivity enormously because they will no longer have to waste valuable extra minutes sitting around on a train when they could be working, but the figures used to support this highly dubious contention were years old, drawn from a time before the mobile communications revolution meant that everyone could spend their whole train journey working at their seat if that is what they wished to do.


5) It is a nonsense to have the line going into Euston where it will not link with Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport or Crossrail.


6) The project will ruin life for the residents of the London Borough of Camden for a decade. In addition to the unnecessary destruction of hundreds of homes, people's lives will be made intolerable, and in many cases shortened, by noise, vibration, dust, and disruption to all modes of transport. There are not even proper safeguards to ensure that noise, vibration and disruption are confined to normal working hours, though even if that were the case, there would obviously need to be additional safeguards to protect residents who work irregular hours.


7) It is extremely disturbing that such a complex proposal is being rushed through for party political motives, meaning that insufficient time is allowed for those affected to study the mountains of paperwork being generated.


July 2013

Prepared 12th July 2013