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Should HS2 be scrapped?

Updated: Aug 7, 2019

High speed rail has been one of the most controversial decisions announced and will pass through around 70 parliamentary constituencies. With rising costs and questions around its overall benefits, should we get rid of it all together? Hannan Sarwar, Tatton Conservative councillor, asks below.

It is known as the ‘backbone of the national rail network’ which was announced in 2009 and the first phase is due to be completed by 2026 and the second phase completed by 2033.

The main reason HS2 was approved by parliament was to improve the rail service and reduce the number of delays and cancellations as the rail service is currently reaching breaking point, which isn’t helped by the fact of rail unions striking.

One of the key selling points of HS2 to the public was the big reduction in travel times with operating speeds of up to 250mph. and increasing capacity drastically with 400m long trains with an average number of seats at 1100 per train.

Rail gets right to the heart of ongoing debates about the South / North divide.

One big reason a number of MPs are opposed to HS2 is the rising costs. The initial budget was £56bn, but the HS2 chairman has reported to the Department for Transport warning costs could rise by another £30bn. Therefore, this raises doubt over value for money for the taxpayer and more importantly does it actually have greater benefits to both passengers and the economy. At this stage it is important to remember that there are other phases are expected to cost double that, reaching over £100bn, which is a lot of money that could be spent better elsewhere. Also, the government hasn’t announced any ticket prices, which is worrying as rail prices are already increasing and becoming less affordable for commuters. The biggest concern is that the works haven’t been started properly so the costs and delays can be avoided for alternative solutions preventing any more mismanagement. As Conservatives, we are known to be fiscally responsibly so surely, we should scrap it if we can’t afford I, so why increase debt and cause greater delays and agony.

Some members of the public are opposed to HS2 due to the demolition of homes, some of which are historic buildings, and relocation needed to make way for the rail-line, and in certain areas there is a big increase in noise pollution expected. The wildlife trust has raised concerns about wildlife sites and nature reserves, so is it worth damaging our green belt, and increase noise pollution to make way for HS2. Essentially it is a white elephant and isn’t offering much to most of country and will only benefit a small minority.

As a local councillor, residents in my ward and surrounding areas have raised concerns that changes to HS2 plans and any proposed extensions will be obstructive. A lot of people have contacted their local conservative councillors in Cheshire East and made us aware that they are distressed and opposed to HS2. On a local level, I am currently campaigning for an improved local bus system which allows passengers to have alternative travel routes, which are reliable but also improve our roads and make cycleway improvements.

Esther McVey MP has been a strong critic of HS2.

In my opinion, I recognise the desperate need to develop our transport infrastructure and this should be a matter of urgency for our new government. I feel that HS2 is currently at risk and could cost the taxpayer a lot more than budgeted. At a time where we need to spend wisely and focus on a lot of issues such as improving the NHS, increase funding for our school and much more, are we able to ‘waste’ money on risky projects. Instead we should develop our current lines and upgrade them to add extra tracks and increase the electrification of certain lines which would increase capacity at the fraction of the cost of HS2.

Interestingly the Taxpayers’ Alliance and the government have already looked into alternative plans and one proposal is to SCRAP HS2 and FUND 28 alternative projects. It is now up to Boris Johnson and his new Transport Secretary to review HS2 and make a decision, which could involve downscaling HS2 or even scrapping it totally.

Let’s see what our new Prime Minister has in store for us.

Hannan Sarwar

Member Views is a series of opinion pieces written by Blue Beyond members. Hannan lives in Tatton and is the youngest Muslim Councillor in the country - aged 18 - and is also a CFOP Youth Ambassador.