Some of the negative trends reported in the manufacturing and resources section of LWM’s overview, Extending Localisation, focus on transport:
The region has over many years lost the capacity to service its own needs. For example there is a huge investment required to modernise the region’s public transport especially rail based infrastructure. Previously the region had all the requirements to service these needs locally, but not now. The first stage of the Midland Metro had to go to Italy for Rolling Stock. Even so the region still has the actual capacity and capabilities to meet many of the region’s needs and this could be expanded further given the political will.
Instead, a development is proposed which moves in a radically different direction. Will the trifling benefit of reaching London more quickly in any way compensate for the destruction of fertile land, using enormous amounts of money, labour and materials?
A local journalist sent a link about HS2 which adds a critique of the business case to the compelling and many-facetted environmental objections to the line. It can be read in full here.
Extract [headings added]:
The business case for the new high-speed line just hasn’t been made. It won’t come close to producing a financial return, net operating profit will only cover 42 per cent of the capital costs over a 60 year project life. So the scheme is being justified on the basis of dodgy assumptions, like the idea demand will grow 267 per cent, or passengers have zero productivity while they are on a train.
All of that is in a new Taxpayers’Alliance research note, written by an experienced consultant who has worked in the industry for decades. Chris Stokes was Deputy Director for Network SouthEast, British Rail’s largest business sector, from 1988 to 1993 and had a range of other roles since.
The political danger
The political danger here is that this is a train line that will only be used by a fortunate few. Nearly half of long distance rail trips are made by people from households in the top quintile by income. Building it at the expense of ordinary families paying higher VAT – or while they are seeing spending in schools and commuter road and rail projects cut – is a recipe for the issue to become absolutely toxic. As the cost becomes clear, and with the expectation they won’t be the ones riding this train, people will turn against the project.
Cheaper alternatives and more pressing priorities
Politicians might be worried that cancelling HS2 will be an embarrassing u-turn for a week or so. But it is worth it to avoid endless battles over a new line the country can’t afford, and which most voters will only see as a burden. There are much cheaper alternatives like longer and more frequent trains, and much more pressing priorities. *
Unemployment and a declining regional economy are pressing priorities which would be addressed by the recommendations outlined by LWM in its draft report.
Today the forest proposals have been set aside – tomorrow we hope that the HS2 proposals will follow suit.–