DEBATE: Amid fierce opposition concerning both the cost and the route, should the HS2 project go ahead?
YES – Lord Adonis, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission.
If we are to narrow the north-south divide, prepare for a “jobs-first” Brexit, and grow economically, we must address the desperate shortage of transport capacity between our major conurbations. HS2 does all these things. This is one of the most important projects we are undertaking. It will link London and the West Midlands, and transform cities including Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield. If we don’t build HS2, the alternative is to modernise the existing railway, much of which dates back to Victorian times. Doing that would cost billions – and not give us a fraction of the benefits of HS2. So I welcome Chris Grayling’s announcement in support of the project. Important economic and social choices will be made on the basis of this railway, whether that’s companies deciding where to invest or families deciding where to call home. I don’t underestimate the difficulty this will cause a number of residents along the route, but the long term benefits for the country are too great to pass up.
NO – Joe Rukin, campaign manager at Stop HS2.
The decision to build HS2 was made without any evidence of the need for it, and as such it’s always been a solution looking for a problem, a decision made which then had to be justified. It is now supposedly “needed” for capacity and rebalancing the economy – both false promises. Far from being a magic wand to cure the north-south divide, all the international evidence says exactly the opposite will happen. HS2 delivers capacity where it is needed the least at the highest possible cost. If HS2 is built for the inter-city business elite, commuters will continue to face crush-hour conditions as HS2 gobbles up the transport budget for decades to come. A sustainable future will not depend on more people commuting greater distances, but creating jobs where people actually live. HS2 is a nineteenth century plan for a twenty-first century economy. For a fraction of the cost of HS2, we could have national high speed broadband and cash to spare.