The Proposed high speed rail intended to firstly connect London and Birmingham. The project is expected to cost between £42-50 Billion currently, but many have suggested that the price is not fixed.
The budget has already escalated by £10billion from its initial costing and Boris Johnson has previously stated he expects the price to rise to £70billion.
The line obviously will have to pass through a great deal of the country unsettling people, plants and animals, The Independent has asserted that the proposed line will result in the destruction of 350 wildlife sites. The noise pollution is another factor that people have to put up with, as a person living very close to a traditional rail line I can safely say they are loud and extremely grating and disruptive, the HS2 line won’t run trains as frequently as most traditional lines but it will make up for its infrequency by traveling much, much faster and consequently being louder. The quality of life for people near the rail lines will be affected and there will be a great deal of people in that position, additionally it is sure to affect house prices, which is of concern to many. The main problem with this is that the majority of people contending with the drawbacks of the high speed rail aren’t even going to see the benefits of it, the proposed line has few stops, to keep the speed up, and so those living near the line can’t even use it.
Due to great outcry from the public and 19 local authorities wanting to cease the project the prime ministers motivations become unclear. The PM continues to support the project despite vast opposition with many calling into question the cost benefit analysis which has soared 17% before it has even begun. Lord Mandelson has commented that when in office the cost estimates were “almost entirely speculative” and that the Labour government proposed the plan to make the country’s future look less bleak. It seems the PM might just be doing the same thing and as a result the project is now being touted as the prime ministers vanity project as well as being described as a white elephant, a costly burdensome possession.
He seems eager to compare the high speed rail to how the Victorians innovated the traditional rails we see around still today. However Britain is not in the same economic league it was in that era, we are no longer an industrious country that necessitates grand rail openings to supplement factories and coal mines situated in the North.
He has also said that “cancellation would be betraying the North”. To me at least it seems the North was betrayed a long time ago; but despite this the North goes on, presumably to do with the hardy and resilient people who live there. If the Prime Minister truly wanted to support the North and not just drag them into London he could consider spending the money in a different way. For example the green party concede that the rails in the UK could use improvement to ease overcrowding, reduce journey times and emissions, but suggest limiting travel to 200mph so that existing transport corridors could be used making it more financially viable.
Job creation is also rather limited, other than laying the track and a few positions manning the actual trains there is little else, not many stations need to be made as it won’t be stopping and obviously nobody is required to occupy non-existent stations.
Perhaps the PM could create real jobs worth doing (not just a couple hours here and there) in the North by using some money to create the more reserved rail rejuvenation the green party suggest and to invest in small and medium businesses in the North. I have lost count of how many times I have heard people on Question Time and similar programmes complain that the banks will not give them the money they need to expand and improve their businesses. A cash injection to small and medium businesses would help improve the economic performance of the North creating new jobs. And who knows some businesses could become prosperous mass employers.
When infrastructure and employment is improved a rail line (the 200mph edition) connecting to the south would be more worthwhile because London wouldn’t just be sucking in the workforce of the North but an exchange between the two could be beneficial to both sides.
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