Debate: Is HS2 high speed rail link a waste of taxpayers' money?

Share
Related Topics

 

What's going on?

Details of the next phase of the controversial HS2 high-speed rail link have been unveiled in a move Prime Minister David Cameron said would boost Britain's stagnant economy.

Today's announcement details the northern extension of the already-planned London to Birmingham HS2 line as far as Manchester and Leeds.

The new rail link is designed to cut journey times, ease overcrowding and boost regional business, and officials say the project, which is expected to cost £32.7 billion, will create at least 100,000 jobs. But does England really need this new service or could the money be spent better elsewhere?

Case for: Investing in our future

The number of short, medium and long term benefits from HS2 are almost too many to mention. Short: create employment at a time when it's desperately needed; boost economic growth. Medium: encourage businesses to start investing in areas that have long been neglected. Long: fundamentally rebalance Britain, a country which for far too long has been overly dependent on the economy of London and the South East. If Britain is going to compete on the international stage in the 21st century, it needs infrastructure to match. Better transport links are a fundamental part of that, and not just because the trains will be fast and shiny. HS2 will also reduce the strain on our over-congested roads, and connect millions more people to our aviation network. The short-term investment will be more than made back.

Case against: No boost

Considered from any angle, this looks to be a white elephant, and moreover one that will trample across hundreds of miles of English countryside and heritage. Since ticket prices are likely to be too expensive for most to use the service, HS2's main beneficiairies will be business-people, who, among other perks, will be able to get to Birmingham 20 minutes faster than before. Well forgive me for not popping the champagne. As comedian Jeremy Hardy put it, another way for suits to get somewhere 20 minutes sooner is "take an earlier train". Most distressing of all, the cost to the taxpayer of this project is immense - over £1,000 per household - and cost-benefit forecasts have been revised downwards FOUR times, suggesting HS2 will not defibrillate our economy as promised. As for regenerating the North, that too seems a mirage. The engine of this disaster is politics; common and economic sense were thrown out the window long ago.

England urgently needs HS2

Read Next
 

The daily catch-up: fathers looking after children, World Cup questions and Nostradamus

John Rentoul
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Phone and data laws to be passed in haste

Andrew Grice
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice