The proposed high-speed rail project (HS2), to run initially from London to Birmingham (and later, further on to Leeds and Manchester), has built up a head of steam and is gaining almost unstoppable momentum. Yesterday, MPs backed the legislation by 350 votes to 34, releasing funds to pay for surveys, purchase property and compensate evicted residents.
It may be virtuous in government to invest in the nation’s infrastructure, but virtue so often walks hand in hand with vanity, and this, make no mistake, is a vanity project. George Osborne was introduced to the Japanese ‘Maglev’ floating bullet train in Tokyo a few years ago and was smitten. However, HS2 is a 20th century solution to a 21st century problem. Why would we want faster trains when we’ve got conference call technology? If we wish to regenerate the North and Midlands, then that is where the money should be spent – building businesses there.
The project would take 20 years to complete and would cost the equivalent of constructing three or four nuclear power stations (a much better use for the money). It would threaten irreplaceable ancient woodlands and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. In short, it would be a colossal act of environmental vandalism.
HS2 is heading for a dark tunnel full of nasty surprises and it’s time we pulled the communication cord and stopped the train.