HS2: The Debate Continues as Phase 2 Routes Announced
HS2 is not having an easy ride. Is it really the engine room for growth – or is it the end of the line for the ┬ú33bn project?
Back in 2011, officebroker.com reported on the latest High Speed Two (HS2) movements and considered the pros and cons of the ambitious and controversial rail project. The blog post attracted heated debate, and even now – over one year later – the business case for HS2 continues to be fiercely rejected by opposition groups across the country.
This week, the controversial scheme is back in the news headlines as the route for Phase 2 is announced.
With Phase 1 planned to run from London Euston to Birmingham, the preferred route for Phase 2 will run northwards from Birmingham with five stops – Manchester, Manchester Airport, Toton near Nottingham, Sheffield and Leeds.
The entire project is set to cost ┬ú33bn, or ┬ú34.5bn if an additional route to Heathrow is included. It has faced enormous opposition but the government has pressed ahead.
Expected Benefits of HS2 include:
- Benefits of ┬ú47bn
- Fare revenues of up to ┬ú34bn over 60 years
- Expected ┬ú6bn – ┬ú12bn in “wider economic benefits”
- Generate 100,000 jobs
- Regeneration for affected stations and cities
- Better journeys for passengers with greater capacity
For commuters, businesses and leisure passengers, the route promises to bring faster travel times between major cities, which will place London within regular commuting distance for those from the West Midlands and even in the North.
Phase 1 will cut London-Birmingham travel to 49 minutes from the current 1 hour 24 minutes. Phase 2 should halve journey times between Birmingham and Manchester to 41 minutes, and reduce London-Manchester from 2 hours 8 minutes to just over 1 hour. And a 2-hour Birmingham to Leeds journey should be cut to 57 minutes.
Those in favour of the project believe that it will reduce the north-south divide and bring great economical benefits for the UK as a whole, especially for northern cities, with new jobs, investment, opportunities and connectivity to the rest of the country.
However, following this latest announcement fresh concerns have been aired.
Among them, commenters claim that the new route – which is chiefly designed to slash journey times and connect UK cities – is ignoring the growing trend of flexible working and teleworking.
This rise in flexibility is evident in the growth of mobile working, which allows workers to connect remotely without the need for a daily commute to the office. The concern is that rather than a need for greater capacity on trains, with the growth in flexible working, we may actually see a reduced demand for train travel from commuters in the future.
Dozens of groups oppose the project on other grounds, claiming that the railway will ruin picturesque countryside, increase greenhouse gas emissions, and that the country simply cannot afford it. Many also believe the financial benefits are vastly inflated.
According to the BBC, StopHS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin said that it’s a “train for the rich”, while the group’s chairwoman, Penny Gaines, said that “the whole HS2 project is fundamentally flawed” – adding that it is nothing more than “a fast train for fat cats.”
Amid concerns that the UK economy may be heading back towards recession, the government has its work cut out to convince the public – and voters – that it can deliver on its promises. HS2 is a huge part of the government’s long-term plan to strengthen the UK economy and although it remains controversial, the project seems to be showing no signs of slowing down.
What do you think – is it full steam ahead for HS2, or is it facing the end of the line? Are the government’s proposed benefits a true reflection of the project? Have your say in the comment box below.
Find out more and read the details in full at www.hs2.org.uk.