Stop HS2: Support a zero-carbon transport future

The Green Party will be debating HS2 at Spring Conference this weekend. Green Peer Jenny Jones explains the reasons to stop HS2 and reallocate all public funds to a zero-carbon transport future.

A HS2 protest banner
A HS2 protest banner

Image: Flickr / Peter O'Connor / CC BY-SA 2.0

Jenny Jones

We should cancel HS2 and reallocate all public funds to a zero-carbon transport future – this was the primary reason why the Green Party voted to oppose HS2.

Some Greens express environmental concerns but don’t understand the detail of this destructive project. HS2 is bad value for money and very bad news for the environment. It’s also hoovering up all the funding that we desperately need for investment in high-quality public transport at a local and regional level. Apart from the destruction of ancient woodlands, there is an ongoing threat to London's water supply from the pollution caused by construction work in the Chiltern Hills. We should reallocate the billions of pounds to projects that will reduce air pollution and CO2 emissions at a local level. Covid has already transformed the way that millions of people use digital networking instead of long-distance travelling; the Government needs to catch up with how a modern economy works and see HS2 as the white elephant that the Green Party always knew it was. Our opposition is based on six main areas of concern:

1. The project is not in conformity with clear national guidance on Transport Appraisal Guidance. Guidance is clear that for any transport project, the exact nature of the problem to be solved must be stated and a wide range of options examined before selecting the best-performing option. This was not done.

2. HS2 is the most expensive, wasteful and destructive project in UK history.

3. The project will not reduce transport’s carbon emissions. Only five per cent of predicted journeys are transfers from road and air and 69 per cent are transfers from classic rail which has a lower CO2 per passenger kilometre emission factor than HS2.

4. Rail professionals at a conference at York University in 2016 identified a number of engineering upgrades at key pinch points to increase capacity on the existing rail route. A totally new line was not needed.

5. The total cost is estimated to be well over £100 billion and at £403 million per mile is 15 times more expensive than the TGV, France's intercity high-speed rail service. 

6. The UK very urgently needs a major upgrade to rail services as a whole including electrification of lines currently served by dirty, polluting, climate damaging diesel trains and a major upgrade to city-region public transport so that all our cities can be improved to the standards to be found in Vienna, Frankfurt or Zurich. HS2 is a very low priority compared to projects that have proven impacts on reducing transport carbon, serving the majority of the population at all income groups and getting people out of cars.