High Speed 2
How the hugely expensive project has threatened to be derailed by public criticism and financial costs
There are plenty of projects carried out by the UK government which have angered and frustrated members of the public, but none have been quite as elongated as the High Speed 2 (HS2) debacle.
The original idea was conceived over ten years ago in 2009, with the preferred route being decided the following year. However, construction was only officially started last month. The project is divided into two, with the first linking London to Birmingham and the second will split into a Y shape. The west line to Manchester and the east up to Leeds.
It might sound like an exciting rail project on paper, but the reality is one of overspending, environmental issues and public frustration. The financial cost of the project is an estimated £106 billion according to an official review leaked to the Financial Times in January. This figure is over double the original budget drawn up in 2015, raising questions as to why or how the UK can afford this; particularly with the economic impact which the coronavirus pandemic is creating. All of this for a new train network which will shorten journey times by no more than 20 minutes in some places.
The ecological impact of HS2 has been addressed in detail over several years. Various environmental groups have protested the work, with Extinction Rebellion and other anti-HS2 groups walking the entire length of the 125 mile Birmingham to London route in June. The project is threatening a large amount of natural habitat and many local communities on its route, communities in which live people who were given little to no say in HS2.
Part of the increase in the budget was a result of the route passing through ancient woodland and protected wildlife areas, but it means nothing to this government to spend more taxpayers money on this vanity project
From the outset, one of the aims of the project was to connect the North of England to the Midlands and the South. That sounds all well and good, but only if you believe the North ends at Leeds. For those living beyond west Yorkshire, or indeed further south, east or west of London, HS2 brings little immediate relevance.
It is entirely typical of a UK government to win new seats in the north of England and then proceed to continue to keep their new voters out of the picture. It’s almost as if, once the election was over and they had the majority, the government could keep focus on the Westminster bubble.
The HS2 project has been on the horizon for over a decade now and by the time it is completed, if that day is ever reached, it will have been ongoing for almost half a century. The financial factor alone is one which should be a red flag to reconsider the necessity of the project, this is before factoring in the environmental and social impact.
The coronavirus pandemic should have been seen as further nail in the coffin for the project, something to divert funds into, yet it looks more like HS2 will be used as something to try and unite the nation behind when we finally enter into a post pandemic world. The arguments for scrapping HS2 grow stronger, but they will most likely fall on deaf ears.