Closed petition We call on the Government to abandon the HS2 Rail project.

With the projected cost of HS2 rising towards £100bn, it would be better to stop the project now and use the money saved to provide free solar panels to the whole of the country.

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The former Chairman of Eurostar, Adam Mills, wrote that the claimed social and economic benefits of HS@ were "away with the fairies". He added, it would be far wiser to spend the money on traditional rail enhancements given the relatively short distances between UK cities. In economic terms HS@ is unjustifiable. Existing trains between London and Birmingham are underused at present and saving business men 30 minutes of travelling time does not justify the destruction of 1740 buildings including 888 homes, together with 60 irreplaceable ancient woodlands being destroyed.

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Government responded

This response was given on 28 March 2019

Our existing rail network is filling up. HS2 will increase capacity on the network and transform connectivity between the cities of the Midlands and the North, helping to rebalance Britain’s economy.

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The government is committed to delivering HS2 from London to Birmingham and on to Crewe, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds. There are already 7,000 people and 2,000 businesses working to deliver the project. At the peak of construction there will be 30,000 people working on HS2 with 70% of these jobs based outside London.

Our existing rail network is almost full. Demand on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) has increased 190% since 1995. People are often standing the whole way on long distance journeys and we need a solution. The line is close to capacity in the peak and it is difficult to increase service levels further. This is due to both the physical constraints of the infrastructure and the complex mix of services that operate on the line.

The government considered a range of alternatives to HS2, including proposals put forward by objectors to HS2. These included upgrades to West Midlands and Inter City West Coast (ICWS) peak trains into Euston, as well as improvements to increase WCML Fast Line capacity in the peak. In addition to the substantial cost, these alternatives would disrupt existing passenger services for long periods and no alternatives achieved the same value for money, connectivity and increased capacity for commuter and freight services.

This work is set out in the 2013 Strategic Case for HS2: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/480646/supplement-to-strategic-case.pdf

The government’s analysis shows that, as a new line, HS2 is the best option for taking pressure off the rail network and adding capacity where it is needed most to accommodate growth and improve resilience. By providing direct inter-city services on dedicated high-speed lines, HS2 will free up space on the West and East Coast mainlines. The new line will improve passenger experience and allow operators to run more services. We do not expect HS2 to be priced as a premium service.

The connectivity HS2 will provide between cities in the Midlands and the North will transform those economies. That is why regional leaders support HS2. The Birmingham Chamber of Commerce have called Phase 2 of HS2 “a game changer for our region”. Judith Blake, the Leader of Leeds City Council, has said that HS2 will, “deliver enormous economic benefits” and “huge improvements in connectivity”. Benefits will also be felt away from the direct line of route with Scottish Engineering welcoming the opportunities HS2 presents for the construction sector in Scotland.

HS2 also paves the way for Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) and NPR trains will use HS2 infrastructure. It is not a case of either-or, we need HS2 and NPR to help tackle the north-south divide and improve journeys for passengers.

The government knows that a project on this scale is disruptive and is committed to helping those affected by HS2. A full package of compensation is available to affected property owners and, while it is not an easy situation for claimants, the property schemes are generous and go beyond legal requirements. The government always aims to ensure that those affected are properly compensated and treated with compassion and respect.

When considering new transport infrastructure the government assesses the impact on the environment to ensure the right balance is struck between economic benefits and impact on the environment. The National Policy Statement for National Networks (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-policy-statement-for-national-networks) sets out government policy on development of nationally significant infrastructure projects on the national road and rail networks in England.

In terms of HS2’s impact on ancient woodland, the government has always accepted that ancient woodland is irreplaceable. HS2 Ltd has made great efforts to minimise harm to ancient woodland as far as possible and is meeting best practice for ancient woodland compensation. The £5 million Woodland Fund is helping to create new native woodland and restore existing ancient woodlands along the Phase One route. The government is also creating a new ‘green corridor’ to connect wildlife habitats from London to the West Midlands. This includes 3,340 hectares of wildlife habitats and around seven million new trees and shrubs.

In comparison with most other transport, high speed rail offers some of the lowest carbon emissions per passenger kilometre, and significantly less than cars and planes. The journey time reductions and capacity created by HS2 may encourage a shift from short-haul aviation to rail, reducing carbon impacts.

The 2015 Spending Review established a long-term funding envelope for the delivery of HS2 of £55.7bn (in 2015 prices). The government is keeping a firm grip on costs and HS2 Ltd is working with its supply chain to ensure this remains the case. HS2 is expected to deliver £2.30 of benefits for every £1 spent, representing good value for taxpayers’ money.

Finally, the cost of solar cells has fallen by 80% since 2008 and, given that solar power projects are now being built on a commercial basis without subsidy, the government believes that providing new subsidies for solar power is not the best use of public money.

Department for Transport