29 January 2013
RESPONDING to the government's announcement on the proposed "Phase 2" of the HS2 high-speed rail line, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said that the same serious concerns about the first stage of the project also applied to the second.
She said: "grave concerns remain about the environmental and economic viability of this project.. Spending the same amount of money - more than £1,000 for each household in the UK, on improving local and regional links, producing a truly integrated transport system to get people around home-work-school-leisure in an affordable way would be a far better use of the money.
"We do dramatically need to improve rail capacity, but we should be able to get far better value for money than this project offers - and of course if we re-nationalised the railways we would be saving the £1.2 billion a year that privatisation is costing us, which could be put into lowering fares and improving services."
Natalie added that while the government was claiming HS2 would be a boost to regional development, there was a significant risk that it would instead further concentrate business on the capital.
"We need to look particularly at building and improving intra-regional links that don't go through London," she said.
Natalie however welcomed the government's promise that there won't be an automatic fare premium on the route' as applies on HS1.
Natalie said: "If HS2 does get built, it must, given the financial and environmental cost, be available to all, and while we are still looking at unaffordable peak-time trains, it is essential there is affordability at other times, so we don't have empty white elephants screaming through the cou try side."