26 September 2013
The Greens are the only Party in opposition to HS2 at Westminster since the project has had the backing of all three main party leaders since its inception (which occurred during that last Labour Government), despite some backbench protest.
Ed Balls has told the Labour conference that his Party still backs HS2 but might review it after the next election, while questioning whether the project is “the best way to spend £50bn for the future of the country.” (Meanwhile Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman has stated that Labour policy remains firmly behind HS2.)
The Green Party has a clear answer to Balls’s question: It isn’t.
The Greens support high speed rail in principle because it should improve Britain’s transport system, reduce road and air traffic and help cut carbon emissions.
But HS2 does too much damage to local communities and to the environment, and is too pricey. To achieve high speeds the trains are expected to use up to 50% more fuel than Eurostar so carbon emissions will not be reduced. The enormous sums involved could be better spent improving transport for everybody, not just the wealthy business-people who will be able to afford to use HS2.
Rupert Read is the Green Party’s national spokesperson on transport as well as being lead Green candidate in the east of England at next year’s European elections. Dr. Read said:
“HS2 is not a green solution. That money needs to be spent instead on increasing rail capacity by adding more track to existing routes, and by upgrading freight-only routes for passenger use too.
“At the same time, we need wider-ranging policies designed to reduce the need for long-distance travel, while integrating local public transport systems (for example, as has actually happened to good effect in London over the last 15 years) and continuing to make streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians.”
“I am sure most ordinary people see HS2 as a politicians’ vanity project, which should be stopped. I agree with them.”
At its conference this month, the Green Party voted to re-affirm its policy to re-nationalise the railways, taking them away from private operators who have prioritised shareholders’ dividends over a network well-run for the benefit of all. Green MP Caroline Lucas recently introduced a bill that seeks to renationalise the railways into the House of Commons.