by Stephen Tall on December 26, 2013
Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 750 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.
Support for HS2 gathers steam among Lib Dem members
There are plans to build a new high speed rail link (called HS2) between London and Birmingham, and then on to Manchester and Leeds. This is currently expected to cost around £42 billion. Do you support or oppose these plans?
67% (+12%) – Support
26% (-5%) – Oppose
7% (-6%) – Don’t know
It’s almost a year since Norman Baker hailed the arrival of the next tranche of high-speed rail (HS2). My initial response was sceptical: I apologise for my lack of enthusiasm for HS2. It’s been unavoidably delayed owing to the lack of evidence. And the debate has continued throughout the year, with Lib Dems like John Whitehouse arguing against while my LDV colleague Joe Otten put the case straightforwardly here: HS2 alternatives mean 14 years of replacement buses.
Since we last asked this question in the summer, the view among Lib Dems appears to have hardened in support, with some two-thirds of you now supporting HS2, compared with just over one-half a few months ago. Here’s a selection of your comments…
* The £42 billion would be better spent on a minimum 30 megabits/sec high speed broadband in line with our EU partners. More county airports would be better for travel. Perhaps.
* The plans should include a line from London through Birmingham, then splitting to run via Leeds and Manchester and terminating in Glasgow and Edinburgh from the outset instead of London to Birmingham for now with a hope to extend to Manchester\Leeds in the future and who knows if\when it will reach Scotland.
* Absolutely vital to combat the ever-growing North-South divide.
* I think it makes good economic sense. I also think it is important that the Tories alienate some of their core vote.
* This is a money pit that is going to cause catastrophic problems, both economically and practically. Firstly it is in the wrong place. One of the most used rail networks badly needs this type of investment. South coast.
* Debate is lovely, but doing something is better. There is economic benefit to it, it will improve transport links…go for it.
* Would prefer reinvestment in the branch network, HS2 will only benefit a small number of wealthy businessmen able to afford fares of a high end service.
* Vanity project, high CO2 emissions; should be improving other rail, especially lines that DON’T go to/from London!
* It won’t cost £42bn – it’ll be more and it’s now hardly cutting edge tech, before it starts. Start with a tax reform – LVT – would concentrate business activity in low value areas first. I also vehemently oppose compulsory purchase. Maybe build a “hyper loop” eventually.
* I think there are cheaper and better alternatives, and I am unsure who will benefit from this, apart from businessmen, who could be a lot more innovative and use video-conferencing and skype rather than making so many business journeys. We need less unnecessary travel, not more roads and railways.
* Plans do not go far enough. The country needs more rail and infrastructure of the kind of HS2
* Business and environment case are not proven. We are being dragged in to a spend that lacks focus. We should of had our own costed and environment assessed plans, instead of blindly following Labour and Tory vanity projects.
* I am fed up with the Luddites in our party that oppose HS2. If the Victorian Whigs and Liberals had taken the same attitude we’d still be using the horse and carriage
* it’s not a straightforward yes or no question however
* Needs to come to Edinburgh
* We do not need faster trains just more reliable services and cut down ticket prices
* Support in principle but they will just make an expensive mess of it.
* But it must be to European loading gauge and we must look to upgrade the rest of the country. Bigger trains means more capacity.
* Wrong project at the wrong price and at the wrong time.
* This is the biggest white elephant in the history of the nation. This needs to be cancelled now.
* Phase 1 is £17bn. In addition we are spending £23.5 bn in the period to 2019 on infrastructure work on the rest of the rail network.
* We must modernise our rail services. France and the Netherlands did it years ago.
* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.