Monday, 13 June 2011

6-lane M42 the alternative! So HS2 does make sense!

The standard of debate around the HS2 plan has been pretty poor and overly sensationalist a lot of the time. Both sides are really avoiding a proper examination of what the UK's transport system is like now and what we should be aiming for over the next 15 years.

What we have been left with is a very polarised battle over one badly designed route that doesn't fit into any kind of integrated transport strategy, seems more intent on linking up airports and promoting speed at any cost rather than dealing with promoting alternatives to the car or plane and is unlikely to be more affordable than the current over-priced rail system.

This is why our points are less likely to hit the headlines, but deserve a lot more attention. They are concerned with the need for a proper strategy to deal with reducing the UK's carbon emissions from transport, as well as a future where there will be a lack of oil, which should be the first step and then High Speed Rail plans fit into that, rather than the other way round.

Lately, the pro-HS2 lobby have been getting more and more active on twitter, jumping on any remotely negative post and accusing people like ourselves as being anti-public transport. The latest one from @AntiAntiHS2 read “@Bham_FOE I despair of FOE NO HS2 4 extra lanes on M40 both sides Wishing and idealism gets U nowhere.” and this is not the first time I have had such responses.

Now this is just so ridiculous. Although there was a stupid suggestion in the Birmingham Post today that the government should spend over a billion pounds buying up the M6 toll and making it free for everyone to use!!! Generally, there is more acceptance now that just building more motorway capacity is not the way forward and has not solved problems, but just caused more over the past 50 years of following such a strategy.

The price of oil is only going one way (up) and electric cars are good for shorter journeys, but not able to take over the burden of transporting people over long distances yet. It would be lunacy of the highest order to be basing a transport strategy on cheap oil and continued use of private motor vehicles now.

If the government is saying there is £2bn a year to spend on transport, we should not be arguing over the cost of HS2 and saying we can't afford to spend the money, we should be arguing for the best possible use of that money to transform our transport system and future-proof it and our economy.

See these articles on our website for more details on our views:

and the problems we foresee with HS2 specifically as a rail plan are outlined in the Right Lines charter that FoE is signed up to:

So, should we support HS2, just because it's currently the only public transport scheme being proposed for the £2bn a year? No, we should continue our campaigns for the best possible deal for everyone and the highest possible standards of sustainability in the government's transport plans.

Will this lead to more motorways being built or a better transport system to benefit the country and the planet? That's up to the democratic processes of the country, but we'll fight for the latter every step of the way.

Joe Peacock

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