Tuesday, 8 November 2011

HS2 - select committee findings

Somehow the transport select committee today gave support for the government's High Speed Rail plans, yet with such caveats that you wonder quite how the overall report they provide can come to that conclusion.

Almost everyone accepts that capacity on the rail network needs to be dealt with and that many rail services across the country fall well the below the standards we would like. What is baffling, however, is that whilst saying;

"A high-speed line operating at less than 250mph may offer greater opportunities for mitigation, as well as an opportunity to follow existing transport corridors.
"We are concerned the decision to build a 250mph line prematurely ruled out other route options."

they still gave the HS2 plan support. Why could they not say "We cannot support it at this design speed and until the issues over the country's transport strategy are resolved"?

I was on the radio this morning and spoke after Louise Ellman (chair of the select committee), who was quite clear that there are no environmental benefits of the scheme and that it will not cut carbon. The report says;

"It is not clear that even the Y-network will substantially reduce demand for domestic aviation.

"HS2 should not be promoted as a carbon-reduction scheme."
yet at this time when we desperately need to be cutting CO2 emissions from transport, they still approved it. Why not say "We cannot support it unless it is part of an overall strategy to cut carbon emissions from transport"?

Friends of the Earth are signed up to the Right Lines Charter along with many other environmental NGOs and this report does seem to endorse a lot of what that says about what the plan should do in order to be a good plan for High Speed Rail, yet it doesn't go far enough.

We need a transport system that is fit for a low carbon future of scarce resources and that means a much better plan than currently exists. I'm glad the the select committee have identified so many the flaws in the government's plan, but wish they had gone further with their recommendations and recognised the value in protecting the environment above the rather dubious job-creation claims.

Joe Peacock

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