It’s official. The controversial £32 billion HS2 high-speed rail project has officially been given the green light by the government today. It has also announced that extra tunnelling will be added along sections of the 90-mile route to sooth concerns by environmentalists.
Well, isn’t that nice of them.
Even though rail travellers won’t be able to experience HS2 until it comes into operation after the first phase, from London to Birmingham, is completed in 2026, Transport Secretary Justine Greening said it would provide better connections, more seats, new jobs and growth for the whole country.
However, while the government has said that the project would deliver economic benefits worth £44 billion, HS2 opponents believe this to be false.
Under original plans for the rail route Woodland Trust said that 21 ancient woodlands would be directly impacted, with a further 27 expected to suffer major loss and damage. Now, however, after the transport secretary recognised the strong feelings generated by the project she has announced changes to the plans that will see added tunnelling along the route. The amended route will see 22.5 miles underground, an increase of 50 per cent from the original plan.
Of course, even though these figures are aimed at appeasing those against HS2, it’s unlikely to achieve that.
When I heard about the government’s decision to approve HS2, I couldn’t help thinking of the saying ‘money burning a hole in one’s pocket’ for a new train set. That thought was soon pushed aside with ‘what money?’ Instead of building something that nobody will use for another 14 years, why not upgrade the lines in existence that run along the same route instead of building something we can’t afford in this economy.
Ah, it sounds so simple when it’s put like that, but I’m pretty sure there are complicated governmental-bureaucratic-mumbo-jumbo-facts-and-figures that have been painstakingly pored over for them to reach this unpopular, untimely and unaffordable decision.
For now, though, it looks like many will have to wait before they can enjoy the 49 minute journey from London to Birmingham down from 1 hour 24 minutes when phase one of HS2 is completed in 2026. Or even a three-and-a-half journey from Paris to Manchester when phase two of HS2 is finished in 2032.
I’ll tell you what…this is edge-of-your-seat exciting stuff. Jokes aside, I’m sure that when this is finally over and done with and officials aren’t hiding away from the amount of debt created, we’ll be able to look at HS2 and say it was worth it…yes, that’s right.