With an election just around the corner, we look at where the main political parties stand on HS2. It has been a controversial project since it was first conceived in 2009. The project is set to cost upwards of £56 billion and will result in an increase in output of up to £3bn for certain regions in the UK. In terms of capacity, it would increase the peak hourly number of people arriving into or leaving Euston from 11,300 to 34,900 each way. The Y-shaped line would connect London to northern cities including Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds via Birmingham.
Despite the project first finding its legs under a Labour government, the Conservatives have now raised their concerns that a Labour government in 2017 could derail the project. UKIP have vocally spoken out against the project, and naturally, the Green Party are fundamentally opposed the project. Whilst election rhetoric may be focused on immigration, social care and public services, HS2 is a significant development and each party has a very clear line on how it should be rolled out, or if it should even go ahead. Here is the latest stance from each major political party in England.
Despite speculation that the Conservatives might scrap support for HS2 if they are returned to power, this has been dismissed by prominent MPs, including Andy Street, mayoral candidate for the West Midlands. As recently as April 29th, Theresa May reiterated her support for the high-speed rail link, stating her party is “absolutely committed” to the project.
In Jeremy Corbyn’s leaked draft manifesto, the Labour leader pledged over £250bn to boost the UK’s infrastructure, which would include the HS2 link. According to the draft, Labour would “complete the HS2 high-speed rail line from London through Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester, and then into Scotland, consulting with communities affected about the optimal route”.
Pledging their support for the project from the start, the Liberal Democrats have also asserted that they are the only party that can be trusted to make the HS2 rail link a priority. Liberal Democrat election campaign spokesman, Lord Scriven said: “Liberal Democrats led calls for high-speed rail lines to the North from the very start, have backed it this parliament and will continue to do so in the future.”
UKIP is fully opposed to the project both on a national and regional level. The Party continue to advance the argument that there is no business case for it. Jill Seymour, the Party’s transport spokesperson has said “It has no business case, and it will leave the country riddled with debt…..I do not want to see our precious environment ruined by this destructive rail line, a flawed EU vanity project”.
As the only party in opposition to the HS2 rail link, the Green Party have spoken out against the project on multiple occasions. While supporting high-speed rail links in order to cut the number of cars on the road, they oppose HS2 as it presents new environmental problems. According to Rupert Read, the Green Party’s national spokesperson on transport, “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.”
Scottish National Party
Although generally supportive of the HS2 rail link, the Scottish National Party reacted angrily when it was revealed that the team behind the project did not see any sense in extending the link to Scotland. If the high-speed rail link was extended to Scotland, it would reduce journey times between Glasgow and London by 90 minutes. The Party has in its recently released manifesto reiterated that linking Scotland with HS2 is a priority, as the Party looks to improve connectivity across the Country.
Although not strictly in opposition to the project, Plaid Cymru has expressed concerns that Wales will not benefit from the project. The Party has called for a £4bn dividend to help improve rail networks across Wales. HS2 is considered a UK-wide project, despite only impacting England, there have been calls by the party to offer a fair share of the transportation budget to Wales.