The new high-speed rail link in England, HS2, has recently been given the go ahead by politicians. For some reason I feel deep concerns about HS2, and I thought I’d better investigate it properly. Even though trains are a less polluting way to travel than cars or airplanes, the new rail line will cut a new swathe through the English countryside and contribute even to more to the continuing destruction of natural environments that we can’t afford. When I have concerns about HS2, I keep hearing Satish Kumar’s call to “tread lightly” on the Earth and I believe this is a goal we must pursue with conviction.
In the spirit of “Use 10 Percent Less”, you could say that building new train links would be a good thing overall as these might lead to less road transport. But then we can also ask, do we really need a train that can move 1,100 people at a time between Manchester and London in 45 minutes? It would actually be better if we could devise ways that reduced the need for people to travel so much. We’ll also see below that the HS2 project does not stack up well on environmental grounds.
I’m concerned that HS2 is going ahead for two main reasons, (1) politicians need a highly visible project to demonstrate their commitment to people in the north of England (to help ensure being re-elected, even though the money could be well spent upgrading transport services along existing routes with little additional damage to the environment), and (2) pressure from the construction sector to keep a high value project alive with the threat of losing jobs (some companies are going to make a lot of money out of HS2).
In reality, of all the concerns about HS2, we should be first examining its effect on our environment. [Read more…] about Concerns about HS2