Now we have it. HS2 is threatening to go ahead but many of the future passengers it’s designed to benefit, still have little idea what the project really entails.
HS2 will be a newly-built railway starting from London and running as phase 1 to Birmingham (some preparatory work – acquisition of land, foundations for stations and maintenance infrastructure etc. has begun but no lines laid yet) and then onto link with Manchester. Phase 2 will link up to Leeds and pass through Derbyshire. In this area it will be adjacent to the M1 from Hardwick Hall, past the Fidler Nature Reserve, across the southern end of Stanfree Valley and up to Barlborough and beyond to Leeds.
The government decision to continue with HS2 follows prolonged debate over the route ( still continuing ) and its economic viability When the project was introduced some years ago (2012), the projected cost was estimated at £34 billion. This over the years has continually risen to the latest estimate of over £100 billion. Many believe that this cost will be to the detriment of improving more local lines linking towns and cities across the North of England especially the trans-Pennine routes (the Northern Power House) which already are starved of reliable, regular and comfortable trains. Perhaps some of the enormous costs of HS2 could be better spent improving the existing rail and road infrastructure and consequently, the connectivity between the towns of the Northern Powerhouse.
The dramatic reduction in travelling times north to south is debatable. Indeed, HS2 now talk at length about capacity increase as a more important feature than time. It is also debatable whether the increased connectivity between London and the North would encourage the relocation of business to the North.
It is quite conceivable that the trend would be the reverse i.e. North to South especially when commuters are already ‘at work’ on their computers on existing networks. Further concerns are expressed over the completion dates of the project – it will take 15-20 years to make any significant contribution to the Northern economy, and who knows what the economic situation will be by then, taking Brexit into account!!
Another ongoing debate is the effect that the project will have on individual lives, livelihoods, and small businesses. It may provide opportunities for growth, but could also ruin some. Do the compensation packages really replace the loss of family homes, people’s livelihoods, in some areas whole communities have to be relocated? In order to maintain the speeds necessary, the route of HS2 has to be as direct a line as possible – curves reduce the speed.
Gone are the days when lines were routed to avoid disruption and destruction of population and communities. Many believe that improvement to existing infrastructure, which bypass such problems, is preferable, even if travelling times are not significantly reduced. It also must be remembered that in countries like Spain, France and Germany, travelling distances are far greater than here and high speed trains are far more justifiable than here.
A huge area of debate has been, and will continue to be, what effect the project will have on the environment in areas adjacent to HS2 with the bulldozing of large tracts of land. At risk are at least 108 areas of irreplaceable ancient woodlands. The destruction of habitats, valuable wildlife and fauna, and the restriction to movement of wildlife. The effects on UK bio-diversity is immense. HS2 intend to establish alternative wildlife areas, but how effective will they be when most are adjacent to a 200 mph railway?
Our area lies within the phase 2b route. Amongst many other wildlife sites, this causes major concerns over the future success of the Fidler Nature Reserve at Bolsover and dozens of protected areas and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) along the route.
With current downward spirals in social deprivation, human health, mass extinction of animals, shortage of land, substandard infrastructures (to name a few), can we afford to pursue this torrent of absurd madness?