Parliamentary Debate on HS2

by Jeremy on 21-Oct-2011

In a debate on HS2 which took place in the House of Commons on Thursday 13 October, Tony Baldry, Conservative MP for North Oxfordshire, gave an excellent address which raised a number of important questions which should be considered before any further decisions could be taken on the HS2 project. His full address can be read here. VoxOpp had previously written to Tony Baldry to suggest two key questions which its members believed should be included in the debate – essentially asking, why is speed taking priority over capacity and why is speed taking priority over sustainability, click here for further details.  The debate was well attended by MPs, a good number of whom were opposed to HS2 while others supported the plan.

A brief and very short summary consisting of VoxOpp’s principal observations on the debate is included below. It should be recognised that well over 22,000 words were spoken in the debate and that therefore this summary can only provide a general flavour. A transcript of the full debate can be seen here.

 Briefly our observations were that:

  1. Many of the MPs who spoke in full support of HS2:
    1. Tended to use only the claims made by the DfT as if they were unquestionable facts and did not appear to have questioned the validity of any of the DfT claims;
    2. Appeared, in many instances, not to differentiate between or be aware of the difference between “HS2” and “high speed rail”;
    3. Appeared to have assumed that opposition to HS2 implied opposition to improving transport infrastructure, to railways, to high speed rail, etc.
  2. Whereas many of the MPs who spoke against HS2:
    1. Made it quite clear that they were opposing HS2 (i.e. not opposing development of transport infrastructure; high speed rail; improved connectivity; etc.)
    2. Raised questions related to claims already made for HS2 and raised some issues which, in any good business, would be investigated thoroughly before any decision was taken on whether to proceed with more detailed planning.
  3. Points which were raised but which received no acknowledgement during the debate from MPs who were using solely the DfT arguments as their evidence to support HS2, included:
    1. Sustainability, for example the fact that the HS2 super high speed trains would use twice the power of the existing Pendelinos (which by European definition are high speed trains), with all the implied concomitant effects;
    2. Lack of flexibility of the HS2 plan, producing a dedicated but inflexible railway and the associated risks of doing this.
  4. Important issued which were not specifically raised included:
    1. The lack of any real comparison of effectiveness of classic rail systems or HSR generally against super high speed;
    2. The lack of any credible supporting evidence that super high speed is essential.

Previous post:

Next post: