H is for HS2

By Ruby on

Roughly a 6 minute read

What would you do with a spare £3,300?

Let me be straight from the start: I do not agree with HS2.

And here’s another thing I disagree with: the idea that the ‘nimby’ [not in my back yard] residents were making a big fuss about nothing the whole time… 

And now for some honesty: I am one of those ‘nimby residents’; I am the daughter of parents who were paid off by HS2 ‘as an apology’ for screaming through their back garden, the person that watched as they ploughed through the fields at the back of that house, who was held up at traffic lights as they demolished other houses belonging to people I knew and loved and had grown up with. Houses HS2 bought off people who had lived in the village only to have them moved to a nursing home they didn’t want to be in. 

I am the person who drives past and through their carnage every day and sees the fields, the trees, the habitats obliterated. I am the one whose roads are closed off, who can’t see behind the fake bamboo plastic fences they put up to ‘hide’ more carnage, who waits in line to let bull-dozer after bull-dozer cross a tiny country road that it can’t actually fit across. 

I am the one who watched the spite and vitriol against the protestors in the trees, who got called a Nimby, who sees whole areas of lush English green dug up, deposited, and barns torn down, before being piled into lorries to be taken away. 

I am the one that thinks you should all give a fuck.

And together, we are all the ones that have paid for this. 

£3,300 of tax money per person, now what good could you do with that?

This railway is a southern project on which the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, is blowing a staggering £100m a week or £5bn a year. He is paying HS2’s boss £622,000 a year, and its executives in the region of £250,000.

Simon Jenkins, March 2023, The Guardian

We live in a world where kids are having to be given free meals outside of term, where 50 people turn up to view one damp flat, where rents are hiked, gas bills can’t be paid and the NHS is in dire need of help. Yet, here we are, with a government spending upwards of £50billion on a train to get you from London to Birmingham 30 minutes faster, only, it won’t be doing that any more because in February of this year, ministers had to plan to cut the promised speed of HS2 in an attempt to cut down the cost, as well as reducing the number of trains [running from 18 an hour to ten an hour. Why we need ten trains an hour, I don’t know, but hell, there’s more to make a fuss about]. When this “project” is finished in 2041 [note: originally meant to be 2033], the duration from London to Leeds will be shortened by only 20 minutes. It currently takes 2 hours and 13 minutes, and it’ll be 1 hour and 53 minutes… Are we all that so-very-busy?


Back in 2009, the idea - the ridiculously expensive idea - of HS2 was introduced, with billions of taxpayers’ money then put aside in 2012 when they finally approved it. Five years later, parliament overwhelmingly passed a bill giving the government special powers to build, operate and maintain ‘Phase One’ of HS2.

In 2012, when the project was first backed, the target finish dates were 2026 for Phase One [London to Birmingham] and 2033 for Phase 2 [Birmingham - Crewe and Manchester]. The cost, the estimated cost, was £16bn - that’s billion - slated to be paid for by you. If we take that cost into the current time, it’s £22bn. Except, it isn’t. 

Phase 1 alone has already cost more than double of what was expected, adding up to 50 billion pounds already to the cost. In fact, it’s cost what they estimated THE WHOLE PROJECT would cost.

And this is where I need you to take a deep breath in case you don’t know the next figure. HS2 will end up costing the government - funded by us, the taxpayer - over £106 BILLION POUNDS

Y’all should be angry about this. This is not just the concern of disgruntled country folk. 

But hey, why not try that argument too? In case the one-hundred-billion-pound plus price tag doesn’t work for you… HS2 is one of the largest deforestation programs in the UK since WW1. Its production will destroy and irreparably damage 108 ancient woodlands, 693 wildlife sites and 33 sites of Special Scientific Interest [for instance, Glyn Davies wood and the marsh tit]. 

Alongside that, HS2 will never be carbon-neutral during its lifetime, an interesting thing to note when you consider the fact our government has pledged to get to net zero in carbon emissions by 2050. It might create jobs, but it’s also displacing them: people are losing their homes, their jobs, their businesses and green sanctuaries are gone forever. Yet, the myriad NDAs HS2 are forcing third parties to sign make it pretty hard for local businesses or residents to talk; part of that £100bn is simply spent on silencing.

If you need more maths to be outraged, however, let’s go the maths route…. We have invested more into HS2 than the health of the entire population, even though it’s our money paying for it. And remember the outrage you had around looking after our NHS workers during the pandemic? Well, for the price of HS2 you could pay the wages of all the 730,000 nurses their average salary for the next five years…

On top of this, it costs £500m to build a new, mid-size hospital, so we could be building 212 hospitals across the UK. Brandon’s local hospital just got rejected for funding to rebuild even though it’s crumbing to the ground [not, for once, because HS2 diggers are doing the crumbling]. It needs £370million to rebuild for a town that’s growing rapidly year on year [13% growth in the last 10 years, where average national population growth was 5.9% over the same period]... 

Also, let’s not forget that this will only be something that - for the first 15-20 years of its being open - will serve the southern parts of the country only. There is a real need in England to connect the major cities of the north better. Currently, less than four trains per hour run between the major northern cities, a stark difference to being connected to and in the major parts of London… HS2 is doing nothing to repair the North/South divide.

Workers living in northern England can access far fewer local jobs on public transport than those living in the south…[who] can access up to seven times as many jobs by bus, train or tram.

Quote from article here


In July of this year, HS2 has been graded as ‘unachievable’ by the government’s watchdog. Having analysed plans for the construction of the first two phases of the high-speed line, from London to Birmingham and then on to Crewe, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority said the project was not, in its view, deliverable in its current form. Indeed, it was given a red rating, the rating that basically screams ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” And not only ‘what are we doing?’ but ‘what have we done?’

“Successful delivery of the project appears to be unachievable. There are major issues with project definition, schedule, budget, quality and/or benefits delivery, which at this stage do not appear to be manageable or resolvable. The project may need re-scoping and/or its overall viability reassessed.”

Major infrastructure projects are needed, we know that, but there are things to fix first: we have a decaying healthcare system, a decaying education system, let alone a decaying transport system that could easily be fixed [for £3bn a year you could invest in buses and make them free, for instance]. Instead, we seem to have placed our bets on a train that gets you 6-miles from the centre of London to Birmingham. Be outraged, be utterly outraged and get other people to be outraged too. There are no petitions to sign, and even if there was, the government or its committees won’t listen to it. To them, “spades are already in the ground” so there’s no going back now. All this despite 72% of the public think that the money could, and should, be spent elsewhere. And don’t expect any consultation either, there was one back in 2011 [lasted for five-months, huh? That’s enough time for a £106bn railway we’re paying for. We do projects longer than that with far fewer respondents!] and a couple other small ones on minor changes, but no public conversation or consultation has ever really taken place…

Thanks for reading the rant. This Nimby is out.

Photo Credit: Robin Stott - © Robin Stott and licenced for reuse under cc-by-sa/2.0 / © David Hillas and licenced for reuse under cc-by-sa/2.0 / Wikimedia Commons