What the UK government says High speed rail will change the social and economic geography of Britain; create jobs and improve competitiveness. Linking England's main cities by HSR could help break down the north-south divide and regenerate the north. HS2 (London to Birmingham) will create 40,000 jobs. Other political parties and the trade unions also support HS2
What does Stop HS2 say? These claims project benefits over long periods (up to 60 years), well beyond any reputable economic forecasting horizon. Research (for government) shows economic growth created by HS2 would be ‘very small indeed’. Most so-called ‘new’ jobs will be transfers from other places Even using official figures, each job ‘created’ would cost £400,000+
And..... What HSR will do is to redistribute economic activity between places. The larger the local economy the more it will benefit. So-called ‘agglomeration benefits’ flow primarily to the most economically powerful existing agglomerations. Thus the main beneficiary from HS2 and the wider proposed HSR network is likely to be London. If other major cities benefit, this will be at the expense of regions, towns and rural areas not served by stations on the proposed route
HSR = neoliberalism HSR would indeed “change the social and economic geography of Britain”. It would integrate big cities (the 1%) into the European neoliberal space-economy At the expense of everywhere else (the 99%).
If HSR is a useless neoliberal megaproject, what is the alternative (1)? Improve the existing rail network Much cheaper Much quicker Improves the whole national network Minimal environmental damage
If HSR is a useless neoliberal megaproject, what is the alternative(2)? ‘If we really want to create jobs in local economies rather than drain them away along a very fast railway line we could: insulate 20m homes make every house a mini-power station to generate and export its own electricity sort out extremely poor quality commuter railway lines around all our cities build 10,000 km of segregated bike paths to connect every school, hospital, employment site and public building to every residential area. These projects would deliver real jobs on a large scale in every city region and local authority area but do not have the sexiness of high speed railway lines.’ Professor John Whitelegg
International comparisons The UK government claims that European experience shows that HSR will create jobs and regenerate lagging regions – eg in Lille Stop HS2 says research shows that: * Lille has not grown as much as the French average * Other government funding more important than HSR * While towns surrounding Lille have declined
Issues for discussion What is the experience elsewhere in Europe about HSR, jobs, and regional regeneration? What arguments have been successful in persuading trade unions to oppose HSR? How can we persuade people that there are better alternatives to neoliberalism and HSR?