HSR consultation launch01 Mar 2011

HSR consultation - let the debate begin

Commenting on the launch of the Government’s consultation on a new high speed rail link between London and Birmingham, and beyond, Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation said:

“The consultation must be just that; a proper assessment of our transport problems and the supposed solutions High Speed Rail offers, as opposed to a slick-sales job which leaves the public only hearing half the story.

“Not unfairly has high speed rail been called ‘opera on wheels’ – a middle-class benefit, heavily subsidized by all taxpayers. In times of plenty this might be a sustainable position, but not in this era of austerity.

“Ministers have already tried to sell high speed rail as a great green project and an economic wonder. Recognising the flaws in both these arguments the Government now wants us to believe it is about eradicating the north-south divide, yet where is the evidence to say a super-fast link to Birmingham won’t simply make our second-city a dormitory town for London?

“Whatever the merits of high speed rail, it will help only a fraction of the nation’s travelling public. 92% of all passenger miles take place on the roads and that will barely change even if a net £17 billion is spent getting people to and from the Midlands slightly quicker. We need a broad transport vision from ministers, not blind faith in a proposal with insufficient evidence to back it up.”