We all have concerns about this project, and I share many of them, especially its environmental impact.
I agree that HS2 should be properly scrutinised for its impact on local communities and the environment, particularly ancient and modern woodlands. I want to see the Government engaging with campaigners, stakeholders, and the all the communities impacted by HS2.
A report by the Wildlife Trust warned that 108 ancient woodlands are threatened with loss or damage and highlighted that 33 Sites of ‘Special Scientific Interest’ are at risk. It organised an open letter to the Prime Minister, calling for the impact on the natural environment to be properly assessed, and I fully support this.
As a general principle, I support the building of further rail infrastructure as an alternative to road building, which is far more destructive, and to air travel which is clearly bad for the environment. I remain a strong advocate of the principle of the railway system and what it can achieve. They are efficient and more environmentally sustainable than road traffic and air travel. The construction of railways has much less environmental impact than construction of roads.
The 2019 Labour manifesto promoted the use of rail freight to reduce carbon emissions, air pollutants and congestion on the roads, as well as to expand the provision of publicly owned rail freight services.
I fear that the environmental impact of motorways is much greater than railways – they require far more land, and their increased vehicular traffic will generate far more carbon, so in comparison railways can be said to mitigate the environmental and climate damage.
Our railways should be publicly owned and publicly run, to improve the service and to cut fares by 33%. If HS2 is affordable only by the well-off then this is something I cannot agree to. Too many people are simply priced off the railways; the average commuter is now paying £3,067 for their season ticket, £873 more than when the Conservatives came into office in 2010.
There was a parliamentary debate on 13th September which will be recorded in Hansard on the parliamentary website.
There is an increasing number of voices challenging HS2, especially in the way it is being run, and the enormous rise in its cost.
I will continue to be attentive to these.