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Will HS2 become an election issue?

6 March 2014

In an interview with The Spectator this week, the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin admits that HS2 will not have been approved by parliament before the next election. This invites the question, will HS2 become an election issue?

Both Ed Balls and Andy Burnham have made forays against HS2 in recent months. But both have been slapped down by Ed Miliband’s office. His allies believe that Labour can’t run on a platform of rebuilding Britain while simultaneously promising to put a stop to the biggest infrastructure project in decades.

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But one wonders if this Labour position will hold. The Tory election campaign will claim repeatedly that Labour’s sums don’t add up, they’ll constantly accuse Labour of planning to raise taxes or borrowing. Stopping HS2 would give Labour more than £10 billion pounds to play with. Set against this is that Labour council leaders in the Midlands and the North would undoubtedly condemn the decision. But these places aren’t likely to vote anything other than Labour at the next election. There’s also the fact that pledging to stop HS2 might help Labour in marginal seats along the route such as Corby.

I suspect that Miliband’s personal commitment to HS2 means that Labour will continue to support it. But there’s no doubt that the Labour leadership would find it easier to make its tax and spending plans add up without this project. ​

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  • david trant

    Corby a marginal it might have been once, I suggest its pretty safe Labour now.
    Strange how the taxpayer is now paying four times more for the Rail industry now than it was before privatisation.

  • Iamreplete

    Why on earth should stopping HS2 give Labour more than 10 billion pounds to play with. Why on earth should it be not extracted from the taxpayer, in other words, an equivalent value tax break for everybody?

  • Rockin Ron

    We will all be using helipads by the time HS2 becomes viable.

    • Fergus Pickering

      No we won’t. We will never be using helipads. I use HS1 and it’s terrific.

  • James Allen

    Should be an issue. Part of the decline and imminent fall of Britain. How many years will we be paying the Chief Exec’s salary, even if the project never goes ahead?????

  • Makroon

    Any of the stunt-loving, opportunistic parties could suddenly decide against HS2. I guess that includes just about all of them, except the Nats. But only because HS2 is not yet projected to extend to Glasgow. Labour- king of the stunts, would be favourite, but do UKIP have a “position” on HS2 ?

  • In2minds

    You cannot push something like HS2 onto the unwilling voter/taxpayer with getting a reaction.

  • Frank

    Why does Miliband have a “personal commitment” to HS2?
    I would have thought that HS2 is already factored into how many Tories are going to vote, in the sense that they will vote for anything other than Tory at the next GE. If UKIP put up good candidates along the proposed route, they might do very well indeed. It would be marvellous if Witney booted DC!

  • saffrin

    Immigration and the EU will be the two main issues come 2015 and seeing as the European Union have proved to be nothing short of being run by a bunch of warmongering expansionists of late, I can’t see any of those LibLabCon parties coming even close.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    As a long time Brit resident of Japan, I write to advise UK Luddites that the HS rail network in Japan allows convenient travel throughout the country, largely eliminating air travel, also reducing road congestion. The trains are frequent, clean and punctual, smooth enough to do writing work. You can arrive at the station five minutes before the train departs, buy the ticket and still make it. But is you miss that train it’s no big deal. Of course in UK, it would only take one clown to let off a stink bomb, and airport-type security would be introduced.
    Ticket cost is a different issue, but in UK you are already paying through the nose for an inferior service. The cost of the line, stations and other infrastructure is an investment that has to be made before any return can be expected. Once you have the first leg in place, other sections will follow.
    Those negative to a high speed rail network owe it to themselves to experience HS rail travel in order to get a handle on just what they are so vociferously opposing.
    Jack, Japan Alps

    • Frank

      Dude, the economic situation in Japan is rather different to that pertaining in England. Secondly, they may be more adept at getting large projects built on time and on budget. Prior experience of watching both of these aspects unravel on large projects here, suggests that this will be the cluster-f..k of the century.

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        In Japan, they tend to believe that the convenience of the majority over ride the rights of the few. Not sure I entirely go along with this, but at least narrow vested interests aren’t constantly running interference.
        Jack, Japan Alps

  • swatnan

    H2S stinks.

  • Chris lancashire

    I would be unsurprised if Labour suddenly discovered that there were “better uses” for the HS2 money (as if it were there in the first place) about 2 months before the GE.

    • starfish

      The problem is that money does not exist – it will have to be borrowed
      I thought we were driving debt down?

      • CharlietheChump

        The debt is not reducing, it continues to rise and stands over £1trillion. All HS2 funds will have to be borrowed and the project will never pay it back.

  • Mark McIntyre

    NO2 HS2 – the only issue !

    • HookesLaw

      Beep Britain in the Dark Ages.

      • Alexsandr

        no. the government should do the homework and see where the best value can be got from the network. There may be better and cheaper ways of improving the railways than HS2.
        maybe building a high speed line from Liverpool through Manchester, Bradford and Leeds to Newcastle may be better, and do more to create growth in the North

        • telemachus

          Or sucking more activity out of the North to London as travel times contract and companies rationalise and close their Northern offices

      • global city

        It is as futuristic as trad jazz and Stingray!

      • saffrin

        1) We don’t have the money.
        2) It wouldn’t be owned by those that paid for it even if we did.
        3) If private industry want it, let them pay for it. Lock, stock and barrel as the European Union, being anti anything nationalised, would insist HS2 were owned by private industry anyway.

        • David Lindsay.

          I totally agree with this which is in line with Ed Balls views.
          Jack Straw drew attention to the overcrowding on the transpennine route aggravated by the transfer of resources to Chiltern.
          Up here in Newcastle access is restricted by similar overcrowding on Cross Country services.
          It would make much more economic sense to invest in our Northern rail services.

          • saffrin

            It would make more sense to renationalise the rail network. If the taxpayer is expected to pay for it, the taxpayer should own it.

            • David Lindsay.

              I could not agree more

            • Fergus Pickering

              Oh yeah. I remember how terrifuc the nationalised railway was. Filthy, late and strike prone. Let’s have that back again.

  • dalai guevara

    Political penny-pinching of the most despicable sort.
    Why not suggest HS2 was completely different from Crossrail?
    The latter is needed in a centralist outlook, the former is not.

    • LB

      SImple. Put the cost and the interest on ticket prices.

      Let the people who directly benefit pay the cost.

      Quite why they would pay 500 a day is beyond me.

      • dalai guevara

        Go on, do just that for Crossrail. Don’t be shy, be bold.

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