Given that the High Speed Rail project is waiting for the Government to press ahead and, hopefully, now fast-track this vital project (the Secretary of State’s words from earlier) – where did HS2 fit in at the 3 party conferences?
Well, all three parties reaffirmed their full support and commitment for this project. MPs and activists from across the Midlands, the North and and Scotland gave full support and pressed hard for HS2 to be built sooner. Of course, the activists against the project who live along the line of the route (and that becomes clearer and clearer) continued to bring their white elephant and t shorts to proceedings but the impression is clear now that this project is in the ‘time to get started’ phase rather than the ‘is it going to happen’ phase.
There is now real anger, evidenced by the Connecting Britain fringe I spoke at yesterday at Tory Party Conference when 1 sole audience member harangued us on the panel that it was too expensive, the fulsome response was that these figures are being invested in London and noone complains – it is time for the rest of us in this country get some proper investment in transformational infrastructure. It is totally affordable, the money is currently being spent on Crossrail and that funding stream of approx £2,5bn per annum will then go into building HS2.
The Labour Party is perhaps even more committed to HS2 than the Tories and getting it to Manchester and Leeds as quickly as possible – and then on to Scotland. In Scotland a lot of work has already been done on connecting Edinburgh and Glasgow as soon as possible to ensure we do build a truly national high speed rail network – again, there is cross party consensus on this.
To my mind, we should not be frustrated with those who live on the line of route fighting the plans; it would be nice of they were held to the same factual standards that we are, but that is a sideshow – their focus should be on effective mitigation and compensation rather than the insults, stalking, bullying and harrassment that they have carried out for the last 3 years.
This project will be worth all the grief though. Phase 1 brings huge capacity relief and the commencement of major connectivity benefits along the west coast mainline; phase 2 then brings huge support to the midland and east coast mainlines; phase 3 must get to Edinburgh and Glasgow as soon as possible.
All in all a satisfying party conference season because the message has been reinforced once more that all three political parties want to see HS2 built as quickly as possible – well go on then, get on with it!!!