HS2 and building a sustainable rail network

Date: 07.09.21 | in: Transport

I believe that the primary focus for our public policy in all areas, not least transport, should be routed in the protection of our environment. Our transport network must be sustainable and contribute to a net-zero strategic plan.

For me, this means moving away from aviation and towards an affordable, connected and international rail network.  This means that rather than focusing on HS2 as a stand-alone project, we must evaluate whether or not it fits into a path towards greater capacity, greater affordability, appealing journey times and a pan European network.

I want to see a high-speed network that crosses the channel, allowing for affordable European travel, not by air but by train. I want to see an abundance of sleeper trains that allow you to go to bed in Leeds and wake up in Nice. This is not just because it is important to travel but because we must have an appealing and affordable incentive for those who are likely to travel but likely to fly.

At the same time, I believe the most important step for our region is a high-speed rail network that interconnects our major northern cities. The Leeds to Manchester route is constantly over capacity, far too expensive and too slow. This is not only frustrating for commuters but costs us dearly economically and environmentally as people take to the M62 in their private cars. I believe that Northern Powerhouse Rail in the north must be the top priority.

We must also look to our local routes. Leeds has a lot going for it and is becoming a hub for jobs (the channel 4 move is hugely significant), talent across many sectors such as tech and the creative industries and culture. Juxtapose this with the lack of rapid transit, the 1980s Pacer trains that continue to run on our local lines and our unregulated bus ‘service’ all of which is contributing to a city dominated by the private car. We need huge public investment into this problem in order to reach our full potential as a city.

All this being said, it is also true that we do not have enough North/South capacity. This is something that needs to be addressed and at the very least HS2 seeks to do that. The Government should assess whether there is a project that could deliver this capacity, open a wider high-speed network to Europe at less cost to the taxpayer as a priority. I am looking forward to seeing other technologies come forward that we can compare pound for pound with HS2.
This analysis must include a carbon analysis. Currently, HS2 plan to ensure that by 2041 co2 emissions will be 2.9g/km per passenger. This compares to current inter-city trains at 22g/km and cars at 67g/km.

I am however, concerned at the scale of tree loss, in particular in ancient woodlands. The Government’s plan to plant four million replacement trees is unrealistic.

One immediate way we can bring the cost of rail down is to renationalise our railways, insuring that all of the money that goes into rail is reinvested into the quality of our network and service and away from private profit.

All details are correct at date of publication shown at the top of the article

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