Stop HS2: Email your MP Letter Template
It's time to put HS2 out of its misery once and for all. Email your MP today demanding to stop HS2!
[Constituent MP name]
(Date at time of writing)
Dear [Constituent MP name],
REF: 13 September Debate regarding HS2 (Petitions Committee)
As your constituent, I am getting in touch to share my concerns regarding the High Speed Rail infrastructure projects.
On September 13th, Parliament will debate the petition ‘Stop work on HS2 immediately and hold a new vote to repeal the legislation’, which received 155,248 signatures. This petition “asks Parliament to repeal the High Speed Rail Bills (2016 & 2019) as MPs voted based on misleading environmental, financial and timetable information provided by the Dept. of Transport and HS2 Ltd.” I would like you to attend this debate on my behalf.
The Department of Transport describes the infrastructure project as follows: “HS2 will form the backbone of the UK’s transport network, connecting eight out of ten of Britain’s largest cities. By making it easier to move between the North, Midlands and South, cutting many journeys by half, HS2 will make it easier for people to live and work where they want.”
However, in view of the latest news (BBC Report), I don’t believe the greater North-South connectivity promised will be achieved, and there are many other reasons, which I have listed below, as to why I think the HS2 project needs to be revisited and ultimately, cancelled.
I. The delivery of the northern section of HS2 (phase 2b) is deemed unachievable
In the Government response to the petition, they state that “HS2 will provide essential North-South connectivity”. However, in the 2021 report of the Infrastructure Projects Authority* Phase 2B (Crewe to Manchester and West Midlands to Leeds) received a red rating “Successful delivery of the project appears to be unachievable. There are major issues with project definition, schedule, budget, quality and/or benefits delivery, which at this stage do not appear to be manageable or resolvable” while Phase 1 received an amber/red rating “Successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas.”
This year’s report treated HS2 as three separate projects across the three phases, whereas previously HS2 was treated as one project. Last year, the Infrastructure Projects Authority rated the whole project as red.
II. Parliament was misled about the budget for HS2, and elements of the project are deemed undeliverable
Lord Berkeley recently sent a letter to the Cabinet Secretary expressing his concern that ministers have broken the ministerial code by misleading parliament about the cost and timescale of HS2. He says the costs have escalated to £142bn (in 2015 prices), compared with the original funding envelope of £55.7bn. The text of his letter can be found on the HS2 Rebellion website.
HS2 Phase 2b continues to have a ‘Red Delivery Confidence Assessment’ from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority report, meaning it cannot be delivered in time and within budget
III. Communities are not receiving compensations for their lands
In May 2021, the Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman conducted an investigation, finding that HS2 was ‘dishonest, misleading and inconsistent’, and that the organisation failed to follow its own processes when negotiating compensation claims with a complainant for their family home*. The report states: “HS2 Ltd failed to properly engage and communicate with a member of the public over the sale of their family home to make way for the line and repeatedly mismanaged the case”**. Already in 2015, the Ombudsman found that HS2 failed to engage appropriately with a community near Lichfield when consulting about the proposals for the route which now runs through their village. These are not isolated cases: communities in Buckinghamshire and in Wendover have received a similar treatment.
HS2 has significantly underestimated the cost of compensating people for property that was compulsory purchased to make way for the project, leaving many landowners without compensation months after their property was seized. Non-disclosure agreements and threats have prevented the vast majority of landowners from speaking out. This article in the Byline Times reveals how former head of property planning and performance Andrew Bruce was fired by HS2 after telling bosses of his concerns: ‘I was fired and the true cost was concealed until after Royal Assent was granted… I believe I was fired deliberately to suppress and hide the true cost of land and property.’
IV. Climate solutions need to happen now
In light of the latest release of the IPCC report, we need to invest in climate solutions that will benefit people now, not long term infrastructure projects. The report makes clear that we have four years in which to begin a downturn in emissions. The government has committed to being carbon neutral by 2050, which is already too late. But HS2 will not even be completed until the 2040s (at the earliest).
HS2 will not reduce carbon emissions – its construction requires vast quantities of concrete and steel, millions of lorry journeys, deforestation, de-vegging, tunnelling, and earth moving. Using HS2’s own figures*, after 120 years, the operation and construction of HS2 is predicted to have created more carbon emissions than benefits. As the IPCC report makes clearly, we do not have 120 years. The UK Parliament has declared a “climate emergency.” Now it is time to act on it.
“Every decision, every investment, every target, needs to have the climate at its core.”(The Guardian, 09.08.2021)
- * HS2 Phase 2A Information Paper – E27 Carbon
- The Guardian, 9 August 2021: IPCC report’s verdict on climate crimes of humanity: guilty as hell
- Institute of Economic Affairs, February 2020: HS2 won’t help the government meet its climate change goals
- Tweet from Greta Thunberg
V. Failure to deliver on connectivity for the Midlands
In its response to the petition the Government says “HS2 will provide essential North-South connectivity, greater capacity and shorter journey times”, reflecting HS2 network maps which signpost greater connectivity between towns in the North-West and Midlands.
However, the online “HS2 Journey Planner” reveals that HS2 trains to and from Liverpool, Runcorn, Warrington, Crewe, Macclesfield, Stoke and Stafford will not stop at either of the Birmingham HS2 stations. [The Journey Planner is based on an assumed service pattern for the full HS2 network as set out in the 2020 full business case]. Estimates of time saved to London from the aforementioned towns rely on there being no stop at Birmingham stations. It is a gross misrepresentation to flag Birmingham as an HS2 hub for the Midlands.
Phase 2b connects it only with London and Greater Manchester, doing so by way of an out of town Interchange and at Curzon Street which has no rail connection with New Street or Moor Street stations. The passenger experience will be similar to that of Eurostar customers transferring on foot from Euston to St Pancras, and an incentive to opt out of HS2 services. Likewise, Phase 2b trains to Manchester and Wigan will barrel through a tunnel under Crewe and will not stop there, leaving Crewe with no HS2 connection to Manchester and no HS2 connection to Birmingham. This is not the transformation boasted by HS2’s website.
VI. HS2 is depleting investment for other needed transport infrastructure
In every UK nation and region, railways suffer from massive under-investment. It shouldn’t have to be a choice between HS2, or no investment in transport infrastructure, but a question of strategically purposeful investment across the network. The money currently tied with HS2 could be spent electrifying the current rail network, re-opening lines or the creation of more track sections.
There are various concrete and sensible alternatives outlined by researchers (NEF), professional railway engineers (HSUK) or campaigners (Friends Of the Earth). The New Economics Foundation “estimates that a package of £55.2 billion spent over the next 10 years , including £18.9 billion for the north of England, would help commuters, speed up long distance journeys, cut carbon emissions and bring benefits to many regions that won’t be served by HS2”*. High Speed UK’s alternative proposal relies on blending of new high speed lines, upgraded existing routes and restored abandoned routes**. These alternatives would improve journeys in all regions and nations and ease overcrowding, especially in the north of England.
VII. Research shows that HS2 will intensify the North-South divide
Analysis from the New Economics Foundation shows that HS2 will exacerbate, and not redress, the UK’s stark economic imbalances. In order to support the economic regeneration of the North, HS2 would need to be part of a wider surface transport strategy, instead of being a standalone project. “While rail infrastructure does not in itself pattern economic development, it is an enabler. Unless a strategy to shift transport investment away from the south-east is accompanied by a concerted economic plan to rebalance the economy, one will simply reinforce the other; HS2 will end up a self fulfilling prophecy, mainlining more and more passengers directly into the capital’s centre.” (p.6, NEF report*)
Additionally, it will most likely benefit wealthy passengers. A comparison with France’s high speed rail shows that, just as for rail travel in the UK, the majority of long-distance high-speed rail journeys are taken by those who earn the most. People in the top 10% of incomes made 28% of all high-speed rail journeys of 80+ km in France in 2008, with the richest 10% taking nine times as many trips as the poorest 10% (NEF Press release).
Finally, the analysis also calls for data on passenger flows across the UK network and the rail handbook used to forecast future trends to be released publicly. Both are currently owned privately due to the way the UK franchises the operation of the railways to private companies, with only average snapshots being released publicly by the Department for Transport.
*New Economics Foundation: A rail network for everyone: Probing HS2 and its alternatives, March 2019
* Article by Paul Salveson, Which way for railway
VIII. HS2 Ltd has repeatedly breached wildlife licenses of protected species
Since April 2020, Natural England announced it has handed HS2 Ltd. nine warnings for breaching wildlife licences. These breaches concerned the handling of bats and newts, some of which are listed as Britain’s most strictly protected species. Licences have been sought by HS2 and proffered by Natural England on a basis of reducing HS2’s costs rather than protecting wildlife. There is ample evidence* of further misdemeanours, felling 200/300 years old oaks, even rows of oaks, “by mistake” or without any legal right to do so. Commitments to mitigation are being ignored and increasingly, it is becoming clear that Environmental Minimum Requirements are being breached, while commitments to public consultation are clearly being breached along the route.
* Freedom of Information Request, Tree felling on temporarily held land, Nov. 2020
- The Telegraph, 31 July 2021: HS2 broke wildlife rules nine times over handling of bats and newts
- The Woodland Trust Press Release, 16 November 2020: Concerns around illegal felling of ancient woodland
- ENDS Report (behind a paywall): Natural England investigates HS2 Wildlife Crimes
- Guest blog – HS2, Natural England and Jones Hill Wood, by Dominic Woodfield
IX: Tunnelling under the Chilterns threatens the water supply for 3 million Londoners
Earlier this year, HS2 was ordered to publish their risk assessments regarding tunnelling through the Chilterns’ chalk aquifer, which supplies water to 3 million Londoners. Tunnelling threatens the structure of the chalk aquifer and there is a risk that grout from the tunnel building process could contaminate the water and reduce supply. Six public water sources, including Blackford and Northmoor in Hillingdon and West Hyde, Amersham, Chalfont St Giles and Little Missenden in Buckinghamshire, may need additional treatment works and some may need to close during construction.
X. Joint venture Skanska-Costain-Strabag is hindering legitimate trade union access
Unite construction members have been denied meaningful access to the working site on Euston Square. At the Euston site, Unite has already discovered workers being denied their full holiday entitlement, being paid through a payroll company in order to deny them employment rights and not being paid overtime rates.
I hope I can count on your support as my local MP and that you will attend the debate on 13th September to put my points forward for consideration.
This debate is a moment to reflect on the true cost of the UK’s biggest infrastructure project, and ask who really is benefiting from it.
I would appreciate it if you could keep me updated on the outcome of this debate. Thank you in advance.
(Your name here)