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Matthew Sinclair: HS2's critics are multiplying

Matthew Sinclair 2 Matthew Sinclair is Director of the TaxPayers' Alliance.

Just over a week ago, I tried to produce a list of those who have recently attacked the Government's proposals for a new high speed rail line.  Even then the range of their opponents was striking:

"Campaign groups including the TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA); the RAC Foundation; the Countryside Alliance; and Friends of the Earth. Commentators including Simon Heffer; Peter Oborne; Christian Wolmar; Simon Jenkins; and the leader writers at the Financial Times. The Green Party "overwhelmingly" voted to campaign against the scheme, on the grounds that it won't cut emissions and has a business case premised on being a "rich person's railway" (both those claims are accurate)."

I'm sure that list was far from complete.  It didn't count the dedicated campaigns like the HS2 Action Alliance, for example.  But in a new letter to the Daily Telegraph we've helped to organise many more critics make themselves known.  Signatories include Simon Wolfson, who co-chaired the Conservative Party's Economic Competitiveness policy review, and the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson, along with a number of other prominent business leaders and economic commentators.  Many others will be familiar names to readers of this site.

They are "extremely concerned at the Government's plans to spend over £30 billion on a new high speed rail line"; argue that it "isn't what the economy needs"; and believe that there are better ways of boosting economic growth than "getting each family to pay over £1,000 for a vanity project that we cannot afford".

While it sometimes seems like the Government's mind is made up about this project, they are supposed to have just launched a consultation.  There is no reason that can't be an opportunity for a rethink.  With the range of groups and individuals opposing the scheme, they really need to consider taking another look at more affordable ways of getting the capacity the rail network needs.  Or are they only prepared to consider changing the direction of policy when it means spending more money?  They'll have a hard time achieving their admirable fiscal goals if that is the case.


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