The pros and cons of HS2
High Speed 2 (HS2) is a railway line set to link the south of England with the north. It’s an ambitious and controversial plan with plenty of pros and cons.
HS2 is set to create plenty of jobs, not just for those in London, but in all areas it will pass through. It’s thought jobs will become available during the engineering process of the north-south railway and in the aftermath too in a range of industries.
The government was keen to ensure that construction contracts would be handed to British firms. Leading the Birmingham regeneration is the Birmingham Curzon Urban Regeneration Company. Their work will lead to 14,000 jobs and the creation of new offices. It’s believed this will contribute £1.3 billion to the economy.
The construction headquarters of HS2 will also be located in Birmingham; this alone is set to create a further 1,500 jobs. Regeneration just outside of Birmingham Curzon Street station will lead to jobs for designers for the construction of shops and offices as well as jobs after. This is in part due to the boom of retail space that will be created around the railway stops.
New stations are also to be built which will also create further employment. The post-construction of HS2 is set to create 100,000 jobs.
Employment opportunities during the build will include professional roles as well as apprenticeships. The sectors most likely to benefit from this will be construction and engineering.
The aim of HS2 is to connect business and jobs; it seems this is likely. HS2 Ltd chairman Sir David Higgins stated: ‘’Improving connectivity is vital if Britain is to compete in the knowledge economy in which this country has a competitive advantage.’’
In 2013, the government claimed that HS2 was required to secure the UK’s future prosperity. The government pledged that for every £1 spent on the railway, £2 will be provided as a benefit from it before the line is complete.
What the critics say
However, critics of HS2 exclaim that people will have to be re-located, property demolished and green-belt land destroyed – including protected land and property. However, HS2 Ltd claims that it has updated the line so less residents are affected.
Environmentalist campaigners such as Friends of the Earth director Craig Bennet aired his sentiments that the money spent on HS2 could be put towards better use as "big infrastructure rarely delivers on its promises.’’
As with many projects, the cost of HS2 is spiralling and the truth is, nobody knows what the final cost will be. The Department of Transport has a budget of £42.6 billion, however, a government report has said this figure has already increased by £10 billion.
Many would agree these are small prices to pay for the years of economic and development benefit HS2 could bring. A spokesperson for the Department of Transport commented HS2 is a national interest and that it’s not "possible to build a railway without any effect on the environment".
Overall, a larger railway is the most environmentally friendly option. The only other options would be increasing air or road travel.
The Northern Powerhouse
Another ambitious aim of the railway is to bridge the economic gap between the north and south of England. HS2 is set to also include Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, and the East Midlands. The idea is that this could be a part of the Northern Powerhouse.
The Northern Powerhouse is a scheme to give Northern English cities an economic boost. Currently the British economy is focused around London and the South East and the government wishes to change this. Transport improvements are planned to form a big part of this boost, hence HS2.
In fact a further boost to the northern economy is that now investors could view Northern England as an attractive business location too, rather than simply focusing on London and other parts of the South.
If all goes to plan it looks like many parts of the country are set to see a hopeful and more prosperous future.