End HS2 – the Countryside Vandal


HS2 Ltd continues to cause outrage and disbelief in my part of the countryside with ‘enabling works’ and ‘de-vegetation’. Somehow contractors are allowed to continue the project’s environmental vandalism, even though the whole caper is currently officially on hold.

It’s a monumental waste of money and it’s an answer to a question that no-one’s asking. When I travel to London for work I don’t sit there thinking ‘I wish this train was 2% faster’, I sit there thinking ‘I want the wifi to be better’; and, ‘why is this seat damp?’

For the money we are spending, we could pick up Birmingham and move it 20 minutes closer to London. Or of course, we could dump the whole disastrous project and save the £90bn or so that we haven’t spent yet. And we could save our ancient woodlands, our meadows and our countryside.

It’s just such an irony that here we are, 50 years after the lunar landing – the very pinnacle of human progress in transportation, where we literally sent a rocket to the moon, for what in today’s money would be £20B. Here we are, spending five times that on what is essentially an upgrade to Stephenson’s Rocket – a train built specifically to get somewhere a bit quicker. 190 years ago.

HS2 is a nature-destroying, cash-burning monument to a bygone age of transport. An uncomfortable reminder that Stephenson’s Rocket – built nearly two centuries ago was the product of an era of innovation and optimism. When Britain looked forward and beyond.

Close the where HS2 carves through the countryside here in Bucks, the UK space agency has its rocket propulsion test facility. Reaction Engines, a private firm also based on the site. Reaction recently revealed that their SABRE rocket engine technology will allow hyper-sonic space planes to reach Sydney in as little as four hours as soon as the 2030s.

Which means that in just over a decades’ time we’ll be given a choice. Trudge down to London, faff around on the underground, hop on a delayed train and drink a lousy cup of coffee and eventually arrive in rainy Brum. Or, spend a not totally dissimilar amount of time travelling through space to the sun-drenched other side of the world.

I have no inside knowledge on the plans for the costs of fares for both trips but given how rail prices are rising I assume they will be comparable.

So there it is folks. The choice between the past and the future. The innovation and the ambition and the vision of the UK’s private space sector, versus the old fashioned, top down, state-run, bureaucratic blob of an infrastructure project that is HS2.

I know which side I’m on. Let’s stop HS2, save our countryside and champion our future technologies.

Ben Everitt represents Great Brickhill and Newton Longville ward on Aylesbury Vale District Council. He works in London and Milton Keynes doing “strategy stuff” in the finance sector. Ben’s Twitter handle is @Ben_Everitt