The news that the £50 billion pound HS2 rail link will not be extended to Scotland, as the team behind the project has found there is “no business case” for the undertaking, does not surprise me. For sometime HS2 has been focused on reducing journey times from London to Birmingham to 49 minutes, before it splits into lines to Manchester and Leeds over two phases.
However, it was always hinted that HS2 would still ultimately reach Scotland, so commuters could travel from Glasgow and Edinburgh to London in three hours, against about four-and-a-half hours today. Back in 2009, when the then New Labour Transport secretary Lord Adonis launched, he claimed it would be “the union railway, uniting England and Scotland, north and south, richer and poorer parts of our country, sharing wealth and opportunity”.
Clearly these dreams and aspirations are no more. The announcement by the team behind the project means that HS2 will now not be extended to Scotland is of some importance, as it leaves leaves England as the only part of the UK set to benefit from the multi-billion pound development.
Any claim of a business case for HS2 that would benefit Wales have long been demolished by official KPMG figures which showed that the project would wipe millions from the Welsh economy each year. As HS2 is to be an England-only project then Welsh taxpayers should not be forced to foot the bill for a development set to be built entirely in England and to the detriment of the Welsh economy.
Plaid Cymru has led the campaign for Wales to receive a faire share of funding from HS2. Estimates show that this would bring in a vital £2-4bn that could be spent on revolutionising Welsh roads and railways, which are crying out for investment. HS2 must not be allowed to entrench inequality throughout the UK by concentrating investment on projects to benefit London and the South East while Scotland and Wales are ignored.