HS2 isn't a North versus South issue, Northerners don't want it

June 27, 2011 10:48 AM

Last week we released a new opinion poll and one of the results was that there is strong support for cancelling funding for the Government's high speed rail plans. 48% supported cutting HS2 against 34% opposed.

It isn't just the headline figures that are interesting though. YouGov asked 2,732 British adults for the poll so we can be pretty confident about the regional breakdown too. They show that the region which most strongly backs scrapping HS2 is Scotland (59%) followed by the Midlands and Wales (56%). The South (49%) and the North (43%) of England are also opposed with only London backing HS2 (by 41% to 37%).

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The map above shows the results. They just make a complete mockery of the ugly adverts being launched by the proponents of the new line last week trying to pitch families in cities like Manchester against caricatured Southerners wearing bowler hats and preoccupied with the idea of the new line messing up their garden. That's a bit hard to square with Scotland being the area most willing to scrap the new line, or the Midlands and Wales being the next most opposed.

Scotland is presumably opposed for the same reason people should be in places like Hull. They will pay for this incredibly expensive upgrade to what is already the fastest line in the country and it will do nothing for them. That is true across the country as a fortunate minority of passengers will do well at everyone from struggling families paying for it through their taxes to commuters who get a worse service or delays in vital upgrades to reduce overcrowding.

The Midlands and Wales are also strongly opposed despite the Government focusing particularly hard on lobbying in the region and promoting HS2 as a way of revitalising their stricken economies. People clearly aren't persuaded and quite rightly so as there are much better ways of helping business in the regions - by addressing issues from high taxes and burdensome regulations on manufacturing industry to investment to directly address congestion on the roads - instead of just speeding up the journey to London. It it particularly telling that the Midlands and Wales is the area where the the fewest people "don't know" what they think (16%). In London that figure is much higher (22%) which might explain why it is more supportive of the scheme. It sounds like a nice idea to have faster journeys and new railway lines, no one objects to that in itself, but as people hear about the massive cost and dubious benefits of the scheme they turn against HS2.

As the debate is far from over and groups like the TPA are going to keep getting the message out there about the problems with this white elephant, there is every reason to expect opposition will grow and grow. The Government should abandon HS2 now rather than keeping this expensive millstone around their neck.

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