In response to the TaxPayers’ Alliance Great British Transport Competition, which has called for HS2 to be scrapped and the money reallocated to other transport infrastructure projects, Henri Murison of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership asked: “Why should hard-pressed taxpayers in the North be forced to make a choice between them after decades of under-investment here?”
It’s a powerful point to make. The North has suffered from a lack of investment in its railways over the past few decades.
However, Mr Murison is slightly missing the point. On the surface, he’s dead right about hard-pressed taxpayers in the North being forced to choose between HS2 and more investment in railway infrastructure. But Mr Murison answers his own question: it is precisely because of how hard-pressed taxpayers now are that you simply cannot have both. Both options would involve spending vast sums of taxpayers’ money at a time when the tax burden in the UK is already at a 49-year high.
He also accuses our project as being written by “Westminster bubble types”. But all of the entries looking at how the £50 billion could be more effectively spent were submitted by organisations and members of the public from all over the country. They were submitted as plans that would make a real difference to the lives of ordinary people. We didn’t write any of them, but we stand by the members of the public who did. Good ideas don’t belong exclusively to big bodies like the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.
A real issue – as anybody who was raised in Huddersfield, like me, can testify to – is getting between the different towns and cities of Yorkshire. The level of service that people in Yorkshire and other regions have to contend with is truly shocking. Services are frequently delayed or cancelled and, when they finally arrive, struggle to accommodate the number of passengers. It will most likely be a Pacer, an old British Leyland bus mounted onto train frames. They are old, slow, uncomfortable, and liable to break down. Britain is the only country in the world still using them– the Iranians got rid of theirs in 2005. HS2 does absolutely nothing to help with that.
This lack of investment in our railways is holding Yorkshire back. It lowers productivity and so means that the economy and living standards take a hit. The people of Yorkshire deserve better than HS2.