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heard a lot about the project.

got its work cut out for it, despite its insti- tutional advantages in terms of having ma- jority political, business and rail industry support.

Barry Brotherton, a councillor in Traf- ford, was one of those who went along to the pro-HS2 rally in Manchester. He told RTM: “High-speed rail will be a huge ben- efit.

“But I don’t think many people amongst the general public are really engaged with it yet – it’s too far over the horizon. People think it’s a good idea, but people are hardly talking about it in the pubs just yet. But if you actually ask them, they do support it – particularly in the business community of course.”

Mike Gibson, representing the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, had a similar view, telling RTM: “This campaign is all about getting people more involved in this debate. People need to become more aware of the implications.

“The benefits of HS2 are many – first of all providing more capacity on the West Coast Main Line. Secondly, getting freight off roads and onto rail. Most importantly, it will boost the economy of the North West and the whole North of England. I fear that unless we think to the future and plan for the future with infrastructure such as this, we’re going to get left behind. The Cham- ber as a whole is supporting HS2.”

John Leech, Lib Dem MP for Manchester Withington, was one of three Members of Parliament of various parties there to back the scheme.

He said: “The real problem is that in the past, we’ve not looked at long-term trans- port solutions. It’s always been short- to-medium term. We’ve spent billions of pounds upgrading the WCML, yet it’s go- ing to be full to capacity within six to ten years. For the first time, we’re looking at long-term capacity needs on the railways.

“High-speed rail doesn’t shave a massive amount of time off the journey from Man- chester to London, but what it does do is massively increases capacity on the exist- ing main lines, so that regional and local services can stop playing second fiddle to

the Inter City services. It also, in the longer term, it brings into play rail travel from Scotland, which can really compete with the airlines. At the moment, from Manchester you’d be mad to fly to London. But, north of Manchester, it’s still quicker and more con- venient for a lot of people to go by air. Having a high- speed rail network going to Scotland will bring Scotland closer to the cities of north- ern England, and to London.

Boris Johnson

“The biggest issue is capacity. We could spend billions of pounds upgrading the ex- isting main lines up and down the country, but ultimately that wouldn’t be a long-term solution. HS2 is.”

Political considerations Listen and/or learn

His party is not facing the same politi- cal dilemma as the Conservatives, whose heartland seats in counties like Bucking- hamshire are stuffed with angry opponents of HS2. The Lib Dems have very few seats along the proposed route, with most of their constituencies instead in cities that stand to benefit, or in areas basically unaf- fected by HS2.

Leech told us: “The Liberal Democrat party is absolutely committed to high-speed rail. I can well understand why in some lo- cal areas that will be affected by the line, there will be some level of opposition. In Manchester, a good local analogy is the Metrolink extension in my constituency – it’s caused numerous complaints because of problems associated with its construc- tion, but ultimately it’s a good thing for my constituency, and ultimately high-speed rail is a good thing for Britain.”

Lucy James, a spokeswoman for the cam- paign, told us at the event: “This is our first stop on the tour and today shows there’s actually quite a lot of support in Manches- ter for high-speed rail. What we’ve found in the past, is that the opposition along the route have been incredibly vociferous, very vocal, and very organised. It’s been quite difficult mobilising support, particularly in places in the North and in Scotland, be- cause people don’t understand and haven’t

The odds are still very much in favour of HS2 being built and coming into opera- tion by the end of the next decade. Its op- ponents may succeed in forcing further changes to the route or construction meth- ods – though Boris Johnson is probably less likely to get his wish of seeing the high- speed line through London being buried in tunnels, due to the huge extra costs that will impose (and the consequent damage to HS2’s currently favourable cost-benefit analysis rating).

David Cameron made the point forcefully in a recent interview with a Birmingham newspaper, suggesting strongly that no amount of public opposition would stop the scheme and confirming his own com- mitment to it. That contradicted previous positions set out by the DfT, but is probably a better indicator of Coalition thinking.

RTM has featured scores of articles, comment pieces and letters in recent editions putting forward strong arguments for and against high-speed rail, and has also set out its own position that the benefits outweigh the costs. We accept that debate will continue – and would welcome your contribution.


At rail technology magazine Jun/Jul 11 | 27

“But as soon as you tell them about the benefits it can bring to their region, they’re instantly very supportive. We’ve seen today a large crowd of people gathering here – on a Monday lunchtime, and a lot of them will be working today, to support high-speed rail. We’ve had three MPs. There is sup- port out there. We need to mobilise it and channel it and make sure the opposition are drowned out.

“It can be quite difficult to engage people this early on, particularly because the con- sultation is going up the route to Birming- ham, but not going north of Birmingham at the moment. We understand why that’s the case, but it does make it rather difficult when you hit places like Manchester, New- castle and Liverpool. But that said, we’ve had a lot of support from the North East and North West. I think they can really see the benefits; particularly in the amount of capacity it will release, the shorter journey times, and they can see that greater con- nectivity will mean more jobs for their re- gion. We have had a fair amount of support – we could definitely do with some more, and that’s why we’re doing these rallies.”

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