Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/706/13928
The Socialist 22 February 2012 |
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Should socialists support the proposed HS2 rail link?
The debate on the HS2 high speed rail in the Socialist 703 continues with arguments for and against the scheme.
I believe we should gear transport policies towards public and not private transport. We are not in an either/or situation on investment. The government should draw up a 'needs budget' for public transport investment which would cater for high speed as well as conventional rail.
Of course if the big civil engineering contractors and their profit-seeking suppliers were nationalised the cost would diminish. An integrated socialist transport network would integrate high speed rail into the rest of the network; there is no need to treat it as a separate company or to ring-fence its accounts.
We need to answer genuine concerns, but we should welcome HS2 as a major project that can deliver environmental benefits and create jobs. We should campaign for the whole industry to be nationalised under workers' control and management to ensure that fares, including those on HS2, are affordable and that those living near the line aren't blighted by noise.
In the debate we all agreed on the need for an efficient nationalised transport system to benefit working people and that, in the abstract, we support high speed rail systems. I argued we should oppose proposals to spend £32 billion to build HS2.
This scheme is supported by the same multinational train operations and building firms that try to drive down their workforce's wages and conditions. The service is designed for business travellers. Ticket prices will be very high and only people in London or Birmingham will be able to use it. HS2 will do nothing to reduce the overcrowding experienced by most people and won't reduce ticket prices.
The £32 billion will create jobs. But wouldn't this be better spent on keeping existing jobs that rail companies want to cut, and to develop and create jobs by developing the existing infrastructure and increasing its capacity?
The Stop HS2 Campaign will develop political alternatives - they say they won't vote for parties that support the scheme. Socialists should oppose HS2 otherwise right-wing groupings will be able to take advantage of the hostility and leave working people with no alternative.