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I really support public transport, but the proposed HS2 high speed rail plan has so many weak links that it's strange the three mainstream parties are all in favour. Phase one, London to Birmingham, faced a series of legal claims that the government failed in environmental assessment and public consultation. Then, even before the verdict was returned, phase two was made public - a year early. It's being rail-roaded through, so what's the rush? The Channel Tunnel took 192 years from suggestion to completion. HS2 is an idea barely five years old. It would snake through South Yorkshire, crossing the River Rother three times, running through flood plains and across existing railway lines. Of course, train lines don't kill environments, motorways do, but 350 unique habitats are threatened, including locally the Woodhouse Washlands reserve. No wonder Sheffield Wildlife Trust is pulling the alarm cord. Sheffield's station will be at Meadowhall. That may explain the many recently proposed transport improvements between there and Sheffield, and land-holding tactics around the shopping centre. When construction corporation Amey chose that area as a marshalling yard for the PFI roads contract, did it have any idea? The Passenger Transport Executives Group and business leaders are in favour. Were they also in the know? Wheels within wheels... The arguments of pressure group Stop HS2 stack up, not least on costs. Can we afford £33 billion, the country's largest ever infrastructure investment? Oddly HS2 isn't required to financially break-even. South Yorkshire's once-proud public transport system was killed off by Conservatives opposing public subsidy on principle. Could it be that prestigious 'high-profile' transport systems are OK for subsidies like, say, Concorde? Will HS2 revive the economy and reverse the north-south divide? Even if the government really does mind the gap, this project won't. It's designed from - and for - London, funnelling in commuters. Any jobs created could be fewer than those lost in the north-south imbalance, and largely London-based. Mega cities grow parasitically until their hinterland cannot support them. Exploitation-level housing costs have strangled the supply of cheap labour. One hour's commute is seen as acceptable, so magically various northern cities will soon be within about an hour's reach. Is anyone going to live in the capital and work up here? No chance. Why would they? The same scenario has played out in other countries with one dominant metropolis. Arguing that rail use is reaching the limits of the network ignores the Department for Transport's proposal to upgrade existing lines at a fraction of the cost. Will frequent flyers transfer to rail? Maybe. Domestic air travel is stagnant, but it could fight back by cross-subsidising from long-haul revenues. Competition's a dirty business. Nothing's predictable, and other fast train services have failed to live up to forecasts, but if HS2 is popular it could threaten services on other lines. Even the project's carbon reduction claims are seen as hot air by some experts, unless renewable energy produces the electricity. Don't hold your breath. We live in a little country, in a digital world. Do we need to travel twice as fast in the same direction? No, but HS2 has the inevitable feel of a slow train coming. Powerful organisations support it, including our own council, while inclusion in the EU's Trans-European Transport Network Policy carries a lot of weight. Rail route planning must be hell. Every option will upset someone. In the end, as silly as it sounds, do Y-shaped routes generally tend to succeed? Look at Supertram, or the Channel Tunnel terminals. HS2 would be a "Y" linking London, Leeds and Manchester. It's almost as if, with various proposed routes, someone says "Let's move beyond why, and get on to how." This gets reported as moving beyond "Y" and so a decision is made. But seriously, the only certainty is that housing costs around the stations will rise. Half a million for a house in Wincobank? Buy now while prices are low. stopHS2.org alt-sheff.org )

Next article in issue 60

Dead Space Lost Post - The Old Central Post Office.

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How much do we take notice of the environment around our city centre? Why are decent buildings sitting empty? This month the focus of Dead S

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We need an inquiry into the Sheffield street tree debacle

Julie Dore is resigning as Leader of the Council. Her recent “unreserved apology” is not enough – her successor should immediately launch a public inquiry into the felling of thousands of our city’s street trees.

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