A change in the air on high-speed rail?

A Stop HS2 sign at the road side in Drayton Bassett, Staffordshire It was Labour which originally launched the high-speed rail project

Listen hard and you'll hear the screeching of wheels.

You can't do a U-turn on rails so, perhaps, it's the sound of a fast-moving train being slammed into reverse.

Labour insists that it has not abandoned its support for HS2 but it is now raising questions not just about the costs of building a new high speed rail line but the benefits too.

The official party line is that the party is just asking and being seen to ask the proper questions about a project whose budget has ballooned and the case for which has been re-written.

Supporters of HS2 predict that Ed Miliband will not abandon a scheme launched under the last Labour government.

However, it is clear that Ed Balls can sense the wind turning on this issue.

He is aware of growing public doubts. One of those close to him told me that HS2 is now raised spontaneously by focus groups as an example of money being wasted.

Most devastating of all, some even compare it with the Millennium Dome.

There are so many Tory MPs opposed to HS2 that the plans may need Labour's support. After today, that cannot be guaranteed.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    49, 50

    Let's apply their coalitional skills to HS2.

    Just half the length seems about right. But which half.

    I swear, their 'coalitional skills' are far outweighed by the prospect of them strutting and preening in every possible govt.

    Unless we go for it and say 'Lab or Tory' and ignore that bunch of primped up wofflers. Which we should do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    49, con
    Do they think there's only one possible compromise (coalition) policy with each party?

    What about this, then? The Tories offer them more govt spending but free markets & so more inequality OR more redistributive taxes but absolutely no govt spending

    Which would they prefer? We need to be told before we vote & we need to tell them which we prefer since they will be in every possible govt

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    I'm still recovering from the Conference of Clowns last week.

    They say they're middle ground. How is that so? Do they add up Tory & Lab policies and divide by two & call it their policy?

    What about their future coalitions. Which do they prefer, one with Lab or one with the Tories? We need to know BEFORE we vote. Will they have a candidate for each coalition in every constituency?

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    So Labour are bidding for the votes from the shires -cheap opportunism.

    What is needed is a properly funded coherent transport policy!

    Some hope from any party!

    Start by looking at the real issue - why we have to travel so far? This is to do with absurdly high house prices near where people work. What has happened to ''you must live no more than 30 minutes from your job' rule?

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Any further work to signficantly upgrade existing lines will only lead to considerable disruption on the railway for a limited gain. The only answer to the long term capacity question is separately building a new line for long distance services, thus freeing up the current network for commuters and freight. As a nominal Labour supporter, I can only say that this is rank opportunism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    # 38-I've still seen nothing here which grasps the wider picture of who we are as Britons in the world and how we should evolve in the tech age and keep at the forefront.
    Most posters have their narrow nit-picking anti privatisation gripes or financial heeby-jeebies.
    Wake up and realise we have to get into the 21st century-we're already being left behind by France , Germany, Japan,even China!

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    "Where does Labour stand on high-speed rail?"


    It's not what's done but how it's done.

    Labour's idea was primarily job creation and growth, whereas the tories' is profit for the usual.

    Labour's support for the latter is understandably equivocal. The question misses the point.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    If this project is allowed to come to fruition it should be done entirely with private funding. It should be run without public subsidies of any kind. This way of financing was good enough for both canal and railways at their conception; so an already tried and tested method. If HS2 is as good as its supporters claim, savvy investors will be falling over themselves to be in the game

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Growing public doubts?

    Don't think so Nick. Public listened to proposal (line w/only 2 access points) listened to what rail industry wanted, to those who said locomotion wouldnt be energy efficient, knew the likely fare costs & who ultimately would be paying for them as well as the line & decided from outset it was a bad idea.

    It's only Tories, L-Dems & Labour that have not been listening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    A lot of politicians don’t realize that “alive” is different from “growing”. HS2 may create jobs, but it won’t help economic growth. There are only two types of people can grow economy – entrepreneurs and inventors. The formal has the drive, and the latter has the know-how. You can have millions of managers/ workers to keep economy alive, but it won’t grow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    How on earth is any serious long term infrastructure planning to take place when politicians can think of nothing more than short term tactical advantage?

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Suggest: (1) A national Shuttle service like the Tube, easy to access, simple to pay, clear signage ( 2 ) Freight and ' car ferry' ( like the Chunnel)lines -perhaps on parallel tracks to the Shuttle .(3) 'Car Ferry ' terminals .(4) Link Shuttle stations to Bus stations with a frequent dedicated bus station (5) secure car/bike parking at Shuttle stations.
    No to HS2

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    HS2 Should be binned ! At least before the public purse can be plundered.
    Job creation? As with most big projects jobs would be mopped up by migrant european workers.
    Boost for the midlands and north? Improve the present system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Sometimes things are matter of national prestige and pushing ourselves to the front of human tech evolution. Concorde was an example---a magnificent white elephant that made us feel good to be British,m and the envy of the World,like our hosting of Olympics.
    IMHO, HS2 comes into same category.It's a scandal that we're behind Japan,France etc, who've had HS for years.And let it be privately owned!

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    This is typical of the confusion in Labour ranks. They are more concerned with popularity than policy. HS2 has been favoured and supported by Labour until this moment. Now they think they might garner more popularity by questioning HS2's value. They really are transparent and totally ineffectual - the Tories must be laughing their heads off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Cancel this project. Spend the money on improving the existing lines and
    - on supporting business outside of London
    - improving internet access for all
    - foster new communication technology making it affordable for SMEs.
    A LOT cheaper than HS2 and higher chances to improve UKs economy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    With every passing day it seems this folly is less likely to happen, hurrah!
    The same objectives can be achieved for a fraction of the cost- we are an intelligent, creative nation!

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Instead of wasting money on 19th century technology how much more forward thinking it would be to build a silent, economic mag-lev...

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    I used to regularly travel to London via "Intercity", return journeys on Sundays were a joke and it was quite common to be parked up at Crewe for six solid hours. Only a system riddled with union blockheads could regularly make this the norm.

    NUR = No Use Rushing.

    Arrival times were meaningless, I remember "Intercity" well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    I understood that the railways were privatised so that the private sector would fund developments of the network. But along comes HS2 and lo and behold it is to be built from the public purse. The purpose of rail privatisation now becomes clear it was so that private operators could make profits from subsidies from the public purse.


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