By Rob Marsden, Tamworth CLP
Whilst many of us have been distracted by other things in 2020, work on HS2 has continued apace, cutting its swathe through the English countryside, through homes and farms and ancient woodlands from London to the Midlands. Devastating communities and ecosystems alike.
However, there is still active resistance- campaigns continue all along the route and a number of small but determined camps are still in place.
I would urge readers to get in touch with the nearest camp to you, find out if there is anything they need in the way of provisions or equipment and organise a small group to visit and spread a little festive cheer.
PHOTOS: Camp at Handsacre near Lichfield
Way back in 2013 Tory Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, likened HS2 to a heart bypass operation for Britain’s ailing transport system.
As I wrote then, a heart bypass is major surgery. It is risky and unpleasant for the patient and completely futile unless you also tackle the underlying causes of the clogged arteries in the first place. To take the analogy further, prevention is far, far, better than a surgical fix so we need to go right back to basics and offer real lifestyle changes to the patient to stop them getting sick in the first place.
Firstly, rather than trying to shave a few minutes off long journey times and subsidising rail transport for the wealthy at the expense of ordinary people who probably could not afford to use HS2 if they wanted to, we should be putting money into improving local rail and bus services, under public ownership, to meet community needs.
Some of the £80 Billion-plus price tag for HS2 could be used instead to revitalise local public transport schemes, leading to improved town centre air quality and reduced CO2 emissions.
We should upgrade train carriages with fast and free wi-fi, so that people can make better use of their journey time, whilst at the same time improving the capacity and comfort of the rail network.
However, in these days of instant messaging and Zoom-conferencing, how many of our journeys are strictly necessary anyway? Our transport and environmental policies should work together to reduce the overall number of vehicles, mainly private cars, on our roads.
Serious investment in comprehensive, fast, broadband infrastructure form homes and businesses would allow many more people to work from, or closer to, their homes and families.
In the light of the current pandemic, Labour’s 2019 offering of free broadband service for all seems prescient and should form part of the next manifesto- properly explained and packaged as part of a revitalised Green New Deal.
So, let’s make a New Year’s resolution to turn our CLPs outwards to support local campaigns against environmental vandalism and for zero-carbon, affordable public transport for all.