Larry Elliott is right on the environmental case against HS2 (Growth versus green? The short-term view always prevails, Journal, 16 January). However, he’s wrong about the level of support for HS2 in the north. The most vocal advocates of this costly and unnecessary scheme are the leaders of Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham – cities that are doing pretty well already. HS2 would give a huge boost to these cities through stimulating development around the HS2 stations, all of which will be dead ends, limiting any network benefits. No wonder the city leaders can’t wait for HS2 to come.
The wider benefits for the north are much more debatable. There’s every chance that it would suck wealth out of the north to London and the south-east. Some towns and cities currently served by frequent London trains will have a poorer and slower service. The crying need for transport in the north is for better rail links between the region’s towns and cities: full electrification and upgrading of the busy Trans-Pennine routes, sorting out the lack of capacity through Manchester – which impacts on the region as a whole – and providing hundreds more new trains to lengthen existing overcrowded services. None of these are cheap but the costs would be much less than HS2, with far greater benefits that we’d see in years, not decades.
Prof Paul Salveson
• I read your article (Call for a rethink after study finds HS2 will destroy hundreds of wildlife sites, 15 January) with a heavy heart. Why is it that a site labelled “a legally protected site of special scientific interest” or “internationally protected” suddenly becomes disposable if faced with a lucrative building project? Why is it that developers like HS2 think that if they cut down an ancient woodland, planting some new saplings is suitable compensation? Or that it is OK to destroy an irreplaceable wildlife area if some new “habitat creation” is included? We need to look at ancient trees and the value of irreplaceable wildlife areas in a more serious way. Stonehenge is in an inconvenient place, but we would not think of knocking it down, I hope. It’s ancient. Irreplaceable. Part of our cultural history.
“Ancient” and “irreplaceable” are words we understand when applied to monuments, but we stop taking these terms seriously when they’re used to describe the natural world. In a time of climate emergency, it’s important to realise not only that wild places are part of our natural heritage, but also that they offer the carbon capture and biodiversity that could help save us, if we come to our senses.
• About 80% of the population living north of Watford and west of Reading will gain virtually nothing from Crossrail 1 and Crossrail 2, yet we are paying for them through our taxes. Could someone explain why our payments for them cannot be transferred to the one project that people from Andy Burnham to Andy Street have said will benefit the economy of the Midlands and the north, where most of us live? And does it take too much imagination to see the cultural change in being able to travel from Glasgow or Aberdeen to Berlin in fossil fuel-free comfort?
Cannon Hill, Birmingham
• When reading of the estimated cost of a big-ticket item, my rule of thumb was always to double it and add 20% to arrive at a more accurate figure. After the latest HS2 news (HS2 battle heats up after leak shows cost may reach £106bn, 21 January), I shall now change that formula to the more simple “multiply by three”.
Derek Leon Elton
Todmorden, West Yorkshire
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