Having a look at the Y-shape linkage throughout England, High Speed 2 (HS2) provides an average reduction of 36% in journey time with a speed up to 250mph. This infrastructure megaproject affects a wide range of people residing in the UK. In contrast to high-speed connectivity between cities, negative effects such as environmental damage and humanity issues define the construction of HS2 as an ethical problem. It is therefore questioned whether supporting HS2 is a wise decision to make.
Yes, we should support the construction of HS2
HS2 allows significant reduction in travel time, for example, the time taken from Sheffield to London can be shortened from 121 to 85 minutes. Also, as a new travelling option, HS2 serves as a solution to release the pressure on the existing rail network. The majority of rail passengers consider the ease of travelling and time saving as their main interests. If taking the UK rail passengers as the stakeholder, the positive impacts brought by HS2 outweigh the negative ones such as temporary inconvenience during construction. Therefore, by utilitarian theory, supporting HS2 is an ethical action for the passengers.
The high speed rail enables faster transfer from cities of high economic strength, like London, to those in the Midlands and the North. HS2 is therefore seen as an important attempt to bridge the long-standing North-South divide, as suggested by former Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg. For relatively larger cities in southern England, it is easier for companies to get access to new markets towards the northern cities. Simultaneously, economic growth can be achieved in relatively remote regions in northern England as the connectivity increases. To give an example, typical improvement is expected in Liverpool as additional train paths allow the city to expand its freight capacity. Based on consequentialism, it is correct to support the construction of HS2 as it brings economic benefits to both northern and southern cities.
Creation of job opportunities is another remarkable benefit of HS2. During construction period, 14,600 jobs will be created across the UK, and much more could be added once the entire line starts to operate. As more options are given to employees, it is more likely for them to find the most desirable jobs, which leads to greater motivation at work. This will bring positive impact on the UK labour market. Consequentialism is applied once again which identifies the construction of HS2 as an ethical action for organizations and potential workers in rail industry.
Apart from the economic benefits, HS2 also brings environmental benefits to the UK. High speed rail, in general, produces only 1/4 of the carbon emissions resulting from equivalent journeys made by road or air transport. The first phase of HS2 (from London to Birmingham) is expected to achieve 1.8 million tonnes CO2 emission cut over 60 years as a result of reduced car and air transport. HS2 can therefore contribute to the government’s climate change target to reduce UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. As people should always work towards a more sustainable future, the Duty framework identifies HS2 as a worthy project.
No, we should not
The estimated budget for HS2 has gone up by 30% from £42.6bn in 2013 to £55.7bn in 2015, before the actual construction of the rail line. This makes the final bill of the project difficult to predict. In addition, the UK government is currently under a large amount of national debt. In light of consequentialism, this costly scheme should not be supported by either the government or the taxpayers. As mentioned by the Labour Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Meg Hillier, the Parliament is “still in the dark”. The uncertainties in both final bill and ultimate route make HS2 difficult to continue. From the taxpayers’ point of view, HS2 is tagged as a “wasteful vanity project” due to its high cost.
In addition to the unjustified budget, the environmental cost of HS2 should also be considered seriously. Natural England confirmed that HS2 will lead to “unavoidable loss” of “irreplaceable habitats”. This includes 61 non-statutory Local Wildlife Sites and 32 hectares of ancient woodland. Albeit this action is acceptable by law, it may ultimately lead to long-term environmental issues such as land degradation. This devastating impact on natural environment makes HS2 unacceptable by virtuous human beings.
Moving on from the environmental issues, the effect of HS2 on humans is also significant. Firstly, people with their houses close to the rail line have to give up their home to make way for HS2. This scheme forces a small but remarkable group of UK citizens to consider themselves as the “sacrificial lambs” for the country. Secondly, the exhumation of graves causes HS2 to be further criticized. For example, more than 30,000 graves have to be removed due to the expansion of Euston station. Ironically, even the father of British railways, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, might not save his grave from exhumation. From a humanity point of view, such actions will not treat human remains “in a decent and reverent manner”. Lastly, building HS2 would also threaten the nearby churches to close. The Church of England expresses the concern that, as the rail line splits a local community in two, people have to move out thus can no longer take part in church activities. All of the three scenarios violate the Freedom Principle by limiting the freedom to make decisions. Thus, the construction of HS2 is considered morally incorrect.
From previous discussions, it is difficult to draw a clear conclusion whether HS2 should be supported. We would like to know, if any, how HS2 affects your own life? What suggestion could you give to the route plan of HS2?
You are welcome to take sides or express your unique opinion by leaving comments 🙂
Group 23: Weijian Lin, Yining Liu, Liansong Li, Jingyi Zhou