Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the UK Green Party, stated to Sky News that the UK Green Party is officially against the government’s new high-speed rail plan.
The high-speed railway, called HS2, is currently part of the UK’s net-zero emission plan for 2050. It will be a state-of-the-art high-speed line whose aim is to connect London directly to England’s Midlands and the North. Cities such as Manchester and Leeds will be directly connected to London, and the railway will connect Scotland to London indirectly. The new railway system will connect 30 existing stations and create 100 new stations. It is estimated HS2 will carry over 300 000 people a day.
The construction, which is divided into two phases, is set to open between 2029 and 2033. The purpose of this new plan is to ease traffic on the current century-old and over-capacitated railway system. HS2 is also set to boost the UK’s economy post-lockdown. It will enable the current railway system to focus on the transportation of goods while the new railway system will focus on public transportation. Its proponents claim that improving public transport is a vital element in the UK’s plan to reach net-zero carbon emissions.
Greens pushing for a re-visitation of the plan
Jonathan Bartley claims that the plan must be re-visited in light of the lockdown. According to him, the decrease in traveling caused by the lockdown gave societies a glimpse of how future societies may change. He told Sky News:
“There may be future pandemics coming down the line because of our exploitation of nature, so what we need to focus on is resilient local economies”
As is the case for most countries, transportation is one of the key subjects in reducing a nation’s carbon footprint. It is the belief of Jonathan Bartley that the lockdown has proved that transportation projects such as HS2 are weaker than they used to be and local economies are more likely to achieve net-zero emissions than an increase in transportation expenditure.
Furthermore, the environmental benefits of building HS2 are debated and not convincing political leaders such as Jonathan Bartley. This is certainly not the first transportation plan that is opposed by the UK Greens.
A divided Green Party
Whilst the Green Party is officially against the project, there are other Green Party members who support it. Sam Easterby-Smith, a member of the Green Party, is one of the party members supporting the high-speed project. The divide led to the creation of a group called Greens for HS2.
He stated on Sky News that the real issue is not with public transportation, but with aviation and lorries.
Greens for HS2 have criticized their fellow colleagues for labeling the plan as an ‘ecocide’, calling such characterization unhelpful. Whilst everyone agrees on reaching net-zero emission by 2050, how this will be achieved is still debated in the UK. The role and future of public transport seem to still be questioned.