Two-thirds of Lib Dem members say yes to HS2

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 750 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

Support for HS2 gathers steam among Lib Dem members

There are plans to build a new high speed rail link (called HS2) between London and Birmingham, and then on to Manchester and Leeds. This is currently expected to cost around £42 billion. Do you support or oppose these plans?

    67% (+12%) – Support
    26% (-5%) – Oppose
    7% (-6%) – Don’t know

It’s almost a year since Norman Baker hailed the arrival of the next tranche of high-speed rail (HS2). My initial response was sceptical: I apologise for my lack of enthusiasm for HS2. It’s been unavoidably delayed owing to the lack of evidence. And the debate has continued throughout the year, with Lib Dems like John Whitehouse arguing against while my LDV colleague Joe Otten put the case straightforwardly here: HS2 alternatives mean 14 years of replacement buses.

Since we last asked this question in the summer, the view among Lib Dems appears to have hardened in support, with some two-thirds of you now supporting HS2, compared with just over one-half a few months ago. Here’s a selection of your comments…

* The £42 billion would be better spent on a minimum 30 megabits/sec high speed broadband in line with our EU partners. More county airports would be better for travel. Perhaps.
* The plans should include a line from London through Birmingham, then splitting to run via Leeds and Manchester and terminating in Glasgow and Edinburgh from the outset instead of London to Birmingham for now with a hope to extend to Manchester\Leeds in the future and who knows if\when it will reach Scotland.
* Absolutely vital to combat the ever-growing North-South divide.
* I think it makes good economic sense. I also think it is important that the Tories alienate some of their core vote.
* This is a money pit that is going to cause catastrophic problems, both economically and practically. Firstly it is in the wrong place. One of the most used rail networks badly needs this type of investment. South coast.
* Debate is lovely, but doing something is better. There is economic benefit to it, it will improve transport links…go for it.
* Would prefer reinvestment in the branch network, HS2 will only benefit a small number of wealthy businessmen able to afford fares of a high end service.
* Vanity project, high CO2 emissions; should be improving other rail, especially lines that DON’T go to/from London!
* It won’t cost £42bn – it’ll be more and it’s now hardly cutting edge tech, before it starts. Start with a tax reform – LVT – would concentrate business activity in low value areas first. I also vehemently oppose compulsory purchase. Maybe build a “hyper loop” eventually.
* I think there are cheaper and better alternatives, and I am unsure who will benefit from this, apart from businessmen, who could be a lot more innovative and use video-conferencing and skype rather than making so many business journeys. We need less unnecessary travel, not more roads and railways.
* Plans do not go far enough. The country needs more rail and infrastructure of the kind of HS2
* Business and environment case are not proven. We are being dragged in to a spend that lacks focus. We should of had our own costed and environment assessed plans, instead of blindly following Labour and Tory vanity projects.
* I am fed up with the Luddites in our party that oppose HS2. If the Victorian Whigs and Liberals had taken the same attitude we’d still be using the horse and carriage
* it’s not a straightforward yes or no question however
* Needs to come to Edinburgh
* We do not need faster trains just more reliable services and cut down ticket prices
* Support in principle but they will just make an expensive mess of it.
* But it must be to European loading gauge and we must look to upgrade the rest of the country. Bigger trains means more capacity.
* Wrong project at the wrong price and at the wrong time.
* This is the biggest white elephant in the history of the nation. This needs to be cancelled now.
* Phase 1 is £17bn. In addition we are spending £23.5 bn in the period to 2019 on infrastructure work on the rest of the rail network.
* We must modernise our rail services. France and the Netherlands did it years ago.

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with 749 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 14th and 18th December.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However,’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at
  • * Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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    This entry was posted in LDV Members poll.


    • Some people would never build anything. Let’s just get it done. It’s these no-can-do attitudes that have left us with inadequate infrastructure in the first place. We could spend another £50 bn A YEAR on transport improvements, over two decades it’s a piffling amount.

    • Right on John!. If these moaning minnies have their way, we’ll still be discussing plans to improve our railways in 2050, when , deus vult, I will celebrate my 100th birthday.

      There really does seem to be some sort of death wish in some of our party members. The constant stream of attacks on the government – our coalition government – almost regardless of the issue under discussion is not helpful, it’s just oppositionist. I have news for you. Trying to pretend that we’re still in opposition will (a) not work and (b) will not be believed by the electorate.

    • @ Mick Taylor

      “The constant stream of attacks on the government – our coalition government – almost regardless of the issue under discussion is not helpful, it’s just oppositionist.”

      I totally agree, 100%. I think the problem is, people are so locked into a particular mindset of being in opposition that they still haven’t woken up and realised that their party is now in government.

      HS2 will cost money but it will be a good thing for the country. The only thing I’d like to see is an acceleration of the plans, perhaps also starting building in the North, to silence the chorus of people who go on about it not being worth building to shave 20 minutes off the trip to Birmingham, deliberately ignoring the point that that isn’t what it’s being built for.

    • Neville Farmer 27th Dec '13 - 8:09am

      It’s clear from many of the sampled comments that HS2 has been sold really badly. Had the govt mentioned that this wasn’t only about knocking 40 mins of a rich businessman’s journey (as suggested above) but also taking large numbers of commuter express trains off the current lines to make way for more rail freight, which itself would come off the roads, it might make more sense to people. I still have my misgivings about the project but better messaging might help. And, just to be cheeky for a moment, I wonder if the vagueness about dates for the Glasgow / Edinburgh legs have anything to do with the outcome of the Scottish independence referendum? Would King Alex of Salmond be willing to pay for it?

    • jenny barnes 27th Dec '13 - 8:39am

      ” they still haven’t woken up and realised that their party is now in government”. I used to think it was my party, but since its been in government, not so much.

    • jenny barnes 27th Dec '13 - 8:45am

      “We could spend another £50 bn A YEAR on transport improvements, over two decades it’s a piffling amount.”
      Ok. As 50bn over 2 decades is a piffling amount, can we have £2.5 bn a year spent on cycling infrastructure? The Dutch have been spending £20 a head for decades, and we need to catch up. £20 * 64 million is £1.25 billion.
      Moving cycling modal share up to Netherlands levels would do far more for CO2 emissions than HS2.

    • Ian Hurdley 27th Dec '13 - 9:51am

      Not everyone wants to travel the entire length of England, but at the moment they have to share the service with those who do. Far too often this means that boarding at an intermediate station condemns you to stand for your entire journey. By separating the two groups of travellers, you benefit both; HS2 gives the long distance passenger a faster ride with fewer stops, whilst the existing network can then offer a more comfortable, more flexible service to the ‘intermediate’ traveller. There is also an incentive for cross-country operators to provide a good feeder service to the HS2 stations.
      A comparison I draw with our Victorian forebears is that if the Manchester cotton barons had shied away from the cost of constructing the Manchester Ship Canal, Liverpool would likely be the North West’s major city today, whilst Manchester would be on a par with Burnley.

    • As a lover of rail travel I want to see HS2 but to be honest it is as though the Victorians built a faster stage coach with smoother roads and stronger horses – an improvement on what went before but not the step change which came first with the original railways and then with motor cars and aero planes.

      Other countries built their high speed lines from the sixties onwards because existing lines were very slow and outdated. More recent schemes such as those in China involve much longer distances than anything we have in the UK. Our main lines are not very slow or outdated but some of the cross country routes are rather slow and unattractive to potential users. Money needs to be spent on these or they should be closed and replaced by express buses which are often quicker, cheaper and more comfortable and do not stop at places which produce no passengers There is no evidence of any major improvements being carried out on these routes or even the closure of stations which are used by tiny numbers and make the trains even slower and unattractive to potential users when they stop there. A high speed service from Birmingham to Leeds might be justified but could be achieved on existing routes without unacceptable disruption.

      Another problem is that HS2 will be built by British Rail now renamed Network Rail with all its outdated baggage and costly systems so that instead of producing major benefits it will leave the country with an expensive white elephant which will probably require huge subsidies for many years if not indefinitely. We already have a rail network which needs large subsidies – why would anyone want to increase it ? Unfortunately there are no alternative railway infrastructure companies in the UK now so we would have to get tenders from foreign groups but this is what we do with power companies so they will reap much of the benefit and the taxpayers will pay for any losses.

      Simple solutions to difficult problems can end by producing even more problems.

    • @nvelope2003: “Our main lines are not very slow or outdated but some of the cross country routes are rather slow and unattractive to potential users. Money needs to be spent on these”

      Have you considered why some of these cross country routes are rather slow and unattractive? Don’t suppose it might be anything to do with a) chronic underinvestement in the rail network generally and b) having to share the line with other types of traffic such as faster intercity trains and slower freight trains – in other words a capacity related problem?

      Well guess what; a) More money pro-rata is already allocated to the classic network, see £37bn programme of works for 2014-19 (Network Rail CP5) and b) HS2 will draw off faster traffic, specifically freeing up pathways for the services you claim as currently unattractive

      HS2 is not an either or strategy – the notion that HS2 is syphoning off investment funds is a myth, propagated by anti-HS2 campaigners – don’t buy in to that nonsense!

      How do you know HS2 will be Network Rail built or managed – some of the contractors used by Network Rail may form consortia to bid for HS2 construction contracts but that is to be expected and welcomed as part of a competitive process that should provide a direct beneficial effect. ie. driving down costs – if other mainland European companies (such as Vinci), also bid, so much the better?

      HS1 is operated by a separate corporate entity – the reliabilty and efficiency of both the network itself and services operated on HS1 are world class standard – there is nothing to suggest same will not hold true for HS2?

    • Michael Parsons 28th Dec '13 - 10:51am

      Seeing yet more trade sucked down towards our over-blown metropolis hardly helps England! We do not need an stumbling Imperial Capital for an Empire that no longer exists, which yet desperately tries to accrete everyting to itself. No! Build lines fromn Liverpool to Hull, open England to internal and external trade, recognise the massive importance of container traffic already on the Mersey; and strengthen cheao travel onlocal rail ines, reverse Beeching’s Tory destruction, relink Barnstaple to Bideford, improve the road network: but never forget that where England begins London ends; and what we need are good local networks, stronger City Regions.. Let the bankers fly to Scotland, Skype, or better still give us back our tax, out local fimance, and our self-government.. Put people first.

    • nvelope2003 28th Dec '13 - 6:36pm

      HS2 will only draw off faster traffic from the WCML and possibly the ECML as far as Leeds if it ever gets built. I was thinking of other cross country routes. There are still single track railways where trains have to wait to pass another train, with passing loops not even in stations which might make some sense. £37 billion over 5 years is just over £7billion a year, most of which will need to go to improve London commuter routes and possibly a little to other conurbations. The money that would be spent on HS2 will have to come from somewhere unless more money is printed, creating more inflation.

      The daftest argument I heard for HS2 was in Rail magazine where the editor staed that just because trains were half empty at present this did not mean that the WCML was not congested as there were so many half empty trains on it – well why not cut the number of half empty trains by 1/3 ? – there would still be some empty seats for the passengers to put their bags on.

      Of course I would like to see this route built if there was an unlimited supply of money just as I would like to stay at expensive hotels when I travel. Never fear though because the Establishment are determined to push this through whatever the cost and the damage to people’s lives because there are a lot of vested interests to satisfy so you can rest easy.

    • Basic idea good, details terrible. Sort it!

    One Trackback

    • By The end of High Speed 2? » Spectator Blogs on Fri 7th March 2014 at 4:28 pm.

      […] coalition, this is most likely scenario involving the line becoming shovel-ready. Although a survey of Liberal Democrat activists suggests two thirds are in favour of HS2, the last ConservativeHome survey suggested over half […]

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