Friday, 21 February 2014

Local Greens back national call to scrap HS2 plan

 Some of the Green Party's North West candidates in the May 2014 European elections at Manchester Piccadilly on Tuesday: Lancaster's Gina Dowding, Peter Cranie, Laura Bannister and Kake Welsh. Photo: Ben Tait (Chester Young Greens)
North West Green Party European election candidates, including Lancaster's Gina Dowding, have called on government to scrap the controversial HS2 rail scheme and invest in North West’s transport.

The Greens made their appeal when they launched their new transport report Transport for the common good: a better deal for the North West (PDF link) earlier this week.

North West Greens are highlighting their opposition to plans for a new high-speed railway (HS2), and calling on the government to invest the billions of pounds earmarked for HS2 to improve the region’s creaking public transport system.

On Tuesday, commuters at Manchester’s Piccadilly Station saw Green Party campaigners holding large cheques for £1,500 – the amount HS2 will cost every household in the North West.

Each cheque featured Green Party recommendations for greater investment in regional public transport, as outlined in the new report. Party members will be asking travellers at Piccadilly how they would spend their share of the HS2 budget.

They also asked passengers to urge their local MP to support the Green Party’s parliamentary bill to bring the railways back into public ownership, which is due for its second reading in parliament on 28th February.

The North West Green Party’s new report, Transport for the common good: a better deal for the North West, sets out a vision for improved transport in the North West, including:

• Public ownership of the railways run for common good, not private profit

• Investment in the region’s railways: electrification of all lines, re-opening lines to improve connectivity and improvements to networks and stations

• A New North West regional ‘Otter card’, like London’s ‘Oyster card’

• Re-regulation of local bus services to provide cheaper, more responsive services

• Investment in local journey solutions: joined up cycling and walking routes, community car clubs

North West Green Party’s lead European election candidate, Peter Cranie, said:

“People in the North West deserve an efficient, reliable, integrated public transport system. Instead of telling people that they need a hugely expensive new railway which will only serve a handful of business people or more new roads, we’ll be asking people how they would spend the money.

“People in the North West would get a much better deal if the money earmarked for HS2 was diverted into creating an integrated public transport system which provides an attractive alternative to the car.

“In 2012 the transport sector was responsible for around 21 per cent of UK greenhouse gas emissions," he continued. "We’re currently seeing the devastating impact of extreme weather, caused by climate change, and we urgently need to reduce road traffic which causes these damaging emissions.”

Greens across the region have been campaigning for public transport improvements for a long time, backed by the expert advice of people such as former Lancaster resident Doctor John Whitelegg.

In Cumbria and Lancashire Greens have been fighting to save vital bus services which are under threat from council cuts, and in Liverpool party members have been calling on the council to re-open the city’s bus lanes. In Manchester the Green Party has been campaigning against the proposed new airport link road.

Peter Cranie adds: “The government’s plans to build more roads, which won’t reduce congestion, and to waste our money on the hugely expensive vanity project – High Speed Rail 2 – which will only serve a few wealthy people, are not the answer.

He concluded: “We desperately need less crowded trains, cheaper and more reliable buses and better, safer cycling routes. An improved regional transport system would effectively support local businesses, commuters, families and visitors to the region. With the right investment we can deliver what people want from their transport system: a reliable, comfortable service with cheaper fares. This would be transport which serves the common good and is fit for the 21st century.”

Next week Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas’ bill to bring the railways back into public ownership will have its second reading in the House of Commons. By taking back individual franchises when they expire, or when a company fails to meet its franchise conditions, the state could save over £1 billion a year every year – money that could then be spent on improving services and reducing rail fares.

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