Brits split over high speed rail

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
January 12, 2012, 3:07 PM GMT+0

42% of British public support confirmed plans for high speed link from London; 37% oppose

The British public is split over the Government's plans to build a new high-speed rail link between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, our survey results show.

However, when given the choice between spending money on building the high speed rail link or expanding air travel capacity through new runways or airports, many more people feel that the rail link, rather than air travel, is the more important priority.

In addition, over two thirds feel that the proposed high speed rail route should link to Heathrow airport.

The results come as the Government confirms that the plans for the controversial rail link will go ahead.

  • 42% support the plans for the high-speed rail link between London, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds
  • 37% oppose the plans
  • 43% say that the priority for government spending should be on the high speed rail link rather than building new runways or a new airport
  • Just 12% would favour the building of a new airport or additional runways
  • While 30% say that neither of these should feature in the Government's top priorities for spending on transport
  • 68% feel that a high speed rail link should go to Heathrow airport, versus 11% who disagree

The high speed rail link, known as High Speed Two or HS2, has been controversial, with critics claiming that the train will scar the surrounding countryside, cost too much in a time of squeezed public funds, and charge too much for ordinary people to use. Stop HS2 campaigner head, Joe Rukin, is adamant that 'there is no business case, no environmental case and there is no money to pay for it'.

However, despite opposition, the first stage of the plan has approved, it was revealed today. When the initial track is finished by around 2026, the journey to Birmingham will take just 49 minutes, on trains travelling well over 200 mph – with further lines to Manchester and Leeds being completed by 2033, and plans to extend into Scotland also possible.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening has defended the proposed link, and argues that extra tunnelling will avoid the train having to pass through very rural areas. The knock-on effect of such a high speed line, she has said, will be that passengers will swap high-carbon cars and planes in favour of the train route. 'HS2 is therefore an important part of transport's low-carbon future,' Greening told the BBC.

See the survey details and full results here (page 10-11)