The Corner

Lefty Brits Knock High-Speed Rail

In a development that echoes my homepage story from yesterday, a coalition of fiscal hawks, neighborhood preservationists, greens, and mass-transit advocates in England are questioning or outright opposing the government’s plans to link London and the Midlands with high-speed rail. It’s probably a little easier for the Left to get its act together over there — after all, it’s a Conservative-led coalition government and not a liberal Jerry Brown that they’re going after. Also, unlike we benighted former colonials, many of them seem to have gotten past the denial stage and recognized they’re broke.

Writes lefty Richard George, an HSR supporter, about the state of play:

This morning, 21 businessmen, CEOs and parliamentarians wrote to the Telegraph, describing the rail scheme as a “vanity project” which would cost every family in Britain £1,000 and take money away from more socially-necessary public services, “such as education and scientific research”.

Their letter comes hot-on-the-heels of a barrage of criticism from across the environmental movement. The Green Party’s Caroline Lucas wrote in the Guardian that HS2 “does not deliver objectives on climate change or sustainable development”, and the Campaign to Protect Rural England has condemned the consultation process as having “changed little since the days of 19th-century railway barons”.

Even pro-public transport groups, including the one I work for, the Campaign for Better Transport, have expressed our concerns about the proposals.

The national media continues to try to portray opposition to high-speed rail as an obsession of the Tea Party and a handful of nutty Republican governors. In fact, anyone who looks at proposed projects worldwide with a skeptical eye will see expensive, high-quality astroturf, goofy ridership projections, low-balled cost estimates, and the same international cast of shady characters, including Germany’s Siemens and Parsons Brinkerhoff of Boston “Big Dig” fame. If President Bush were pushing this thing instead of President Obama, the media would be all over it, from Beijing to Brighton.

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