To understand the environmental issues and the policy debate around High-Speed 2, we firstly need to define what a stakeholder is and understand what the High-Speed 2 (HS2) project is. The HS2 project involves a new train route to be built through the midlands to bridge the North and South of England, this involves destroying property and habitats for the train line to go through such as in the Chiltern Hills. High-Speed 2 is a government backed project to increase fast rail links between the North, Midlands and the South of the UK. The initial stage between Birmingham and London should be completed by 2026 while in terms of the second stage, according to Chorley (2013): “The line will then split to link to Manchester and Leeds, in a second phase due to open by 2033”. The idea of doing this not only helps reduce overcrowding but also links UK cities through significantly quicker journeys and also benefit other cities who make changes that takes them onto HS2 train network. A stakeholder is according to Freeman (1984) as “…any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organization’s objectives.” The stakeholders in terms of HS2 according to Freeman’s definition include environmentalists, relocated homeowners, taxpayers, commuters and businesses among others. One of the major stakeholders as mentioned are environmental campaigners, it is important to discuss other key stakeholders and analyse the impact they have on the debate around the development of HS2 and conclude which is the most influential over the decision and project of HS2.
One of the key stakeholders is that of the taxpayer. Seeing as the project will initially be funded by the government, their input is feasible in regards to the development of HS2 due to it being their tax money on the line if government failure occurs during this project. A Guardian report written by Milmo (2013) mentions that the figure of £42.6bn could potentially nearly double to £80bn stating that: “The Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), a free-market thinktank, said that the proposed north-south rail link defied economic logic, adding to growing doubts about the scheme's viability.” Because of the large number of tax payers due to the whole UK population providing the government with direct and indirect taxation such as income tax and VAT, there is a stakeholder group of over 64 million people according to the Office of National Statistics (2014). “The population of the UK grew to 64.1 million in mid-2013, representing a gain of 400,600 (0.63%)”. This illustrates the pressure of HS2 to be successful due to the general public’s money going towards the project. While also the potential trade-off between the HS2 project and other areas government could invest such as healthcare or in terms of transport, faster trains and better rails, or alternatively allowing additional runways at airports. In this situation The Financial Times (2011) ratifies that: “Despite endorsing the strengthening of Britain’s infrastructure, this newspaper struggles with the case for the line….. To govern is to choose. Would the benefits of a shiny new high speed line outweigh the less visible but valuable things that could be done with the limited funds available?” In the circumstances that tax payers’ money isn’t used effectively through funding HS2 could be due to less long journey commutes are needed because of the growth of technology in areas such as video conferencing. The StopHS2 (2010) campaign, one of the stakeholder groups has a clear message that: “No business case. No Environmental Case. No Money to pay for it.” Tara Farley (2012) from StopHS2 has contended that: “There is a raft of both small, medium and large private and public sector companies adopting audio and visual conferencing solutions to reduce the travel burden and provide a better work life balance for employees.” This supports the theory that HS2 is not essential due to the growth of technology and that there is an alternative to travel for business. The role of the taxpayer as a stakeholder is thereby quite significant in terms of input against HS2 due to the concept of choice and opportunity cost where taxpayers would contend that the money could be used in other alternative areas such as other rail lines to increase capacity, alternatively, areas where government cuts have been hit hard such as the NHS. These points indicate that taxpayers are important stakeholders to please, particularly as it could affect political party support as a result of taxpayers being disillusioned by their parties’ position on HS2, therefore it is essential for HS2 to please the public. Despite this, previous campaigns such as Stop Stansted Airport expansion was unsuccessful despite the public support, so perhaps the government may require pressure and opinions from other stakeholders to impact HS2 decisions.
Under the HS2 project, many homeowners will have to be evicted and their properties destroyed to pave the way for the train tracks. According to Castella (2013): “Across the entire line more than 600 homes will be bulldozed and another 340 homes will be cut off from their wider neighbourhood.” This is a fair number of people that will be affected and therefore unlikely to be too pleased. Castella (2013) goes on to say that “Homeowners will get their “unblighted” market value of their property, plus 10% (up to £47,000) and moving costs. But campaigners said the money will help only a “tiny fraction” of people.” The homeowners may get compensation, although peoples whose homes are in these neighbourhoods and close to the track could have their properties devalued significantly while be affected by noise pollution and an eyesore from the trains and won’t necessarily receive compensation for this.
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