Wednesday, 1 June 2011

High Speed 2: Latest opinion poll reveals ...

The UK Department for Transport have been asking people about high speed rail. What does this tell us about whether or not the scheme is a good idea?

According to the Yes to High Speed campaign the poll tells us: "the majority of the respondents were in favour of a high-speed rail system." From the survey: 47% of British adults were in favor, 9% against. So, that sounds like resounding support.

Unfortunately, they choose not to highlight the fact that half of respondents (50%) agreed that 'High Speed Rail is £30bn we cannot afford' while only a quarter disagreed with this statement.

So, the public are in favour of high speed rail, providing that they don't have to pay for it. I am not sure that this gets us much further one way or the other.

The poll is also interesting on the benefits. 56% of adults agreed that High Speed Rail would be better for the environment, while 63% thought it would create jobs and growth. As I have said before, the evidence is fairly weak on both these points. This suggests that most people don't know much about the scheme (which turns out to be true - 42% say they know little or not very much about the scheme, while 47% say they know nothing).

In short, I think this poll tells us that people are willing to express opinions about things on which they know very little. I have the same attitude towards my football team, but I understand why the manager may sometimes choose to ignore me.

More seriously, I think the exercise reveals that there is still a big job to do in properly informing the public about the expected costs and benefits of the project.

1. I sit on the HS2 Analytical Challenge Panel
2. I am sceptical about some of the claims being made for HS2: [1], [2], [3]


Ryan E said...

It certainly is £30bn we cant afford for a dubious economic case. Why not focus the money on developing tram and urban rail in major cities to promote agglomeration benefits and more balanced regional growth?

John N said...

I live in Birmingham where opinion from the public was strongly against High Speed Rail. People fear that the main effect will be to allow commuting Londoners to move here and bid up the price of homes in Birmingham, so residents will never be able to buy their own home. Are they wrong?