Don’t scare the horses

A wide range of investment opportunities are expected to spring forth as a result of the UK’s new high-speed rail project (HS2), which will eventually link London with the Midlands and North of England (and possibly also Scotland). Far from everyone is in favour of the project, however. Among the nay-sayers is apparently the Queen, who appears to be less than amused.

A recent report in the Sunday Times newspaper suggested that the Queen is concerned about the proposed route of the £34 billion (€38 billion; $54 billion) line, given that it passes close by Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire, which hosts an agricultural show known as the Royal Show and is home to a number of the Queen’s own horses. She is thought to be worried that passing high-speed trains will have an unsettling effect on her equine collection.

If the Queen is indeed an opponent  of the scheme, she is far from alone. Drive through the leafy Chilterns countryside and you will pass countless signs proclaiming the words “Stop HS2” in bright red lettering. You will not be surprised to learn that parts of the Chilterns – designated an “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” based on the perceived value of its landscape – are on the proposed route.

On the official website of the Stop HS2 campaign (stophs2.org), the campaign group says it opposes the rail link “because the business case in based on unrealistic assumptions, the environmental impact has not been assessed, it is not green, the strategic benefits are questionable, and the money could be better spent on other things”.

But with the ‘no’ campaign looking set to dominate press coverage during a period of public consultation that lasts until August, suddenly along came some inspired advertising from those in favour of HS2. A campaign slogan of “Their lawns or our jobs” accompanies pictures of a businessman doffing a bowler hat and a huge country mansion. The campaign, which has been accused of playing to the so-called ‘North-South divide’, implies that the prospect of job creation should outweigh the concerns of wealthy Southern land-owners when contemplating the scheme’s merits.

With construction of the line not expected to start until 2017, the arguments will surely rumble on for some time yet.