Socialist Worker

Letters—Is HS2 good news for planet or environmental disaster?

Issue No. 2691


Should HS2 be stopped or built? (Pic: John Winder/Wikimedia)

The development of railways is needed to take cars and much lorry traffic off heavily-polluting, CO2-creating, dangerous roads.

And high speed railways are necessary to replace the large carbon footprint of air transport—especially for short distance flights.

At present the railway to Birmingham and beyond is full to capacity and building a new line is the cheapest option to increase it.

And building a fast line to the north of England and Scotland would eliminate air travel on these routes and vastly increase capacity.

HS2 has been poorly designed and badly managed. But so much is under capitalism.

Should we call for the scrapping of new hospitals as their construction and running is poorly designed and badly managed?

The SWP’s call for the scrapping of HS2 is essentially a call for support of road and air transport as against the much more environmentally friendly rail.

Phil Hall

Leyton, east London

  • As bad, if not worse than, the financial cost identified by Sarah Bates (Socialist Worker, 29 January) will be the destruction HS2 will wreak on precious, in many cases irreplaceable, wildlife habitats along the proposed route.

A recent report by a coalition of 46 wildlife trusts identified the threat to 108 ancient woodlands and 693 local wildlife sites.

Some 33 sites of special scientific interest are at risk, and five sites of international importance due to the special or rare mix of natural features, habitats, and wildlife.

The loss of wood pastures, meadows, and wetlands will also adversely impact the health and wellbeing of local communities.

The mitigation measures put forward by HS2 Ltd are wholly inadequate. The risk posed to the natural environment alone should stop this project in its tracks.

Harry Dare


Brexit is a step back

Sophie Squire and Sarah Bates drastically underplay Brexit’s threat to workers’ living standards and jobs (Socialist Worker, 29 January).

Most Labour members and trade unionists voted Remain. The SWP has been out of step with the advanced sections of the working class.

The European Union (EU) isn’t “firmly on the side of the bosses”.

Sophie and Sarah refer to the “EU Working Time Directive which limits workers’ hours and protects annual leave allowance”.

The EU does not oppose all renationalisation.

A Labour government could renationalise the railways so long as rail firms didn’t form a single state monopoly. The overwhelming majority of Europe’s railways remain state-owned.

The Leave vote was certainly a reaction against austerity. But it was largely nationalist and therefore not progressive.

Fascist movements in their early stage are also anti-establishment. I’m not suggesting Leave voters are in any way fascist, but the Leave vote encouraged the far right across Europe.

There is much wrong with the EU. But far more effective would be to remain and for the British working class movement to fight it from within, linking up with the European Trade Union Confederation.

Lexit promotes an isolated socialist Britain. This is dangerously close to the Stalinist model of socialism in one country.

Sabby Sagall

Central London

‘I’m living on nothing due to Universal Credit’

I get paid Universal Credit once a fortnight because I’ve had payments split to try and help my situation.

I’ve had my Employment Support Allowance (ESA) assessment and they say I’ve got limited capability for work. I am waiting to hear whether I can get ESA or not.

I have depression, anxiety and vertigo. I have to have injections in my hips every three months.

And I have arthritis in my back, my hips and my hands.

Out of the £105 I get a fortnight, I can’t afford to buy food.

I’m living on nothing and when I get paid later this month, I’m down to £70 a fortnight by the time I put gas and electric on.

The Department for Work and Pensions doesn’t care. As long as they get paid and can afford to live they’re fine.

Universal Credit is doing more harm than good. It should be scrapped.

Tracy Matthews


Assange should not be jailed as a spy

Many will be heartened to have read a message of support for Julian Assange in the Guardian newspaper last week.

And to learn that the editor of The Daily Express, and possibly those of other major newspapers, believe he should not be extradited.

For many the most serious issue regarding Assange is the possibility that his revelations led to the deaths of undercover agents.

Roy Greenslade of the Guardian newspaper has found no evidence of that. And US General Robert Carr said under oath in the trial of Chelsea Manning that the US government had not been able to find any such incidents.

The core accusation against Assange is that he is a spy. He is charged with espionage.

The definition of a spy is a person employed by a government or other organisation to secretly obtain information on an enemy or competitor.

It is self evident that Julian Assange was not engaged in that activity. He is not a spy.

He does not deserve to spend the rest of his life in prison in the US under the Espionage Act of 1917.

Brendan O’Brien

North London

Don’t fall for Amazon lies

The advert on TV about happy contented workers at Amazon—I wonder how much they paid them?

What a load of propaganda! The reality is appalling conditions and workers being taken away in ambulances, and no union recognition.

Along with using tax loopholes to avoid paying proper taxes.

They are liars.

Rob Murray

South Tyneside

Downplaying mental abuse?

Yuri Prasad is way off mark when he counterposes what the FBI did to Jean Seberg to what the FBI did to Black Power activists (Socialist Worker, 22 January).

In the case of Seberg, the FBI relied on bugging and lies instead of physical repression.

As Yuri notes such tactics worked.

Seberg suffered a miscarriage and made several suicide attempts.

John Curtis


Scrap the TV licence fee

The cost of the annual television licence fee will increase from 1 April.

It is a modern-day Poll Tax. Each year hundreds of poor men and women attend Magistrates Courts for not being able to afford the licence fee.

It should be abolished.

The licence fee is used to finance the BBC, the propaganda organisation of the British state.

The BBC should be financed from advertising revenue.

John Smithee


No to longer prison terms

Some people called for longer jail sentences after the south London stabbings earlier this month.

But as Socialist Worker pointed out last week, rates of self-harm in prisons are soaring.

Calls for harsher sentences play into the idea that some people—Muslims—will always be “dangerous”.

And they also threaten to seriously harm even more people.

Lucy Wilson

West Yorkshire

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