Two-thirds of people who took part in a special Birmingham Post survey opposed the Government’s plan to build a £17 billion high speed railway between London and Birmingham, while just over half did not believe the project would bring any economic benefits to the West Midlands.
But opposition to the scheme was far from overwhelming, with one-third of the 617 respondents saying they were in favour of the idea.
The online poll produced some surprising results.
Almost half of those who supported the HS2 project live within five miles of the proposed track.
And while backers of the scheme were overwhelmingly of the opinion that high speed rail would benefit the Birmingham economy, opponents were equally adamant that it would not.
Just over 80 per cent of respondents believed HS2 would damage the West Midlands countryside, dismissing Transport Secretary Philip Hammond’s pledge to provide extensive screening and tunnelling.
Asked whether high speed rail would be good for the Birmingham economy – one of the main claims put forward by the Government and city council – 55.4 per cent said it would not and 36.5 per cent said it would.
Almost two-thirds thought HS2 would have a detrimental effect on the towns and cities surrounding Birmingham.
Just under 70 per cent said they would rather see the Government support alternative transport schemes, such as improving the West Coast Main Line between Birmingham and Euston and improving roads and motorways.
Opinion was divided over the choice of Eastside for the Birmingham HS2 terminal. Asked whether Curzon Street was the right location, 30.8 per cent said it was, 32.6 per cent said it was not, and 36.6 per cent did not know.
There was general support for a Department for Transport public consultation exercise, which is taking place at the moment. Just over half of those completing the survey believed the results of consultation would be very important or quite important in influencing the Government’s final decision.
>> Next page: More results, plus download a pdf of the full response to the survey
However, 44 per cent said Ministers would not change their proposals whatever happened during the consultation period.
A third of respondents thought Birmingham Airport and Birmingham City Council should contribute to the cost of building the line, while 46.2 per cent said the two bodies should not have to pay anything.
Just under 34 per cent thought they would use high speed rail, either in a professional or personal capacity. However, that figure rose to almost 95 per cent among people who were supporting HS2.
Meanwhile, just over 90 per cent of HS2 opponents said they would never in any circumstances use a high speed rail service.
The poll demonstrated widespread scepticism about the Government’s proposed timescale for delivering HS2, with 70 per cent saying the project would never be completed by 2026.
Comments from people taking part in the survey underlined the very strong views held by both sides of the HS2 divide.
Observations from opponents included claims that it was “crazy” to spend so much money to reduce travel times between Birmingham and London by 20 minutes, and persistent fears that HS2 would turn the West Midlands into a commuter area for London.
The Government’s business case for high speed rail was described by more than one respondent as “deeply flawed” because it was based on unrealistic forecasts of future demand for travel by train.
Supporters pointed to economic advantages, claiming that HS2 would be of huge benefit by making Birmingham and the West Midlands far more attractive as a business destination, not just to firms currently located in the South-east but also to companies based in Europe.
Many respondents pointed out that West Coast Main Line services will be full to capacity by the early 2020s. HS2 was vital for economic growth and would also free up capacity on the WCML, benefitting local commuter services.