The HS2 High Speed rail network has been in the news recently as the ‘phase 2’ details have been announced.

In a BBC news story on the topic, it had mentioned that “Phase one's London-Birmingham link has faced considerable opposition”, “Critics argue that HS2's predicted economic benefits have been overestimated by the government, and suggest swathes of picturesque countryside will be blighted by the railway”. This reminded me of the extreme amount of controversy that this railway has caused throughout Bucks and what an understatement the reference was.

However, most of the opinions I knew were from adults, complaining of expense and detrimental effects on the environment and generally dismissing the £32 billion railway as unnecessary and idiotic; especially during a recession. It interested me to find out what the general teenage view of HS2 is and whether my peers believe that the proposals will affect them at all and how much of their opinion is really theirs or if it is mostly influenced by the adults around them.

Firstly, I asked the general question, “What is your opinion of HS2?”, and most replied with the adult ideas, that it would be expensive, homes would be devalued and it would destroy the areas of “outstanding natural beauty” (A common phrase!). But I was not concerned by these generic opinions; I was more fascinated with why my peers thought that these points were important and if they really thought that the railway would affect them personally.

I then asked “As a teenager, do you think that HS2 will affect you personally?”. One sixth form student from the Misbourne School, Nurulain Khaliel, replied saying, “HS2 affects me as it affects the area that I live in, it is definitely going to cause environmental damage as it will increase carbon emissions around this area, but not only that it will increase it nationally. I also feel that it is sad that the coalition are spending so much money on this when they could be helping society instead of damaging it , they could spend that money on benefits or the welfare state. Therefore it affects me because it’s going to affect my daily life”. 

Another sixth form student from the Misbourne, Stephen Cox who has previously participated in protests against the railway, believes that “People's houses will be sold at an unfair price and essentially it only takes 15 minutes less to get there, for people who live in our surrounding area, it would then take them longer; as previously we could board a train from Beaconsfield but now will have to travel to London. With the debt at 1 trillion, it is money that they can ill afford to waste. HS2 will affect us hugely as it will supposedly take 20 years to build and the noise pollution will be horrific. It will also be very costly to travel to Birmingham and we will pay for it in taxes for many years to come. I can’t see how it will affect me personally apart from the pollution and noise, plus future generations won't see the beauty that surrounds this area, it could also increase levels of illnesses in youth”.

A college student, from the Amersham and Wycombe College, Sarah Goldie-Jones thought the proposals to be ‘stupid’, “because it is not even helping us, it is just going straight through Bucks and saving 20 minutes or something... It is just a waste of money and I feel sorry for the people whose houses it is going through because it is making their houses cheaper or something...”

Another sixth form student from the Misbourne, Joe Burnham, replied saying that “It will destroy parts of our area of outstanding natural beauty and will be really expensive to use and build; it’s a waste of money that could go to the NHS or something! I guess it only really affects me as a teenager because it is destroying the area that I live in”.

Finally, sixth form student at the Misbourne, Leah Moy, said “I don’t agree with it at all. I think it’s unnecessary and stupid and that England are just trying to appear big to countries like China and they are putting that above the people who it will affect. I think it pollute our environment with noise pollution and look really ugly and that loads of people are going to have to move house because of it. And also, the government are spending lots of money on it when supposedly the country has none...”

All of these ‘opinions’ were very relevant and I did not disagree that they were wrong, I simply played ‘devil’s advocate’ and tried to provoke my peers to go further, past the generic opinions.

It is argued by the ‘Stop HS2’ Campaign website that “HS2 will pollute more than car travel and use vast amounts of electricity”. The Campaign’s logo states “Stop HS2, No business case. No environmental case. No money to pay for it”. The website seems to be a collection of all my peers’ ‘opinions’. However, the HS2 official website claims more positive effects will be brought about by the railway, “They are capable of climbing steeper gradients, which allows them to ‘hug’ the landscape – avoiding the need for so many viaducts and high embankments and minimising noise and environmental impacts”. “HS2 will generate £47 billion in user benefits to businesses when the entire network is completed, as well as between £6 billion and £12 billion in wider economic benefits”. Obviously, each side has a lot of very strong points to enable a very long and presumably unending debate.

However, as I said, it is not this which I am interested in. What frustrates me most about the answers from my peers is that no one really had any fresh thoughts on the topic, no individual opinions that stood out, and most failed to answer my question, telling me why HS2 would affect them. No one even looked to the future as this is when the teenagers of today will most likely be affected by it, no one pointed out that it did not matter how it affected them as teens as we would be adults if the railway was built in the future, which then would have made all of their points relevant. I did receive a few refreshing answers such as “I don’t really have an opinion on it as it doesn't really affect me”, or “I’m not really bothered as I hate Birmingham”, I felt that these were much more truthful answers compared to the others who had tried to show strong opinions on the subject. What frustrated me most was that more often than not, my peers did not have the full view of the the argument or even the details of what they were claiming that the railway would cause. They were expressing opinions without the reasons 'why' to back them up.

Finally, I asked my peers, "To what extent do you think that your ideas are your own rather than greatly influenced by the adults around you?". Most were adamant that their opinion was their own. 

Stephen Cox said "definately my own opinion, but then i do politics, so have an interest in the larger picture. However, I would say that most teenagers would be influenced by what adults say", Joe Burnham replied saying "my opinion may be similar to those of adults around me but is not completely influenced by them". Oli Clements, a sixth form student at the Misbourne School beleived that "local media has made it sound like the whole of Bucks is going to be destroyed so I can see why young people are against it" - This was a fair point, however I beleived it wrong that my peers should express opinion based on what the media has told them. 

I have expressed my opinion, I don't beleive  that what most of my peers claimed to be opinion was truly theirs, but I would like to know what you think, perhaps answer my questions that I  asked my peers or tell me your opinion on the topic, I'd love to know what others are thinking!