Having not written anything for a while, due to being on holiday, I return to find HS2 continues to be the main battleground in transport policy debates.
Although is it really? I was disappointed to learn that the BBC secretly admit to using HS2 as a tool for giving the Government a kicking in return for the frequent kickings they get; likewise the press are using HS2 as a slapdown in response to the ongoing Leveson debates… And then you have the ‘political strategists’ – enter Lord Mandelson – who want to use HS2 as a political tool to beat the Coalition. How clever (and a nod to Liberal Conspiracy and Sunny Hundal for following suit on that one as well) but how very shitty quite frankly.
HS2 is a policy intervention of significant scale that will create a huge number of major benefits and opportunities for a lot of the country. While we head towards the inevitable funding of Crossrail 2 – meaning London will have 2 Crossrail lines by 2033 at a combined cost of around £32bn. Oh look, 2032 and many billions – HS2 would cost similar and take a similar amount of time and benefit a large part of the country directly.
I am amazed people still slate high speed rail saying it is about getting businessmen to London a few minutes faster – that is just fatuous now. This opens up capacity across the rail network for local commuter services, for regional and intercity services as well as rail freight – all major growth areas.
Spending that money on equivalent schemes across the country ie localised interventions for every town and city will not generate anything like the same wider benefits. Upgrading the West Coast – another £10bn and the decade of disruption after last time??? what, to fill it again with a decade…??? that would be utterly wasteful.
I am very pleased to see all three political parties brush off the latest barbs. They must get a grip on the cost and the detailed design, impacts and mitigation measures that must be all delivered properly and effectively. But HS2 must go ahead and as quickly as possible, because the Westminster village and the metropolitan press circles do not get what this will do for all our other cities and they seemingly do not care. Sod the lot of them then, something like this does not appear often, the opportunity to transform large parts of the country outside of London – design HS2 well, cost it properly and then crack on and build it!
NB see the below infographic, clearly disproving the naysayers who claim that new technologies mean we do not need high speed rail (a view with little currency in countries such as USA, South Korea, Japan and China who are pressing ahead with new technologies AND high speed rail)