what is it with big projects not in London? ie HS2?!

It is increasingly vexing me that the vehement opposition to HS2 retains a focus on the cost of HS2 Phases 1 and 2 (still £42.6bn folks, including £14bn of contingency).  With Crossrail 1 coming along nicely at £16bn and Crossrail 2 rising up the agenda in London (and probably a bit more expensive than Crossrail 1) there is little of the fury at major ongoing investment in London’s infrastructure requirements.

When you add to this the committed billions of spend on improving (keeping in a steady state) the existing national road and rail networks, you wonder how the opposition to HS2 expect the future to pan out.  If we cannot spend on increasing capacity on our transport infrastructure, then demand has to stop growing now and start to shrink ie less journeys, significantly less per person given the growing population.

Aha say HS2 opponents – we have more wifi and communicatiosn technology, more videoconferencing and virtual presence at meetings.  Well, hmmmmm, it hasn’t really happened so far has it? the technology exists and is being used, but travel demand continues to soar.  Besides which, speaking for myself, I dn’t want to sit at home and have a virtual career with little human contact.  Humans are social creatures.  This is not realistic.

Right, so is travel demand increasing.  well, yes, very much so.  The railways are bursting at the seams and are already using fares to manage demand.  This will be an increasingly used tool to try and spread out peak loadings on the rail network – although even now the difference in fare prices is vast and yet we still have immense peak time demand for travel.

I get a number of people criticising HS2 based on the Public Accounts Committee report and other similar reports such as the spurious Institute of Economic Affairs document.  Well, there is plenty of more credible evidence on the huge economic benefits HS2 will bring.  But this has turned into a war of attrition.  In the end take it back to transport capacity, travel demand and the role of transport in the world, in our society, for our communities and for us as human beings.

We need more transport infrastructure capacity.  It really is quite simple.  We cannot continue to patch and mend, to use incremental upgrades.  The West Coast Main Line will shut for 2 weeks at Watford next August. 2 weeks of complete closure. £9bn was spent in the last decade on upgrading the West Coast Main Line.  But lots of work was not done.  That alone smashes the opponents’ claims that we can develop existing routes at less cost.  It is an utter fallacy to say that.  The cost of a high speed line against a conventional rail line is within 10% but the benefits are far greater – it is bad sense and poor value to promote a conventional speed new line over a high speed one.

The rump of opponents left have to understand that the evidence is stacked against them.  Either they accept that people should be free to travel, or they openly state their intention of reducing personal mobility and travel opportunities for all of us.

2 thoughts on “what is it with big projects not in London? ie HS2?!

  1. Capacity, Capacity. Oh WCML full says Cameron. Not true, not until the mid 2020s if you believe their figures.Euston is the second least used station in the country (DfT) figures. region travel is increasing but long distance is stalling. There is an increase in people using video conferencing for business & remember we are looking twenty years down the line. If you think twenty years back there was no internet. We are looking at old technologies to solve a problem that may not be there. True there is investment in other parts of the rail network but not enough & not where it is really needed. In the North & the regions to solve the regional overcrowding. Oh & by the way there is still no good news for those suffering on the Brighton Main Line which the DfT still refuse to accept is overcrowded (standing room only if you are lucky) & a second line is needed.

    1. The West Coast Main Line cannot take more trains – ask people of Shropshire and Blackpool about their train connections! Long distance is vastly busier than it was 20 years ago and with regional growth in the West Midlands in particular charging ahead – how does that growth get supported? it is the Intercity trains preventing local growth; hence the need for a new line. HS2 is hugely beneficial to regional rail routes precisely because it allows them (along with rail freight) the significant capacity release required to grow. Incremental upgrades will not achieve that, therefore HS2 is a vastly superior solution.

      in the last 20 years of huge technology improvements – travel demand has correspondingly increased hugely as well.

      As for Brighton Main Line – Thameslink. That is still a lot more than the rest of the country outside of the South East gets. BML2 may well have benefits but it does not benefit anywhere near the size of population that HS2 does.

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