A View From Middle England - Conservative with a slight libertarian touch - For Christian charity and traditional belief - Free Enterprise NOT Covert Corporatism

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

High speed rail - low speed information!

Justine Greening poses by a high speed train
Justine Greening is the new Transport Secretary and she's not much better than Hammond was when it comes to explaining just what this Brum to the Smoke train thing is supposed to be all about. Currently she's waffling on about investment, getting about more quickly and other nebulous bits of gossip. What she does not say is whether it is all worth it in the true sense of "worth it". I suspect this is just a sop to keep the construction industry happy. If it is, why doesn't she just say so. We are told business people want to be wizzed up and down this line in 49 minutes so they can somehow do better what they are failing to do now. I assume they are relying on a completely breakdown free, strike free train service? A train every four minutes, apparently. Will there be such a demand for swapping time in these two cities? Does Ms Greening know? And if she does have facts that say each train will be filled with eager travellers, what of the slow coaches on the existing tracks? What is their fate to be on track that is not worth upgrading? Will Watford still be a good place for signalling failure? The rail industry is right now under-invested and managing on a wing and a prayer mentality. I went down to London on Virgin Trains on Christmas Eve, hoping that by paying a bit extra the service would be impeccable. No such luck. Delays due to signalling. Coming back after Christmas, a similar event befell us. So do I hope for better things? Yes I do. But I doubt the thought of going to London in 49 minutes is going to assuage me at the moment.

I saw a chap on the television, a director of Manchester Airport. He thought the high speed thing essential for Manchester. Why exactly? I can't think his airport is going to benefit. Is he hoping for Londoners to be whisked up there so they can fly off to places they never thought Heathrow catered for? Or is he wanting to send some of his lot down south? He never said WHY it would be good, just that he wanted it. Business leaders are talking with forked tongues. That they've got something of interest in the project is not doubted. It's just that the rest of us haven't been let in on the plot.

Saving on flying is one reason the Daily Mail came up with. However, no planes fly between Birmingham and London except for executive jets. It will be years before the planes between Manchester and London get competition from the high speed trains. Will the planes go the same way as SeaFrance ferries? Lose some jobs at the airport, gain them on the trains. Swings and roundabouts.

I'm not against this project as such. I'm just against the weasel words and the bold-faced corruption of it all. If the construction industry wants work, let them renovate houses, or the cracked motorways, or the disused factory sites around the country. Better still, do something about the existing rail network. As it stands, tickets have just gone up to pay for "investment". I imagine a ticket for a 49-minute speedy train journey will be either a massive cost, or a subsidised one, reflecting nothing of the true cost. We need Ms Greening to give us ANSWERS not platitudes.

First off, how will this all help Birmingham? Are we to be visited by eager business folk, all keen to get out of London to do some kind of Dick Whittington in reverse? Who knows? None of do at the moment! Answers, Ms Greening, PLEASE!!!!


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But you don't say anything about trains, Steve!

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