The government has announced where the northern rail route of the HS2 high speed railway will go. The £32bn rail project will have running northwards from Birmingham five stops. These are Manchester, Manchester Airport, Toton near Nottingham, Sheffield and Leeds. The Sheffield one will apparently be happily sitting next to the Meadowhall Shopping Centre. If Manchester Airport gets a stop whats the point of Heathrow getting bigger? George Osborne sees this HS2 extension as the "engine for growth in the north and the midlands" but that depends on who is going to use it. And that is where the consultations seem to lead us nowhere.
The government talks about creating jobs as if there is some kind of permanence to these jobs. I get the impression that government policy (regardless of party) is always a case of the tail wagging the dog with these grandiose schemes. The tail here is the construction industry keen to do something new. So HS2 is a fantastic bankroller for them. But is just building things for the sake of it a good enough reason?
Simon Burns, the transport minister, waxes on today about jobs and the need for this and that and joining up the cities, etc, etc. But is this going to be just a drain on the North for those wanting to get to the South more quickly? I don't know because I can't get to find those "facts". It just appears to be some nebulous concept for "jobs" and "growth" so the country's economy can be given a boost.
That's not a good enough reason for carving into the countryside.
Ryanair will still compete for customers
I don't hear of joining this HS2 up with the Eurostar anytime soon. In fact, according to the STOP HS2 site, it's on a back burner with the gas gone out. Now if this high speed train DID link up with the continent I would probably say it was all worthwhile. But a fast ride to London and then a trek and a trudge to the Eurostar trains is totally hopeless as a supporting argument. Ryanair would soon have adverts showing people in the rain. I and my family could be in one because we've suffered the wind and rain getting down to Eurostar, only to meet the Schengen Checkers (for a eurosceptic, this must be the worst opt-out we've ever signed up to!).
So, I'm not against high speed rail as such, just this mistaken project which high speeds people between London and the North without any vision of a connection in London. Will Manchester ever link up with Munich? Will Birmingham meet up with Berlin? If we are not careful it will end up like the wretched M6 Toll Road which vehicles try desperately to avoid. This means Midland Expressway, the company running the road, loses millions each year. And it has not done much to ease congestion. In fact, Thomas Fanning, the CEO of Midland Expressway said in July 2011 “The fall in daily traffic on the M6 Toll also reflects improved travel conditions on the competing M6 following completion of an additional section of hard shoulder running between junction eight and 10 in March of this year." So if the West Coast Line is brought up to scratch it will be a similar case of competition. Plus there will still be competition from the low cost airlines. Why go on a journey with two high speed bits and a tedious low speed bit in London when a cheeky Irishman can get you there quicker and cheaper even if he gets you riled in the meantime?
My hunch is that if we get this HS2 people will avoid the high prices and go on the "ordinary" trains. So HS2 will struggle to be profitable and the debate will drag on well into the next century. And eventually the trains will get old and internally tatty, like the Eurostar trains.
Here is a 60 year-old looking at the world and its daily happenings. Expressing a view on interesting, topical, and controversial things and hoping my posts and opinions find favour with a wider audience. Having some experience of life - travelled here, been there! Looking forward to learning a lot more!