Friday, February 01, 2013

HS2: The man in Whitehall knows best again

Last night's This Week on BBC1 discussed the plans for HS2. The guests (sort of) representing the three main parties - Michael Portillo for the Conservatives, Alastair Campbell for Labour and Miranda Green for the Liberal Democrats - were in agreement. Not only must HS2 go ahead, but any local environmental objections to it are inherently ridiculous and must be ignored.

If politics goes in cycles then this is pretty much where I came in. We are once again living in an age where the man in Whitehall knows best and environmental concerns are seen as the enthusiasms of an eccentric fringe.

Maybe I am prejudiced by my East Midlands perspective, but the HS2 scheme seems a great irrelevance. The benefits claimed for it are not based on much research and if you want to boost the economy of the region there are many better ways of spending billions than building a station halfway between Nottingham and Derby. Incremental improvements to existing services are less glamorous but farm more useful.

Indeed, I suspect many travellers will prefer to use the existing line to St Pancras, particularly when it has been electrified, because it has stations close to the centres of those cities.


Simon said...

It does seem logical that the economy of Northern England would be better served by providing better links between Northern cities, rather than between individual cities and London. There are about 7 million people living in Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds, and yet after HS2 its likely to be easier for most of them to get to London than their nearest neighbour. Who exactly is that going to benefit?

Anonymous said...

HS2 is a London thing. Its about providing capacity for trains from the next swathe of London commuterland. Quite simply if you take the Northern expresses off of the Midland, West Coast and East Coast main lines there is capacity for London commuter trains.

The high speed trains then allow London to develop as a professional services hub. Birmingham 112 miles away has lost out. The scattered East Midlands cities can not compete. Sheffield and Manchester next.

Heathrow is threatened as a hub because it needs passengers travelling to London (from Manchester, Leeds, Scotland etc)to justify the connecting flights from those places that make the hub work. HS2 may kill those economics. Hence the silly idea of a link to Heathrow.

The scandal is to compare the time it took to build the London & Birmingham or the Grand Junction with this. What a farce.