The announcement this morning of the route of HS2 on to Manchester and Leeds will mean I will save an hour on my monthly trek to Leeds. But trek it will still be as it will take me ninety minutes as long to travel the 26 miles from where I live to Kings Cross to connect with the line.
The justification for HS2 is improved speeds, infrastructure upgrades and job creation. It also means less need for airline flights from London to Manchester because trains will be faster as they will travel city-centre to city-centre.
For the visitor, the tourist and the traveller, it will mean less time travelling but how useful will it be?
Most overseas visitors fly into London so from that point of view it will help to speed them on their way. But for those of us domestic travellers, it will help us get to and from London but not all of those of us who travel go near London. The cross country rail services are some of the busiest – and slowest – that we have yet this government seems to think that the be-all, end-all is London. Was it ever not thus? How about a Cardiff- Bristol-Birmingham-Manchester-Leeds-Glasgow high speed link? That would probably be more useful in terms of jobs, regeneration and tourism since London hasn’t been affected in quite the same way by the economic downturn as the regions.
There will be the inevitable planning objections as people squabble over the routes. Some are already saying that London will benefit to the detriment of the regions. But who has quantified the effects on London? Will it just overwhelm the existing infrastructure? Many of us avoid London like the plague if we don’t have to go there. It is slow to travel through, congested and expensive. But – on the other hand – it will make the commute of dozens of MP’s shorter.
This smacks of politics and little else. But because a couple of politicians think they have come up with a good idea and decree it to be the saviour of countless woes doesn’t mean to say that they are right, that the routing is right, that it is best for encouraging regeneration and that we should meekly accept it. I’d dearly like to see what the writers of Yes Prime Minister would make of it. And, incidentally, are there no trains available that can be used on existing track at faster speeds? Has anybody even asked that question?
More than daft is the decision to postpone the spur linking Heathrow to the route. Congratulations politicians. That will slow things down even more. The reasoning is because the cilvil aviation review reporting in 2015 might change things. Why not bundle it into this decision, plan for it but be prepared to delete it if a decision is made to close Heathrow or build another airport? This all smacks of un-joined up thinking.
I see the value of rail. I see the value of taking cars off motorways and planes out of the sky. What I don’t see the value of us making London evermore a hub interchange for trains or cramming more people into a hub that most probably didn’t want to go to in the first place.