Tuesday 11 February 2020

HS2 Going Ahead

After its suspension and review, the government have announced that work on the High Speed 2 railway network will continue. The network is due to be built in two phases over the next fifteen years. It will be modelled on the London to Channel Tunnel route and consist of two lines carrying trains at speeds of up to 225 miles per hour. The original budget for the project was fifty-six billion pounds, but so far it has cost about double that, even with only the work so far done; just the stations at London and Birmingham half built. The effect on the environment will be similar to the building of a large motorway with over two hundred homes being lost. The people unlucky enough to be living on the route of HS2 will be forced out of their houses with the bare minimum of compensation. Even the people who live close to the route and keep their homes will witness their world transformed. You can see by the illustration above that the phase one route runs very direct between London and Birmingham, cutting a laceration through the green heart of England. Small villages that are mentioned in the Domesday Book will be ruined. Woodland of ancient oaks will be torn to the ground. The noise pollution caused by the speeding trains will disturb wildlife and farm animals, and will spoil the atmosphere of rural communities. Mahatma Gandhi once said that the village is the fortress of a nation's culture. Well, it looks like the plan is to sack that fortress. And for what benefit? It is estimated that the current average journey time by rail between London and Birmingham will be reduced from one hour twenty-four minutes to fifty minutes. The Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "It has been a controversial and difficult decision" and he has added to the budget by appointing a full-time minister to oversee the project. Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-51443421 and: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-51461597. He claims that it will create jobs and boost the economy. Unlikely seeing as the increasing trend towards automation in the next few years means that the trains may well be driverless and the stations full of automatic turnstiles and ticket vending machines. It is a pity because this is a big black mark against a Prime Minister who has done a lot of good in other areas, see: https://hpanwo-tv.blogspot.com/2019/12/post-general-election-livestream.html. And how much will the tickets cost? Even the existing railway network is so expensive to travel on these days that many people, including myself, hardly ever use it. I prefer instead to use coaches. HS2 will probably be far more pricy that the existing network. It will be nothing more than a rich man's plaything like the Concorde supersonic airliner. (Caroline Stephens has covered HS2 as well, for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9o5e_Xkl1gQ.) I often hear people complain that their taxes are rising, but services are becoming scarcer. "Where is all that money going?" they ask. The answer is: on destructive white elephants like HS2. I just hope common sense returns and we can put a stop to HS2 before they start laying the track. The terminuses can then be turned into ice rinks or something.


Anonymous said...

Brilliant article Ben as always. There are so many things wrong with HS2, not least of course with loss of peoples homes and countryside which it will trample over. Sadly though, most people either couldn't care less or are so busy on the hamster wheel of daily life that they don't realise what's going on, and the ones that do voice their concerns just get ignored. I suspect, as you do, that very few jobs will come from this, because everything's being pushed towards automated systems as you say: automated station ticket barriers and ticket machines (card only, which means you can't pay with physical money), driverless trains (unlikely initially but certainly in the long run), the trains will be full of CCTV cameras, so more push towards interaction with automated machines and less human interaction and more of the usual surveillance. Where's the romance of rail travel gone?.

I really hope do this gets stopped.

Ben Emlyn-Jones said...

Thanks, Anon. Sadly you're correct. I find that the romance of rail travel has already gone, on the rare times I use the train. One can hardly imagine Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman waving to each other across the contactless turnstile.