The new High Speed 2 rail network was first proposed by the Labour government in 2009 as a means of introducing additional capacity to an allegedly creaking rail network.
My original opinion was that it wasn’t required and there was plenty of capacity on existing networks and there are plenty of decent projects that could be implemented before HS2.
Since its inception seven years ago, I am resigned to the project going ahead after reading how congested existing networks now are, not least the fact we are growing our population by around a 1/3 of a million people every year we need to invest in all infrastructure. Saying ‘we invest’ is not quite strictly true of course as the Chinese will be investing a substantial sum of money which in turn will pay for NI and salary taxes paying for the vast majority of the rest of the spend (though the Chinese will sensibly want a guaranteed return on their money whether or not a single passenger boards the trains and hence be profitable). I always read the argument of spending more on NHS nurses by cancelling HS2, capital project vs cash flow running costs isn’t going to happen (though buying out the absurdly expensive PFI hospital contracts might be sensible).
HS2 will be running a few hundred yards away from our house, with a tunnel shaft being put in place to allow the air to be flushed out as trains push through. As a result, there will be a huge amount of disruption to the local area with new roads being put in to take away spoil and many of the local footpaths being closed. I would imagine there will also be a huge increase in the number lorries in the local area too.
There are a few things that are annoying me now, the most frustrating is the sheer amount of time this project seems to be taking to get to putting an actual spade in the ground. The local politicians are out in full force in the local area spending valuable local government resource on protesting HS2 with pretty much zero chance of overturning the decision – if it is cancelled it will not be through their vocal opposition, more likely if the Chinese pull out. Sure, let local people have their say, but seven years down the line? Really? The opposition means that costs escalate and where the line affects people, creates more uncertainty for those living there, particularly if they need to sell up through circumstances beyond their control.
Other things that annoy me about the project is why it doesn’t connect with Heathrow and why it stops at Euston rather than go straight through to HS1 at Waterloo.
Dropping back though to the point about local opposition, I was considering the amount of money being spent and that Bucks CC is crying huge poverty. With my business ideas hat on, if I was Bucks, I would be lobbying very hard for a station at Aylesbury. The county town of Buckinghamshire is growing rapidly to accommodate the population increase that is overtaking the country via successive governments. If there was a stop at Aylesbury, it would create an incredible case for business and economic growth in Aylesbury. I can easily envisage financial businesses wanting to be located within a short 10 minutes train journey from the centre of London? Just imagine the prestige for County Councillors who could secure a station at Aylesbury with the local population then being able to hop on the train in Aylesbury and be in France or Belgium within a couple of hours – absolutely brilliant (though with the obvious massive flaw of the line finishing at Euston and not being joined up with HS1)
This new station and economic revitalisation would in turn create a huge increase in business rates revenue for Bucks and Aylesbury Vale District Council. This is important as if you build houses for population increases, the council also has to spend and provide services for education, health and general infrastructure (I’d be interested to know the correlation between the spends and increase in revenue). However, if you build offices and warehouses, the council receives a huge amount of money (my warehouse in High Wycombe donates a huge amount of cash to Wycombe DC) for absolutely nothing in return ie pure profit for their strapped coffers. I’m planning another post about local planning and councils being short of money in the near future so won’t digress too much.
Going back to HS2, and my thoughts drift towards the house prices and population increase in London. I feel sorry for the immigrants that have come to this country and are then forced to live in poverty in hovels around London – as well of course of not having enough dwellings to house the existing population (indigenous – not sure we have an indigenous profile any more do we?). So what to do and how could HS2 help? HS2 won’t help, maybe putting the odd commuter in London. What ‘they’ should do is to look at the Brighton example. As far as I’m aware, the Brighton line into London has been updated several times over the decades and a quick Google search shows that the fastest trains now take only 52 minutes with a couple of stops in between. Brighton has subsequently become a hot spot of inward investment and creativity on the South coast and shining example of what could be achieved.
Therefore, surely a much better exercise for the South East would be to upgrade all of the lines to the South Coast towns such as Hastings, Margate, Ramsgate, Dover etc all of whom have over the years become run down and requiring substantial inward investment. People could then commute into London from there, bringing much needed commuter money whilst also easing the over population problems of London.
First things first though, can local government stop wasting cash fighting it if you are so hard up and second, can we just get on with it – why take so long and be such a laughing stock.
If I have any facts wrong, please just let me know.