Monday, 20 June 2011

High Speed slowing down?

Saturday 18 June - Today, I caught up with the HS2 display at New Street station. It was just a young woman and some leaflets. She seemed quite personally sympathetic to my alternative of diverting any investment into the existing rail system, instead. I met a couple from Pelsall in the street, who just wanted their station re-opened. How much of the railway system the Victorians built is still derelict or under-used?
On to the Water Hall, behind the Council House, where a posse of officials, offered their exhibition to a trickle of the public. Someone from Lichfield told me they had 2,000 there - protestors he implied. Again, the junior (female) staff I spoke to seemed quite happy that I was questioning HS2. I got really annoyed with the men from the ministry, as they had no alternative use of £34,000 million for people to compare this with. Isn't the country desperate to pay off our huge national debt and suffering cuts to vital services? What will happen to the costs of HS2, once the system is half-built and the contractors have the government over a barrel?
The officials
  • couldn't explain who would pay for HS2, as this 'has yet to be decided',
  • were clearly using 'predict and provide' - stretching demand for future inter city travel ever upward,
  • admitted that a lot of the 'quickie' trips to London will be new leisure ones, generated by a superfast journey time, so they were left with some 'businessmen' (who work on trains anyway) as the beneficiaries. I suggested the cost should be divided among them and they should be asked if they are willing to pay the billions required.
My conclusions were that HS2 is the wrong kind of capacity in the wrong place and the wrong answer to the wrong question. Investment is needed to make public transport a viable alternative to the car for journeys to work in every part of the country, as we have a huge backlog of local schemes awaiting funding. The officials told me I could tell the government so, in the consultation, which is online and open to all (for 40 days) at
John Newson

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