Heaven only knows why, but the Government, the opposition, the media, and industry seem almost unanimously in favour of the ridiculous vanity scheme HS2. We are led to believe that the only people who are against this spiffing idea are a totally selfish bunch of rural dwellers whose homes and lives are about to be blighted by the prospect of trains flashing through their back gardens at speeds approaching 250 mph. Nimby buggers!
Apparently spending £32billion, at a time when we are supposedly belt tightening, in order to allow the super rich in 2025 to spend an extra half an hour in bed before commuting to the smoke in unashamed luxury, is supposed to be a bloody good idea. The notion that ordinary commuters will get their extra lie-in is pretty damned fanciful. The cost of tickets will be prohibitive and preference will go to those who want to lounge around in the office-style facilities of HS2, and whose companies are paying for the ticket. The remaining commuters can just bloody well get their arses out of bed at the usual time and struggle down to London crammed like sardines on the West Coast mainline which will be left to rot as investment is switched to digging tunnels in the Chilterns. Of course, outside the ‘rush hour’ day trippers will be allowed to take a supersonic trip… at a price, of course
Meanwhile, civic leaders in Birmingham stumble over themselves to tell everyone how this will be a tremendous boost to the region. Businesses will locate to the West Midlands from the over-heated South East when commuters can speed up to Birmingham in less than an hour.
Complete cobblers, of course.
We had similar arguments advanced here in the West Midlands when a metro line was built from Birmingham to Wolverhampton. Areas like Bilston and West Bromwich which were stops on the metro line would get a massive boost as the million customers from Birmingham flocked along the metro line to shop in the the suburbs. The reality was that people from Wolverhampton, Bilston, West Bromwich… found it easier to commute into Birmingham’s flashy Bull Ring… whilst the boards went up on the windows of the shops in the suburbs.
The reality is England is a fairly small country. You can travel to almost any major business centre in the country in a couple of hours or so. An exhorbitantly expensive train line designed to cut travel time by a few minutes (before getting off the train and sitting in a traffic jam) between two cities just over 100 miles apart seems to be no more than a bit of willy-waving by politicians desperate to show the world that we are really ‘modernised’ too.
If the nation really wants to invest in its infrastructure we could build new homes for our overcrowded youth, invest in decent social care facilities for our elderly, and build new schools to replace the rotting slum schools where many of our kids still have to try to eke out an education. It would not only get people back to work and reduce the benefit bills, it would give us some real ‘modernisation’.