High Speed Two is good news for the rail industry. However it is not a done deal.
Despite cross party support its opponents are powerful and well organised. Expect it to surface as an election issue. Five main arguments can be used by rail industry supporters to advance the case for HS2.
The first point is the non-altruistic one and basically says: this is my industry and I want it to prosper. Let’s hear a bit more about beefing up the fortunes of the railway business and the careers of staff who have invested their professional life in it. The other points highlight direct benefits to Britain as a whole.
HS2 is a big vote of confidence in our industry and means more jobs, contracts and stability of employment. The rail industry has proved it can deliver major new projects on time and on budget – High Speed One is the most apposite example.
After years of being the poor transport relation it is about time railways received premium investment. We want this work because we’ll build the new railway, staff the stations and crew the trains. Railway staff stand to benefit as a result and we’d be failing in our duty not to support it.
The railway network is full up. We’re carrying more passengers, a billion journeys a years, than at any time since 1948, on about half the amount of track. The new high speed railway will draw people away from existing express services freeing up paths for hard pressed local services.
Rail freight – which itself is expected to double by 2030 – will also benefit from more capacity. HS2 directly benefits people working in London, Birmingham and eventually Leeds, Manchester and cities linked by the ECML and the WCML – these will be connected to HS2 by high speed through services.
So it is not simply about shaving a few minutes off Birmingham – London journey times. High Speed Two means opening up the wider railway to enable more journeys for more people, more often.
Getting out of recession means stimulating business and trade. Capital investment projects generate wealth, boost employment, encourage local businesses and directly benefit trade and enterprise. Better transport means better business, a quicker exchange of skills, ideas and commerce.
To prosper Britain needs a more cohesive transport network. Assuming the heavily trafficked West Coast Main Line, the M1 and M6 are equal to the task of spreading south eastern economic promise is naïve in the extreme.
People want to travel quickly and responsibly. As a society we are much more conscious of the carbon we burn and the time we waste. High speed rail can help.
Train travel is a lot less harmful to the planet than cars and planes. We use less carbon and there’s less waiting about. Using electricity drawn from a nuclear or renewal source is clean and green. Doing something positive for the environment is in everyone’s interests.
For generations politicians have backed expensive social programmes aimed at narrowing the social and economic disconnect between north and south. The long overdue high speed rail network will bridge that divide.
No one could have predicted the economic boom that has revolutionised London over the last 20 years. It’s a rich and growing city with an insatiable appetite for technocrats, entrepreneurs and every conceivable trade. The capital desperately needs better connections with the rest of Britain.
High speed rail not only brings it nearer but transmits its own magic. Remember High Speed Two will have trains using it that start at Edinburgh, Newcastle and Lancaster and other cities that even now hold the key to Britain’s sustainable and prosperous future.
In conclusion backing railways, improving local services, stimulating growth, going green and doing something constructive about prospering the north country means supporting High Speed Two.