Robert Hampton

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10th January 2012

High Speed Wail
Posted by at 11.29pm | 1 response | In the News, Trains

Photo of Eurostar trainFinally, almost two years in, the Coalition Government gets something right, by approving High Speed Two, a new railway line between London and Birmingham. As the name suggests, the line would be designed for fast trains, running at 200mph or more. Journey times between London and Birmingham will be cut to as little as one hour on the new line. Other cities will benefit too, with trains continuing onto the existing lines north of Birmingham to serve Manchester, Liverpool and points North.

This initial approval is not the end of the story, as there is lots of wrangling still to come. Many in the Home Counties are unhappy that the line will cut through their back yards (literally in some cases), forcing them out of homes and causing much disruption, with no direct benefit to them (there will be no stations between London and Birmingham). The vocal, organised and well-supported Stop HS2 campaign will surely continue to fight the plans tooth and nail. This raises the exciting prospect of more protest songs like this one:-

A Bill to construct the line needs to go through Parliament, and although all three major parties support high speed rail in principle, some MPs – whose constituencies will be affected by construction – are threatening to rebel against the party line.

A lot of the complaints are about the cost – suggesting that £33bn is too much to cut journey times. This misses the point that HS2 is also about providing capacity. The existing routes between London and the North are reaching saturation point – they cannae take any more trains, captain!

Of course I’m happy about the news – it’s 120-odd miles of new railway, for goodness sake! After years of bellyaching about the state of Britain’s railways, it’s good to see the powers-that-be finally take an interest in tackling the problem. In a rare example of long-term planning, this 15-year project to will provide much-needed extra capacity on the rail network.

Also, the Daily Mail clearly hates the idea, which has convinced me it has to be worthwhile.

I do, however, have some reservations (they’re free of charge at any staffed station and are recommended for longer journeys).

Firstly, I’m worried that fares will be too expensive for the average punter. The HS1 commuter service from London to Kent charges a premium, and it’s almost certain that HS2 will be similar. The West Coast Main Line is rapidly becoming unaffordable to those unable to book a cheap Advance ticket or use London Midland’s slower service, and it looks like the new line could be even dearer. It would be a shame if HS2 turns out to be usable only by the well-off.

Photo of French TGVSecondly, I worry that investment in the “classic” lines will dwindle as attention is focused on the glossy TGV-esque trains. Many in Britain look enviously at France’s TGV network, but they may be unaware that many secondary SNCF routes have seen their services reduced or replaced by buses as investment has been diverted to the high-speed routes. Many of Britain’s minor rail routes are lifelines for the communities they serve, and I don’t want to see them sacrificed for the sake of a prestige project.

Despite these concerns, I look forward to the day when I can board a shiny high speed train at Liverpool Lime Street and be whisked off to London in just 1¾ hours. I’ll be 44 years old, so a relaxing train journey will be the perfect way to recuperate after my hip replacement.

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One Response
  1. Comment by Andrew
    11th January 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Hmmm, so it would only save 23mins from Liverpool to London, AND the fares will probably be sky high… Save your money and goto New York instead, or if that would be too much for your hip then a relaxing holiday at Key West instead 🙂