Hammond’s HS2 – The Hot Air Continues to Rise

by Jeremy on 09-Mar-2011

Over the past few days, Phillip Hammond’s claim that HS2 can “help to bridge the longstanding north-south divide that has held us back in the past” has been widely revealed to be just another of his increasing number of statements which completely ignores facts.  He has provided no evidence whatsoever to support his statement, referring instead to other benefits as being “unquantifiable”.

However, if we discount unsupported claims and look at what we do know, the evidence goes the other way.  According to figures published by the Department for Transport some 30,000 jobs would be created directly by HS2 and over 70% of those jobs would be in London.  Greater prosperity will accrue to the south then, not the north.  The warning is there for all to see. 

Further, published evidence of the experiences of several countries which have high speed rail systems demonstrates that the significantly larger city of any two connected by HSR often increases its prosperity at the expense of the smaller city.  HS2, a massively expensive project connecting first Birmingham to London and later (we are told) Manchester and other cities further north, would more likely cause a catastrophic reinforcement of the north-south divide.

Substantial investment in the wider rail network would be a possibility if the government did not choose to squander the lot on a vanity project.  Considerably less expensive options already exist for the development of the West Coast Main Line, options which would remove the overcrowding and provide faster travel times between the major cities.  As a bonus they could deliver similar benefits for other important population centres on the line. 

What’s the catch?  Well, with a far less costly project yielding a better rate of return at less risk, we would still get the shorter journey times, improved reliability and more and longer trains. 

But the Government would just have to give up on the bling.

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