Tuesday, April 23, 2013

HS2 will result in poorer train services for the East Midlands

There is a tremendous post about the folly that is HS2 on Jones the Planner:
HS2 is not a good idea; in fact it is a catastrophically bad idea and a fatal distraction from what really needs to be done to improve our railway system. I have always been suspicious of grands projets which seem to be strongly related to male pride (or inadequacy) and national chauvinism. If the Frogs have got TGV and RER then we must have them too or we are not pissing high enough up the wall of international prestige. 
This extremely grand projet has been parachuted in as a solution without any serious analysis or debate about what the problem is or any honest evaluation of alternatives. Worst of all there is no effective scrutiny as the job has been outsourced to a private company, HS2 Ltd, which is not run by train spotters exactly but by single minded enthusiasts. It is wholly owned by the DfT - what a very modern way of doing things. The justification for HS2 is now being sold and spun to us by a bunch of consultants that we end up paying very handsomely for.
The temptation is to quote the whole thing, but let me fast forward to a passage of particular concern to those of us who live in the East Midlands:
However the HS2 business case claims that 80% of passengers from Nottingham will transfer from MML to HS2, and to help this heroic punt come true, hidden in with the small print, you find the assumption that direct trains from the new Nottingham Hub to St Pancras will be cut by half. Well, that will do a lot for city centre competitiveness, I don’t think. 
So actually Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield get a worse train service to their city centres, where most people want to be, than they do now - but great if you want to drive to a Parkway station. Leicester, a city of some half a million people will no longer have a mainline service as such. It is bizarre if not surprising that a project which started with the aim of boosting provincial cities should end up promoting plans which will hugely undermine city centres and urban economies and positively promote exurban motorway sprawl.
The answer, of course, is to devolve decision-making power so that the people who live in the East Midlands make the decisions. Then we would not see billions wasted on making things worse for many of them.

1 comment:

Offa said...

I don’t disagree with the general proposition of localising decisions but in the case of a national railway network it doesn’t seem the key moment to argue this. Also, the downgrading of existing services is written in to the whole of the HS2 plan, not just in the Notts area. Fewer trains, and turning express services into stopping trains (longer journey times). Of course HS2Ltd/The Government spin this as an ‘improvement’. That is why places like Coventry have identified a ‘quad whammy’ from HS2 – down grade of their existing rail service; leeching of Coventry jobs to around the Birmingham stations; no money available for Coventry infrastructure investment needs; and impacted by the loss of jobs and value (businesses and environmental) from the HS2 land-take and 15 year blight on property.

You will hear the Government/ HS2Ltd say that 'in any large infrastructure scheme there are always winners and losers'. So that's OK then??? Liberal voters up and down the line are fundamentally 'collateral damage'. Do you think this will lose Liberal votes or do you think this will lose Liberal votes? How about starting a real debate on HS2 – committed to the WHOLE truth on the business case; the environmental case; the social impact case; the economic case? HS2 has from the start been a solution trying to find a problem. Adonis started the whole project by saying we NEED high speed – so draw a straight line (400kph can’t take curves) London to Birmingham and start the justification from there. Each argument used to justify it has been decimated in turn – currently they are fronting the ‘capacity crisis’ one. But did you know that the London to Birmingham route is between 34th and 39th ORR (Office of the Rail Regulator) priority? The ‘capacity crisis’ is in commuting services and some regional services. It is not long distance!

The sooner Liberals distance themselves from the appalling HS2 scheme, the better. Yes, let’s have massive investment in rail modernisation – but across the country and based on highest priorities first. That will deliver more capacity, more jobs, quicker, cheaper, and around all of the UK. More amenable to the devolved decision making that you emphasise?