On Friday, Jeremy Paxman wrote an article about HS2 in the Financial Times, opening with incredulity,“How on earth are we even contemplating this scheme?”
The project had not been an issue for the three main parties during the election campaign; “All decided that the planned HS2 high speed railway line from London to Birmingham and then — if things go to plan — on to Manchester and Leeds by about 2033 was A Good Thing . . . it was left to the UK Independence party and the Greens (who generally love railways) to point out that HS2 is a grotesque waste of taxpayers’ money”.
Some points raised:
- Despite living in an age of austerity, the main parties were as one in believing it a brilliant way to blow a projected £50bn of public money.
- It will not be £50bn; cost controls on public spending projects are laughable – see the over budget Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly buildings, the cost of the first high speed rail link and the National Health Service IT project.
- At the end of years of digging and disruption we shall be able to get from London to Birmingham 30-odd minutes quicker.
- To get from Leeds to Manchester on HS2 you would have to travel south to Birmingham and then north again on the other side of the country.
- If, as has been predicted, Birmingham will turn into a suburb of the capital, that will only be for those wealthy enough to afford tickets.
- The point that seems not to have been much recognised by huge numbers of the poor saps who will have to pay for this project is that at the end of their journey north, the happy business folk will not be alighting in the centre of Birmingham, at New Street station, but will have to take a 10-minute walk to get there from the planned HS2 terminus (Ed: unless the Metro is completed).
Jeremy Paxman concludes:
“Britain is notorious for its shuddering transport policy. When was the last time you heard an MP say, “I’m begging the prime minister to let me go to the Department for Transport and stay there forever, so we can get this country moving properly”? Building a decent infrastructure is serious, unglamorous work with little political dividend, so our system is hopeless at long-term planning . . .
“[U]nless someone comes to their senses soon, future generations will . . . be able to look at great tracts of concrete laid across the countryside to enable a slightly quicker journey through our overcrowded island. More than likely, they will still be paying for it”.