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17 June 2015

The HS2 Vision – will the reality justify the cost?

As I embark on a journey from well south of London to Manchester to discuss the challenges of #HS2, the following figures make interesting reading:

  • Total journey time:   4 hours 1 minute
  • London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly:   2 hours 7 minutes
  • Cost:  >£350
  • Train:  seemed to be approximately half full

It is at moments like this that one can at least understand the concerns of those against HS2.  Even when HS2 is finally built, the most that the journey time will reduce by is approximately one hour (although it seems likely to be less than this given the possible reduction in speed from up to 250 mph down to 185 mph).

The ticket cost remains very much unknown yet there seems little prospect of reduced fares.  The only announcement of note from the Government on this point has been that its proposals “assume a fares structure in line with that of the existing railway”.

Capacity is an issue.  Although my train today was far from full, my experience of trains between Manchester and Birmingham and then London has, at times, been a very uncomfortable one, as standing room only and vestibule-travelling have blighted more journeys than I care to remember.

Yet will HS2 prove to be the panacea to all these ills – and will the Government achieve its aims of creating a transport network to match the very best that Europe has to offer?

All that remains very much unknown.

What is clear, though, is that it will come at a significant environmental and financial cost.

The former in particular will not have been lost on the Select Committee as they visited Buckinghamshire last week.  By all accounts, there were strong representations made by residents and businesses alike – particularly of those based in the Chilterns.

Their experience in this regard cannot have been helped by the continued debate as to the financial merits of the line – particularly those aired by the House of Lords (see our previous article).

So, we must ask ourselves, will the reality of HS2 live up to the Government’s vision?  For that, only time will tell.

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