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Saturday, 7 January 2012

HS2 – Beginning Of The Endgame

[Update at end of post]

Following analysis by Network Rail (NR) into the proposed HS2 project and a variety of alternatives that have been put forward recently, the conclusion has been that High Speed Rail is the way to go, with less potential disruption, better outcomes for commuters and freight operators, and a more reliable railway all round. So it seems that the first phase of HS2 may be about to be approved.

This news has met with silence from the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), which has been opposed from the start and issued a number of dubiously argued missives in pursuit of its campaign, and its ideological brethren at the Adam Smith Institute (ASI), whose “report” into HS2 was not read for technical competence. But the Stop HS2 campaign are still defiant, if of less than total veracity.

Stop HS2 tell that Portugal cancelled its high speed rail programme “just last month”. They didn’t. The project will still deliver a line from the Spanish border – the preparation of the route from Madrid is well under way – to connect to the existing network at Poçeirão. As the “third Tagus crossing” has been shelved, an interim solution using dual gauge trains will be used.

And that’s consistent with the rest of the anti-HS2 propaganda, from the first flawed analysis of Stop HS2 (telling that Bradford was bigger than Edinburgh) through the TPA trying to add the cost of Crossrail 2 to the project, and the ASI inventing a wider track gauge both for HS2 and retrospectively for the Spanish AVE between Madrid and Barcelona.

Meanwhile, the NR conclusions echo what has previously appeared on Zelo Street: counter proposals to HS2 would “slow down some existing mainline services, limit freight traffic, and make the network even less reliable” (see HERE, HERE and HERE), and “would leave commuters unable to board packed trains on the southern end of the [West Coast Main] line” (see HERE).

Thus the indications that HS2 is to be given the green light: coverage has been broadly positive, even in the usually anti-public works part of the Fourth Estate, such as the Mail and Telegraph. And for once, the latter paper can be forgiven for discussing trains that travel “at up to 250mph” while picturing a 168 mph Eurostar on the third rail electrified part of the network, where it cannot exceed 100.

And if those indications prove true, then it will be another setback for the TPA and its overmonied, greedy and cowardly backers. That isn’t the kind of success they need, but HS2 is not about another Astroturf lobby group pushing yet more slanted and partisan propaganda. It is about being able to transport people and goods quickly and effectively in the years to come.

The needs of the many, in this case, outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.

[UPDATE 1820 hours: HS2 has caught the eye of James "saviour of Western civilisation" Delingpole, who has ranted about it in characteristically bullying style, while accusing his opponents of bullying. Del Boy wants "Fast broadband" instead of more rail capacity, but does not tell how this solves the rail network's capacity to move both people and goods around the country.

He also characterises HS2 as being about "rich commuters" (so he's been reading the TPA's propaganda), while ignoring all those at present using services into and out of London's Euston terminus who will find that, in the not too distant future, there is not enough capacity to carry them all. But happily they will be able to tell their bosses so much faster that they can't get to work, because of Del Boy's broadband wheeze.

Clever, eh? No - Ed]


Anonymous said...

Has the Network Rail report been published? Is there a link?


Tim Fenton said...

The Network Rail site appears to be lagging behind the company's release of info to the press right now.

I'll have another look tomorrow.