High-speed rail line gets the green light

The HS2 will allow commuters to travel from London to Birmingham in just 49 minutes. Ironically, the project itself is moving forward very gingerly...

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 23 Aug 2013
The government today gave the go-ahead to a controversial high-speed rail link that will see trains speeding at 225mph through the English countryside. Work will start on the £32bn project in 2015 (when, hopefully, there should be a little more cash in public coffers to actually pay for the thing) but won’t be complete for a whopping 14 years.

Critics of the project say that it will be an eyesore, destroying vast swathes of Tory Middle England, require vast public subsidies and be too expensive for most people to actually use. But transport secretary Justine Greening is not for turning. She has agreed to stick a number of sections of the line underground to placate the environmentalists and insists that the project will generate £47bn for the UK economy over 60 years (MT’s complex calculations place the profits generated by the High Speed 2 at £12bn, if this forecast is correct. That’s £20m a year). As for the last, she’s conspicuously silent. But then, commuters have never exactly been coddled by government (case and point: the 11% rail fare hike last week).

Once the first phase of the HS2 is complete, this ‘motorway for trains’ will be extended to Manchester and Leeds. The inhabitants of these cities should see the influx of commuters on these speedy trains by, oh, 2033. A little way off, then.

Supporters reckon it's about high time that the UK started buidling a modern high-speed rail network, but the response from small businesses located along the route has been resolutely negative. Nine out of 10 Buckinghamshire SMEs told the Federation of Small Businesses that they would not benefit from the HS2, and three-quarters never plan to use the thing. Interestingly, given that the HS2 is supposed to foster trade across the UK, 88% of respondents did not feel it would increase the likelihood of them seeking business in Manchester, Birmingham or Leeds one jot. Nice to see they are keeping an open mind...

Vanity project or godsend for commuters? Tell us your thoughts below.

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