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Latest Issue


Where are we going?

HS2 appears to be taking a bit of a battering this week, as the costs continue to escalate against a faltering economy and rising cost of living. It's a shame for a number of reasons. In this country few people (and I suppose journalists must figure at the front of the queue) are prepared to take the long term view. If we apportioned the cost of developing the whole of the UK's railway network in the 19th and early 20th century at today's value, it would surely exceed the latest estimates for HS2.

It might only represent a small fraction of the original network, but it creates a high speed link between the North and South which will surely be expanded, frees up clogged Midlands and Northern lines used by freight and local commuters and encourages greater investment in these areas to relieve the congested predominance of London and the South East. The same dogged perseverance by the Government, however, should be shown to the ailing Northern Powerhouse projects and the arterial connections that could be opened up from regional HS2 hubs.

Another forceful argument for HS2 is the evolution of the workplace and the mandated move towards EVs - on the roads and on-track. Unless there is a dramatic movement in the cost of such vehicles and greater access to charging facilities, the majority of motorists will be priced off the roads. Those who can will work from home, those who can't will seek employment locally and rely more frequently on public transport to get about - and shop on-line, relying on driverless vehicles from Amazon, Ocado etc., to deliver the bulk of their shopping.

The fly-in-the-ointment, of course, is the cost of the whole enterprise. Were it to be completed and ready to run, the appropriate union would stall its operation by demanding a salary scale for the hi-speed drivers commensurate with their newly-minted role and their ability to hold the Government and the public to ransom.

There are good signs for public transport, one of them being the lead article in this newsletter about Sheffield Tram, one of the city-based transport systems revitalising city centres, and here, in a rural area, the cutting of fares to encourage greater use of local buses and the recruitment of a large number of young drivers to cope with an expansion of the network. Take a wider view and adapt to a changing landscape.

David Chadwick

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