by Leon Duveen on 4 November, 2013
Here is the test of my speech to the East Midlands Regional Conference in reply to the motion calling HS2 a vanity project:
HS2 is vital to the continual economic growth of the country and, after it is built, we will all wonder what the fuss was all about.
Just as with the canals in the 18th century, the railway lines built in the 19th century & the motorways of the second half of the last century, HS2 will in time become central to our way of life and allow for the better movement on people & freight around the country. Indeed, in 30 years time to outcry will not be about why was HS2 built but why the politicians of the early 21st century lacked the vision to make a better job of it and build the line up to Newcastle, Edinburgh & Glasgow straight away.
Living out in the remote wilds of North Nottinghamshire, the benefit to Bassetlaw is obvious, giving extra capacity on the East Coast Main Line will improve connections northwards as well as southwards, it will also make more room for freight trains on existing lines, so relieving the over-busy A1 & M1 that run through our region and we should be encouraging this.
It is not just about travelling faster. Our current network is full to capacity and even with long trains (which need longer platforms) and improved signalling, there is a limit to how much more capacity can be found. The problem really is that we have a Victorian era railway network with bottlenecks like the Welwyn Viaduct on the East Coast Main Line just north of London (which can only carry 2 lines of track instead of the 4 lines elsewhere on the route) acting as a break in increasing that much needed capacity. We desperately need a new north/south line, and if we are to build one it makes sense to make it a High Speed line.
I realise the cost is high and it won’t be ready for 30 years. In the meantime there is much else we should be doing about improving the rail network, newer rolling stock, increasing the subsidies (it cost over £100 to travel by train from Retford to London unless you book up weeks in advance and the equivalent journey by car can be done for less that £60, ridiculous), upgrades to stations & signalling all need to happen. However this is not an either/or situation, these improvements need to happen even if HS2 goes ahead.
Finally the use of the term “vanity” in the motion is ridiculous. You could just as easily, and it would be just as true, label opposition to HS2 as NIMBYism, we don’t benefit directly from the new infrastructure so why should we have to be inconvenienced. Neither term is correct and it is right we should look at the problems & hardships building such a project will cause to businesses & individuals in on the route and consider how best they can be relieved or compensated. But just as the pioneers of the past realised the great benefits of modern transport networks, we must carry on with HS2, indeed start planning HS3 & HS4.2 Comments