An unequivocal retort
Jonathan Reynolds, Labour and Cooperative Member of Parliament for Stalybridge and Hyde, ‘has always been a supporter of greater investment in our railway network, and remains convinced that bringing high speed rail to the UK is essential’.
But the UK has had high speed rail since October 1976 – before Mr Reynolds was born.
[We should give HS2 our unequivocal support, Jonathan Reynolds, Labour List, 10th March, 2016][…]
We must secure greater capacity on our railway network. It’s a simple as that. Demand on our railways has exploded over recent years. Total passenger journeys have more than doubled from 735 million in 1995 to 1.5 billion journeys in 2013. By 2026, peak demand is projected to hit 250% of capacity at Euston, 200% of capacity at Birmingham New Street and 175% of capacity at Manchester Piccadilly. The West Coast Main Line will be full by 2024.
During morning peak-time services, around 3,000 passengers arrive standing into London Euston or Birmingham each day, unable to get a seat despite paying their full fare. These are not journeys of ten or twenty minutes, but up to two hours or more. My wife once had to sit on the floor outside the toilet from London to Manchester, 8 months pregnant and with a two year old toddler in tow. This is not what should be offered from a twenty-first century rail service in fifth richest country in the world.
Yet this increase in demand should be warmly welcomed. Imagine the chaos and the carbon we would have to deal with if each of those commuters arrived by car. We need HS2 to ensure our railway network is fit for purpose. We also need it to transform the Northern economy and address the inequality between North and South.
The two most common complaints against HS2 are wholly without foundation. The first – that HS2 will be a “rich man’s railway” is incoherent. The laws of supply and demand tell us that if we do not build more capacity, then prices will rise as ever more people chase a limited number of seats on trains. Building HS2 will keep train fares down.
The second criticism – that if we build a new line it should be with standard technology rather than high speed line – also does not add-up. A new rail line built to traditional speed would still incur 90% of the costs, but offer only a fraction of the capacity that HS2 will provide. This is the right project.
If we are to make more than rhetoric out of Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse, devolution and infrastructure investment must go hand in hand. We cannot seriously hope to attract FTSE and global companies into long-term investment in the North West, Yorkshire and beyond until we can give them some certainty that the gross under-investment in infrastructure in these regions will finally come to an end.
I ambitious for what HS2 can deliver. Jobs. Growth. Connectivity. Better wages. Better career paths. Better homes. London as Manchester’s neighbour, allowing hard-pressed Londoners to spend more time in the UK’s first city. HS2 stations at both Manchester Airport and Manchester City Centre making Greater Manchester a nexus for domestic, European and global travel.
My frontbench colleagues are right to scrutinise the budget for HS2, and of course to ensure the powers and resources granted to Ministers to build HS2 are properly used. But above all, Labour must be unequivocal in its support for HS2. The North is open for business, but at the moment, the door is ajar. It’s time to speed up High Speed 2, and blow the door wide open.
In the comment section beneath the article, a contributor named ‘Alexsandr’ offered some pertinent observations.
HS2 is a bad scheme and a vanity scheme at that. And not necessary.
Extra capacity can be got on the east coast, midland and west coast with small schemes. Like the Norton Bridge/Stafford scheme due for completion this Easter.
There is also capacity to be had with grade separation at Knighton south of Leicester, and removing the crossing at Newark. On the West Coast, grade separation at Hanslope (between Milton Keynes and Rugby) and Colwich would add significant capacity. Slade Lane (between Stockport and Manchester) also needs grade separation.
(Grade separation means a train leaving the main line doesn’t hold up trains in the opposite direction as they cross.)
The 12 car trains from Euston to Northampton are made up of x4 car units. so in a 12 car train there are 6 cabs and 3 large disabled toilets. If they were replaced with 6 car units then only 2 disabled toilets and 4 cabs so more seats. More importantly, it would have 1 less pantograph so making current collection better – on a train with multiple pans, the first pan does well but subsequent pans struggle as they run into the overhead wire that is moving after the first pan passing and the ‘dirty’ air.
Also, the Pendolinos could have an additional car added to make them 12 cars, tho a small fleet of 9 car units would be necessary as Liverpool can’t take more.
So I would look at improving the policy by;
1. getting enough coaches. some trains, especially in Northeren Rail, are woefully inadequate. Cross country voyagers are too short, Also,
2. small incremental improvement across the network. More grade separated junctions, higher speeds (an improvement from 60 to 70 can make a difference on secondary routes).
Lastly, I would leapfrog so called HS3 and get Transpennine to be a proper inter urban fast railway. But you have to remember there is a socking great hill between Manchester and Yorkshire.
[Minor alterations by Beleben]