The timing of trains

Labour’s big change in transport policy was to increase the amount of subsidy going to the railways substantially, whilst cutting back the amount spent on roads. We received little by way of new railway line or roads during the last thirteen years, other than the completion of the Channel rail link initiated by the previous government. Much of the railway money paid for operating losses.

Yesterday the Coalition government announced a compensation and purchase scheme for home owners affected by a proposed new rail line from London to Birmingham, cutting through the Chilterns. The railway presumably has to be part of the public spending exercise.

Prior to the election the Shadow Cabinet led us to believe that this project could not be started on the ground before 2015, so the main costs of building it will fall outside the current spending review. However, initial costs of planning, land acquisition and the like may well fall in the next few years.

I would be interested to hear from bloggers if they think this is an important public spending priority. If it is, are there ways more of the capital cost can be met from private risk capital to save the taxpayer? Can future running costs and revenues be brought closer together to limit the subsidy cost? What should the timetable be for this project if it is one you like?


  1. Mike Stallard
    August 21, 2010

    I really love railways. I loathe air transport which is very like being admitted to HMP Whitemoor.
    However, I do not think this rail link is worth it. I shall, of course, never need it myself.
    I deeply regret that the day of the train is not right at the moment, although who knows what the future may hold?

  2. nonny mouse
    August 21, 2010

    The TPA had an interesting blog post on the subject dated August 2'nd.

  3. Lindsay McDougall
    August 21, 2010

    No, high speed rail is not good public expenditure. It might eventually be a money maker, but remember that it will only serve those within the catchment area of the main stations. And high speed rail is NOT environmentally friendly – think of the dead weight, the transmission losses and what is going on at the power stations generating the extra electricity, not to mention chewing up Chilterns countryside.

    Much better would be expenditure on improving junction capacity at chosen locations on the road network. Think of your typical car journey – you cruise, queue at a junction, cruise, queue at a junction, cruise, queue at a junction etc. And all that stopping and starting increases fuel consumption significantly.

    There was once a notorious roundabout just north of the M4 as you travelled north from Shinfield Green towards Reading or other destinations. Every morning I queued ther for 10 minutes. Some years ago, it was made bigger and the queue disappeared. That was a spectacularly good investment.

    But improving road junctions is not a prestige, politically correct, EU approved project, is it?

  4. DBC Reed
    August 21, 2010

    In normal circumstances you build a station near the affected area and house/ land prices go up.(Then you can tax the land price increases and pay for the scheme and in the long run could subsidise the fares.But this useful bit of kit is absent from the British administrative tool-bag thanks to the traditional 'mind-forged manacles' that restrict what can be done.And the vested interests of homeowners in general that determine elections)
    Personally I feel the High Speed railway should be a fair way over to the East so it by passes London and goes over the man made island proposed in the Thames estuary and links up with the Channel Tunnel.(A bit like the Great Central Railway scheme proposed in the 19th century but much farther over .)

  5. Andrew Parker
    August 21, 2010

    A ridiculous waste of money. The effort should to improve and update the existing run down railway lines. Why spend billions on building new when you can't or won't maintain what you already have? Efficiency and value for money are what is needed not grandiose schemes that will never pay for themselves.

  6. John Lindley
    August 21, 2010

    The plan to spend yet more money updating the West Midlands lines without promoting travel to the increasingly vibrant cities of Yorkshire, notably Leeds, means that the latter – realistically – will not get the improvements they need to improve communication to London. This would seem to be consistent with Whitehall policy over the decades of backing losers.

    1. DBC Reed
      August 21, 2010

      Agree.Yorkshire needs a High Speed Link more than Birmingham (well served with motorways ) and the North Midlands and North West.

  7. backofanenvelope
    August 21, 2010

    I would like to know how the price varies if the top speed was 100 mph instead of 200 mph. I also marvel that ten years into the 21st century, the best we can think of is a train set George Stephenson would have been happy with!

    1. APL
      August 22, 2010

      Agreed. Given this is a completely new route, why not introduce a magnetic levitation system, faster, less friction thus possibly 'greener' if I gave a rats toss about that, but by using the old technology this is a sad missed opportunity.

  8. PeterE
    August 21, 2010

    My view is that it is an expensive white elephant and far more benefit to the UK's overall transport system would come from spending the money on a large number of smaller-scale road improvements.

  9. Chris W
    August 21, 2010

    Living in the Northwest I can only say that travel to the southeast of the UK or to Europe is now a complete nightmare. Ludicrously expensive and inconvenient changes of station in London by rail and complete uncertainty on the roads, with random delays of hours on the motorways making journey planning a lottery.
    A new rail line may help, it's now so desperate that any additional capacity will help! But whether a speed line on that route represents the best cost benefit is a different question. Personally I doubt it, will it get lorries off the roads?
    A new motorway direct from Liverpool to Dover, taking traffic away from the M1, M6 and M25 would probably make more sense.
    While they are at it and making a mess of the countryside why can't they put a rail line AND motorway adjacent on the same route.

    1. Andrew Johnson
      August 21, 2010

      Excellent idea

  10. Buffer
    August 21, 2010

    But this is a vanity project, of extremely limited benefit to the nation, that is very unlikely ever to pay its way or recoup its construction costs from its expected clientele.

    On the other hand, the nation-wide economical mass movement of freight, free from the delays of roads congestion, is a more pressing problem to which a practical solution will benefit us all.

    Maybe this is the time to re-visit the well-presented case made at <a href="” target=”_blank”> for a privately financed rail network, with super-trains of Le Shuttle type carrying laden freight lorries much closer to their final destinations.

    I believe it has been said, though, that no railway in history has actually been profitable, so maybe "privately financed" is rather overstating that case and "less expensive" might be more appropriate.

  11. John Moss
    August 21, 2010

    I cannot see a justification for High Speed Rail other than to connect us with far-distant European destinations.

    We are a small country. Journeys from London to major centres are already adequately served by rail with journey times sufficient to allow a days work in Birmingham, Manchest, Leeds and Bristol.

    Further afield destinations are well served by air – which because it is competitively provided, makes a profit with fares far cheaper than HSR will require.

    I don't believe Heathrow should be expanded, but the other 8 airports around London should be and allowed to provide for the business traveller. I an in North East London and can fly all over the UK from City, but why not from Stanstead and Southend, both short journey's away by car.

    If we want to speed rail travel to the far North East and Scotland, we could build some "railway by-passes" around Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, with "parkway" stations providing an interchange to fast shuttle services in and out of those town centres. Express services could then miss out the bits which slow them down, the windy Victorian bits in and out of city centres, and still cut quite a chunk off travel times.

  12. JohnnyNorfolk
    August 21, 2010

    This is just the sort of thing that should be on the back burner for at least 2 years.

  13. David in Kent
    August 21, 2010

    I do think it important that, in times of financial stringency, the government maintains spending on investments which will yield productivity gains in the future.
    Better that than spending borrowed money on supporting current consumption of consumables.
    If this is such a project I'm all for it.

  14. Derek Buxton
    August 21, 2010

    In what way can this expense be justified when we are in dept over our heads? On top of this and the taxes that will have to be extorted, plans are to go ahead for "green" taxes. The budget did not promise cuts, it increased spending and promised yet more to come. What planet are they on, increases are cuts, more taxes are reductions. Hello out there, is anyone listening, …….. silly question really.

  15. Tony
    August 21, 2010

    Confusion always starts when there is more than one preferred route. In this case I believe there may be more than five proposed routes for this so called high speed link. Housing becomes blighted and people become frustrated and in many cases very depressed. Having once been the victim of a transport modernization I witnessed first hand what can occur. In my case I was granted more than the market value of my house and a lump sum of some significance plus removal costs and other compensations. I thought I’d struck oil, particularly as I was at the time upwardly mobile with a young family. On the other hand some of my old neighbours who had expected to end there lives in the same house they had spent a large portion of their existence were devastated. Some were unable to cope and ended up in care homes. Others had there life span shortened by the ordeal. So my first question is; do we really need this proposed development particularly as two new terminal stations are required, one of which at the Birmingham end will be nowhere near the centre of Birmingham.

    1. DBC Reed
      August 23, 2010

      Your opening remark about there being five proposed routes is to the point.
      it is difficult to understand why there is all this fuss about one route (to Birmingham) when it is affecting the property market in the Chilterns.Why can't they say no final decision on the route been taken.?Or is the Birmingham option already preferred?Once a lot of money has been spent on it in compensation etc,it can easily become the only option,since nobody will want to waste money already spent.
      There are some plans at an advanced stage such as Greengauge 21 which provide for an Easterly route, Edinburgh Yorkshire Nottingham Cambridge (as well as in this case the outdated Westerly direction),although this is skewed to reach London,which IMO should be on loop line like the curving route London -Channel tunnel which already exists.

  16. William Griffiths
    August 21, 2010

    Its essential in the long term when the WCML becomes full, to maintain the competitiveness of UK Plc. and it will take a long time to build. Luckily (by fate and inherent long planning time) most of the big spending will fall outside the current budgetary process when budgets will start being relaxed again which makes the cost easier to swallow.

    Labours money saving idea was to wait until Crossrail was finished in 2016 so that the companies working on it could be redeployed keeping costs down. The Conservatives during the election pledged to start it earlier in 2014/2015 which would mean more engineers needing to be trained and employed at the same time which could put up costs through supply and demand. It will take years for detailed planning so 2015/2016 are the earliest you could conceviably start full work.

  17. William Griffiths
    August 21, 2010

    There are other ways costs could be kept down and more private funding attracted. Firstly if we insist the trains are manufactured in the UK it will increase costs slightly from pre-assembly in Japan or complete construction in China previous lead bidders were promoting, however it will ensure that the full power of the spend stimulates the UK economy increasing tax revenues, reducing benefits and ensuring that in the future if the need arises rolling stock can be manufactured in the UK at a competitve cost and according to our construction time and specification needs.

    Stations should be designed as functional economic entities, not just basic passenger facilities but with sizeable retail, parking and nearby premium office space to take advantage of the fast links and passengers that can attract rents for the operator to balance the books on station running costs. Indeed if these are mad outward looking rather than simply inward looking they could have a positive effect on regeneration of city neighbourhoods.

  18. William Griffiths
    August 21, 2010

    Secondly the government has to give freedom from the usual restrictive cap and collar regime when deciding how much of ticket revenue it claws back. The more revenue the operator keeps the more he will be willing to invest himself and to innovate to drive up passenger numbers.

    In the short-mid term however the government even if it squeezes maximum potential will probabl only recieve 1/3rd to 50% of the construction cost back over 30 years directly. It has to be remembered however that as public infrastructure not everything can be immediatley profitable, its economic stimulation will be larger than the project itself will earn. Secondly this infrastructure will be around for over a century to come. There are 250 year old railways still in passenger operation today in this country, well beyond their original envisaged investment.

  19. oldtimer
    August 21, 2010

    This development is not an important public spending priority. Developments like this, namely that they depend on public subsidy, should go onto the back burner if not abandoned altogether.

    Railways are not quite as bad as wind farms in this respect but they are still relatively inefficient set along side their principal competitor – road transport. It would be instructive to reveal the cost/benefit per mile to the taxpayer of the two transport modes. The railways will be a cost (because of the subsidy); roads will be a benefit (because of the taxes that road transport generates). I think wind farms are a very large cost multiple (45x?) in cost per KWh compared with conventional forms of electricty generation.

  20. lola
    August 21, 2010

    If it cannot be financed entirely with private capital, and consequently have to demonstrate a commercial return, it should not be built at all. If it built anyway it will be another massive misallocation of scarce taxpayers capital.

  21. Tapestry
    August 21, 2010

    At the moment the government is benefiting from the rush to gilts being enjoyed by all major economy governments. 30 year money is at 4%. 10 year at 3.3%. If we see a continued fall in inflation towards deflation, it is quite possible that these interest figures will fall by another 1%.

    The reason partly is that investors have no faith in the 'recovery' story. Businesses are not investing or hiring. Profits are seen as likely to fall, and unemployment to rise. Demand from the public to erode.

    It is the duty of the government to use any favourable finance that is available to boost our longterm competitiveness. If the Midlands and the North get better access to the South east by rail, this will help these areas to grow faster, and enable more people to live further north and yet work in the south east.

    The government should be able to commission these works far cheaper than the private sector by using longterm bond finance. And with work scarce the prices paid for the contracts handed out should be lower than they would have been not long ago. The PFI offered financiers 8% per annum. How about doing the investments at 2-3%, now coming available if current year spending is held in check and the budget made to balance?

  22. Derek Duncan
    August 21, 2010

    There is never a good time to spend money on such a project! but if it doesn't go ahead now, future generations will puzzle at our timidity when the rest of the world have high speed trains!

  23. Mark
    August 21, 2010

    The economics of this project look marginal at best – and that's on the official projections. Reducing the commuting time to Birmingham by half an hour (perhaps making it a commutable destination for MPs?) will benefit few. Perhaps the money would be better spent on fibre broadband that could substitute the need for the people journeys the rail line is designed to provide.

    Now, if the project made economic sense there would be no trouble in raising commercial funding, including for pre-build expenditure such as compensating affected land owners appropriately. Unfortunately, Eurotunnel demonstrates the tendency to overestimate revenue projections.

  24. Mrs R
    August 21, 2010

    This new line will be useful to some people, but only those who live within easy reach of it and who want to travel between the Midlands and London.

    Travel within Britain outside the 'approved' main city routes' is difficult because roads are congested, trains either don't run or are too expensive for a family – so families use cars. This new line won't help and is unlikely to ease motorway congestion in the Midlands.

    If there really is money available then spending it on a number of smaller projects might be better value, and of more use to ordinary people. Ensuring all our airports have a rail link within walking distance would be a useful target. BAA could bring a halt to the London-centric flight routing, which would probably mean fewer motorway journeys to/from Heathrow and Gatwick. Southampton Airport, for example, could probably carry more international traffic, and has a mainline railway station within walking distance.

    Re-opening some currently inoperative railway stations/halts (that have been mothballed for years) on existing lines might help give a lot of people (shopping/commuting) easier access to trains, and widening the M3 – from two to three lanes – between junctions a 8 and 9 of the M3 would, surely, ease congestion on that route.

  25. MartinW
    August 21, 2010

    NO! This is not the right time to spend the money we do not have. It is crazy to spend such huge sums of money anyway, merely to shave a few minutes off journey time. I would have thought that the lessons of Brown's hideous mis-management of the econony would have been learned, but it seems this is not so.

  26. Robert
    August 21, 2010

    The true value of this railway is simple enough to calculate: is it possible to buy the necessary land without compulsory purchase, pay for the necessary infrastructure, compensate those neighbours who suffer a loss in property value and make the investment pay by ticket sales? If so, go ahead and build it. If not, then it is not possible to create an economic argument to support it.

  27. adam
    August 22, 2010

    Its part of a project to connect up the EU regions
    Presumably it will be extended to Ireland at some future point
    It is of no interest to anyone outside of EU central planners.

    Compulsory purchase should be abolished as it is morally wrong.

    Given that there is nothing i can do to stop it. It would be nice if even just a few of the reprobates who are elected to represent us, spent some of their time ensuring value for money.
    If left up to the private side of the PPP, if will run hideously over budget, like all these projects do, because the contractors are charing £100 per lightbulb, and £150 for Fish and Chip lunches and things like that.

    1. Private Schultz
      August 23, 2010

      Compulsory purchase is necessary in the UK, I'm afraid. Without it, no major infrastructure projects would ever be completed. No matter what route or site was picked, you'd be bound to have at one person who wouldn't move voluntarily.

      However, totally agree that value for money should be essential, and that any plan should also demonstrate that the negative impact on the local community has been considered properly and minimised.

    2. peter
      September 5, 2010

      i so agree with your second paragraph;especially having had to leave one house c.p'd by local authority,to make way for residential flats for the elderly,who were later turfed out in favour of a young person's hostel!now the sword of damocles hovers again,with my present house under threat of demolition for a line which will be of no benefit to anyone living between euston and birmingham;utterly mad,immoral,and indefensible!

  28. Peasant
    August 22, 2010

    Given how vital transport links are to the economic growth or stagnation of a region there should be a regular in-depth transport review of the whole country which can provide the answers to these questions, rather than just trying to assess each scheme on an individual basis. It doesn't need to be a new quango – any decent university geography department should be capable of producing the answers – but it does need to be done.

    1. Private Schultz
      August 23, 2010

      Good idea,… How about encouraging University Geography Departments to bid for reviewing the transport provision and needs for their region on a long-term basis? Not only would this provide invaluable data for feeding in to national and local planning, but it could also add an interesting and hands-on module to the undergraduate syllabus. The highlights of my Geography degree, some 30 years ago, were the projects that applied our geographical knowledge to wider, more practical contexts in the real world.

      On the high-speed west coast link – not convinced that it should be a priority at the moment. But if it does go ahead, then decide on the final route quickly to reduce needless worries in local property markets.

  29. Scary Biscuits
    August 22, 2010

    Rail, like road, so expensive, not because it is intrinsically expensive to lay gravel with two rods of steel on top but because the bureaucrats use it as a job creation bonnaza. Like Crossrail, the HS2 link will have literally billions spent on it before a single shovel hits the ground, most of it unnecessarily. The reason for this is that bureaucrats have no incentive to reduce costs. On the contrary, the more expensive and complex it is the more money there is for them. The contracting companies are happy with this too, as they make far more money producing reports than they do on civil engineering. The loser is the taxpayer. He has to wait for decades whilst the managerial class feeds at the trough.

    Having said that, I am in favour of infrastructure spending in principle and I believe the Coalition government has its spending priorities the wrong way around. Instead of cutting back on wasteful paper pushers, whose main benefit to society is simply to spend their ephemeral salaries but which is outweighed by the cost of the red tape they produce, they are disproportionately cutting back on infrastructure projects that bring real benefit to people's lives which lasts for centuries.

  30. Dave Shaw
    August 22, 2010

    I have benefited hugely from the extension of the high speed rail network in France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Italy and it has shortened my journey times considerably when going to see friends or on holiday. You do become very aware of how, in Britain, where the railway was invented, we have so much catching up to do and internal high speed rail journeys would assist in improving air and journey quality and reducing carbon emissions.

    When the Sheffield to Manchester rail line was opened through the Hope Valley just over 100 years ago there were cries that the railway spoilt the landscape. Yet a closure proposal in the 60s, which would have removed the railway from the valley, was fiercely contested and defeated by the local communities. Even today, when a majority of trains run non-stop through the Hope Valley, the area would not want to be without its rail link. As a regular walker in this part of Derbyshire I find the railway to be 10 times less intrusive than those parts of the county blighted by a motorway. Between the minor disturbance of the trains the Hope Valley returns to a peaceful and tranquil place to be. Once a motorway is built the peace and tranquility of a location is lost for ever. For this reason alone the use of rail over road is to be preferred.

  31. Alan Jutson
    August 22, 2010

    Does anyone know the true cost of operating the railway system?

    We seem to have the worst of all Worlds at the moment, with State Subsidy by the Taxpayer involving hundreds of millions. Tracks managed by a Monopoly, and Individual Private Companies operating rolling stock on a limited years franchise basis,

    Result: The highest fares in Europe and a little investment in the future.

    Whilst we do need high speed trains between Cities which are far apart, we are but a small Island, where a few minutes makes little difference over medium journey times.

    As has been said before, plane for long distance is less expensive and usually quicker.

  32. Martin
    August 22, 2010

    London to Birmingham is the cheap easy part of this project. Birmingham North to Glasgow, Manchester etc is more expensive over tougher terrain.

    The whole thing needs to completed in 5 years max. Not the usual "never" or "next generation" that major infrastructure projects take in the UK. If France and Germany can why can't we? Too much chit chat, petty politics and Nimbys.

    Note that not ONE Person will be displaced from air travel until the new rails reach Manchester when time savings become significant (Birmingham hasn't had a service to Heathrow for years). Even then the East Coast Main Line will still take some beating for those places to the East of Pennines.

    The present government blocked the extra runway at Heathrow (financed by the private sector) I don't have much faith that the new railway will reach Manchester let alone Glasgow.

    London acts as an international transport hub for the UK. The ongoing transport none policy means that London will lose this role to Amsterdam, Paris (or even Madrid) etc.

  33. BigJohn
    August 23, 2010

    I think they should concentrate on making the existing rail system at least break even first, before throwing away more taxpayer money that we haven't got.

  34. Glyn H
    August 23, 2010

    I thought it was a labour plot to damage Conservative constituencies.

    1. peter
      September 5, 2010

      yes,and now the coalition have fallen for it,hook,line and sinker!

  35. Alan Wheatley
    August 23, 2010

    Rail is a nineteenth century idea that has been in decline ever since. While it still has a niche role, to think that the way forward is ever more and faster rail is blinkered and foolhardy. It demonstrates a Metropolitan view of Britain where the primary role of the Chilterns is as a means for time saving for city dwellers.

    If there is a case then let it be made as a private initiative.

    Government would be far better spending resources on rolling out the next generation of Broadband to the third of the population who are loosing out and are in no position to do anything about it.

    The future is not more travel but more alternatives to travel.

    August 23, 2010

    This new rail line falls into the 'would be nice but not essential' category and should be deferred until Britain is in financial shape. The hidden costs of background planning would be high and the effort and cost would be better redeployed or eliminated.

    It was only when Mr Darling became Transport Secretary a few years ago that Labour abandoned their attempt to get us all onto public transport and started slowly but methodically eliminating motorway bottlenecks, adding lanes and utilising hard shoulders in peak periods.
    All sensible projects that provide work without costing a fortune. Let's have more of this approach please as the car remains king to most families.

  37. Electro-Kevin
    August 23, 2010

    The railway which Britain needs is one that is durable, reliable, frequent and affordable.

    We don't need any faster than we already have here. Let's simply upgrade what we already have.

  38. Robert
    August 23, 2010

    We already have a high speed rail link to the Channel Tunnel. How much money do either make? What profit does SNCF and Bundesbahn make on their high speed services? Very little I would think. For the cost of a high speed rail link we could build a better motorway or two which would give better value for money and would probably generate more taxable income.

    A high speed rail link may be fast, but it carries nothing like the volume of passengers and freight that a motorway does.

  39. Adam Collyer
    August 23, 2010

    The project is completely nuts. We already have THREE rail lines from London to Birmingham (Virgin out of Paddington, Chiltern Railways out of Marylebone and London Midland out of Euston). Has anyone actually asked passengers whether their priority is to shave x minutes off the journey?

    I suspect their real priorities are more mundane – better punctuality, better cleanliness, better service, lower fares.

    What's more, I bet the calculations on the benefits of the line didn't take into account the adverse impact on those existing services.

  40. Dual Citizen
    August 24, 2010

    Well the most obvious way to get revenues coming faster is to (a) get more people to use the line, and (b) get as much, or at least a part of the line opened as early as possible. 

    Re (a) you wrote a very good blogpost a year or two ago about why you can't take the Eurostar to Brussels when starting your journey in Wokingham; and I would make the same case for going from my former home in Reading to Manchester. While trains go from city center to city center, and stop only at city centers, the time and inconvenience getting to the station is an immediate turn off. Now, if HS2 were properly routed, connecting to HS1, and included an accessible west of London "parkway" station (around the M4/M25 intersection – or Heathrow as we call it) you and I could drive 25 mins to the station and be on our trains to Brussels and Manchester with the hour. Similarly, if every major station on the HS2 were outside the city more people could access it. If necessary, don't take the line to the city centers; a 10-15 minute shuttle from Heathrow-Paddington, BHX-New Street, and MAN-Piccadilly wouldn't be that inconvenient. 

    Re (b), if HS2 were connected to HS1, the first section to Heathrow could be completed, opened and generating revenue well before the rest of the line. This would allow Eurostar services to run from west of London to the continent, and easy access to Heathrow and the GWR would be available from the east (Stratford and Ebbsfleet). This could be a good 5-7 years before the rest of the line to Birmingham. It would go a long way to solving your Wokingham to Brussels commute conundrum too!

  41. christina sarginson
    August 24, 2010

    Last week it was anounced that the Coalition government had been in power for 100 days, during that time most people I know are frozen with fear for their jobs and powerless to do anything about it which cant help our economy or the country as a whole. This stress will result in ill health and many other negative things I think it is time to stop saying how wonderful the government is and begin to understand how people are really feeling, please.

    1. peter
      September 5, 2010

      you are so right,christina,and those of us who face losing our homes because of this,and ,meanwhile live under blight and uncertainty ,will never forgive this dreadful coalition(or its predecessor!) peter

  42. Frank Salmon
    August 24, 2010

    There is a lot of rubbish here. I live in Greenwich and I have to allow 2 hours to get tickets, trains and buses to the London stations leading north and to Europe.
    And where is the concern about cost? The fact is that the high speed link will never pay for itself. It will require subsidy in perpetuity. It won't do 'much' good for the economy either, diverting resources that could otherwise be spent on more dynamic and profitable investments (yes, like roads). The only way people will use the train is if they are forced on to it (by making car journeys too expensive or too miserable), or the cost is subsidised so that non HS users pay for others to take journeys they would not otherwise want, need or pay for.
    Meanwhile our roads are crumbling and overused. The Labour mantra that we must not invest in roads because people will use them STILL seems to hold sway.
    The madness of it is that we could easily and cheaply invest in profit making roads that would contribute to the economy. The government already makes a profit of £30 billion a year on road tax. Surely it is madness to under-invest in a dynamic part of our infrastructure by which all of us are better off, and over-invest in a childish scheme which loses money from day one, will probably cost twice as much as planned (if history is anything to go by), and can only ever make a minor contribution to our overall infrastructure. Lets use market forces and see just how people really want to spend their money on transport.
    Finally, lets start from the premise that trains cars and planes are good alternatives to each other. Now, tax the journeys people make on a like for like basis. That will mean taxing train journeys instead of subsidising them and it will mean air passengers paying the equivilent of road tax and fuel taxes. If we started from this standpoint we might get more rational decision making on transport policy.
    If trains had to generate tax revenues, fares would more than double. How utterly crazy it is to bankroll a redundant industry like this.
    The Japanese Bullet train. Nice, but the company that built it went bust, and just how much has it contributed to Japans deficits and negative growth?
    The French TGV? Don't make me laugh, the cost of running it with its over-bloated union wages and employee perks is on its way to bankrupting the country. It should be the first thing to go when France finally faces economic reality.
    And of course our own favourate union the RMTU are rubbing their hands in glee at the prospects of this White Elephant getting off the ground. SAY NO TO HIGH SPEED RAIL. We are bankrupt enough already.

  43. Penny Gaines
    August 26, 2010

    Two surveys have shown that neither the general public or transport professionals consider high speed rail, and the HS2 proposal in particular, a high priority.

    A MORI survey for the RAC found that only 3% of the people surveyed thought that a new speed rail line should be a priority for the incoming government.

    A survey of transport professionals by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport also asked their members about spending priorities. Amongst transport professionals, only 16% thought that HS2 should be in the top three of spending priorities. 51% of their members thought HS2 should be delayed or suspended completely.

    We also have an idea about the projected spend over the lifetime of the current government. In the period to 2015, following a FOI request HS2 say that the projected spend will be £1.15 billion. The projected spend up to 2018 is £3.4 billion.

  44. LLG
    August 27, 2010

    Just one suggestion -get people serving prison sentences to build it.

  45. john eastwood
    August 28, 2010

    I think there is a major disconnect between politicans and engineers and politicans over the idea of high speed rail.

    Britains railways generally suffer from a lack of capaicty, not a lack of speed. I used to commute a short distance on the Manchester-Birmingham route, and the train I used to get me to work near Manchester was in London Euston for 10.30AM each morning. The proposed higher speeds might save as much as 30 minuites, but who cares?

    The laws of physics should tell you that increaseing speeds brings exponentially diminishing returns at exponentially increaseing expense. The engergy required to propell a train a 125mph is aproximately twice that required at 100mph, the seperation distances are longer, the standard of the track has to be much higher, and it wears out much faster.

    I cannot think of a less sensible way of spending a large amount of money on the rail network than throwing money at a new build high speed rail link of the kind being proposed. The money would be better spent on upgrading exisiting lines, double tracking bottle necks, running more trains, and electrification of a lot more of the system. Electrifcation has lots of technical benifits, it allows lighter trains which accelerate faster, which saves wear and tear, and increases capacity.

    What should be systematically investigated is the regulatory burden which makes railways so unbelivably expensive. Just look at what happened in the southeast when all the (anchient) slam door rolling stock was replaced. Almost 20 years since the first networker units were introduced, they are still failing to achive anything like the number of miles per casualty that the last totally knackered 4VIP slamdoor sets were managing in their final months before withdrawl, never mind at the peak of their performance. This replacement of reliable rolling-stock with unreliable rolling stock was driven by legistation and regulation, not any practical need.

    A major problem that has plauged the UK's rail network is the premature adpotion of new technology which then causes endless expense and massive reliablity problems. By the late 80's, British Rail had developed successfull and reliable types of rolling stock for most purposes – HST sets for fast unelectrifed routes, Class 91+MK4 coaches for electrified high speed routes, Class 158 DMU's for rural branchlines, and longer distance commuter services, and the various Mk1 slam door vehicles for suberban electricfied systems. If instead of throwing money at developing new trains, we just built more of these, the cost savings would be considerable, as most of the cost of new trains is development and compliance rather than the actual construction. Its worth considering that the lifespan of new rail vehicles are of the order of 40-50 years, so mistakes made now have potential to blight several future generations.

    As passengers we want reliable, regular services, are reasonable prices. Fast expensive unreliable services at iregualar intervals are very much unwanted. At the moment, its cheaper for me to drive my Diesel LWB Landrover to London from home in Manchester than book a standard class ticket on the platform. That cannot make sense, given I live about 5 mins walk from a station with a direct service to central London. Passengers don't care much for flashy new rolling-stock, as long as there is room to sit down, and for their lugage. Most passengers prefer HST sets over Vrgin's Voygers, as the Voygers may be state of the art, but there is no legroom in the standard class seats, very little lugage room so it all gets left in the corridors, and the fancy disabled toilets often stink the whole coach out…

    Where my parents live in rural Wales, almost no-one uses the train except for long haul transport, not because the line doesn't run where people want to go, but because there is one train every 2 hours, and its not practical if for instance you want to go shopping if you end up spending 2 hours waiting for a train.

    So, in summary, forget cutting edge high speed new build.
    We want lots of regular, reliable (i.e. low tech), frequent, cheap, comfortable trains please from the cash instead….

  46. peter
    September 8, 2010

    i'm increasingly irritated by those who bandy the word "nimby" at opponents of such devastating ,grandiose schemes as hsr;70 years ago our house escaped ,by a whisker,a landmine from nazi germany;those who lived through the blitz will never forget that reign of terror;20 years' ago came another threat from canadian central railway ,which would have involved demolition of my home;this was wisely rejected by the parliament of the day;now ,yet another dark cloud hangs over us who live by the "preferred route";m.p's should examine their consciences,and weigh up the surmised benefits of this proposal,vis-a-vis the impact on the lives and livelihood of those affected;not to mention the countryside,wildlife and environment generally;furthermore,what moral justification can be made for compulsory purchase of private property?we are virtually disenfranchised,as there appears to be cross-party consensus for this scheme!will no-one have the courage to stand up and oppose this scheme in principle?YES,we,the people of england will,and in vast numbers! peter

Comments are closed.