Mr Hammond said in his defence of HS2 that the only people who disagree with the business case are people living along the line of route who have reasons to dislike the project. My reading of some of the literature tells me that is not quite true. There are numerous people who live nowhere near the proposed route who have doubts about the value of this project, including constituents of mine. There are many criticisms of the way the demand forecasts have been constructed, the valuation placed on the wide range of benefits claimed and the assupmtions about future shifts in travel patterns. There is also the danger that improved line speeds will generate additional long range commuter demand, which is not necessarily a good thing to subsidise.
The cost of the infrastructure to get to Brimingham is estimated at £17 billion, with another £11 billion to get to Leeds and Manchester. You could do a lot for that kind of money, and you could raise more of it from private sources if you built a profit making rather than a loss making business on the back of it.
To me the railways in the Uk have two major tasks that could take priority over fast long distance travel for high fare paying passengers. The first is commuter traffic into and out of our major cities, so people can get to work and back in good time and reasonable comfort. We have not done enough to ensure reliability and pleasant journeys. The second is freight traffic to take more lorries off the roads.
If we adapted the current rail network to more efficent operation for commuters, we could run more trains on existing track through improved signalling and lighter trains, increasing frequency and reducing overcrowding.
If we spent some money on providing branch and spur lines into the main trading and industrial parks, and the railway spent more on single waggon marshalling, they could offer a serious freight alternative to many more businesses.
These might be better priorities than this expensive and contentious new track.