As a preface to this blog, let me state that I love traveling by trains and think that Eurostar, and the European high speed networks are brilliant.

HS2 (High Speed 2) is a high speed rail project that was dreamed up by the Labour party when in power and taken on with full enthusiasm by the Tory/Lib Dem current government. It is to run from London Euston to Birmingham, then in phase 2 continue to the northern cities. Since its inception, the estimated cost has risen from £30 Billion to at least £40 Billion and some estimates now put the total cost at £80 Billion. In addition, they chose the most expedient route for speed, running from Euston Station in London to New Street Birmingham, straight through the lovely Chiltern Hills to follow a new major transport corridor over the countryside. This new route doesn’t link with our current rail network in any serious way and stops at Birmingham airport rather than Heathrow (London).

The trains would shave about 30 minutes of a journey from London to Birmingham and extravagant claims are made for the potential economic benefit, which will come in around 20 years time and it is said to be necessary because of overcrowding in the normal rail network.

Now, Alistair Darling, under who’s watch as Chancellor of the Exchequer this plan was dreamed up, and who was a Labour Transport Secretary, has come out against the project, saying that the cost is too great, and the uncertainties too big to proceed. He points out (as we protesters have been saying all along) that money like this would be far better spent and with more effect on improving our current transport network, and further, that HS2 would inevitably pull money away from the normal rail network, which would thus become neglected, as has happened before. Hooray and hallelujah!

I am against HS2 also because the route has been selected for expediency without concern for the landscape and environment. A high speed train should also stop at our main airport (another contentious issue currently) and run up an existing main transport corridor.

What I find puzzling is why these grandiose projects attract politicians so strongly, and why they hold on to them like grim death. It is true that our rail network is expensive and also at full capacity in many places, and our main roads and motorways are often clogged with traffic. Is is also true that this is likely to get worse whilst population is growing as it is. So if you are taking a strategic view of the whole mess, does putting such a huge amount (that we haven’t got) into one project, when that is in danger of emptying the transport pot, make sense?

The vast majority of journeys are local, and people and small businesses and large around the country, let alone the emergency services, need good regional transport infrastructure as a first priority. Can we also build into our calculations the environment, which is so under the pressure, and population growth and distribution which is applying the pressure?