WestEndExtra

The independent London newspaper

We need high-speed broadband not high-speed rail

14 February, 2020

• IN giving the go-ahead for HS2 Boris Johnson could go down as the prime minister making the biggest financial mistake in history.

Every sensible argument was stacked up in favour of cancelling the project.

According to the Office of the Rail Regulator, while passenger numbers are going up overall, those in the south-east and London are actually falling.

This is probably due to Londoners’ grasp of modern electronic means of communication like video conferencing.

HS2 will suck the economy dry with no tangible benefit. The road system is heavily congested and lower ticket prices are needed in the whole rail network.

At least I did my bit and wrote to Sir Keir Starmer MP, and Mr Johnson at 10 Downing Street, with 10 reasons for scrapping HS2. But once a political idea gains momentum, however bad, it cannot be stopped.

Where were the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats when we needed them to oppose the project? Both were in favour of HS2.

The crunch time will be when HS2 reaches Birmingham in a great fanfare. After an initial honeymoon period, commuters will opt for the cheaper, existing links with negligible time difference.

HS2 will be running hugely-subsidised, almost empty, trains. It will be too late to scrap it, too expensive to keep it running, and too risky to continue north.

There is a wonderful irony that just a few days before this ill-fated project was given the go-ahead, a goods train derailed in north London but carried on for two-and-a-half miles, tearing up the track, before the driver noticed.

How could this happen? One reason could be the state of the track. A published image shows old wooden railway sleepers that crumbled like matchwood when the derailed train went over – www.railfreight.com/railfreight/2020/01/27/london-derailment-will-take-weeks-to-repair/.

The rail network is actually incredible safe; but HS2 will suck the investment out of the rest of the system with more breakdowns. The country actually needs high-speed broadband not high-speed rail.

JONNY BUCKNELL
Chamberlain Street, NW1

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