United Kingdom, HS2

Today the UK government announced its plans for a high speed rail line that will link London to Leeds, with trains capable of reaching speeds of up to 250 mph/400 kph. The proposed route will initially link London with Birmingham, and then split off to Manchester and Leeds possibly attaining similar speeds. Anything North of these locations will be serviced using existing lines at current speed limitations.

Over the next seven years the project will go through public consultations before construction is proposed to start after 2017. London trains will arrive at Euston, which is scheduled to be rebuilt over the coming years, with Heathrow airport being serviced by London’s Cross rail project which would meet at a new station at Old Oak common. The route will go close to Birmingham airport, and arrives in central Birmingham at a new station.

From Birmingham the line divides into two, towards Leeds via Sheffield, and to Manchester. The details of these routes will announced next year. No plans are currently in place to extend the line to the North of England and Scotland – although current plans should see the speed restrictions raised to 140 mph/220 kmh along the East Coast Main line (which services the North and Scotland), which isn’t exactly high speed but similar to speeds reached along a lot of Germany’s network.

Reaction appears to be generally positive, but opposition parties saying that this is not grand enough and certainly should start sooner. I have this feeling that once again the British governments has, essentially, done nothing but come up with a report without doing much else; there is a big difference between drawing up plans for political reasons and actually getting on with building the thing.

In my humble opinion, starting the construction project in 2017 is nothing short of a shortsighted joke, much like building the channel tunnel rail link ten years after it opened was short sighted and far too late. China will have built a rail system linking Beijing with Europe and the rest of Asia before the UK can build a line that connects London with Birmingham. Additionally, starting the construction in seven years time has no immediate benefits to the economy. It would provide thousands of construction jobs which has an immediate benefit to thousands of pockets, the quicker it is built the sooner the benefits can be felt.

Critics of such projects never seem to be convinced about the benefits both in economic terms and environmental terms. These are the same people who never seem to be aware of what is going on in the rest of the world and obviously not aware of the benefits it is bringing to the likes of Spain, France, Japan and China. High speed rail projects are not vanity projects, they bring real benefits – there are enough hard facts out there to support this, search for them (hint: high speed rail benefits); the UK, however, seems to suffer from an “it doesn’t apply to us” belief, so if there is success in the rest of the world the same idea applies. Instead of complaining, support the project but make sure that it satisfies your concerns.