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Do we need a high speed train service between London and Birmingham? HS2 By Philip Suter

The British Government is determined that the High Speed rail link that comes from the Channel Tunnel to St Pancras in London continues to Birmingham. When that is completed they want to build a high speed link further north.

The previous Labour Government started the ball rolling and despite the Conservative Party opposing the third runway at Heathrow, they with their Coalition Government partner the Liberal Democrats want to go full steam ahead with this proposed £17B development of HS2(High Speed 2 - HS1 being the line from St Pancras to Folkestone). Knowing how most projects go from estimate to final figure the development could easily end up costing much more like £33 billion. .

The Government says it wants a rail link that will have a railway line capable of up to 250 miles per hour. Why? The motorways in England are bulging with traffic; high speed rail passenger trains will not help alleviate the problem of thousands of trucks travelling on them every day. Many of these trucks come from mainland Europe. With HS2 development passengers will be able to travel between London and Birmingham slightly faster than do at the moment.

What is needed is upgrading the original rail networks and getting freight off the road.

Everyone wants a greener environment, but clogging the motorways in the UK is adding to the problem. France introduced the high speed rail network years ago. France has about the same size population as the UK with more than twice the amount of land. So much of this is farm land and the cost of construction of the TGV network has been a lot less than similar networks in Britain because of the density of population..

The French TGV network is losing money and is subsidised by the other sector of the SNCF and funds are being taken from the “slower service” now. Currently in the UK there is a fast frequent intercity network connecting London to its top five cities at a faster speed than high speed rail does in many other European countries.

The London to Birmingham proposals mean a great deal of tunneling to avoid the dense levels of population and the beautiful country side like The Chilterns that will be affected by its creation. One argument for the development has been to make it easier to move labour. More people will probably be working in the London area rather than commuting to Birmingham every day and with the price of rail travel in the UK won’t be able to afford to. Unlike the present system whereby trains stop at stations en-route to London and Birmingham, there won’t be any stopping as there will not be any station in between those two cities.

This project will cost every household in the UK between £1,000 to £1,200. We will land up with a fast train service that will probably not be profitable, a larger deficit in the country and motorways clogged up by lorries transporting goods from A to B.

The emphasis must be to get those trucks off the motorways, encourage manufacturers and distributors to use the rail networks to transport the commodities carried in trucks. If it is not logistically possible to move all the freight into containers in trains, put the trucks themselves on trains like they do going through the Channel Tunnel. This should mean that our environment in Britain becomes greener than it is at the moment.

We cannot go on adding more freight to our congested motorways and widening them, building more is not going to easy that problem. Upgrade the railway network to take freight in the UK, not high speed passenger trains.

This article first appeared on the jml Villas Holiday Homes blog on the 16th May 2011 - Go to the site here

©Philip Suter 16 May 2011

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