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Two sides to the HS2 story

Letter from Joe Rukin in the Kenilworth Weekly News: published 23rd June.

Yet again it seems that Alan Marshall (KWN letters last week) wishes to complain that the KWN, unlike his own publication, is not completely one-sided when it comes to the case for HS2.

It is a shame that over the years, Mr Marshall, a supposed rail ‘expert’ has been unable to use any fact which may undermine the case for HS2. In his latest epistle, it’s all about how rail use continues to grow, but it’s not actually our trains which are full to bursting.

For a start, over 70 per cent of all train journeys in the UK are in London and the South East, but more importantly our Alan neglects to mention how long-distance trains are doing, which is odd because it’s the supposed need for those long-distance inter-city journeys, and the need to do them quicker than now, that blowing far more than the 2011 estimate of fifty billion on HS2 is meant to be all about.

Given this, it’s probably not a massive surprise that it wasn’t worth mentioning the data on long-distance journeys, as they aren’t increasing at all. At first glance, long distance passenger numbers were up with the last quarter showing 31.3 million journeys against 31.1 million for the same period last year, but both those figures are lower than the number for 2011-12 of 31.9 million. Better still are the figures for the distance travelled on long distance journeys. For the last quarter it was 4.8bn km, the quarter before 4.9bn km, and the quarter before 5.0bn km.

Now economists have a word for when something goes down for two consecutive quarters, and that word is ‘recession’. Yes, that’s right while those in favour of HS2 want to point solely to the total number of passengers on the rail network, they quietly sweep under the carpet the fact that the amount travelled on long distance rail journeys, exactly the thing we are meant to desperately need HS2 for, is actually in recession.

Of course when longer trains and replacing first class with standard is suggested as a solution to the problems outlined last week, the rail ‘experts’ say this is no solution, as what is really needed are more train paths, more capacity as no more trains can be fitted on to the network. The problem with that position of course is that Network Rail has agreed to let GNWR run six return trains per day to both Huddersfield (via Manchester) and Blackpool from 2018. So that’s another 24 trains per day on the West Coast Mainline, that railway line that ‘experts’ would have you believe cannot fit any more trains on it.

Of course there is one problem with the planned new Blackpool & Huddersfield services. As yet, Network Rail have said they will only get as far as Queens Park at the London end. Why might they not make it as far as Euston? Well, because of that great white elephant that is meant to ‘increase capacity of course! Neither Network Rail nor GNWR are sure how many platforms at Euston will be closed during the ten years of disruption because the station will have to be rebuilt for HS2, a knock-on effect which will hit all West Coast Mainline services for at least a decade.

Joe Rukin, Stop HS2

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