One of the industries that the HS2 high speed rail line to Birmingham and beyond is supposed to benefit is tourism. But as this case study shows yet again the reality is far from the Government’s vision.
The tourism industry really does need investment in transport. Take Stratford-upon-Avon, one of England’s “Attract” brands, and birthplace of one of the most famous Brits ever on the planet. How do foreign tourists get there?
Some come on a day coach trip out from London. Some more come under their own steam on the train from London Marylebone in 2hr 02mins. The intrepid fly into Birmingham airport, get on the Maglev (it’s not called that anymore, that didn’t last long after it broke down with the Queen on it) to Birmingham International train station, get on a train to Birmingham New St (15mins), walk for 20 mins to Birmingham Snow Hill or Moor St and then sit on the train to Stratford for 51minutes. After 1 ½ hours still carrying their luggage will they still be raring to go for their weekend break in one of our most important heritage towns?
With such international connections is it any wonder that Stratford-upon-Avon is falling down the destination league tables?
Alternatively there is the bus from Birmingham airport. The quickest journey is 1hr 44mins requiring 3 changes. For visitors who think that’s a bit much they can make only one change (in Coventry, and we all know how it feels being sent to Coventry) but spend 2 hours making the journey.
But never fear Mr Hammond was here taking everyone to Birmingham and beyond! Out of his toy box he found an ultra high speed train set called HS2 with extra bits called the Y route or HS3 or 4 or 5 even to infinity and beyond.
It’s a bargain at £32bn (at 2009 prices) every country should have one he says. So what’s it going to do to bring those tourists to Stratford-upon-Avon to help Warwickshire’s economy?
Well if they’ve come via London they’ll be able to get from Euston to Birmingham Curzon St station in about 49 minutes. Fantastic. And then after changing from one station to another on to Stratford-upon-Avon in about 1 hour. If the times of the trains fit neatly they may do it quicker than if they’d gone direct from Marylebone today.
If they have flown into Birmingham airport HS2 will seemingly do absolutely nothing to help them get to Stratford any quicker. But HS2 will give some new bridges or tunnels to travel via and there will be the new landmark 10,000 space car park and acres of Warwickshire’s countryside with a new noise attraction.
In fact rural tourism sites the length and breadth of the country will be given a new attraction – a noisy train, often on viaducts, going past very fast and very often. Perhaps it will be like being at the zoo, looking into the cages to see something rare, just these ones move very fast. Should we advertise this overseas as a new part of our famous tranquil countryside offer?
Whilst concentrating on the supposed need for speed of a small minority of travellers on a small section of our transport network, Mr Hammond forgot about the need for inter-connectivity with the rest of the country away from our big cities.
And without the £1.1bn p.a. cost of HS2 to the Treasury for 40 years while HS2 is operational, there may even be enough for a subsidised pilot scheme for a shuttle bus to Stratford upon Avon from Birmingham Airport. Let’s hope Justine Greening can see that Hammond was no Buzz Lightyear and that she sends his toy to the garbage tip.