A faster form of canal

The following was written by Jerry Marshall, chairman of the AGAHST Federation of Action Groups against High Speed Two.

HS2 is about as sensible as building a high speed canal network 15 years after the railways took off. Eight miles an hour would be a great improvement over four for Victorian transport users but pointless in the face of the game changing railway technology.

Fifteen years after the Internet took off, it is now a game changer in terms of travel. Sure, I’ll still use trains. In fact I even use canals from time to time.

Half of my board meetings have been audio conferences for a while. Most of my meetings are Skype video calls and a few weeks ago Skype introduced multi party video conferences. Then last week I tried a Webinar for the first time.

My Webinar had a window with the PowerPoint, a window with the speaker, a window for messaging between delegates and finally a box for actions, like putting your hand up. Apart from the advantage of not having to travel, the benefit was that I could go back and forth in the PowerPoint if I wanted, tell the speaker to speak up or that I didn’t understand without disrupting proceedings, and interact with delegates from around the world.

So here’s the choice for you or your employees in Birmingham: spend half a day travelling to (say) London and back (the 23 minutes HS2 time saving doesn’t significantly change this), pay the £149 peak return and possibly a hefty seminar fee to cover the high venue costs; or just login to a webinar, probably for free.

All this and we are only 15 years in. With the HS2 analysis, the benefit period runs to 2086.

Train demand will not rise 267% as HS2 expect. The Internet is a game changer. South Korea noticed: they are putting $25bn into ultra high speed broadband. Meanwhile we’re excited that we might get 8mph narrow boats.

14 comments to “A faster form of canal”
  1. The great Duke of Wellington,,the “Iron Duke”, wisely foresaw the the threat posed by thse dangerous, new fangled railways which would “Encourage the lower orders to move about.” Quite.

  2. “Stop Travel” is the way to go. People are travelling too much mainly because it is so cheap. As with mobile phones which are primilarily used for idle chatter. They create inefficiencies and lack of forethought and discipline. Commuting is not necessary either. It is just personal selfishness. Anyone can easily cycle 10 miles to work and no one should live even that far away (excluding a tiny % of rural people). There are jobs everywhere and houses everywhere.
    The time saving with HS2 is little. Just as speeding is on the motorway: people waste the most time in the slow
    The best place to build a new railway is up the centre of the M1. This would remove the wasteful central reservation and its barriers. The track could be raised so no accidental incursion of vehicles. 2 lanes are enough (the rest can use rail travel). The few truck accidents do not matter. There are 62 million people in the UK and deaths are insignificant. More speed cameras would save more lives than any other method as the great onwashed (which is all of you in the absence of wealth) are emotional & illogical.

  3. Please, when can we expect the endless leisure and the paperless office as promised by the I.T. guys?
    We could all stay at home- for ever.

  4. Pingback: Tweets that mention STOP HS2 | A faster form of canal -- Topsy.com

    • The comparison with South Korea is fascinating. For Broadband it makes bleak reading. According to Alkanai Technologies world broadband report, Oct 2010, UK average Broadband speed was 3.9 Mbit/s and South Korea 16.6. We had NO cities in the world top 100. None!

      As to HSR. The recently opened Seoul – Busan line is operated by trains whose maximum speed is 305kph and, as far as I can see, run for most of their distance next to existing lines, presumably due to the lower maximum speed. The distance from Seoul to Busan is roughly 50% more than London to Manchester. Their conventional trains took 4hrs 10mins for the journey which is an hour slower, proportionately, than the current London – Manchester journey time.

      This indicates South Korea has made good decisions. Given priority to digital communications and, faced with a much slower existing network than ours, invested in HSR that doesn’t have to carve a completely new route.

  5. “about as sensible as building a high speed canal network 15 years after the railways took off”? The Manchester Ship Canal opened 64 years after the Liverpool & Manchester Railway. The Suez canal opened well into the railway age. Panama had a railway before the canal opened.

    • Fred, I think you missed the word ‘network’. The canals you mention are stand alone. Oh, and by the way, they did not duplicate an existing waterway.

  6. The government makes much of HS2 helping the North-South divide. I wonder how much value Pfizer gave to Kent’s unique HS service to London when they decided to close their facility?

  7. if this kind of article is the best anti hs2 people can do then i think that you are honestly thinking that you are losing the debate now as the anti hs2 claims get more spurious by the day ! There seems to be this mantra that if you keep saying the same things over and over that they will become true !

    by this thinking we would still be carrying goods and people by barge and horse. so in fact when we built the railways we should have said that trains need not go any faster then canalboats as after all the railways were to provide capacity only and you would get to your destination eventually ! and you could always read your book or do your knitting ! and motorways should have a 40 mph limit and only carry business people as they are the only ones that travel (or not !!) anyway apparently !

    It s interesting that south korea is mentioned regarding broadband. i believe that we should follow their example. south korea is also investing in high speed rail. i believe that we should follow their example. so does obama.
    Why doesnt anyone else in other countries where they are building high speed rail know about this travel reduced world that is upcoming – should we tell them ?? the reason china is building high speed rail is to reduce its dependence on foreign oil and flights to reduce pollution and to spread economic growth. i am sure that they believe in technology like broadband also. the point is you need more technolgy and efficient transport links along with good health and education.

    the idea that people will travel less is a very good theory that i have some major problems with. the first point is that rail use is increasing and we have capacity problems which must be addressed. so the trend is upward despite the fact that many more people could be working from home with the technology we already have but they aren’t !
    secondly when work patterns change so do leisure travel patterns. so in future we may have more people travelling for holidays etc then we do now. thirdly, who is going to tell people that they cant travel – stop hs2 could become stop travelling – stay at home on the internet !finally, even if the theory becomes the practice and people travel less it would surely be sensible for the remaining travel to be done by the most efficient and least polluting mode which is electric rail. so we will need the extra capacity and speed that hs2 will bring us. QED.

  8. Richard, I’m afraid that IS the point. The ‘office’ population is the overwhelming majority of business rail users. They are finding digital communication playing a bigger and bigger part in their working lives. The key issue is they now don’t HAVE to travel. And what will technology be like in 2026? Infinitely better than it is now, for sure. If you make or repair things your train use is more likely to be for leisure where speed is less important. Whether they make furniture, assemble a Range Rover or repair boilers I don’t find many as travelling companions during the business week.

    • “The ‘office’ population is the overwhelming majority of business rail users.”

      Can you provide me with a link to your source for that claim please Philip? I’ve tried Googling “UK rail user demographic” and all sorts, but have turned up nothing. It looks suspicously like another Stop HS2 “Fact”, i.e not acutally true. A made-up on the spot claim to back up your argument presented as a “fact”.

      “The key issue is they now don’t HAVE to travel.”

      Here’s a couple of genuine, bona fide, irrefutable “facts”:

      Fact: Tele-conferencing has been around for a numer of years.
      Fact: More people are using the railways now than since the 1920s, when the network was a third bigger than today.

      So they don’t HAVE to travel, but the fact is, they ARE. You people seem to be in a state of denial about this. How much longer are you going to persist with this “no need to travel” argument, when all the available evidence is telling you otherwise?

      • A little research would lead you to the annual passengerfocus rail surveys, which show that circa 66% of rail travellers nationally are managerial or clerical. Not a myth, a fact.

  9. It’s terrific that this bloke has just discovered the internet, but meanwhile back in the real world where this sort of technology has been available for a number of years, there was a report available on the information superhighway announcing that record numbers of people are now using the railways. The report also went on to suggest that perhaps the entire working population of the UK does not reside in offices gawping at PowerPoint presentations, and it’s even believed some people indulge in an old tradition of “making things”.

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