It was not hard to miss the announcement yesterday that the rail usage is at its peace-time highest since the 1920s. And rather predictably this was used by some proponants of High Speed Two to say “told you – we must build HS2 as soon as possible”
But that is like the old saying “if all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. And building HS2 for all your rail problems is as sensible as using a hammer for all your DIY needs.
Except in the case of HS2, it’s a hammer we won’t have available for 15 years. Meanwhile, the plumbing is leaking but we won’t borrow a spanner, and the door has fallen off it’s hinges, but we won’t buy a screwdriver.
HS2 Ltd’s website says, “HS2 Ltd was established in January 2009 to look at the feasibility of, and business case for, a new high speed rail line between London and the West Midlands”. They weren’t set up to look into the nation’s capacity issues, and as Alison Munro said to the Transport Select Committee, they haven’t been looking at alternatives to a high speed railway.
Meanwhile, nine of the ten most overcrowded rail services in England can’t be relieved by HS2. Digital technologies, such as webinars, will grow as alternatives to travel and smart card pricing will affect decisions about travel on a daily basis.
And as we have said before people can’t wait 15 years to solve overcrowding on the railways.