If all you’ve got is a hammer…

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.

39 comments to “If all you’ve got is a hammer…”

    • not double standards at all i am just saying that if we were to consider the severn barrage we would have to be careful. i have posted many times that whilst i am in favour of hs2 that i think we must provide as much mitigation as is possible.

      the thing is that is you dont build hs2 or you say reroute it along the m40 then you are just moving the situation from where you live to where someone else lives. and upgarding the existing network would be more disruptive and would drive people back to the roads where there would be more congestion and people would try to use unsuitable country lanes instead of motorways.

  2. I would just like to comment to the people that want HS2.Are you aware that scientists are predicting a world food shortage in the very near future.This is due to the worldwide human population growth.This railway will take many thousands of acres of productive farmland out of food production forever.This will cause food prices to be a lot more expensive as all shortages do of any product,causing more starvation in poorer countries worldwide.It will create more intensive farming and cruelty to these animals including far more imported food from other countries.
    The government is already saying that they are going to allow farmers to grow GM.crops here.This is an undeniable fact and once this has started there will be know turning back.The whole of the british public should stand together to stop HS2 before it is too late. Roy.

  3. What is it with you Dave? One moment we’re in penury, the next profligate. Methinks you’re less careful Cameron, more spendthrift Camoron. Perhaps we need to inspect the accounts for ourselves. It should be enlightening to discover how the War wonga and EU Drain Geld contributions figure, in your personal perception of our budgetary reality. In the meantime, if you have funds to splash about. Why not invest them in a tidal power generation barrier, stretching across the Severn estuary? 10% of our energy requirements for the foreseeable future, has got to be a better mad money bet that a rail link to nowhere.

    • i am sure that the people of london, birmingham manchester leeds sheffield and all our great northern and scottish cities to which hs2 will either go or connect will be glad to hear you descibe them as nowhere. like it or not these are our major cities and a lot of people travel between them otherwise the west coast line would not be overcrowded.

      i agree that we should look at the severn barrier but i suspect you wouldnt have many people agreeing with you. if it could be done we would have to be very very careful that we didnt harm the ecology there. on the plus side it could provide emissions free co2 to run hs2 on !

  4. Nick, Have been reading through your MANY, MANY comments on this website and others and you seem to have a lot of personal opinions don’t you! You must spend hours in front of your computer!

    Is it not obvious to you that YOU ARE NOT going to change our minds. STOP HS2 I say and many thousands like me.

    • thank you. that is what i have been saying in all my posts. you have confirmed that no matter what the weight of evidence is for hs2 that you will never change your mind. and you call politicians intransigent ! it seems to me quite evident from this website that you had decided from the start that you would be against hs2 and have then tried on every occasion to make the facts fit the case.

      if you could prove to me that what you are saying about hs2 is true then i would change my mind and agree with you. that is because i am a reasonable person. so far i have not seen anything that supports the critique of hs2,however.

      for example, the idea that many people in future will work from home is a possibility. however by how much is conjecture and there is nothing to suggest that people will stop travelling and i am not sure how travel can be prevented anyway. in any case even if the general trend of travel is downwards that does not mean that more and more of those travelling will not switch to rail. currently, there has been a downward trend in car and air travel but an increase in rail travel. therefore the railways are seeing more and more passengers at the expense of rail and air. the rail network is nearing capacity. upgrading the existing network is more expensive and disruptive in general then building a new line such as hs2.

      i cannot see in light of the above how we can deny that we need more railway infrastructure. hs2 is the opportunity to reduce car travel through the chilterns for example. the area would benefit from reduced local airpollution if some users of the m40 can be persuaded to use hs2 instead. certainly single occupant cars would be tempted by rail especially at £6 a gallon.


      • But it won’t stop journeys through the Chilterns will it. There are 16 junctions on the M40. How much traffic on the motorway is London – Birmingham only? HS2 themselves say they might reduce traffic on the M1 by as much as 2%.That’s 2 cars in every 100. Big deal.

        • people might use hs2 to connect into chiltern services if they were travelling to the north. also it is a good thing that hs2 will not only run eventually to leeds sheffield and manchester but that through trains will run onto the classic network to our other cities. hs2 is an opportunity to reduce car travel and pollution. it is a step change from what we have now and we are already experiencing this modal shift according to recent reports.

      • Nick, I’ve not noticed you give an inch, nor has Philip Hammond. So why are the opponents of HS2 more intransigent than the proponents? Isn’t debate based on strongly held views, with arguments being fully deployed on both sides? As the Coalition talks of HS2 as a reality it is no surprise that those who oppose it get frustrated and annoyed.

        Your last para about drivers moving to the train as fuel is now £6 a gallon. We have to consider what the case might be in 15 years time, not now. If fuel efficiency improves by 5% per annum we will be achieving 100mpg+ (VW are planning to market a 100mpg car within 2 years) and if battery life improves by 5% per annum electric cars will have a range similar to petrol/diesel cars and thus be competitive. I won’t go on to speculate what video conferencing will be like. What I am sure about is HS2 will arrive in Birmingham to a very different world.

        • if you read my comments you will see that i have said that if you can prove to me that hs2 is wrong for the country and its transport needs then i will agree will you. elaine and sue, on the other hand, have said that no matter what i say they will still be against hs2.

          the thing is i dont use language like fat cats (only sarcastically!) armageddon, concrete bombs, white elephant etc. emotive language is good and it is good to feel passionate about things which i know you guys are but we need a debate based on the facts. it is all very well stating over and over that there isnt a business case etc but you have to show more detail.

          the same efficiencies that the motor car will achieve will be matched by the train unless you know some reason why they shouldnt be. and crtics ask where the electricity for hs2 is going to come from so where is the electricity for the cars going to come from? and cars have a nasty habit of running into things although tech should reduce this hopefully. also we already have teleconferencing and have done for a number of years yet most people still work from an office. are you going to ban non-work travel ? and you are right hs2 will arrive in a different world where oil is more expensive and in short supply. and i am glad to hear you say hs2 will arrive !

          • Nick, I don’t use that language either. We can’t PROVE HS2 is wrong for this country any more than you can PROVE it is right. Many people feel it is not for the UK and have submitted detailed arguments to support this view. May I suggest those that want to spend £(you insert to avoid argument)bn of our money, and cause great disruption over a decade of construction, need to have a copper bottomed case for doing it. Not seen that yet.

        • Yes, one can’t assume that the only form of travel which will be more energy efficient in 15 years time is one type of particularly fast train.

          Given that many other new high speed lines in Europe have design speeds of 250kph, it seems inevitable that thre will be a focus on producing 250kph trains that use less energy.

          Like you say Philip, cars are becoming more fuel efficient – and even new airplanes are being designed to use less fuel.


    • there is no evidence that i am actually in the minority but even if i am it doesnt mean i am wrong ! nor is there any evidence that it will be a white elephant.prove it and i will agree with you.

      i find it strange that you and sue are admitting that no matter what evidence was presented that proved the case for hs2 that you would in any case be against it. are you really saying that if even it were proved to your satisfaction beyond reasonable doubt that there was a business and environmental case for hs2 that you would still oppose hs2 ? that would be strange as you state that those are the reasons why you are against hs2 and not principally because it will have an effect or your local area. you must understand that i admire that your wish to protect your local environment which is a very valid reason to be against hs2 as is trying to reroute the most contentious parts of the route

  6. there was once a surgeon who wanted to make a name for himself and become famous by pioneering something ‘new’. He had a patient who had two years of life left with her family but who would eventually die from an incurable cancer. He drew up plans for a surgical procedure that might save her life and showed it to his surgeon colleagues. They said interesting, but you are doing more harm than good – this is too risky and during the next 2 years other ,cures may be developed or other treatment that could prolong her life further.
    He wouldn’t listen, so ambitious was he, and he persuaded the patient that her only chance was his new surgery.
    On the day of the operation his colleagues begged him to think again, they foresaw disaster.
    During the first hour of surgery the patient bled so much that the entire blood bank of the hospital was drained and to cut along story short it was not a success.
    I think theres a message there – before we carve a train line wider than wembley stadium up and down the country.

    • but it isnt something new that hasnt been tried before though is it ? hs lines are in use with more planned and under construction all around the world. and i dont really think it is going to be as wide as wembley stadium as hs2 is only going to be two tracks !!

      • Its been tried in other economies and other countries which have very different needs and circumstances. Its abit like giving a colostomy to someone with appendicitis -its the wrong thing for Britain.
        The 2 tracks have to be a large distance apart because of the incredibly high speed of the trains, also there has to be a 25 metre concrete zone each side of the tracks so 75metres minimum, wembley football pitch is 65 metres wide. Add to that in certain places maintenance buildings and all the large electrical substations etc, its huge, irresponsible and inappropriate. I’ll say it again, if doctors behaved like politicians they’d be sacked on the spot, or if politicians had a GMC they’d be held to account if they behave irresponsibly with our lives, our country, our money……..

        • in your original comment you said that it would be the width of wembley now you are saying wembley pitch. how much land would a new motorway or runways cost and how much pollution would be created by the cars and planes that would them it. and i dont see what is so vastly different about the uk – japan is a long relatively thin country which is very mountainous france has mountains in the south and long flat areas. all countries that have hsl have hsl in common but widely different geographies. so why are we so different ?

      • Circumstances are indeed different in other countries. These figures show the comparative costs of HSR in the UK compared with other European countries.

        UK HS2 – €106m per km
        UK HS1 – €54m per km
        TGV, France LGV Est – €10m per km
        TGV, France Rhine-Rhone – €6m per km
        TGV, France Sud Atlantique – €23m per km
        TGV, France Brittany – Loire – €19m per km
        TAV, Italy Rome – Milan – €39m per km
        RAVE Portugal Lisbon-Madrid – €12m per km

        I wonder if these other countries would be building these railways if the price was the same as here in the UK

        • In my story that I posted about the ambitious surgeon (or rather butcher) the thing that makes me most angry about the way he acted is the information that he gave to his patient.
          Instead of explaining all the alternatives and getting colleagues involved to give other view points to the patient, he convinced her that his way was the only way, because of his own vested interests. Surely the electorate are too well educated now to be railroaded by the govmt. Can we change public opinion across the country in the way that the public are getting behind the forest privatisation campaign?. Here at stopHS2 we must take our responsibility to hold the govmt to account very seriously indeed.

          A new nickname for Phillip Hammond ‘the butcher of buckinghamshire, the witchdoctor of warwickshire and the west midlands.’

          • I don’t think it’s fair to scapegoat Hammond with this. He’s implementing policy which is explicitly stated in the coalition agreement and as transport minister he’s only doing his job. If it wasn’t him it would only be someone else.

            If you want someone to hold responsible then look to the Lord Adonis. He’s the one who set up HS2 Ltd and instructed them to plan the route from London to Birmingham without looking at alternatives, and rushed them through for political expediency. As a labour peer he wasn’t even elected. But now that government has gone and so has he. He’s the butcher surgeon, but for some reason all the parliamentary parties remain steadfastly wedded to his idea.

            • I take your point, but he’s not looking at other options, and that should be part of his job. if a patient gets a new doctor, the new doctor has to review the whole case history of the patient before continueing with the previous doctors treatment plan. He has a continueing responsibility to do this.

      • The published width of the trackbed is 11metres, and the distance between the fencelines is 22m. overall, on leval ground.
        Obviously, where the the line is embanked or in cutting the width overall will be greater to allow for the slope- as on all conventional railways- and motorways, except that HS2 would occupy only half the width of the latter.

    • protest song – to the tune of greensleeves

      Sometimes a govment want to cure our ills
      and HS2 they think fits the bill
      So our money they’ll spend and our countryside rend
      and then tell us to swallow this bitter pill
      But theres no science behind this scheme
      the evidence is poor from what we’ve seen
      and yet they tell us for good or ill
      swallow down this bitter pill

      Sometimes a govment want glory on a whim
      and everyone knows its bad medicine
      cost benefit analysis shows this treatment is hazardous
      its unlikely to help with anythin
      They are looking like a bunch of quacks,
      their leeches sucking from Britains back
      bleed us dry and then starve us thin
      everyone knows its bad medicine

  7. When I worked as a doctor I had to weigh up very carefully the evidence for giving a particular treatment to a patient. Many treatments have nasty long term sideeffects for example and the benefits clearly had to outweigh the risks. It seems that this logical kind of thinking doesn’t apply to the ‘treatment’ the government prescribes of highspeed rail, which will apparently cure all our ills at a phenomenal cost to the taxpayer, ecology and the landscape. In the medical world the government would be described as a bunch of quacks, their leeches sucking from britains back, glorifying themselves in a highspeed dream for which they can’t even produce a decent business plan. The GMC would find this prescription highly irresponsible and strike them from the medical register. What a shame we have no similar governing body for politicians and transport executives.

    • i agree that we should weigh up the evidence and to my mind it supports hs2. if you take all the symptoms of the overcrowded railway then you prescribe hs2 as the medication. If you have a head cold you take a congestion buster like lemsip to reduce it. think of the existing network as the cold and hs2 as the lemsip.

      the thing is on stop hs2 you keep repeating all these statements as facts when they aren’t. there is a positive business case and it isnt a dream it is reality through much of the world and indeed Kent. there is no evidence that there will be massive destruction nor that the only people on the trains will be fat cats nor that fares will be exorbitant. please show me some evidence of your claims!

      the situation is that you have already decided that you dont want hs2 and you are going to make the facts fit.

      • Make the facts fit? The most congested routes are Woking – Waterloo and Reading – Padington. The HS2 ‘lemsip’ ain’t going to cure that. And anyway, this is more like major invasive surgery than Lemsip.

        • as you rightly say it wont help there because it doesnt serve those destinations. it is the main intercity routes that will require relief and yes more then a lemsip more like an aortal bypass ! excuse by spelling if that is incorrect.

      • A doctors maxim – never cause harm. HS2 is going to do more harm than good, its damaging, its not needed, its like giving dangerous chemotherapy to someone who has a benign skin tumour. Its like someone doing an experimental brain surgery on someone with a migraine.
        Doctors would be rightly sacked if they behaved in the way our politicians do.

        • but things like influenza and swine flu injections and indeed all medicines can have adverse side effects cant they are dont cure everybody but are seen to be beneficial to the larger majority. the side effects of some anti-depressants for example state that they might make you feel suicidal ! i find iot a side effect of this web site lol !!

  8. Bang bang….ouch! When I nod my head hit it?……

    Hammer Hammond has a nice ring to it don’t you think?…..media update…..in January 2011 81% of the media coverage about HS2 was NAGATIVE. Only 3% was positive with the remaining 16% balanced. Back in November 2010 there were only 2 articles about HS2 that were ‘positive’. Does this new Government seriously think they can railroad through a policy that has such low opinion ratings?….pah!….Bang bang…..ouch…..I must stop hitting my thumb!

    Come off it Hammer Hammond – you know you need the ‘big society’ to vote with you on this. Time to look at the alternatives – how about you spend a fraction of the £34bn on upgrading the existing lines and track, make the trains a bit faster and increase capacity by reducing the number of ’empty’ first class coaches and adding more if need be. I am no rail expert but like so many rail users I can see that the capacity argument is completely flawed whilst half empty first class coaches trundle up and down our train lines!

    We aint stupid!

    • Well you have to consider how much of this negative coverage actually proposes credible reasons for canning tens of thousands of jobs and telling vast swathes of the population that they can’t take part in a European-wide transport revolution. Just recently I’ve seen carp, a pear tree, and on this esteemed forum, the entire avian population of the UK (which I assume refuses to nest anywhere but within the HS2 route) – all of which are at risk from the forthcoming apocalypse which is the construction of one railway line. So I suspect your figures are somewhat skewed by some stuff which is, well, perhaps best disregarded.

      • HS2 will only benefit very few people for an extremely high cost. Both in financial and green costs.

        Longer distance services, unlike their commuter equivalents, can easily add additional coaches to the trains. London – Birmingham with its relatively few stops could extend the Pendolino’s from 11 to 16 or 20 coaches – similar to the Eurostars. This would only really need the addition of platform lengths at Euston and key stops north. With the existing frequency of trains this would absorb the majority of the excess capacity without needing new lines.

        However the overcrowding of commuter services into our city centres is a much more significant problem and need to be resolved urgently – and not just London but include Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow etc. This is a much more urgent and significant threat to our economy than saving 40 minutes on the journey to Birmingham/Manchester etc.

        Workers are being forced into longer and longer commutes in more and more overcrowded trains and thus the effectiveness of these workers in the world marketplace is falling. It also encourages companies to move to cities around the world who have sorted out the commuting problem much better than us, as their managers do not want to spend their lives in our overcrowded commuter system.

        Commuters are the lifeblood of our economy not the long distance travellers. We need to make sure our Rail services support these regular travellers better and ensure fast and comfortable services.

        It seems ridiculous that we haven’t got the money for this but can find £125 million per mile for a new high speed railway. As more and more people realise this, then more and more negative coverage will follow.

        • There is no evidence whatsoever to support the oft stated theory that hs2 will only be used by a few people and that the fare prices will be very high. no evidence at all. It is designed for the use of many many people. I think it is a case of being opposed to hs2 then trying to alter the facts to support the anti-hs2 stance. It is hope that by repeating these myths over and over that the true facts will be overlooked.

          The main reason for hs2 is to increase capacity in the railway network as the west coast line is expected to be full by the time hs2 opens. by taking much of the direct birmingham/manchester/leeds traffic onto hs2 this will allow much more capacity on the classic commuter lines. the 40 minute saving to birmingham alone is not the main reason for hs2 but it is something that is needed to get more people out of cars and flights. with the y leg completed leeds and manchester and edinburgh and glasgow will be an hour closer to london.

          When we built the motorways we did so to increase capacity through the extra lanes and speed up the journey with high speed limits. The major reason for constructing a new line rather then upgrading is because it is a cheaper option and not disruptive to the millions of people now using the network. the west coast upgrade produced more capacity and increased the max speed to 125 mph. it also caused huge disruption to passenger numbers which took years to recover and it also cost well over £9 billion. This is not that far from the projected cost of the first leg of hs2 if you do not include the 40% optimism cost bias which is built in to the £17 billion cost. hs1 cost under £7 billion so £2billion less than the west coast upgrade.

          Susan is correct to say that removing first class accomodation would provide more seats but still not enough. Virgin is to introduce a friday evening congestion buster service out of Euston using a standard class only pendolino and has a 11 car unit on test. the only problem with getting rid of first class altogether is that the revenue would be lost by putting up the costs of standard seats but maybe people would stomach that for the sake of getting a seat ! The point about upgrading the existing network is made again but it is so disruptive to long-suffering passengers.However, trains that are longer then platforms can still serve any such stations with train selective door opening.

          There is an ongoing investigation by mcnulty into the costs of the privatised railway and efficiencies in every day operations ie network rail !! will have to be found somehow. The government must not ignore the existing network. they must announce sooner rather then later the orders for new Thameslink trains and if possible the new crossrail trains. if we had these in service the existing fleet can be used elsewhere. The decison over the new iep trains and electrification onto wales needs to be announced quickly also.

          • While some of the points raised about here are to be honest minor details and distractions (to which you seem happy to pander to, trying to increase the noise level in this whole debate) there equally seems to be a load of off-stated myths on the pro- side, for which there is no evidence either.
            HS2 could be built, some people will use it, it will be very shiny – an engineering marvel. But the key point is at what cost? The ‘for’ group seem to take its obvious usefulness to some people as all the evidence that is required to justify the project, and then seemingly as an afterthought come up with some very tenuous promises in various areas to paper over the cracks. A lot of this is presented as ‘fact’ but the reality is of course that nobody really knows – how can anyone seriously make a reliable prediction of transport usage in 30 let alone 70+ years from now? If the case was overwhelming this would not matter, or indeed if the predictions and models were very cautious. But that is not the case, and to me there seems a very high likelihood of the benefits of this project not even getting close to the costs, let alone being the foundation of a prudent investment.
            So yes, let’s talk about problems such as capacity of the WCML, future travel, green stuff, north/south divide, etc. But let’s start with these problems and come up with the best solutions, not start with a fast train and bend the questions and the truth to fit an answer.

            • the only way we can plan anything is to make some kind of forecast otherwise we would never do anything.and again it begs the question why do so many countries have and contiue to build high speed railways – are all their forecasts all wrong too ? and how do you know your forecast is more accurate and what do you base it on ?

              the thing is that all the other alternatives were considered and costed and the conclusion was reahed that whilst there were cheaper alternatives hs2 won out because it was better value for money, was less disruptive and offered much more capacity. it wasnt a case of we want hs2 so lets make it look good.

    • 81% of the media and commentators responses in this country are always critical and negative about and new change or worthwhile project or indeed anything ! it seems to be the way we are here now.

      good news doesnt sell papers ! and since the papers are in the money making business more then they are in the fact presenting business their editorials will largely match the opinions of their readers. it is always much easier to be critical then to be positive.

      interestingly the daily telegraph supports high speed rail overall if you ignore gilligans incoherent ramblings that is !

  9. While commuters suffer daily the agonies of being crammed in like sardines, our government is seriously considering spending £125 million per mile on a new track that might relieve congestion for some of them in 14 years time. And they’ve already spent £8.4m on plans, and earmarked a further £21.2 for this financial year – and this on the back of election promises to reduce waste in government spending!

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