An argument we shouldn’t use?

A couple of weeks ago, a few of us went to the debate on HS2 organised by Birmingham Friends of the Earth and Sustainability West Midlands.

The train we caught to Birmingham had plenty of spare seats, in spite of being in the “peak hour” fare period.  We had a table: the table had sockets available “for charging laptops and mobiles”.  The train operator was encouraging us to make use of our time on the train, and even providing extra electricity.

However many of the economic benefits from HS2 are supposed to come about because business travellers sit on trains twiddling their thumbs.  Less time on the trains, so the the HS2 thinking goes, means more time in the office, and that must be a good thing surely?

But for many business travellers, time spent on a train is time available for certain types of thinking intensive work away from the interruptions of the office. Or catching up on emails, or reading documents, or any one of a number of other productive tasks. Spending a few minutes less on a train does not replace unused time with useful time, it just changes where the useful time is being spent.

So it was interesting to hear what Jim Steer, of Greengauge 21, had to say about working on trains  during the debate.  His view was that it was an old argument,  a pointless argument he said, one that the anti-HS2 campaigners should stop using.

That suggests it is a strong argument, one that the pro-HS2 camp would rather not have to answer. They are quite happy for the taxpayer to spend £33 billion on a railway network, based on economic reasoning that was unplugged years ago.

Sorry, Jim, don’t base your arguments on the value of wasted time. We will carry on saying it: time on trains can be and is used productively.

20 comments to “An argument we shouldn’t use?”
  1. It the last Westminster Hall debate the Minister actually claimed that 70% of HS2 travellers would be non business. Refering to the appropriate WEBTAG this reduces the ½ hour travel time saving to an average of £7 per person. I bet the costs and CBR haven’t been changed

  2. I, like many, commuted to London and dealt with overseas companies. Our company took on board flexi hours which was great. It meant you could work the same hours as those companies and didn’t have to work hours and hours overtime because you HAD to be there by 9.00.
    Phillip Hammond said “There is ONLY congestion and overcrowding for a couple of hours a day.” £33,000,000,000.00 is a hellish expensive solution for a minority of the nation, especially when the whole of the nation is having to pay for it and there are cheaper, more immediate, less distructive, less disruptive and efficient solutions.

  3. Spain’s high speed rail is subsidised. I am all for investing in the current comprehensive rail network. We have a better network than many countries but it does need improvement. A high speed rail link would not take any pressure off the rest of the network. Where are all the customers going to come from? Are there really that many people that need to get from London to Birmingham non stop? A jouney saving time on the fastest current jouney of around 25 minutes. That journey time does not include the time needed to get to the station. There is also the fact that many Government sponsored projects in previous years have cost far more than original estimates.

    On another point regarding “not in your back yard”, The Chilterns is classed an an AONB and as such, is a national asset.

    • Indeed Steve, the Chilterns is an AONB, just like it was when the M40 was built, and as for that matter the M6 through the Lake District. Why would a high speed rail link not take any pressure off the current network….???

            • If I knew the answer I wouldn’t have needed to ask you. But you haven’t answered the question I asked you, Gary.

              Maybe instead, Gary, you can tell us whether the M40 was being built through the Chilterns when it became an AONB?

            • Unless I m being a bit thick Joanne…I ve just told you I have no idea when the M40 was planned…….but Im pretty sure that the Chilterns have been around a lot longer than the M40 has !!!! So what is the point you are trying to make?? Coz u aint doing a good job of it lol !!

            • As you haven’t given a date for planning the M40, you haven’t answered my question.

              And you haven’t answered my other question either – was the M40 being built when the Chilterns became an AONB?

            • Yes Joanne , I havent answered your question …..COZ I DONT KNOW THE ANSWER!!!

              Now what is the point you are trying to make?

  4. Businesses who have ignored pleas to stagger working hours to relieve the appalling conditions that commuters suffer day after day should be told to think again.Working from home must require self-discipline,but productivity-related pay should sort out the sheep from the goats.Some have “remote portals” and local libraries,with their quiet environment could expand their services(with help from business) to accommodate.This would also give a welcome fillip to those undervalued and beleaguered institutions which are under dire threat at the moment.

    • Peter …there are plenty of big businesses that offer flexible working hours , including my own. As for the ” appalling conditions ” that commuters suffer, I would remind you of the fact that we are now seeing an increase in numbers of carriages to relieve overcrowding, and such projects as Thameslink and Crossrail etc which you guys appear oblivious to. You cannot hide from the fact that rail passenger numbers are increasing and are likely to grow further. Encouraging people out of their cars is a no brainer, indeed the vast majority of commuter journeys are by car. Maybe we should be following the lead of the Spanish Government who have announced a reduction in speed limit on the m/ways, and reduced rail fares by 5%. They are attempting to cut their CO2 emmissions by 125 million tonnes. Of course Spain already has High Speed Rail.

  5. The fact is that HS2 will do little to increase capacity where it’s needed. I worked in London for 3 years and caught the Chiltern Railways train at Haddenham and Thame in the morning. The trains would come from the North such as Birmingham, Banbury or Bicester and when it arrived in Haddenham had plenty of seats. The train would then reach capacity as it stopped at stations such as High Wycombe and Beaconsfield. The same would apply on the homeward journey with the train being half empty once it got to Haddenham. There are plenty of people who work on the train and make use of the time to polish up a presentation, for instance.
    It is mainly on the commuter belt that has capacity problems and money spent on longer platforms to enable longer trains would ease this, HS2 will not help in any way.

    I have heard and seen many logical and sensible arguments against HS2 but very few that make any sense, in favour. It is time this project was canned before it costs us any more wasted money!

    • Ah right… if we class the ECML from Peterborough, the MML from Bedford and the WCML from Milton Keynes as commuter belt, which in your words has the capacity problem…..then by creating a brand new line for long distance trains which frees up capacity on the aforementioned lines ( indeed Milton Keynes gets twice as many trains when HS2 is built ) , surely HS2 is the answer?.

  6. How do passengers who cant get a seat actually ” work ” on a train??. Surely the fact that the mega increase in capacity that HS2 brings will give people more opportunity to do that if they so wish ??? As you say Penny, time on trains can be and is used productively, and of couse you can t work on a laptop whilst you are driving, so by offering more capacity , surely thats an incentive for car drivers?

    • The government admits that the capacity problem only occurs during the rush hour, and as you will have seen if you read Sunday’s post they are looking at other ways of dealing with rush hour.

      • Governments have looked at ways of solving rush hour crowding for years; it usually involves ideas to spread the peak by offering cheaper tickets outside the core peak hours (but in practice this usually means even more expensive tickets for peak hour users while, outside, the fares remain static), encouraging home working and encouraging companies to locate outside established centres.

        The trouble with all of these is that they don’t work, because:

        1) Commuters don’t want to be limited to particular journeys on which their ticket is valid and, in any case, the increase in core peak fares is a political no-go area

        2) Most business occurs within the standard working day, so it is no-one’s interest to not be around when this activity is taking place

        3) There are major problems with home-working. People prefer to work on a face to face basis so can find home working very isolating. Also, for some strange reason, it has a habit of being less productive…can’t think why 🙂

        4) Encouraging businesses to move out of key business districts is hardly a way to protect the environment – it just creates pressure to build on green field areas.

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