Royal Marriage Reflections

I was at Guide camp when Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer got married: we saw parts of the proceedings on a grainy black and white portable TV, powered by a car battery.

Today, you can watch Prince William and Kate Middleton get married from any suitable device connected to the Internet.  And if you miss it live, there will be numerous youtube versions, filmed from a variety of different angles.

But it’s not just the ability to watch it where and when is convenient to you that’s changed.  Through Twitter, Facebook and similar sites, it is possible to feel a part of it in the way that would have been undreamed of when Charles and Diana got married.

And when today’s Twitter-using teenagers start work, they will be used to doing things over the internet, with people they have never met. They will carry that over into their working lives.

By the time HS2 is supposed to start running trains, there will be a generation of workers who consider the need to “have meetings” by being in the same room as others as a relic of old ways of working.

That’s not to say people will stop traveling completely.  When Prince William’s firstborn gets married, the streets of London are likely to be as full as they are today.

But why would someone in 2026 travel to a routine work meeting rather then use readily available and familiar technology saving both time and money?

38 comments to “Royal Marriage Reflections”
  1. Gary says:
    May 4, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Missy says:
    May 4, 2011 at 10:17 am

    I was on a train from Lon to Brum the other day too at about 8 am and it wasn’t full at all?? I had a seat all the way

    Why wouldnt you have a seat? And of course you would be going against the rush hour flow…..and assuming you went by Virgin Trains, its 3 trains per hour both ways.

    Hi Gary

    so is it Birmingham to London that will need more capacity from 2026?

    • yes…..because at the current rate of 5% growth YOY, 15 years will see double the numbers travelling today. WCML/ECML/MML are nearly full now…..doing nothing is not an option.

      And lets not forget the capacity for freight…..Freightliner themselves have already stated that the WCML is full now, and thats because there are no paths for their aspirations.

      M40 does indeed run from the M42 to the M25 ….. wonder how many from Brum use that to get to Heathrow???? Thats the way I go if I drive to Heathrow…..

  2. Thanks for the reply Nick and sorry i cant link my reply but theres no reply button after your post
    To be precise the M40 runs from the M42 to the M25 and Ive no idea how many people are using it to get between Bham and London Euston let alone who wants to use a high speed link instead of a fast train.
    It all sounds speculative to me

    • Hi Nick,

      You raise a number of points in your reply to Johns reply to rich (further down, but I thought I’d use John’s latest reply) – all of which I think would benefit from further detail to try and separate credible truths from spin:

      Firstly HS2 only links city centres – I’m sure this is great if you intend to live in a yuppie apartment near Curzon Street and commute to the centre of London, but most of us need to get from A to B where one or both are not city centre. This overhead (local transport time, connection time, lack of flexibility) is what makes the road option preferred by most travellers, and why HS2 will remove only a tiny % of vehicles from the motorway network – almost all people travelling to central London are already going by train. To imply that HS2 will have any noticeable effect on road transport (car, bus, or lorry) is disingenuous.

      Secondly, yes I agree that fuel will be expensive in the future, but so will energy in all forms. Before HS2 would even run its first train the demand on electricity will become significant – driven partly I’m sure by electric vehicles which will then also be fundamentally as green and as cheap to run (or rather as expensive) as an electric train. So yes, some journeys will be taken off the road, but they will heading for teleconferencing not the train (unless you are proposing ever increasing subsidy of travel?)

      Thirdly: the important parts of RP2 involve lengthening trains, de-rating a first-class coach, and updating one major junction (which has to be done anyway). This is in no way comparable in terms of disruption to the previous WCML upgrade. I would find it easier to agree with those that point out the complete rebuilding of Euston over a period of about 8 years is more likely to be a concern.

      Forthly: Significant amounts of the past % increase is rail usage comes from the development of cut-price advance tickets transferring journeys from the coach companies. Filling a few more off-peak seats is good for the train companies but this particular modal shift is hardly repeatable into the future. Similarly the congestion charge might have tipped a last few onto the trains, but where are the next wave coming from? Even more important is the better service frequency and relatively cheap cost (subsidised) which encourages both extra leisure journeys and long-distance commuting. This is a questionable use of taxpayers money, and definitely not environmentally good – note I’m not saying people should be in any way prevented from travelling, only that the general public should not be expected to pay half the cost. So my point is that a specific period of past growth cannot be blindly taken as a guarantee of future growth, or that future growth is even desirable or sustainable (see DfT non-travel). But let us also not forget that RP2 is capable of meeting even this inflated growth, and has the advantage over HS2 that it is both much cheaper, and can be applied more incrementally so in fact with RP2 it does not matter which of us is right about growth forecasts (a good thing, because predicting usage many decades from now is hardly an exact science)

      Fifthly: Modal transfer would be better encouraged by trains that went to more places and linked into decent local transport alternatives. For the effect of HS2 on modal transfer see point 1 again – the only significant modal transfer it achieves is to take people from standard trains and put them in faster trains that use more energy.

      Finally: ‘Releasing capacity on the classic network’ is another nice sounding concept that is not all it seems. Sure, I’m sure Freightliner would get in another few trains (even though anecdotally I would comment that the ones I see going through Coventry always seem 1/3 empty) – but this will have no visible effect on the motorway network and might well have knock on effects elsewhere (e.g. UK container ports). For passengers there will simply not be enough of them left behind to fill the released seats, which means either empty trains and yet more subsidies or (far more likely) a less frequent and slower service that leaves the towns and cities without HS2 (the majority) paying for HS2 but getting a worse service.

      • Andrew, you arguments are very effective. It is obvious, for the reasons you state, that the impact of HS2 on car use will be marginal. In addition to faster travel times for the precious few, the arguments in favour seem to boil down to two. “We musn’t fall behind Europe”, don’t think we need bother ourselves about that one, and the capacity issue. The horror stories about the disruption caused by earlier upgrades of existing lines are being furiously pedalled. However, if RP2 can be achieved with little disruption the proponents’ cupboard now looks pretty bare. It is instructive that the works currently happening on the Chiltern line, to substantially speed up the London – Birmingham service, have not affected weekday travel.

  3. I can remember when the majority of homes didn’t have telephones and one in your pocket was unthinkable. I commuted to London on overcrowded trains when phone calls had to be put through a switchboard. In the space of 15 years we were on email and the internet (when most companies didn’t have the internet). 15 years is roughly how long HS2 would take to build. Don’t underestimate the power and speed of technology or its applications. Now, at the end of my working life, at an age when we’re supposed to be too stuck in our ways to accept change, I find the some of these comments alarming. You ‘young chaps’ are very blinkered. You think you know what work ethics will be in use?
    It’s nearly 40 years since the first HSR (in European speed terms) was built in the UK and you seem to think it’s new! . Do catch up.

  4. @Philip – can you point me in the direction please of any country in the world where the internet has been measured to be directly responsible for reducing rail travel? It’s not happening is it? It’d be nice, but it’s not happening now, and the tech has been around long enough to tell us that it’s unlikely to. I know the internet has changed some things but it’s not a panacea for everything.

    I don’t why my working in IT made you smile. I’ve been on the web since the days when having discussions like this were strictly done on Usenet, and after all these years I’m still waiting to see some evidence that compaines are pushing for their employees to reduce travel to such an extent that it would have a fundamental impact on rail passenger numbers, which as we all know, are rising. Don’t get me wrong, it’d be great if we could all not travel and use the internet instead, but it would require actual legislation to force employers to do it, and that’s not going to happen because they wouldn’t want it, as they’d be scared of becoming unproductive after such a massive change in working practices. I’ve no doubt that there are “better” ways of spending money (hospitals, doctors, nurses etc), but the goal of HS2 is to allow us to be part of shift to HSR in Europe, and no other project, no matter how noble, will achieve that. We can’t not spend money on anything just because someone can name a more deserving, but unrelated cause.

    The only speculation I see here is from people who suggest we should be alone amongst the major European economies and reject HSR, just because of something we *hope* will happen and are not acutally taking any real steps to put in place.

    • Rich, I suggest you re-read what I said. I didn’t say that the fact you worked in IT made me smile. I said your remark that video conferencing ‘may replace the odd meeting or two’ made me smile. The whole thrust of my piece was that technology will make the world a different place when HS2 reaches, hold your breath, Birmingham, in 2026. The fact that the internet has not significantly impacted on travel YET is irrelevant. It has certainly helped people work while travelling on trains.
      Of all the arguments for HS2 I find the ‘must keep up with Europe’ one the least convincing. Most of the countries with HSR are larger than we are with lower population densities.
      What we do know is that once projects of this type start they will never be stopped whatever happens. Cost overruns, technology changes, national income decline may cause reflection but it will grind on to a conclusion. So we better be darn sure it is worth it. The problem is we can’t. So avoid large, long term, projects of doubtful value, I say.

      • I misintepreted the IT comment – my apologies.

        Good luck with this “internet will reduce travel argument”. technology will make the world a different place when HS2 reaches, hold your breath, Birmingham, in 2026.?? It’s fifteen years! We plan major sports events on that sort of timescale. Presumably in 15 years there will be no need for any more motorway building/road improvments/bus service improvements/any sort of tranpsort spending whatsoever, because in just that relatively small space of time the internet will have changed everything to such a degree that none of this will be required. I mean HS2 isn’t the only transport game in town so presumably in 15 years every other method of transport (cars/buses etc) will also see a massive decline in use, despite our ever rising population. There isn’t the merest hint that any of this even looks like happening so far, and 15 years is not really that long a period in which to hope for such a seismic shift in passenger numbers. Sorry, but how anti-HS2 people have the brass neck to talk about HS2 being speculative whilst offering this nonsense as an excuse for not buliding it is just beyond me. Again, getting companies to try and bring about this sort of change in working practices will require legislation, and most companies – if forced into giving their employees the freedom to not turn up to work whenever they feel like it to such a degree that it will actually make an impact on rail passenger numbers – they will probably look to take their business elsewhere. No other countries are trying to force this on companies that are based there, and for good reason. You are arguning against HS2 based on something which the stats tell us the reverse is happening (rail use going up), and would be nigh-on impossible to realistically implement to the desired level.

        • Hi Rich,

          You seem to be confused, and trying to conflate the short distance travel of commuters with long distance travel for business and leisure. I don’t expect much effect on day to day commuting from any modern technology – for every ‘computer based’ worker who could in principle work from home there are a whole lot more who have to work in shops, hospitals, schools, restaurants, factories etc. Also the cost of commuting is borne by the worker so there is little direct reason for an employer to encourage people to stay at home (there is evidence for increased productivity, but that is another topic). So this type of travel is not likely to fall significantly if at all, but then HS2 does not help these people.

          For the long distance traveller the priorities become slightly different – for a start there is usually a lot more choice involved, and not just for leisure travellers. Sure, many journeys are essential (e.g. weddings/funerals, certain business activities where you really have to be there in person), but many more are made because they can be – who doesn’t want to get out of the office on a jolly when they get a chance? But in the future the downsides of travel are going to become more apparent, and long distance travel will not increase dramatically in the future. Note I’m not suggesting that people should be told they can’t visit their aunty Mary whenever they choose, just that the costs (time and money) will get balanced against the alternatives (skype, webex, etc) and people will make the choice to have a lower quality experience more often, and make the trip at most the same number of times as they used to.

          For business meetings this will come even sooner for a number of reasons:
          – Can more clearly see the costs of travel, and impose travel restrictions (a stick)
          – Can more easily justify getting the latest equipment (a carrot)
          – Are more likely to be less parochial, and aware that a successful business is dealing in a global marketplace (how will HS2 help them communicate with their US and China offices?)
          And of course when travel is essential the cost thing still exists – all things being equal quicker is better, but with mobile working a small reduction in time verses a significant increase in cost is not going to fly with most financial controllers.

          Lastly, I think you are wrong that these effects are not already taking place. In my current company the R&D staff have weekly meetings – with the worldwide development team, by the power of the Internet. Similar usage by the marketing groups: ‘travel time’ a couple of minutes. Sure, there are still engineers who go out and fix stuff, but even then there is a lot of fault diagnosis and troubleshooting done via web links to the PC at the customers site which saves a lot of trips. It’s all a lot more productive, it’s the future, it’s here right now – Travel is not going away (of course not!), but neither is it going to grow exponentially on and on.

          • Hi Andrew,

            Nope, I’m not confused about anything. I simply don’t believe your vision of the future. On long distance, I’m more inclined to agree with this:


            …which is backed up by facts and figures. Your post is basically what you think (or rather hope) is going to happen. I don’t agree with it at all. And the effects of tele-working are not having an effect at all, because rail travel has been steadily on the increase, we still have overcrowded (long distance) trains, the population is forecast to go up with immigration and people living longer, and HS2 is also about European rail journeys instead of flying, not just UK domestic journeys. I was on a Virgin train from London to Brum International last Saturday and it was rammed, even on a non-weekday.

            But in the future the downsides of travel are going to become more apparent.

            Well I’d agree with that, which is why we need people out of cars, freight off roads and a better rail system. Go on the M40 any day of the week and how many cars (and lorries) are making a journey the length of that road? They are more likely to be the people making journeys becuase they can that you allude to, and we need them off the roads and on to trains with a better, faster service. And I can’t help noticing that Stop HS2 tell us about the wonderful increase in rail capacity that RP2 will bring about, but then they’re also telling us we don’t need much extra capacity because of this tele-working future that awaits us all. Do we need to patch up the WCML for the extra capacity or are we all going to be tele-working in the future?

            • Hi Rich,

              I believe the arguments used by stopHS2 regarding capacity are quite consistent and not at all confusing – at the risk of repeating some points I‘ve made earlier:

              Teleworking is not going to stop all travel; no-one is saying that it will. What it will do is remove some journeys (especially long ones), and so whatever the predicted growth in travel based on past trends and relationships it will be reduced. In fact a far more significant potential for exaggeration is given by this adherence to the relationship between GDP growth and long distance travel which is disproved elsewhere (Metz). So there are reasons to suspect the forecast is wrong, and the evidence from other projects shows that indeed rail forecasts are on average generally wrong. What is different about this forecast that makes it believable rather than just pulling the number desired out of a hat?

              Still, when all is said and done there is a growth number – we can argue about what it will be, but taking the HS2 Ltd number as a worst case we can then see if we can meet that growth. This is where RP2 comes into play in that it can meet this ‘demand’. The best of this is that as well as being vastly less expensive we don’t necessarily have to do it all at once, so if the demand never appears we don’t have to do everything.

              Lastly even HS2 Ltd do not bother to make claims for the European dimension. Nor are they predicting themselves to make any noticeable difference to road travel – 20 years from now the number of cars and lorries on the M40 will be determined by many factors (energy costs, electrification of cars, autonomous vehicles, road charging, etc etc) but HS2 will not be one of them whether it is built or not.

            • hi rich, i am replying to johns reply to you if thats ok !

              john, the m40 as you know runs from birmingham to london. since hs2 also links the same two cities in well under an hour it seems reasonable to suggest that as fuel is expensive and the m40 and m6 etc are congested that hs2 will take some of the cars off the road. This would be in much the same way that the west coast line has following the upgrade after years of disruption – which stop hs2 would like to inflict on west coast passengers for another ten years with the support for rp2, the rejected hs2 alternative.

              since there are signs that less people are driving and flying already whilst rail pasenger numbers on parallel lines are increasing, it seems reasonable to assume that a much faster service in which passengers could actually get a seat would induce further modal transfer. and of course the extra capacity released on the exisitng classic network would also help with this.

              To deny this quite frankly does not seem credible.

            • I was on a train from Lon to Brum the other day too at about 8 am and it wasn’t full at all?? I had a seat all the way

            • Missy says:
              May 4, 2011 at 10:17 am

              I was on a train from Lon to Brum the other day too at about 8 am and it wasn’t full at all?? I had a seat all the way

              Why wouldnt you have a seat? And of course you would be going against the rush hour flow…..and assuming you went by Virgin Trains, its 3 trains per hour both ways.

        • Hi Rich
          I’d be interested to know which major sporting projects are planned over 15 years, other than putting a date in the calendar. The biggest of all, The Olympics, is planned and implemented over 7 years. London won in 2005 for 2012. However, the key point is certainty. 95% of all Olympic events are agreed and the host can only make small changes to minor events. I think we can assume where will be a 100metre final in 2116, if the human race lasts that long. If only HS2 planners could forecast with such confidence. Whether HS2 is built or not I will still be able to get to London and Manchester by train even if it is a little slower and more crowded. So why bet £32bn on a high risk project which is not vitally necessary.
          As to your other points about motorway travel etc I think Andrew Gibbs has answered them very well.

          • hs2 does have confidence in its forecasting otherwise presumably it wouldnt publish them.

            and the way rail travel is increasing you may not be able to even get on some trains or if you do have to stand all the way without hs2. and rail ticket prices will continue to rise sharply due to the constraints in the existing network.

            and you use words like “bet” and “high risk” but again in light of the trend of at least a decade of increasing train travel i dont agree with your analysis nor with your statement that hs2 is not a vitally necessary transport link.

  5. Ultimately, building HS2 means digging up miles and miles of irreplaceable, unique English countryside and disrupting people’s homes, businesses, leisure options and lives. What needs to be considered is the alternatives to this and I believe that modern communications are the answer to this. Our travel business widely uses email to make arrangements overseas with people we have never met and who speak another language so why do we need to ruin our countryside to get from London to Birmingham and back?
    How many supporters of HS2 would still support it if it went through their back yard or meant their business had to close or relocate?

  6. May I ask what planet you in HS2 are on? The main reason for HS2 is for fast train to London just what is needed to day. Go and see the weeding and then back in Birmingham for tea.

  7. What about flying cars? We’ll all have those in the future. And there’s probably no need for HS2 because we’ll all have hover boots.

    • Nice ideas, Rich, but they a bit speculative.

      Digital technologies using the Internet do exist and are in widespread use today.

        • If we are ever to catch up with our competitors let alone overtake them then we have to stop imitating them and take a quantum leap
          If we have 33bn to invest(and thats a big if) we have to harness todays technologies to their maximum to invent new ones and that means putting big money behind research and development and engineering.We must also get much much better at bringing technologies and products to market
          We must incentivise Companies who already have a futuristic culture.
          We must reduce the need to travel significantly(why is there so little debate on the Dft initiative) as resources are finite.Does anyone really enjoy commuting?

          • What about flying trains? In the 60’s Prof Laithwaite worked on that very thing, now German Transrapid Maglev is the culmination of a British technology. Maglev is a quantum leap ahead of HS2.

          • I totally agree with John. It is such a puzzle that the debate only seems to be about whether we need HS2 or not. Why aren’t other options considered? It is clear that HS2 can’t be essential for the UK economy, as many claim. What is the payback on a nationwide fibre optic network, for instance? This would benefit the whole population not just a narrow north/south strip. How many years earlier would the benefits flow? How much less embedded carbon would there be in a fibre network? The current plans for Broadband are clearly inadequate There is an excellent government scheme, R & D Grant, to help UK companies develop innovative ideas and take them to market. The trouble is there is nothing like enough money to make it really effective. Why would we want to starve these schemes, and many others, to put vast sums of money into a railway line? Particuarly as rapid developments in digital communication will make business travel less important. Beats me!

            • What is the payback on a nationwide fibre optic network, for instance?

              You would need to ask every major business in Britain, who so far have collectively shown no apetite whatsoever for using technology to replace travel on the scale required to render HS2 useless. This is a total non-argument and pure fantasy, and a rough idea of some utopia where everyone stares into their PC instead of travelling is not a substantive argument against HS2.

      • Well let’s be honest, your whole article is speculative isn’t it? I can’t help noticing that you folk will claim that the business case is unproven and everything is questionable, but you see no problems with putting forward an argument against HS2 purely based on something you think might happen. As already pointed out by Gary, the tech for video-conferencing has been around for ages and train passenger numbers are still going up. How much longer can you keep recycling this non-starter of an argument?

        • Surely the logical consequence of not taking actions which encourage or enable reduced travel is that we should start planning for hs3 now—where do we stop?

        • Rich, the internet was around for a very long time before it was widely used. Video conferencing is in a very early stage and there is not yet a mindset to use it. Cisco require it to be used for internal meetings and claim to have saved a fortune in travel and time. Most companies have not used video conferencing and have no idea how good it can be – even at this early stage of development. If you think video conferencing is like staring at a PC I suggest you do some research to see how good it already is. As to your’s and Gary’s point about disregarding other developing technologies I presume you and he would still be digging canals because these new fangled railways won’t work. By the way I have no commercial interest in video conferencing I just want this country to avoid going down another expensive dead end.

          • Why wont these new fangled railways work?? They work everywhere else…..

            Talking of canals… may want to do some research on the Manchester Ship Canal, in particular, the new development called Port Salford.

          • Philip – it may replace the odd meeting or two, but it won’t make an impact on the scale required to render HS2 useless. I’m fully aware of how it works – I’ve worked in IT for well over 20 years for various large corporations. Demand for travel, given the increase in population we are forecast to experience due to immigration and better health care, is only going one way – up. The stats we have are telling us that this is the case. Again, this whole argument is based on something that *might* happen, but the information we have available suggests it won’t. HS2 is about being connected up to a pan-European HSR network and opting out of that because we *hope* there’ll be a massive shift to tele-working is just plain wrong. There is no legislation in place to make this happen, and no concerted effort from companies across the UK to make it happen either, clearly because they have no apetite for it.

            • Rich, I’m not arguing that HS2 would be useless just that there are better ways of spending the money. Obviously some businesses will be in favour because they are being given a multi-billion present by the taxpayer. However, they won’t put a penny of their money into the project. It is interesting that the government insists that the private sector builds nuclear power stations, for instance. Inherently much higher risk projects than HS2. Why the difference? The answer is obvious. There will be a market for electricity in 2025 and we will pay whatever is required to get it. There is no guaranteed market for HSR and thus the public sector has to foot the bill for contruction and then subdise it. Even if video conferencing does not take off there will be full Wifi availability for the endless 2hours 10 minutes from London to Manchester. So what’s the big deal about the proposed time saving in 2033?
              I smiled at your comment that ‘video conferencing may replace the odd meeting or two’. As an IT person you surprise me. In 1996 I organised a seminar for 50 small businesses. The speaker asked how many used email. Two hands went up! Now we all groan at the size of our ‘in boxes’. You don’t know where technology will be in 2026 and nor do I. Why spend all this money on a such a speculative project. Mr Hammond points out how many miles of HSR there are in Europe. I am sure it is the case that all these were approved well before the widespread use of the internet. We should be saying thank goodness we don’t have to make such enormous investments. The internet is the game changer.

    • Hi-tech Maglev also digs up far more of the countryside and urban space and is far more expensive, which is the reason the Tories, who originally were quite keen, dropped it like a hot brick.

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