Channel 4 report and debate, a ‘must see’

On 28th July, the day before the HS2 Consultation closed, Channel 4 News broadcast this report and live debate.

Channel 4 economics correspondent Faisal Islam described the debate as a ‘must see’ and within half an hour the words ‘Pete Waterman’ was trending on twitter, mostly about the fact his argument was as facile as his music and that he looked like he was about to have a heart attack.

11 comments to “Channel 4 report and debate, a ‘must see’”
  1. I’m not familiar with the route between London and Birmingham, having only ever used it a handful of times in my entire life, but I am familiar with other routes: locally in the north west, and between Crewe and Glasgow.

    My own view is that the anticipated 15 minute reduction (is that all we’ll get for £17billion!) off the journey time between London and Birmingham could be achieved by removing one or two stops from the itinerary. All this requires is more efficient and effective use of existing rolling stock, tracks, etc. Specifically, keep suitable itineraries in place in order to service local and regional stations, but, crucially, introduce a true inter-city express service. That is, one that has as few stops as are necessary to achieve the desired transit times. Any stations in between can be accommodated by regional trains. There is no need to travel at 250mph.

    To give a pertinent example by air: Flying from Manchester to Keflavik takes about 2 hours. But including a stop in Glasgow adds around 45 minutes. So, if we want a faster service between England and Iceland, do we cut out the intermediate stop, or should we adopt Philip Hammond’s approach and use a supersonic jet instead?

  2. So China’s economic growth is down to its HS rail. People never really make the mental distinction between correlation and causation. Its laughable. How on earth did Pete Waterman get this gig of this interview?

    During any argument people take these extreme views. Neither person came of well here at all. “I can sit here and make an economic argument for building nothing”. Good lord. Does he not relate that to his prior statement regarding China – the worlds major manufacturing economy. “You cant expect someone to drive a fiesta to manchester three times a day” Errr why would anyone do that? What was the point being made.

    Personally I think HS1 links to mainland Europe are worthwhile because there is the distance there to get the benefit. The fact is that on this tiny little island our current times between major cities are less already because we are so small.

    Pete Waterman should just play with his train set a little more. What was the actual reason you cant add more carriages please. His ranting flustered response failed to actually answer that.

    • Nameless
      The main reason I expect (though im not 100% sure) of not having more carriages is from a health and safety aspect. Train lines are not always on straight lines, there are curvs. Plus the longer the train more chance it has in strong winds (mainly bridges) of being blown over. With a train carrying members of the public there are strick health and safety regs in forced and its about the publics lives in question who are on the trains.

      As to the country being small and times of travel in compairing Europe or China, you forget the congestion on the roads now not to mention the cost of petrol used in those delays. Having a high speed network just makes life more simple and with less stress specialy if people want to live in cheaper areas but are still able to work in high paid citys without the worry and stress of traffic. Unless of course there is an inch of snow and that brings the train line to a stand still.

      • Thanks for the answer but the virgin cross country trains I catch are tiny compared to the east midlands mainline ones. Next time I use one I will count the carriages but its massively different on the platforms.

        The other issue really does relate to human population expansion and I encourage every human being to look at Issac Asimov’s views on this subject. The man was a genius and 20 years after he wrote about the subject he is looking more vindicated with each passing year.

  3. I watched this disgrace of an “interview” and was almost spitting feathers. Jon Snow is a serious pro hs2er and Waterman is a nerd with a train set in his loft and as bubblegum as his music. Such depth of intellect and reason “You’ve just got to do it”. Words fail ..

    Repeatedly asking Joe about the Channel Tunnel was beyond the pale, since no public money was used to build it, unlike hs2 which is purely tax payers hard earned. Mr Snow was so biased it was like a school playground with two bullies. Thankfully Joe is no mean fighter himself.

  4. Really, you must have seen a different debate then because actually Pete Waterman came across with some very sound arguments about the economic case for HS2; effectively he was saying “No large infrastructure project on this type can demonstrate an overwhelming business case but it’s not stopped us before and it shouldn’t now!”. He certainly took the wind out of Joe Rukin’s sails because he (JR) ended up sounding precisely like the Not In My Backyard luddite that he is.

    When challenged on the efficacy of the Channel Tunnel link, JR obfuscated and wouldn’t answer in a direct manner because he knew it would give the game away about the motivations underpinning the anti-HS2 brigade’s arguments – namely stop any large infrastructure project in its tracks and subject it to forensic analysis – if any single individual is negatively impacted by the scheme, forget it!

    • You’ve been quiet for a bit Peter, thought you must be on your hols … my point, which you chose to ignore, is that the channel tunnel was not built funded by the taxpayer, so the question was completely inappropriate to HS2. they wasted a lot of decent debate time by challenging Joe on something out of context to the hs2 “debate”.

    • At last some straight talking confirming no business or economic case–now lets ‘lock’ the transport chiefs (and whoever else can make a contribution) in a room until they formulate a plan to resolve the capacity and in the forecastable future,using existing resources including reducing the need to travel.

    • I’m no expert but quoting from”The Channel Tunnel—an ex post economic evaluation ” ( shows:


      The forecasts underpinning the construction of the Channel Tunnel largely and systematically overestimated the total size and growth of the cross-Channel passenger and freight markets. The share of the cross-Channel markets captured by the Tunnel was accurately predicted. However, this was only achieved through a competitive battle with ferry operators, which resulted in reduced tariffs. The combination of these two factors resulted in revenues much lower than predicted. For completely separate reasons, the construction costs of the Tunnel doubled.

      The cost benefit appraisal of the Channel Tunnel reveals that overall the British economy would have been better off had the Tunnel never been constructed, as the total resource cost outweighs the benefits generated. Users have gained significantly at the expense of owners (producers). The latter—both ferry operators and the Tunnel operator have incurred substantial losses. The single biggest component of user’s gain has not, as originally expected, been in terms of travel time savings, but due to the transfer from producers. The longer-term evaluation of the project confirms the poor viability of the investment both in financial and cost benefit terms.”

  5. I’m surprised it was claimed by both guests that there has never been an economic argument for building a railway. What about back in the days when Brunel built the first large-scale network? The alternatives were horse-and-cart and canals. Or the coast-to-coast railroad in the early years of the US? (To name just two examples.) Also, how can a tiny country like Britain be compared with one the size of China – that is such an illogical argument: The larger the country, the more sense is makes for higher speeds, but in a small, congested country like Britain efficient use of the rail network is more important than 200+ mph trains.

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