Better broadband, better than HS2

Following on from this weekend’s confirmation that HS2 won’t be in the Queen’s Speech tomorrow, increasing numbers of people are arguing that the alternative investment for the country is better broadband.

For instance, in an article published today the Guardian reveals Why Britain’s broadband is heading for the slow lane.

The article reports that Britain’s current plans will leave us falling further and further behind the rest of Europe (we’re currently 16th in Europe) and the rest of the world, even though they say “Britons generate more money online than any other G20 nation”.

A couple of interesting quotes

“Britain is being frozen out of the next industrial revolution,” Peter Cochrane, a former BT chief technology officer, has warned. “In terms of broadband, the UK is at the back of the pack. We’re beaten by almost every other European country and Asia leaves us for dust.”


“These targets are fulfilling the demands of the past,” says Boris Ivanovic, the entrepreneur whose Hyperoptic group is selling fibre connections to upmarket UK apartment blocks. “Fibre to the cabinet is a stop-gap solution, and will not put the UK in a leadership position.”

He says the £17bn committed by the government to a high-speed rail line from London to Birmingham could cover most of the costs of a future-proof all-fibre network. “If we had those links we wouldn’t need to travel as often to Birmingham and we wouldn’t be polluting the environment as much.”

Meanwhile, the Independent reports on an early day motion (EDM) brought by MPs: Worsening services, higher fares and job cuts: MPs attack Government rail plans.

“More than 100 MPs have signed a Commons motion criticising Government proposals for the future of railways, warning of worsening services, higher fares and job cuts.

“…The EDM warns that the Government’s plans “will worsen passenger services through the loss of thousands of frontline workers from trains, stations, ticket offices, safety-critical infrastructure and operational roles”, and “will result in higher fares, cuts in services and more crowded trains”.

As the Independent says:

Mick Whelan, leader of the drivers’ union Aslef, said: “A fragmented railway run in small sections by competing interests is necessarily expensive and wasteful.”

This view that broadband investment is better than spending vast sums of money on HS2 was brought up yesterday, by Conservative Home’s “Alternative Queen’s Speech”.

On the Rail Improvement Bill, they said

“We welcome any practical proposal to boost northern England’s economy. But HS2 is no such proposal. Most jobs created will be in London and high ticket costs will make HS2 a rich man’s toy.”

“…Instead of throwing billions at a high-speed vanity project, we should plan for long term investment in our existing railways to improve journey times, reduce overcrowding, de-bottleneck the system, and minimise fare rises. It might not sound as glamorous, but it will prove massively more effective. At the same time we should put far more emphasis on creating a world beating, to-the-door superfast broadband network, which will both cut journeys and accelerate the economy in a far more cost-effective way.”

3 comments to “Better broadband, better than HS2”
  1. No wonder our economy is declining
    There is no national vision of where we want to be in x years time so we might as well get braced for hs3/4/5 etc. and be prepared to borrow billions to pay for them

    • As individuals we all have future aspirations, and many clever people continue to develop innovative ideas to help us achieve them, with increasing consideration for our planet’s natural preservation. Unfortunately living on a large rotating sphere we, as a nation, play a very small part in this exercise and internationally there is a lot to be learned for a healthy balance to be achieved.

      Back in November 2010 I wrote to my local MP telling of my environmental and financial concerns about HS2, and I said at the time that the then Minister for Transport would probably resond to my concerns with: It doesn’t matter, we’ve got HS6 Rockets planned to take us away from this mess and we’ll not worry about the cost.

      John, it seems we are on the same wave length!

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