Days of Steam and a Rich Man’s Toy…

Last year, Philip Hammond, astounded the Transport Select Committee by saying that the railways were a rich man’s plaything, and a factory worker from Manchester would never use HS2.

Yesterday’s Daily Politics featured a film by another rich man, Pete Waterman, who likes railways as playthings.

Pete started his film by referring to the job he started in 1962 – fifty years ago – in a steam railway maintenance yard, before electrification, when Britain’s railways were steam railways.

Most people who hanker after the days of steam do so in preservation railways, treating steam trains as a nostalgic look at the past, separate from real life.

Not Pete, who complained in the debate afterwards about inadequete information from Network Rail so that he could run steam trains on the Network Rail tracks. That’s right, Pete wants HS2 so he can play with steam trains on the real railway network which ordinary people use.

Of course in the Sixties, railway electrification changed things (but why are they still waiting in Wales?). But the Sixties are history now.

It’s the 21st century. We are in the midst of a new revolution – the digital revolution. Digital technology is changing all sorts things: the BBC4 program How the Brits rocked America: Go West shown earlier this week, described how even the music business, where Pete made his millions, has been revolutionised by the internet.

When future historians look back at the 21st century, they will know what was revolutionary in 21st century: and it won’t be a new railway no matter how fast it goes.

PS We’re not trying to compete in the music business against Pete Waterman, but you can still buy the Stop HS2 protest song Oak Tree Lament by Dirty Mavis.

12 comments to “Days of Steam and a Rich Man’s Toy…”
  1. I had the pleasure to travel on HS1 again this week. Perhaps pleasure isn’t the right word.
    Lumpy, bumpy and not very fast, toilets didn’t work, best we got was about 110mph, and virtually had the whole coach to myself, again.
    Sometimes I do this route in off peak, sometimes in peak.
    Makes no difference, the busiest I have experienced is approximately 10-15 persons per multi million pound coach. Most HS1 stations are like a concrete ghost town.
    The Chiltern Railways section of the journey, on the traditional network, was packed out. People stood all over each other scrabbling for space. Same issue in most parts of the country.
    Every day we hear of cuts in this and cuts in that, people’s lives being severely impacted, whilst millions and eventually billions are lost on this idiotic politicians project.
    Why do the press not report that?

  2. Phillip Hammond like most MPs lives in a privilidged world and couldn’t care less about the ordinary people.He has gone on to tear the army apart.Heaven help us if a crisis occours in the future.You have not kept up to date in your absence Nick(i think you are the same Nick that used to try to extol the vitues of HS2 to us even though there are’nt any).Times have moved on, it now is shown to bring in less revinue, if built than even Hammond said he would accept.So why don’t you accept that it is a white elephant.

    • there are many benefits to hs2 as has been shown around the world. nothing has changed and the government remains firmly committed. it is not a white elephant at all nor a vanity project. if it didnt get built we would have to spend more money to update the exisitng lines with more disruption and less benefit or the government might give up on rail and go back to more roads and runways. be careful what you wish for. the alternative to hs2 mostly in tunnel throught the chilterns could be a 6 lane motorway or an extra runway at heathrow.

      • You might end up getting the new runway at Heathrow anyway since business is crying out for it. An extended Birmingham airport with more intercontinental services might stop a few people from the West Midlands using Heathrow but I have serious doubts about Londoners travelling 120 miles north to use a London ( Birmingham ) airport to fly south again. For a start off although we hear that the service from Euston to London ( Birmingham ) would be a few minutes quicker than Liverpool Street to London ( Stansted ) the cost of the train ticket AT THE MOMENT is already about 5 times as much on the Birmingham route.

        Then again with Justine Greening as Transport Secretary there might not be a new runway at Heathrow since she has a massive conflict of interest. Her priority has always been to protect HER constituents.

        • Buy a plane ticket to the UK plus a grossly expensive train ticket on HS2 to get to London for a meeting… No, I don’t think so. International businesses will meet up in Europe if they can’t fly in to Heathrow.. A big lure for the UK. When money is tight Business travel gets cut to cattle class not 1st class. It’s only the likes of Cameron, Hammond bankers and MPs who have free passes who travel first.
          Perhaps that’s the reason… they don’t want to to travel with proletariat.

  3. I wonder where P Waterperson pays his taxes?

    Or do you think he doesn’t trouble HM Revenue and Customs.

    I think we should know

  4. Still, it sounds like Mr Waterman isn’t a great fan of Network Rail so he can’t be all bad.

    I’ve often wondered why Network Rail have been such avid supporters of HS2 and have always ignored alternatives. I’d always assumed it was the equivalent of a 4 star general wanting to play with the latest tank ( although given Hammond’s defence cuts they’d probably be lucky to play with any tank ). The transport commentator Christian Woolmer has suggested that it gives Network Rail more revenue opportunites as they start to adopt a more “commercial” pose.

    Now we see an unedifying row starting to break out this week over a long term bonus scheme that Network Rail want to put in place for their senior management which almost everyone else sees as excessive.

    Methinks Network Rail protests too much and now we know why.

    • network rail supports hs2 because the detailed study that was carried out revealed that hs2 remains by far and away the best rail solution.

      not everyone will benefit from faster journey times but if for example the coventry trains do stop more often then that allows more towns and more passengers access to more trains. if you dont have to wait as long for a train then your overall journey time is shortened ! with hs2 not only will journey times be slashed but there will also be a far more intensive service then we have now.

      We dont know that these services will not be in addition to the current ones or if in fact that there are plans to have further faster trains once the non stopping services are using hs2. for example at present there is only one limited stop birmingham london train that takes 72 minutes. capacity constraints mean that this is the only such service. Nor do we know for a fact that coventry’s services will be downgraded.

      We may live in a digital age but we also live in an age when more and more people are travelling by rail. Oh and by the way keep taking what phillip hammond said about a rich mans toy out of context -, he said in some ways it already was – some ways he said. and one of the reasons for such high peak prices is the lack of capacity that hs2 will provide. and, we dont know that hs2 prices will be sky high that is more conjecture. and he did not say that a factory worker wouldnt ever use hs2 he said that even if they didnt ever use it they would benefit if the better connectivity of hs2 led to contracts being signed by the manager etc etc.

      Pete waterman is correct to support hs2 as it checks all the right boxes. The fact that he may be a steam bufff is irrelevant however lets remember all the economic benefits that preserved railways deliver to the areas the service, multiply that by serveal orders of magnitude for hs2.

      • The speculation about the service pattern on London-West Midlands services post HS2 that you complain about Nick is due in no small part to the refusal by the Government to come clean on what the plans are. However, the absence of hard information does not mean that it is not possible to analyse what the situation may be if HS2 comes into service and draw some fairly obvious conclusions.

        It seems to me that it is reasonable to see HD2 and the “classic” Inter-City services as competing offerings. The HS2 business case relies on recruiting 65% of its customers from existing rail services (HS2 Ltd January 2012 figure). Also the same HS2 business case shows a “saving” of £1.9 billion on classic service costs. So the classic services will have to soldier on with a reduced market share and less subsidy; not a recipe for a viable service surely.

        It is essential that HS2 does not damage the classic services, as most classic stations will not be served by HS2. Indeed from a quick check of the timetable for the Virgin Trains London-West Midlands services, HS2 will not actually replace any of the existing train paths. Even the single limited stop service that you quote (07:30 from Birmingham NS) originates at Wolverhampton and all other services stop at one non-HS2 station, at least.
        So the only way that the introduction of HS2 will free up any train paths on the existing London-West Midlands service is to cut the service frequency at non-HS2 stations.

        Whilst I am pleased to concede that we don’t know the position of Coventry “for a fact” we do know, thanks to FOI, that HS2 Ltd told Coventry City Council that “Coventry services could be affected” and that “the city had a better service at present than was strictly justified given its population”. Pretty strong hint I would think.

      • “The detailed study” shows HS2 is “far and away the best rail solution”. About as vague as we might expect from you. It could also be described as the most expensive solution and many would say the most environmental destructive solution.

        As for Coventry, I’d stake a big bet at very short adds that as a minimum it’s service to London will be impacted. Common sense says if there are less people travelling ( because some Birmingham travellers are on HS2 ) there will be a need for less trains and why not have the ones that do remain stopping at MK or Northampton. Makes good economic sense. Just about every commentator has accepted this including William Barter as well as Phillip Hammond and HS2 Ltd themselves.

  5. Pete Waterman is indeed a very rich man, with a net worth of £ 47 million pounds if Wikipedia is to be believed, so wouldn’t be fazed by having to pay a sky high price to use HS2 to make a couple of journeys a week from his home in Warrington to London — assuming he’s still around of course by the time it comes in.

    He makes a big play of his Coventry roots but doesn’t seem to care about the city and is at odds with Coventry City Council. They understand that Coventry would have a degraded service if HS2 happens and potentially could lose out on inward investment and maybe business relocations to Birmingham and Solihull. That’s before you take account of the local environmental impact and the excessive cost.

  6. I think that Pete Waterman is one of the best ambassadors that the Stop HS2 campaign has. So you don’t need a business plan to spend £34 billion Pete? Try telling that to your bank manager. What a joke.

    He says in his film that in 1967 the Inter-City service opened from the West Midlands to London and that this meant that he could get to London from his home city of Coventry in under an hour. This, he says, meant a kid from Coventry could work in the music business in London. If HS2 goes ahead the train service from his home city will take an appreciable step back. The journey time will be increased due to more stops being made and the service frequency will be reduced. That’s progress Pete!

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