Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The right thing for the wrong reason - again

When I saw that MPs were calling for the trains on HS2 to be slower, I thought there'd been an outbreak of common sense and that someone had spotted that it would make the project much cheaper to have a lower maximum speed, but I was doomed to be disappointed.

No, the lower speed is all about being green, so of course the officials in charge of building the railway came rattling back with "cutting the top speed from 360km an hour to 300km would slash the cost-benefit ratio of the £42.6bn project by 25 per cent". This may well be true, but only if the projected figures for patronage hold up in reality, which is far from certain.

I note also that, although only the first stage of the railway, to Birmingham, has been given the go-ahead, it is now spoken of as the "London to Manchester and Leeds railway".


A K Haart said...

So they could design HS2 to be slower and therefore greener than existing trains.

Mark Wadsworth said...

As Graeme Leach said, for £50 billion, we could demolish Birmingham and rebuild it half an hour closer to London.

Bayard said...

Mark, we could, but then the Germans would still have a faster train than us.

The Stigler said...

The problem is that if you slow it down, you kill all the benefit.

The only real benefit is making Birmingham within commuter distance of London. That's it. Even at 49 minutes, that's on the margins, once you add in onward tube journeys. Any longer, you won't get many commuters.

Bayard said...

TS, of course, it all makes sense now, the obsession with speed, the lack of intermediate stations, the political will to do it in the first place. It's all of course about spending £50Bn of taxpayers' money to make a bunch of Brummie landowners very rich indeed.

Bayard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DBC Reed said...

As I have said before, but I'll say it again: HS2 should go down the comparatively-unlinked-up-by- rail Eastern side of the country , by-pass London which would suck all the commercial life out of provincial towns and link up with HS1 by a bridge/Thames barrier/artificial (airport) island and go straight to Paris. Given the barrier you could lagoon/polderise the Thames Estuary ,as the Dutch would have done years ago, and take the pressure off London housing.Ta ra. I thang yew.

Dinero said...

Stigler hits on something there

The only real benefit is making Birmingham within commuter distance of London."

I've never heard the point of HS2 is to increase the commuter belt of London!

But that is a very good question would HS2 increase economic activity in the North or South.

The usual principle is that transport links centralise productivity and thus employment. Historically that has the whole point of transport links to centralise production. The centre is the point nearest to all others and undercuts productivity at the periphery.

Dinero said...

The rail link makes it possible for offices in London to offer higher wages to office workers in Birmingham. That is the opposite of promoting buisiness activity in Birmingham.

The Stigler said...


"I've never heard the point of HS2 is to increase the commuter belt of London!"

Well, what other point do you think there is?

People commuting the other way? No, because that wouldn't add up.

People travelling to meet clients? Saving 20-30 minutes on to that isn't going to cause many meetings to happen that wouldn't have otherwise.

Railways run on commuting. Without that, they just don't add up. They only run trains in the day because they make a little money and the infrastructure is already paid for.

Dinero said...

> Stigler

According to

"HS2 has the potential to transform the economic shape of the UK, connecting cities including Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds and providing them with opportunities to increase their growth potential."

your observation that commuters travelling from Birmingham to London is not just a possible outcome of Hs2 but is infact an actual necessity for the financing of Hs2 seems a pretty succinct refutation to that claim of growth potential. Especially in the short term, as buisiness close down in Birmingham because their staff and work moves on to London.

The Stigler said...


It's bollocks. You can already get from Manchester to Birmingham in an hour and a half by car or train and very few people would decide not to go and see a potential client because the meeting is an hour instead of an hour and a half away (and if you get into the Top Gear Challenge problem with rail, car will still be quicker for many of those businesses).

Shit, I had a client in Dartmoor, 3 hours away and one in Leeds, 4 hours away. In both cases it was a day out but I worked on the train.