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High-speed rail line finds few friends in the north

High-speed rail line finds few friends in the north.

Phase Two Route Of The Proposed HS2 Rail Link Announced
A white elephant placard placed by a member of the Stop the HS2 Campaign in a hedgerow near Hoo Green, Cheshire, which is alongside the planned route of the high-speed rail line. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

The fifth paragraph of Christian Wolmar's article (This is one big punt, 29 January) firmly hits the nail on the head. The proposed HS2 line will not alleviate the north-south divide by one iota; it will not shower northern regions with manufacturing and employment prospects. It will serve to promote cities such as Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield et al into becoming suburbs of London and the south-east. If the Treasury were to be relocated in, say Birmingham, the Bank of England moved to Leeds, the Ministry of Defence shifted to Manchester, the Department of Health to Newcastle etc lock, stock and barrel, including the ministers and their mandarins then no doubt an improvement to the future of the northern regions could be realised. The prosperity of a city and its surrounds is closely linked to the residence of those who hold the levers of power and are responsible for decision-making. Sadly those people will for ever opt to reside in London and its prosperous regions. Occasionally they might choose to travel on the HS2 route in order to deliver a pep or propaganda talk to the locals of some provincial city, but that alone is the only useful function of this white elephant.
Bernard Bloom

 The government's announcement on HS2 to Leeds and Manchester still leaves many questions unanswered, as Christian Wolmar outlines. I very much hope that the faith placed in its regeneration effects by the three political parties will be borne out, though respected (and pro-rail) academics like Professor John Tomaney question this. The impact on the north's economy whatever it might be will not be felt for decades. Many more projects such as extending rail electrification to cities and towns such as Hull, Middlesbrough and Barrow would have a much more immediate impact. So too would be a programme of rail reopenings in the north. We're told by the pro-high-speed lobby that the issue is less about speed and more about providing extra capacity as an alternative to existing congested routes. But this is a very expensive solution, and for a fraction of the cost we could reopen the former Peak mainline from Manchester to Derby and upgrade the route to St Pancras. We also need better east-west infrastructure, and current plans by Network Rail to upgrade the Leeds-Huddersfield-Manchester route will not provide capacity for expansion in the medium to long-term.
Professor Paul Salveson
Visiting professor in transport and logistics, University of Huddersfield

 Christian Wolmar makes an important point when he states that "the environmental case [for HS2] was fatally weakened by the realisation that few high-speed train passengers would transfer from air". With existing trains taking only two hours from Manchester to London, there is no point in flying between Manchester and London unless you are connecting with another flight. The implication is clear: we should be establishing direct rail links between the Midlands and north of England and mainland Europe, simply by using St Pancras rather than Euston as the London terminus of HS2.
David Hoult

 HS2 seems an expensive irrelevance to those of us living further north than Leeds. Newcastle enjoys a current railway journey time of three hours to London, and linking to HS2 by changing at Leeds would be much less convenient and little, if any, quicker. Leeds is not on the east coast mainline and the Leeds-York link is not built for speed. The project looks like a prop for the continuing unsustainable growth of London. Together with meeting the higher costs of providing services in London, it flies in the face of the "market forces" which decide so much else in our lives. If there is any money left over, could the north-east have a dual-carriageway link to Scotland please?
Mike Brown
Newcastle upon Tyne

 The HS2 line seems to be designed for two invalid assumptions. First that everybody wants to go to London, second that anybody wants to go to Birmingham. While investment in high-speed railways is certainly necessary, what's needed is inter-regional high-speed lines, not more feeders into the capital. It does nothing for train overcrowding and passenger convenience that there's hardly anywhere in the country that's readily accessible from here in East Anglia without having to go through London. And better east-west connections would be a boon in other regions. A shame politicians can never see past one city.
Tony Green
Ipswich, Suffolk

 It is claimed that HS2 will reduce the "north-south divide". I wonder if support would increase dramatically if the work began at the termini north of Birmingham and progressed towards London?
Les Bright
Exeter, Devon

 Your long editorial on HS2 (29 January) does not contain a single word about the ravaging of some of the most beautiful country in England. No, I don't live within sight or sound of the proposed route, and it will have no effect on the value of my property. But I'm afraid your priorities are not mine.
Christopher Wrigley
Chorleywood, Hertfordshire

 In the 19th century, Brunel converted a couple of hundred miles or so of the Great Western Railway from broad gauge to standard gauge over a single weekend. So why will it take us two decades to build a high-speed rail link from London to Leeds and Manchester? Or are the government harvesting the kudos for the decision, while leaving their successors to pick up the bill?
Peter Johnston
Bolton, Lancashire

 In a world of instant communications, cloud computing, 3D printing and electronic wallpaper, will business people really need faster trains in 20 years' time?
Dr Richard Turner
Harrogate, North Yorkshire