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09/02/2013
On the fast track to a total disaster


On the fast track to a total disaster

THIS past week all emphasis on the massively controversial HS2 ultra-fast rail line has switched to the northern section from Birmingham to Leeds via Manchester.

Goverment-plans-to-build-high-speed-rail-lines-across-the-UK-have-been-revealedGoverment plans to build high-speed rail lines across the UK have been revealed

But there are crucial questions still to answer about the southern line from Euston to Birmingham, planned to destroy great swathes of the beautiful Cotswolds.

The Government, avid to spend £33billion which we do not have, is mounting a wild propaganda campaign which no one seems to be querying. So allow me.

It will create 100,000 new jobs. Oh really? For whom? The on-site workforce cannot be much more than 2,000 or they’d be tripping over each other. The machines gouging through the hills and valleys may be huge but there is only one man in the cab. So what about the other 98,000 new jobs?

But they want to fly in so why not upgrade Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds airports into real international airline hubs?

Well, in the enterprise-zone industrial parks built beside it? Hardly, it doesn’t stop and it certainly doesn’t carry freight. As for all those businessmen happy to race along at 225mph to reach their offices faster, every time I board the local train to Marylebone (only 35 minutes) they are all happily tapping away at their computers. Mails, memos, spread sheets, research – the entire office is on the laptop nowadays.

Ah, but we must bring in the foreign businessmen for it is they who bring the orders and the prosperity.

But they want to fly in so why not upgrade Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds airports into real international airline hubs?

It looks as if the authorities are simply plucking any old figure out of the ether so long as it looks good. But the recipe for any disaster is to make up your mind on the basis of a smart operator looking for a corporate profit, then add phoney research to apparently support your decision. Just about every disaster in history started that way, from declaring they Titanic unsinkable to invading Iraq to confiscate WMDs.

HS2 trains, train routesGeorge Osborne Visits Manchester as HS2 High-speed Rail Link Details Announced

To make matters worse this is the same department (Transport) which has just been excoriated by a judge for awarding the West Coast Main Line franchise to First Group on the basis of "research” that was absolute rubbish. Doing the whole exercise over again is going to cost you and me £40million and two wasted years.

We all know that these "consultation” exercises for people affected, even ruined, by government schemes are a mendacious farce. There is one acid test that is always helpful. Has it ever been done before and did it work? To the first question: yes.

Before HS2 was the East Coast Main Line, from London to Edinburgh. Is it working? Hard-nosed facts are rare, always a bad sign. I have read it can only fill a third of its seats and is losing fortunes. Even worse is the Dutch experience.

HS2A placard erected by protesters marks the spot where a new rail bridge is proposed to be built

There too the bureaucrats snow-jobbed the politicians into building an ultra-fast rail line from Rotterdam to Breda. Holland is flat as a pancake so a much easier task.

It runs beside the existing inter-city line. The trouble is no one uses it.

They prefer the old line at half the price and that includes the business community. I understand their HS2 has gone bankrupt and had to be bailed out for an extra £25billion by the government. It didn’t create a single extra job after completion.

So why don’t our politicians insist on hard-nosed evidence, researched and confirmable, before frittering our money away and then telling us our country is in depression and we’re all in it together. No we’re not.

The Establishment lives on a completely different planet where, as with Mid Staffs Hospital, no one in high office is ever responsible for anything.

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