About one and a half billion journeys are made on GB passenger 'National Rail' each year, but only about 30 million of them -- 2 per cent -- are on long distance trains on the West Coast Main Line. And of course, the number of unique users of Inter City West Coast (ICWC) is much lower. The number of people who would benefit from the proposed HS2 rail project is smaller again, because it would only serve a small subset of ICWC destinations.
The Ranty Highwayman blogged on the long distance commuting issues.
I don't commute long distances between major cities and I don't know anybody who does. I know people in Brighton and Stevenage who work in London and get there by train, pay the insane rail ticket costs and HS2 certainly won't help them. I know sales reps who travel all around the country selling their wares and HS2 won't help them.
HS2 is essentially about linking up London with Birmingham and then (probably) spurs to Manchester and Leeds, but it will do nothing to help people move around these cities. Will people switch from their cars stuck on the M40 and M6 for HS2? Will HS2 help children walk to school? Will HS2 improve transport in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland? Will HS2 do anything for East Anglia's hammering by freight lorries using the eastern ports?
Andrew Gilligan's Telegraph article 'The ghost of Beeching still haunts rail' (17 March 2013) hit a lot of nails on the head.
Public spending on the railways last year, including the Underground, was at least £7.6billion. That was 38 per cent of all public expenditure on transport even though the rail and tube networks account for just nine per cent of passenger journeys by distance, and only 4.5 per cent of goods journeys by tonnage lifted.
However, that nine per cent of journeys include large numbers made by politicians, journalists, celebrities, Londoners and other such opinion-formers. Partly because the fares are so high, rail is disproportionately used by the middle classes. Far more journeys, for instance, are made by the humble bus ó but it gets a fraction of the political attention and subsidy.
Nor does the £7.6billion figure include the £28 billion debt run up by Network Rail, essentially a public corporation backed by the taxpayer, though conveniently not classed as such, meaning that the liabilities do not appear on the nationís balance sheet.
There is a strong case for accepting railís disproportionate share of public spending: it is significantly cleaner, safer and less disruptive than road traffic. In cities at least, it is hard to see how roads could ever cater for the growth in demand.