Let’s Get Excited About Britain’s Brighter Rail Future
Up to now, the anti HS2 campaign has overwhelmed everyone. I think the Government and the UK rail industry haven’t been nearly forceful enough in making what is actually a very compelling case for HS2.
The simple fact is if we dont invest in HS2, our network grinds to a halt in 2050. There will simply not be enough capacity for the huge growth in passengers and rail freight. We are trying to operate a Victorian railway network minus the Beeching cuts in the 21st century, and that is obviously not going to be enough for our future needs, especially as we want to encourage more freight to get off the congested roads and switch to the greener alternative of rail.
In my view, they are taking far too long to implement HS2. We should be connecting London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Scotland now, not over the next 30 years.
One consequence of letting the opposition do all the talking is that organisations who might normally support a project like HS2 have been swept along. I would suggest that had their policy makers been better informed, the Institute of Directors would not have come out in opposition.
Most people dont yet understand the structural issues concerning rail, that new rail infrastructure is fundamental to making the UK competitive. Instead of admiration and excitement, HS2 mainly attracts negativity from sceptics, who cant believe Britain can do anything on this scale, and the NIMBY crowd.
Growing Economy Requires More Rail Capacity
It is not about shaving 20 minutes off a journey to Birmingham. Its about creating the rail capacity that the country needs as the economy grows. But that message isnt getting across.
How is it that people have been whipped into opposition for investment in what should be a flagship rail project while on the other hand, they complain vociferously that the existing network is falling into rack and ruin. The notion that Britains rail network is starved of investment is hard wired into the nations psyche, but like many of the arguments against HS2, actually it is far from the truth.
As a public member of Network Rail, a group of around 40 people who oversee the organisations work in much the same way as governors watch over schools, its fair to say that Im more up to speed on the investment programme than the average rail traveller. But if you ask anyone on a train today what they think of the rail network in Britain, you should expect to hear some ill-informed nonsense.
Too few people know this startling fact. Network Rail is investing more money in infrastructure over a shorter period than the Government is planning to spend on the HS2 project.
By Arnab Dutt, managing director of British manufacturer Texane and a public member of Network Rail