Friday, July 29, 2011

A luxury you can't afford

The deadline for comments on plans for an HS2 train from London to Birmingham has now passed and I still don't understand the massive enthusiasm for it - especially as the trains will have to be built abroad and the real beneficiaries will be London, Manchester and Leeds (in that order) and I still find it hard to believe they can find the money.
The service will be the railway equivalent of the M6 Toll, smart and very nice to use if you can afford the price.
But with Virgin from London to the NEC now about £240 return (first) and £120 (second) how many people will stump up maybe £400 and £200 to save half an hour?
I know "time is money" but there are limits. Civil servants and other people who are not paying their own way will be the only users so the majority of rail travellers will see no benefit.
To make matters worse, the train goes to Euston so passengers will have to use the tube to Kings X if they want to connect with Eurostar.
Hvaing just endured a standing-room-only train from Bristol, I am more than conscious of the need for extra capacity on the railways. But when you get on a four-carriage push-me, pull-you going all the way from Penzance to Edinburgh you have to ask why on earth they can't simply add more coaches to existing trains.
HS2 is a rich man's dream, a taxpayers' white elephant and a politician's stab at leaving a permanent mark on the country. But with a bill running into countless billions it is still a luxury we cannot afford.

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