Mark's Musings

A miscellany of thoughts and opinions from an unimportant small town politician and bit-part web developer

HS2 – it’s for real people, not metropolitan journalists


Simon Jenkins, writing in the Guardian, isn’t in favour of HS2. Before getting into the detail of why not, he starts with this comment:

HS2 will cost taxpayers £1bn a year in interest alone, all so a few rich business people can get to Birmingham earlier

And in that one sentence he demonstrates exactly why his reasoning is flawed from the start.

Objections based on the argument that HS2 only allows a few rich people to “get to Birmingham” merely betray the Home Counties bias of the objector, who is looking at it from their perspective. The point of HS2 (and, for that matter, the existing lines between the two cities) isn’t so much to allow Londoners to travel to Birmingham, but to allow Brummies to travel to the Smoke. Flow patterns on almost every railway connecting London to anywhere over a similar distance show the same distribution: Predominantly TO London in the morning and FROM London in the evening.

HS2 isn’t for the likes of Simon Jenkins and his London-based media colleagues who might occasionally deign to travel somewhere beyond the event horizon commonly called “Watford Gap” in order to look down their noses at the unsophisticated folk they encounter there, but otherwise have little or no interest in events or people outside the metropolis. It’s for the people outside London who would like to be able to visit London and conduct a day’s business, or a day’s sightseeing, or a day’s shopping, without spending more time than is necessary in the process of travelling there and back. It’s for the businessman from the West Midlands who would like to be able to make a 9.00am meeting in Westminster without having to get up at sparrow fart to do it. It’s for the Wolverhampton architect visiting a client in London who would like to be able to get home afterwards in time to put his daughter to bed. It’s for the family on their way to Florida for their annual holiday who would prefer not to have to spend the previous night in a dingy Heathrow hotel room in order to catch the flight. It’s for people for whom intercity travel is an important part of their life rather than something they merely pontificate on from the comfort of their office chair.

Fortunately, we have a government which realises that it governs the whole country, not just that part of it that can be seen from an Islington window. Which is why HS2 is going to be built.