On Monday (Sept 5) the Express & Star published a comment piece which was critical of High Speed 2 and suggested the proposed line was a luxury. The article made reference to Chiltern Mainline, which had been launched that day.
Chiltern Mainline is good news for the West Midlands region, but to suggest this will address the UK railway’s capacity demands is simply not true. This is dealt with in more detail in an earlier post – Chiltern Mainline is great news but it doesn’t solve the UK’s capacity problems.
Many opponents of HS2 have been quick to use this argument without considering the facts. Passenger numbers are growing at 6% pa on UK railways. We have greater numbers travelling by rail than at any time since the 1920s. Of course, there were many more miles of track in the 1920s. The closures that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s also got rid of a significant amount of terminal capacity, with stations closed and then lost forever when they were redeveloped for other purposes. Cities, such as Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, etc, lost substantial stations, which adds to the capacity challenge faced now.
We wrote this letter in response to the piece:
The Comment piece in Monday’s (September 5) Express & Star is critical of time savings with High Speed Rail, but fails to get to grips with the real issue facing the UK rail industry – lack of capacity.
Passenger numbers are at their highest levels since the 1920s (and there were many more miles of track then). The Association of Train Operating Companies report numbers growing at 6% per year, despite the recession.
We are running out of capacity, but if we build HS2 we release space on our existing lines providing room for more services for rail users in Wolverhampton, Sandwell & Dudley and Walsall among others, as well as freight.
The Chiltern Mainline service is good news, but will not address this issue. It’s interesting to note that Adrian Shooter CBE, Chairman of Chiltern Railways, is a huge supporter of HS2 and has argued that it is absolutely vital to build high-speed rail in order to achieve the levels of capacity that we are going to need.
Rather than ‘ripping up a vast swathe of our countryside’ HS2 would be 22-metres wide – significantly less than the land needed to build motorways.
HS2 is a tremendous opportunity to secure investment in our region and redistribute wealth and opportunities from the over-heated South East.