Monday, 28 January 2013

In my backyard

Clive Summerfield @ Monday, January 28, 2013
So the preferred routes for the extensions to HS2 north from Birmingham have been published. Looking in detail at the route from Sheffield to Leeds it would appear that the line is going to cross the valley behind my house on a 150m long viaduct before diving down a 1-in-50 gradient into a tunnel.

Now there's going to be a massive amount of NIMBYism over these routes, but my own personal attitude is bring it on. I'm looking forward to seeing high speed trains hurl themselves  across the valley before diving underground. The only problem is that I'll probably be a geriatric old crumbly by the time the line is built.

One thing is for sure, there're countless people lining up to slag off the whole project; it'll take too long; it'll go over budget; it'll only benefit a wealthy few, yadda, yadda, yadda... And certainly there's an argument that the billions could be spent on new schools, hospitals, roads, etc. But sometimes you need to take the long view. The current rail network is struggling with express services between cities fighting for paths with local trains and freight. Moving high speed services on to dedicated lines could free up capacity for more freight to be transported by rail, or for more frequent local services.

And all this talk of the line never being used tends to overlook the fact that big transport infrastructure projects quite often end up fulfilling an equally valid yet different role. An example is the Great Western Railway. Built to maintain Bristol's status as Britain's second port and maintain its share of trade with America, its main source of revenue was passenger traffic with freight peaking in the 1920's.

 A closing thought; Brunel's line is still in use today more than 170 years later. If HS2 is built well, the country could be reaping the benefits well into the next century.

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