Which ever way one looks at it we can’t avoid being an island nation with finite mass. Our island space is filling up at an alarming rate with people who consequently need homes, jobs, schools, cars and infrastructure. An item of news during the last week was the decision to give the go ahead to build a new 100 mile high speed rail link between London and Birmingham during 2016 and 2026 at an initial cost of 17 billion pounds.
They call it HS2. In itself it’s quite an exciting and ambitious project which would directly connect our country’s two major cities in what appears to be the first part of an even larger scheme which, by 2033, would see cities like Leeds and Manchester equally connected at a final estimated cost of £32bn. Yet there is another expense: another resource that needs to be considered. One might think that such a scheme would vastly enhance our attractiveness to foreign businesses and entrepreneurs as a forward looking, even dynamic, country in which to invest. All well and commendable. But what of the people who already live in homes which were bought in good faith whose lives are now to be blighted by yet another massive and, no doubt vastly under- budgeted building project? People whose homes have already begun to see their property values decreasing daily as potential buyers study the route of the massive ‘Y’ line. Of course, there are concerns too about environmental issues as the new line will cut into swathes of irretrievable and valuable countryside at a time when our quality of life as a nation decreases on a daily basis. Yet there is one very disturbing factor that seems to have eluded the political decision, begun by Labour and continued by the coalition, to embark on such a massive project. Will travellers and commuters in the years 2026 and 2033 be able to afford to use the service? Lets face it, here in 2012 the cost of travelling anywhere in this country by rail is extortionate when compared with those services on mainland Europe. An annual season ticket that might cost £3,000 in the UK may be as little as £300 for a regular equidistant journey in Italy. Why? Why is it cheaper to fly to a Spanish holiday resort than to take a train from Peterborough to Edinburgh? Above all else, who will run and profit from the finished item? I remember being fairly animated and excited when the channel tunnel was to be opened. I had visions of French-style TGV trains hammering through Kettering and Market Harborough at well over 100 miles per hour. Well, that dream didn’t last long, although it did prompt the powers that be to invest heavily in sprucing-up St. Pancrass. This week I came across a group on Facebook calling for the return of the hitherto lambasted British Rail all of which left me wondering if, as a nation, we’re quite up to running a ‘Y’ shaped future.