Talking Politics: Having doubts about HS2

Concept designs of what the HS2 train could look like, giving passengers a 21st Century experience.
Concept designs of what the HS2 train could look like, giving passengers a 21st Century experience.

Over recent weeks I have found myself increasingly sceptical about the HS2 project.

It’s not just the growing costs, the timescales and the impact on local communities that concern me. My main worry is the impact it could have on local and regional lines.

There are still many problems on the current network that need sorting. The lack of investment, ageing rolling stock and increasing passenger numbers are all causing problems.

Ah, yes some might say, HS2, pictured right, will solve some of these problems. Super fast trains connecting some major cities will release capacity elsewhere.

But will it?

In effect HS2 will become its own network, separate to, rather than part of the existing lines. I think it aims, while laudable, are too speculative.

Do we really need trains going at that speed? I am not sure. Does bringing our cities closer together help or hinder northern communities.

In the beginning I thought it would be a boost for our region. Now I wonder if making the south and London more accessible will just exacerbate the pull effect away from the north. I am not sure there will be much economic and social push coming back. I have always supported investment in rail projects and HS2 is certainly ambitious.

But what will it really do for Halifax? Will it improve local services, speed up journey times to Leeds and ensure we have better and longer trains?

What I don’t want to see happen is our network having first class train network linking our cities and a second class one serving towns and villages.

We are not France or Japan which have trains linking up cities but fewer provincial lines. I will remain open to persuasion on HS2 but if, in our hunger to bring cities closer together, we end up starving local lines of investment my scepticism will turn into outright opposition.