diamond geezer

 Thursday, January 23, 2020

There's a lot of debate at the moment about whether HS2 should go ahead or not, but the arguments are clear.

HS2 will one day link London to the North, unless it doesn't.

HS2 will start at Euston, unless it starts at Old Oak Common, and speed passengers to Birmingham, unless the southern end is cancelled, then extend later to Manchester and Leeds, unless phase 2 is scrapped to make the project more affordable. When HS2 reaches the North, or rather if, it'll also connect to a new east-west Northern Powerhouse rail upgrade between Liverpool and Hull, unless that's not built either, unless it's built using the money saved by not building HS2, unless that's deemed unfeasible or impractical.

The first phase of HS2 is due to open at the end of 2028, or maybe 2031, unless it's completed even later or isn't built, but the second phase isn't expected to be completed until 2035, or even 2040, unless that's an entirely over-optimistic prediction too, or it isn't built either.

HS2 will cost £106bn, unless it ends up costing more than that, although 'considerable risks' mean the budget may have to rise by 20%, unless you take the earlier estimate of £56bn as a benchmark, but HS2 must be built because it's strategically important, but it's currently costing £250m a month, although that's a small price to pay to keep the project ticking over, unless this overspend shouldn't continue, although long-term benefits are always greater than initial costs, except the funding should be spent on something more important.

HS2 will drive the regeneration of the North, unless it isn't built, unless not building it allows money to be spent on the regeneration of the North. MPs are strongly in favour of building HS2, apart from those who object, but especially the new Tory MPs in the North, apart from those who'd rather see it cancelled, but the North is now key to Prime Ministerial policy-making, unless it doesn't need to be.

Cancelling HS2 would do irreparable damage, but also save billions, but also cripple future investment. Thousands of trees have already been destroyed anyway, but scrapping HS2 would save thousands more, but you can't build railways without reshaping the landscape, but nobody complains about Victorian railway construction these days, but these threatened environments and ecosystems are irreplaceable, but they could always build more tunnels, but tunnels are one of the reasons why the project is so expensive.

HS2 is about speed, unless it's about capacity, unless it's about both.

HS2 will be transformational, but only for people who can afford expensive train tickets, but the increase in capacity will actually release space for additional trains on existing lines, but they'll fill up soon enough, but all this will bring additional choice, but it'll still be a monopoly, but you'll save half an hour on a trip to Birmingham, but you'll be charged a lot more for the privilege, but it's greener than flying, but it's a lot dearer too, but the emissions are lower, except the carbon footprint of building the railway is phenomenal, but that's excusable in the long term, unless it turns out not to be.

HS2 needs to go ahead because much of Euston has already been demolished, but the empty space could be replaced by flats and offices, but that would preclude completing HS2 at a later date, but more Londoners want homes than to go to Birmingham, but these new homes wouldn't be affordable, but at least there could be some nice shops and restaurants to visit, but nothing could replace the historic pub they bulldozed, but hardly anybody went there anyway.

HS2's plans could be tweaked to save money, but this would only delay things more, but an additional station between London and Birmingham might be really useful, but then it wouldn't be a high speed line, but perhaps the branch to Manchester should be scrapped instead, unless the line to Leeds was less of a priority, but that would only antagonise everyone, but better to build some of HS2 than none of it, but imagine how many existing rail lines in the North could be upgraded for the same amount of money, but that's a false choice because the investment capital wouldn't actually be shared out like that, but some upgrades are better than nothing.

HS2 will create thousands of jobs, but who's to say what jobs will look like by 2030, but businesspeople will always need to travel to the Midlands and the North, unless videoconferencing kills off first class travel, unless that's already happening.

HS2 has support from key figures in government, but much opposition too, but the Prime Minister once said he supported it, but he's no longer Mayor of London these days, but he didn't scrap it outright when he came to office, but his review was simply a way of kicking a decision beyond the election, but the Transport Secretary has made positive noises, but he's also expressed doubts, but he hasn't scrapped it outright either, but the PM's transport advisor is 100% sceptical, but Tories never want to spend public money on anything anyway, but 'The North' might be an exception.

HS2's business case is watertight but debatable. The economic benefits are self-evident but unproven. The environmental impact is criminal but critical. We can't afford to build it, or not to.

A final decision about HS2 will be taken soon, unless it's kicked into touch again, or only partly confirmed, but the arguments are clear.

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