British business leaders have come out firmly in favour of the proposed new High Speed 2 rail route.
More and faster trains linking British cities is vital to the health of the economy, say the businessmen, including Colin Matthews, chief executive of BAA, Andreas Goss, CEO of Siemens, and David Frost, head of the British Chambers of Commerce.
The scheme is not without its critics, however, as some of the new route will pass through scenic countryside. Others have criticized the £17 billion price tag.
While an anti-High Speed 2 letter has been signed by 21 Conservative politicians and businessmen, with 45 days of consultation on the proposals remaining, the 400 signatories of the new campaign seem to be swinging the balance of opinion in its favour.
“It is time that people sat up and realized the opportunities high-speed rail will bring to millions of people across Britain,” said Professor David Begg, Director for the Campaign for High Speed Rail.
“If we invest in cities like Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and others in between, we will benefit for many decades to come. This is why British business backs the Campaign for High Speed Rail as they know more than anyone else what this will mean for jobs in communities right across the UK.”
What is High Speed 2 (HS2)?
The planned new High Speed 2 rail network would link London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. It will include stops in the East Midlands and South Yorkshire plus direct links to the existing ‘HS1’ high-speed rail line and into Heathrow Airport. The scheme would bring these cities closer together and is expecting to create a major boost to businesses and employment.
If it goes ahead, High Speed 2 is expected to open by 2026 and its trains will hit sustained speeds of up to 225 mph. Current intercity services only reach around 125 mph. Trains will be 400 metres long, like their high speed European counterparts, and will seat up to 1,100 passengers. Initially up to 14 trains could run each hour, but this could later rise to 18.
Journey times slashed
New journey times would include:
• London to Birmingham – 49 minutes
• London to Manchester or Leeds – about 80 minutes
• Birmingham to Manchester – 40 minutes
• Birmingham to Leeds – around 1 hour
• London to Glasgow or Edinburgh – around 3 ½ hours
Coping with increased rail demand
High Speed 2 will meet the rising demand for inter city rail travel, which has been growing by 5% a year, and has more than doubled between 1994/95 and 2009/10.
With more people seeing the environmental and financial benefits of switching to rail, this demand can only increase, and High Speed 2 seeks to meet this.
Reducing demand for domestic and short haul flights
If the scheme goes ahead it will provide a viable green alternative to domestic flights, and as well as being a boon for UK travel it should reduce the demand for short haul aviation to the continent, as the line will link to the Channel Tunnel via the existing HS1 line. Trains to Europe from London are now much faster and frequent since the HS1 line opened. HS2 will allow a much greater part of the UK population to travel to Europe by rail.
Easing congestion and pollution
The new line should also reduce the number of car journeys between major cities, reducing congestion and pollution, and helping the UK meet its CO2 reduction targets.
Boost to jobs and the economy
The construction of High Speed 2 is predicted to create around 40,000 new jobs. It’s also hoped to contribute to a regeneration of Britain’s inner cities and help these urban economies improve their productivity and attract new business.
Experience high-speed rail travel today
Green Abode is firmly in support of High Speed 2, and hopes it will become a reality. If, as we expect, the scheme will be approved, but you can’t wait until 2026 to experience high speed rail travel in all its glory, then the existing HS1 route can take you to the Channel Tunnel at speeds of up to 186 mph. Trains to Europe from London take not time at all to reach the continent.
And across Europe, high-speed rail is well developed. SNCB B-Europe has just launched a new service where you can easily book high-speed trains to Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Flexible InterRail tickets also mean you can use the continental high-speed network to see more of Europe quicker than ever before.