Bucks Herald Article on HS2

Sue Thornton, Bucks Herald  |  Published: May 13th 2010

High Speed Rail: Secret plans for a high speed rail link between London and Birmingham have recently been announced by the government. I say secret because no one knew anything about them until comprehensive plans appeared in our local papers a few weeks ago. The plan is to carve up huge areas of outstanding natural beauty with a new express rail line on which a high speed train blasts through quiet villages and farms every 4 minutes, stopping at nowhere in between London and Birmingham. Every day it will dump a third of a million passengers in Birmingham and return them to London.

Had there been some consultation, the government might have discovered that there are not a third of a million people who want to be rocketed to Birmingham and back each day. Had there been some consultation, the people who live and work in the path of the new line might have said we are very happy with the existing trains to and from Birmingham, they are clean, comfortable and not always full up. Had there been some consultation, even the pro-high-speed railers might have said, why not follow the paths of the existing motorways for minimal disruption, but they were not consulted. The predicted cost will be in excess of £28 billion, so it would be fair to say in these times of restraint that we should not even think about it until the UK as a whole can afford it, and then let us have a lot of public discussion rather than planning behind closed doors.

One question still needs answering; Has anyone worked out how to get 1,400 men and women of assorted ages, sizes, agility and physical ability, carrying with them their; brief cases, suit cases, ruck-sacks, handbags, prams, push-chairs, children and babies, along with their laptops, MP3 players, mobile phones, gadgets, books, newspapers, journals, coffees, bottles of water and sandwiches, onto a platform measuring .25 mile in length and then onto one of these new trains, (also measuring .25 of a mile), settled, with their luggage safely stowed, advised about emergency procedures, strapped down and ready for take-off in under 4 minutes? And repeat the exercise every 4 minutes throughout the day? Probably not. Never mind, someone will come up with the answer, let us move on.

High Speed Rail and Motorways Upon reflection, my immediate response could have been a tad more positive and lacked a detailed proposed solution. So for those interested in positive detail, read on...

First do we need this? Compare the gain plus the ultimate higher speeds, with the pain, the cost (financial and human) and the (adequate or not?) train speeds that we already have. If it is collectively felt that we do need it (and if a UK referendum confirms that we do), then I suggest we do the following:

Plan a completely new UK system using Magnetic Levitation Trains or Maglev technology which is quieter, faster, smoother and less unsightly as there are no overhead cables. "Maglev, or magnetic levitation, is a system of transportation that suspends guides and propels vehicles, predominantly trains, using magnetic levitation from a very large number of magnets for lift and propulsion.

Plan Phase 1 of our new UK high speed rail initially, as an up-side-down "Y" with Birmingham as the central hub at the centre of the "fork" and Heathrow as a secondary hub on the lower right fork of the "fork". Phase 1 would see the build of three major high speed rail routes following motorway corridors as follows; from Birmingham, one route would follow the motorway corridor northwards using the M6 and M74 to Carlisle, then bifurcating, would end either in Glasgow or Edinburgh. There will be a small Liverpool/Manchester hub on the M62 (Junction 21A near Warrington), to take commuters west to Liverpool and north east to Manchester.

From Birmingham to the south east of England, the M40 corridor should be used, then the train would go under the M25 (at or near Junction 14 on the M25), to a new vast underground Heathrow Hub, and then continue under the south west segment of London contained within the M25 to meet up with the M20 and thence to Folkstone. From Birmingham to the south west, the M4 and M5 corridors to Bristol and Exeter would be the obvious choice.

Plan Phase 2 which would extend the rail lines horizontally; to the west from Bristol to Swansea (following the M4) and south westerly from Exeter to Plymouth using the A38 corridor. Likewise the Heathrow Hub could branch down (south) to Southampton and Portsmouth via the M3 and M27.

Then using the Birmingham Hub to the east (M6 and A14), take the line to Rugby, Kettering and Cambridge and then south (M11 to M25) in the direction of Folkstone. At this point the new high speed rail could either follow the M25 anti-clockwise to the new Heathrow Hub to link up with trains to Folkstone, OR, could tunnel under the northeast segment of M25 taking it to the M20 junction then take the M20 corridor down to link up with the Folkstone line. In Scotland the lines from Glasgow and Edinburgh could be extended north to Fort William (and beyond) and to Aberdeen (and beyond).

Plan more stops to make this entire system better value for money for the tax payer and to provide more links to major cities, seats of learning, tourist attractions and UK holidays.

Plan costs and how we pay for this; The new train links build must recoup the initial investment over a 10-year period and must obviously pay its way but should also make a small profit for the owners. I would suggest that the UK government owns 60% of the new build. That UK citizens are encouraged to purchase 16% of it. The remaining 24% could be split 3-ways and be offered equally to Germany who already have experience of developing Maglev trains, and China and the Emirates who both plan to expand their airlines into European airports. Thus Germany, China and The Emirates will be offered an 8% share each in return for their initial (10- year) interest-free funding, sponsorship and expertise.

Who knows what we will decide to do with high speed travel in 5, 10 or 15 year's time? We might all own our Individual-Fast-Flight-Systems (IFFSs) by then. However, whatever happens, the reality is that the subject needs open debate and we should wait for a time when we can collectively afford to pay for it. If, after due consideration we decide to go ahead, then the job should be done well.

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