Now then, now then.
See, business chap is doin' spreadsheets, even in the 80's...
Finally people seem to be waking up to the dog's breakfast which is the economic case for the proposed High Speed Two London-Birmingham rail link. You know, this lovely train set that the politicians want to plonk down in the middle of England. I've never quite been sure why it is that politicians love such train sets: most of …
Added bonus, no people from those better parts of the country coming down south demanding free dry cleaning services to deal with the nasty grease stains clothes from the huge chips on their shoulders.
There you go, about as funny and clever as your post, i.e., not at all.
The business productivity case is only a minor plank in the proverbial bridge that is HS2's economic case. The main plank was the multiplier effect of the construction/operation spending - originally set at 2.4, but halved *over a year ago* to 1.2. If you're going to attack the HS2 project for ever-moving goalposts you should probably mention that little cock up.
However k>1.0 guarantees some return on the investment, anything after that is pure bonus.
Yes, but not if there's some other project with a k>2 that doesn't get done because you've splurged all your cash on your train set. The object of the exercise should be (it isn't, of course) to maximise value, not to try to do everything (which can include almost anything) that generates a theoretical return on investment.
There is an economic argument based on the potential multiplier, and the fact that HS2 is a good old-fashioned bit of Keynesian pump-priming.
That's not the real reason it's being promoted - that's about profits for the corps who'll be building it.
But it's not a bad reason, all the same.
However - there's still the problem that if you're going to spend £x bn (x being a much larger number than is currently being discussed, in practice) you'd likely get more of a multiplier by rolling out fast fiber to as much of the UK as possible, including the rural areas, and perhaps providing extra seed funding for useful (i.e. non-Bong-ish) startups and research.
Personally I'd love to see HS2 happen in some form. But if Department of Choo Choo are trying to make an economic argument, it's a lot of cash to spend and - unfortunately - it's not obvious there aren't better and more rewarding ways to spend it.
"However - there's still the problem that if you're going to spend £x bn (x being a much larger number than is currently being discussed, in practice) you'd likely get more of a multiplier by rolling out fast fiber to as much of the UK as possible, including the rural areas, and perhaps providing extra seed funding for useful (i.e. non-Bong-ish) startups and research."
Realistically, no. Having fast broadband in rural areas is actually not worth it from an economic point of view. You will pay a lot of money, with £10bn being a decent order-of-magnitude estimate, and the economic benefit will be what, exactly? What actually will a lot of people in the countryside do with this superfast broadband that they weren't going to just move to a city and do? Note economic beenfit, not being able to watch Youtube better.
The only "benefit" appears to be that it will stop the depopulation of the countryside, but as we've seen time and time again tele-working for most jobs doesn't beat talking to someone face to face.
Personally I would probably do both HS2 and rural broadband, but not for the economic case. Almost every infrastructure project is dead money, and many companies that do so go bankrupt (Eurotunnel, the Canal and Railway Manias, the national cable buildout, etc.). But unlike the dotcom bubble, infrastructure bubbles actually build something useful to society.
" tele-working for most jobs doesn't beat talking to someone face to face"
chronistic-circular argument: face to face is perceived as 'better' because people prefer what they are used to: people will continue to get used to it because it is perceived as better. Anyway teleworking doesn't have to 'beat' face to face, it only has provide a better cost/benefit return.
"Yes, assuming there are not better options for spending the money."
Well, Keynes intended government infrastructure spending to make up for a temporary shortfall in private sector demand. Over the past fifteen years or so, the governments of the day have provided a stimulus of around £600bn through cumulative spending in excess of receipts, a number still increasing at the rate of over £100bn a year, so borrow-and-spend clearly hasn't stimulated growth.
I very much doubt that Keyenes would advocate borrowing more money in this situation, and pi55ing it up the wall on unneeded transport links. Instead of seeking out daft ideas like HS2, the self proclaimed Keyenesians of today should ask themselves how the problem of too much borrowing will be solved by more borrowing.
And it would be really useful to do that pump priming years, if not decades after the recession. Infrastructure projects always take so long that the case for them dragging a country out of recession is lost before they have even dug the first hole in the ground.
As for multiplier. Don't be so stupid. All the money spent on the project will go overseas. The trains won't be built here. The contractors that will do most of the work are international. All that will spent here is a relatively small amount on British labour.
HS2 hits the law of diminishing returns. When a train can cut the journey time from 3 days to 6 hours, then its very useful. When it saves 10 minutes off a 3 hour journey then its case it pretty much dead in the water.
Wait... Does the cost-benefit analysis (depending on everybody on the train sitting not working not phoning not checking up on things) take into account that all these £50/hour people will have to pay say £50 extra per half hour faster that the train is?
Why would your model anyway assume that anyone who's not working on a train (where there's space to do so --- not in the usual cattle commuters), would be working otherwise? It's people on their time off, or it's the same people that's checking their facebook during 'work' otherwise, and so forth.
"But if Department of Choo Choo are trying to make an economic argument, it's a lot of cash to spend and - unfortunately "
I think you'll find that 70%+ of the Department is about building and maintaining roads.
Nothing else. Just roads.
In the UK every means of transport not involving private cars on public roads are a very small part of Departments business.
Those few BBC programmes I watch, or maybe it's the even fewer non-BBC ones, seem to come equipped with a constant repetition of a horror story abut a nice little girl and her intersection with a train. This is made to seem like such a poor idea (girls meeting trains at crossings, I mean, not the repetitive showing of the event which is seen as A Good Thing) that I thought of a solution: what if the trains moved at higher than girly-style head height? On a rail, or two rails, or three rails, I don't really care much about the trivial details, but overhead, out of reach of cars and buses and little girls?
Yes, one could see this as yet another lame try at replacing real train sets with skiffy-nerdy BuckRogers robot and spaceship nonsense like a "monorail" but that was never the intent. I was just thinking that hanging trains damage the countryside a lot less than grounded ones.
True, stations may need to be slightly re-designed and the front windows would need to be armoured against bird strikes but think of all the construction work that would generate.
Hanging trains, whether powered by gas, oil, electricity or magnetism would remove entirely the idea of "gauge" as a constraint and would allow for micro-trains, parcel and personal delivery pods, to use the rails between their larger, scheduled cousins.
It may even be possible to hook trucks and cars onto the rails for part of some journeys so we could remove a few roadways; certainly reduce the need for motorways.
Imagine a world where *no* little girls were ever killed by trains on crossings...
(Alien 'cos that's where the "realistic" business folks probably think ideas like this come from... and belong.)
Wuppertal and the Schwebebahn have done that. Other uses exist as well in the industrie (mining). Düsseldorf Airport and Dortmund University use similar systems. The main problem is the lower load/cargo weight per car compared to normal trains and maintenance of trains and rails.
The problem with monorails is that junctions ('points') are horrendously slow and complex. For this reason almost all monorails running today are either point-to-point (airport shuttles, such as Düsseldorf or Newark) or circular (tourist lines, such as Sydney or Seattle).
If you're anywhere near Wuppertal, I can highly recommend the Schwebebahn - it looks (and, to an extent, is) bonkers, but it delivers a local transport system over the top of the Wupper river (the town is in a narrow valley and there was nowhere else to put it). The line is point to point with a circular loop at each end that allows the cars to turn round.
The problem of overhead railways - regardless of the number of rails they use - is that they don't hide into the surrounding environment like ground lines do, and are constantly visible even when there's no traffic on it, and being impacted by the weather.
Currently, the problem with North to South train travel, is not it's speed, it't the cost.
There is not mass migration back and forth between the regions due to the £100-£200 price tag for a simple return journey to arrive during office hours.
In Italy, I travelled on their High Speed train virtually the length of the entire country for about £25.
We don't need more speed - we need more capacity at an affordable cost.
It's the time that stops me, not the cost.
I could, in theory, work in London for several hundred quid/day more than I do in my home city. But the 4 hr round trip makes it completely impractical, it would remain impractical no matter how little the tickets cost.
As it happens the tickets would work out at almost as much as the increase in rate, but that's not the primary or most important barrier.
>I could, in theory, work in London for several hundred quid/day more than I do in my home city.
But once everybody from your home city can work in London - that rate drops.
It will however increase the price of houses in your city when Birmingham becomes a London commuter suburb
" But the 4 hr round trip "
Is that your current round trip by train?
Because the idea of this is to shave about 1/2 an hour (depending on how far out you are from London) on long journeys. That's 1/2 each way.
How does that work for you?
" But the 4 hr round trip "
Just to be clear I have held a job with a 3 hour commute for years, but I don't think I could stomach a 4 hour round trip.
It's a case of what you are willing to accept, what are the start and end times and how common is (usually unpaid) overtime.
I could, in theory, work in London for several hundred quid/day more than I do in my home city. But the 4 hr round trip makes it completely impractical, it would remain impractical no matter how little the tickets cost.
My round trip to London is nearer 5 hours by train but I bought a huge motorbike to do the journey on instead. Job jobbed. I am far form the only who comes >100 miles by road either. Anything over 1000cc bimbling about London in the rush hours that's not obviously a courier has come a long way. Free parking everywhere and avoiding the tube are big pluses.
The current cost and capacity issues on our network are entirely due to clever. clever economists 'rationalising' the spend on rail for the last 50 years ( i.e. spend fuck all - having put a major road builder in charge of the network rationalisation in the 50's leaving us a seriously fucked up network to begin with)
other countries in europe have taken the view that they need to have a rail network, so fuck the cost and build a good un (it's a bizarre non-thatcherite idea, but there are benefits that cannot be easily expressed in a ledger! the very idea!!). So in classic british style we have a rail system that is both utterly shite to use, and heinously expensive at the same time. Which (if you are in the road building business) it a pretty neat trick!
Czech Republic has a brilliant rail service, cheap, efficient (trains will be held to ensure a connection is not lost), goes all over the place, integrated with trams and buses. Definitely a good option to the car.
The "old" german system worked on three levels. A "once every 15-30minutes" local level that worked as a reliable feeder to the next major station. Either local trains, rapid transit (SBahn) or tram lines. Then a larger level net that connected the bigger hubs on a hourly level with less stops and finally the IC(E) net. Again hourly but with few stations served. The trains and lines where well maintained and resonably on time. The whole plan was integrated so even with a local train late (typically less than 5min) you still could catch the InterCity (IC) if you jogged instead of walked through the station. This was costly since maintenance was done "after x hours/kilometers OR if there is a failure(1)" not "when there is a capital damage"
In the (very) late 1990s / early 2000s that died. The local trains where "run to destruction" and in the wet/cold season trains not reaching the target (even resonably new ones) became a "expect once per week". ICE engine troubles became massive and similar stuff happened on the cargo level. And then they cut the net to pieces with local trains being sold to "local service providers" and the intermediat system being gutted as "not cost efficient"
Used trains between 1987 and 1997 on a daily base. Only during a MASSIV snow "storm" (by german standards) did the trains get delayed / did not run. And even then for only a few hours. Tried the same in the early 2000s. Was ordered to take a car after I had to call the customer three times in four weeks due to "train failed" (2)
(1) And the definition of failure was "the conductor says the train feels wrong"
(2) The type of failed where they even give you official writ that it did! Burning engine, failed brakes and once a failed coupling...
"We don't need more speed - we need more capacity at an affordable cost."
That's partly what HS2 is intended to solve. The existing railway is at maximum capacity and the annual increase in passenger numbers is itself increasing. Economics would tell us that is why pricing is high, demand substantially outstrips supply. Without action prices will continue to rise because of that ongoing increase in demand.
To some extent cost is cost is cost. Building this thing will cost whatever it costs - how it's priced is another matter. In some countries prices are subsidised more by the taxpayer, in some countries less. The UK has an unusual model in that taxpayer subsidy of train companies is taken as private profit and the user ends up still paying a fairly high price. The German and French companies that are big players in UK rail use the subsidy they receive from the British government to subsidise lower fares in their home markets.
"The existing railway is at maximum capacity"
No it isn't. Just because the train companies keep saying that, it doesn't mean it's true.
I travel regularly on the West cost mainline to London - at £250 return, it's no surprise that the peak-time trains are barely 1/2 full.
Occasionally I'm lucky enough to get an Advance 1st ticket. The First Class carriages are deserted!
On the other hand, if I travel on an off-peak train, it's packed (a "bargain" at £72 return) . Go figure.
There may not be an economic case at the national level, but at the European level there's certainly a political dimension to HS2. It links the major UK cities into the european rail network. The whole project is built to a continental loading gauge and will be running continental freight as well as passenger services. This is because it's all part of the ongoing process of transport integration across the EU.
In that light there might be a better economic argument to be made than "it'll get us to London a bit faster". Better-integrated transportation links within the EU can be argued to have a very positive potential economic impact, though of course the primary drive of everything the EU does is "ever closer union"... perhaps that's why our politicians are so leery about giving credit where it's due.
And of course transportation policy is an EU exclusive competence anyway. HS2 would likely go ahead no matter what.
You may think this is a good thing, you may think this is a bad thing. What annoys me is that our alleged betters in Westminster feel the need to lie to us about the source of it all. They take credit for things they haven't done- oh wait, they're politicians, that's all they ever do anyway...
tl;dr an economic case can be made if you realise that HS2 has an EU dimension; it's the EU wot done it anyway. Why won't talk about either of these things?
Incidentally, it's worth noting that travelling first-class off-peak with Virgin is only £15 more expensive than standard class and you get free food and booze for that, plus access to the first-class lounge in Euston and all the free hot chocolate you can consume while you wait for your train to finally turn up after all the delays. No mortgage required.
I'm afraid that isn't necessarily always the case. I live in Germany and frequently travel to the Netherlands, Belgium and France. More and more motorways are being upgraded to 3 lanes because two lane motorways simply can't cope with the sheer number of lorries.
Road rage caused by one lorry overtaking (or to be more honest, inching it's way past) another is a rising problem.
Meh because I don't really care. But obviously I care enough to post. Hmm. Maybe I should get my coat....
Germany is a good example - how NOT to do it.
We have a GREAT river/channel network that actually connects most major industrial cities(1) and many large companies had harbours of their own
We had a good to great railroad network that connected the rest and had side spurs by the dozend
Then some genius level poliTicks threw it all away in three steps
1) Support cars and trucks over trains, dropping many smaller raillines and fright service
2) Listen to the screaming treehuggers and stop important channel/river projects or delay them
3) Try to make the Bundesbahn "fit for the stock exchange" by cutting costs left and right running the trains "till failiure" instead of "regular preventive maintenance"
As a result german trains are "never early, rarely on time and mostly late" IF they run at all, fright cars are worn out and loud raising more protests against new rail lines, channel / river fright is almost none and the big companies fill the roads with "Just in time" delivery trucks making "more autobahnen" a must. Going from one large (100.000+ people) to another even larger merely 30km away can two an hour by train with one stopover. It used to take 45min in the late 1930s with no stopover...
(1) And we are not talking narrowboats here, not even "Canal du Midi"
"There may not be an economic case at the national level, but at the European level there's certainly a political dimension to HS2. It links the major UK cities into the european rail network. The whole project is built to a continental loading gauge and will be running continental freight as well as passenger services. This is because it's all part of the ongoing process of transport integration across the EU."
True, but as I understand it, HS2 terminates at Euston, and HS1 at St Pancras. Unless they're building a stretch to connect the two that freight trains can cut through, then presumably there will need to be an intermodal hub to lift European cargo from HS1, load it onto trucks or conventional trains and then transfer back to HS2.
And by the time you've done that you might as well just truck it or use the conventional rail network...
I would also suggest that Tim's a bit presumptuous in suggesting the work time lost in transport is nil.
True, people can get work done (depending what their work is), especially if it's local, or at least tolerant of a patchy connection (i.e. not working on a VM). As others have posted, mobile reception on a 100mph train can be patchy, and whilst First Class types might have some space, most people on the trains don't get a decent table space, or even a seat. Trying to use a laptop with a screen bigger than 10" on the tray tables is an ergonomic nightmare, with the angle of the seat backs usually rendering the screen half-shut.
I would also suggest that during a weekend city break I will spend more money if I get there by 10am than if the train takes till 2pm. I don't contribute much to the retail economy sat on a train... of course that relies on the tickets being adequately priced that I choose to take HS2 and not conventional rail (unlikely)
"True, but as I understand it, HS2 terminates at Euston, and HS1 at St Pancras. Unless they're building a stretch to connect the two that freight trains can cut through, then presumably there will need to be an intermodal hub to lift European cargo from HS1, load it onto trucks or conventional trains and then transfer back to HS2."
As I understand it from information that's most likely out of date, HS1 and HS2 will be linked by a stretch that passes north of London, but...
... that link will, in typically British fashion, NOT be HS-capable. Yes, trains running on the HS1-HS2 link will be limited to non-HS speeds. They will be able to pass between the two lines, but slowly. (It still, however, allows the possibility of extending the record for the longest non-stop passenger train journey - currently held by a Eurostar that ran from London to Marseille as a promotion for the Davinci Code film.)
"Yes, trains running on the HS1-HS2 link will be limited to non-HS speeds. They will be able to pass between the two lines, but slowly."
Annoying but it stops the whole unload/move/load for freight between the lines.
Avoiding that process saves major time and costs for a freight operation.
Which is quite important if you're planning to do something like IDK "Re-balance the economy" toward manufacturing and selling stuff to foreigners.
It's more likely that they'd want a direct freight link from the continent to Liverpool. At the moment it' cheaper to take freight across the north sea to Hull, drive it along the M62 and re-load it at Liverpool for transport across the atlantic than it is to sail around the country, but it would be cheaper still to load it on a train somewhere and freight it up to Manchester for transshipment via a local train or trucks to Liverpool.
Just consider it from the strategic perspective of the EU as a whole and the economic reasoning becomes blindingly clear.
Ah, getting close!
But there was a private scheme (Central Railways Ltd) to provide such a link specifically enhancing freight capacity and removing it from the passenger railway. I seem to remember it being roundly condemned by all, especially the government, and it sank without trace. Now what is being proposed is a higher cost, more intrusive scheme that will not address the real transport needs. Just as good as any other Government sponsored scheme then!
I would venture to suggest that the EU bit is to insist that any new railways built in Britain are to their TGV standards, and therefore incompatible with the vast majority of the British railway system. Nothing new here either!
"I would also suggest that during a weekend city break I will spend more money if I get there by 10am than if the train takes till 2pm"
But, you only get a choice of taking a quick weekend city break in Birmingham. If you live in London. Near Euston.
Me: "I've had a lovely idea. I thought we should go away for a nice weekend away"
Mrs: "Birmingham, again? Yippee"
" But, you only get a choice of taking a quick weekend city break in Birmingham. If you live in London. Near Euston. "
Which leads to the big problem -- the HS2 will only take people from Birmingham to London. Most people travelling the other way will be on their return leg. The HS2 is going to increase the drain of money from "elsewhere" to London.
"True, but as I understand it, HS2 terminates at Euston, and HS1 at St Pancras. Unless they're building a stretch to connect the two that freight trains can cut through, then presumably there will need to be an intermodal hub to lift European cargo from HS1, load it onto trucks or conventional trains and then transfer back to HS2."
Huh? Nobody transports freight on high speed rail.
Freight runs on the ordinary lines. Otherwise you have scheduling nightmares.
An assumption here is that remote access is always going to be available on the train. Try tethering your device to your phone and watch it repeatedly lose its connection to the outside world as you go from A to B.
As for any wifi provided in the train I can imagine this rapidly becoming congested and unusable.
Indeed, most UMTS networks are not built for use at high speeds (HS2 is alleged to be due to rumble along at a clippy 250mph). You might just be able to hang on to a 144kbps connection if you're lucky, but there are going to need to be some funky long-lobed directional antenna deployments to minimise the handover rates.
" but there are going to need to be some funky long-lobed directional antenna deployments to minimise the handover rates."
Or (just throwing this idea out there) they put the a base station on the train with linking into a "leaky" coaxial antenna laid by the side of the track.
Kind of like the plan for the London Underground.
@JetSetJim It's worse than that. @TimWorstall has clearly never tried using mobile tech on the high-speed line that we do have, HS1. The Javelins may only cruise at 120mph (they only crank it up to 140mph when they're late) but mobiles are practically useless. Some of it is the fancy windows blocking the signal, some of it is speed. But the main problem is that through London and under the Thames you're in a tunnel. So that doesn't work. Plus a lot of the rest is in a cutting to protect the NIMBYs - and that doesn't work either. How much of HS2 will be in tunnels/cuttings?
Another factor is that a total journey time of 37 min to Ashford is hardly long enough to really get going on meaningful offline work, I've noticed that the proportion of people working on HS1 is far smaller than equivalent trains on GW/WCML/ECML. So if you're going to pick and choose your baseline, at least choose the most relevant one, namely HS1.
(but not a Brummie).
If I need to go to London I will take a train to Warwick Parkway, and get to Marylebone. Total time (door to door): 2hrs 45 (plus the tube journey I'd have to make anyway).
To use a city centre station, it's either bus or taxi to (say) New Street. You can forget the bus option if I need to be in London before 11. And a taxi adds £££££s to the cost, because parking in the city centre is (a) expensive and (b) leaves you a walk from the station.
However, I can (and have) hired a car. Driven to (say) Hillingdon (on the A40), parked up got tube to Marylebone in less than 2hrs 45, and for less than a standard return fare on Virgin.
And even if you can take a train to New Street the time needed to walk from there to the HS2 terminus at Curzon Street* will cancel out any time saved on the new route.
* The original terminus of the London & Birmingham Railway completed in 1837, as recorded by Dickens in 'Dombey & Son', the booking hall is still extant. Thanks, mine's the anorak.
Politicians generally think in 5-year windows, so considering the deep future is a bit alien for them
Big infrastructure projects like this have a few benefits *if done properly*
1) They create a shitload of jobs (right when we need them)
2) They show our trading partners that we're thinking of the future and aren't tied to 1900's legacy
3) They mean we can then sell expertise to Asia and the Middle East
4) They provide a bit of immortality for the governments of the day
If you can get beyond the immediate short-term objections and see the long-long-term benefits, the picture can sometimes change somewhat
"If you can get beyond the immediate short-term objections and see the long-long-term benefits, the picture can sometimes change somewhat"
5hitload of jobs? You mean a few thousand navvy jobs, probably all foreign employees of the sub contractors that will tender cheapest because we slavishly apply EU procurement rules. Probably not much real benefit to the UK economy, certainly no enduring benefit.
Aren't tied to our 1900's legacy? Our trading partners will judge us on our airports and telecoms, not how quickly we move fat Brummie councillors to their conferences with DCLG.
Expertise to sell? This won't involve much UK technology as we have no expertise in high speed railways. Look at how Hitachi provided the commuter units for the Channel Tunnel link, or who built the Eurostars. Even the WCML Pendolino's were built outside of the UK by Fiat and Alsthom, with some token assembly and fit out work at Washwood Heath (just before they shut the place).
Immortality for governments? Only in their vacuous little brains.
"5hitload of jobs? You mean a few thousand navvy jobs, probably all foreign employees of the sub contractors that will tender cheapest because we slavishly apply EU procurement rules."
You might like to look up the Channel Tunnel for some idea of the numbers involved and the skills required.
Try 10s of 1000s of staff over decades As for the last batch of Network Rail trains coming from Germany talk to Tony Blair. EU procurement rules have specific options for "regional development" that allow local development factors (or damage to local industry) to be taken into account if the govt uses them.
"Aren't tied to our 1900's legacy? Our trading partners will judge us on our airports and telecoms, not how quickly we move fat Brummie councillors to their conferences with DCLG."
The will when it means they can get on a train at Frankfurt,Paris, Munich or Brussels and get off in Birmingham.
"who built the Eurostars."
That would be Bombardier, using (IIRC) factories in Britain. UK skills are in Alstom (formerly GEC) and cover things like signalling and control. Unlike road signals rail signals are inter linked across the whole network and designing, building and testing them involves high level safety critical software and hardware design. It's not as high profile as military or nuclear applications but it's higher volume and very serious.
In the case of railways, a really big infrastructure project that has the added advantage of being one that you can stop and restart as cash-flow permits, would be to replace all of the existing 19th century lines and signalling with something from the 21st century. You'd increase capacity everywhere you did this (because signalling is a limitation almost everywhere), you'd presumably electrify the whole network (so it could run on carbon-free electricity if you'd bothered to build the generating capacity), and you wouldn't upset any Nimbys.
If you work as a reporter for El-Reg, then you can do everything from wherever there is an internet connection. One of your colleagues does his work from a house in rural Spain. There are a few other jobs like that, working as a translator is one such job.
However, most people work in jobs where they have to physically do something or fix something, and that can't be done over the internet. They need to be on site. So they need transport facilities.
Secondly, HS2 isn't primarily about shaving a few minutes off the London to Birmingham journey. It is mostly about moving intercity trains off the West Coast Mainline so that there is more space for commuter services between Milton Keynes, North London and Euston. In this respect it is the same idea as building motorways to take long distance traffic off the A roads so that there is more room on them for local traffic. Adding a pair of extra tracks to the WCML would probably cost more than building a new line given all the stuff that is built alongside it, and if you are going to build a new line, you may as well make it a high speed line.
I've always found that you get a heck of a sight more done and some actual ruddy decisions made, in a two hour face-to-face meeting than in a whole day of conference calling.
Conf calls are fine for status updates and the like, but utter crap if there's anything remotely contentious on the agenda. Also a conf call seems to head straight to catastrophic meltdown if the number of participants gets anywhere near double figures, while physical meetings of 20 or more are perfectly productive.
" Also a conf call seems to head straight to catastrophic meltdown if the number of participants gets anywhere near double figures, while physical meetings of 20 or more are perfectly productive."
They work well for a few participants. They can be made to work well enough for many participants, as long there's a clearly defined agenda, and a chair with a virtual baseball bat and the resolve to keep order.
Besides, in my experience, once you get more than a few people in any type of meeting, the collective IQ quickly ends up being inversely proportional to the number of participants. Small and focused is always better.
"I've always found that you get a heck of a sight more done and some actual ruddy decisions made, in a two hour face-to-face meeting than in a whole day of conference calling."
Now that sounds like someone whose actually done this.
Post 9/11/01 I'd expected video conferencing (and the telephone companies stock prices) to go through the roof.
Never happened. It seems IRL there's still a lot of times when humans face to face meetings matter.
"most people work in jobs where they have to physically do something or fix something"
I think you'll find that the service sector is now larger than the primary or secondary sectors of industry.
A lot of people need to be physically located, but even more people don't... But that sort of depends on how you define "need". I don't physically need to be in an office to produce code, but being co-located with the team is actually extremely handy.
This all seems fine if you are based in London. If you are based in the North West though HS2 offers a glimmer of a chance of not wasting your life travelling to and from London to do business. As those of us in the North know, there is little business going on outside of London and all important things can only ever be undertaken there.
Will HS2 allow London to expand out to Birmingham or beyond maybe? Is that not a benefit, being able to actually move some jobs and business outside of London.
I dont have much knowledge of history but wonder how the Victorians ever built the train network we are using today, I bet they didnt debate at the lengths we do today.
Build HS2. Build it big. Take it to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool & Cardiff to name a few cities. Lets put something in that in a few hundred years from now people can look and debate on the new transport systems they need and how the new Elizabethans (II) put in the (then) crumbling HS2 network.
Lucky Tim, hope the weather is nice today. Living in Portugal is defo my number 1 aim. Given you will hardly have any major road issues, unless you count Lisbon, and the toll roads, why moan about this if you're not even based in London :-)
Let us build Hs2. Build it big and only after its been running for a decade do the cost benefit to see if it was worthwhile. There can be no model anywhere that can rightly predict how much it will eventually cost and what benefits, if any, it will bring. Suck it and see. Spend the money before the bankers take it as a bonus. Dont do a half baked thing, as the temptation will be to cancel it after cost overruns. Commit to building it. Commit to building it big.
"Build it big and only after its been running for a decade do the cost benefit to see if it was worthwhile. "
It'll be a bit late by then, and we'll have wasted several billion despoiling the countryside. Sadly the train enthusiasts want ME to pay for their extravagance, and I don't believe their numbers. I'm academically and professionally qualified to comment on these things, I've managed multi-billion infrastructure programmes, and HS2 is a daft idea. There are no material benefits from speeding up the time taken to travel between two of the already best served cities in the land, particularly when they manage to bu99er it up by failing to provide proper interchange with HS1 in London, or with Birmingham's existing rail transport system.
HS2 is a fail on so many levels it isn't true. Fictious demand, fictious costs, fictious benefits. And all largely based on a TGV-type technology that will be obsolete by the time the line is planned to be in use (ignoring the cost and time overruns).
"It'll be a bit late by then, and we'll have wasted several billion despoiling the countryside."
Interesting comment. Having looked at the elevation and route drawings for a good chunk of Stage 2 (Brum-Manchester), an incredible amount appears to be either tunnelled or below grade (deep cuttings), meaning both visual and sound impact. From what we can tell it'll be less of a disturbance than the dual carriageway blaring noise across the valley, despite being much closer (our unbiased opinion based on a detailed reading of the planning documents, without the benefit of input from either HS2 or the rather rabid local luddites*, so we're not swung by anyone's propaganda).
As "big infrastructure" goes the impact will be far less noticeable than your average motorway or airport project.
* Not that they're not entitled to their opinion but it'd be nice if they could calm down enough to form some sensible arguments to support their case (such arguments do exist, both economic and for specific local environmental case studies) instead of bleating the same tired and somewhat hysteric "Environment, think of the children, it'll make the wildlife have miscarriages" arguments that were trotted out circa 1830.
"Given you will hardly have any major road issues,"
The A 22, the motorway east west along the Algarve, was recently upgraded to a toll road. The EU insisted: roads built with EU money should be toll roads.
Current accounting suggests that the costs of collecting the tolls are higher than the revenue from the tolls.....
Different problems here, to be sure, but we do have them.
OK then - is your primary work tool a laptop? Mine is an IBM Model M keyboard connected to two 22 inch monitors (this is fairly modest by some developers' standards). Oh there's some sort of box that connects them together. Other important tools are a quiet room with nobody else in it, a large expanse of desktop and a chair that doesn't jiggle around constantly. I've tried writing code on a laptop on the train. I generally just give up.
"No, I'm a sub-sub unit of El Reg's Iberian offshoot. Rural Portugal for me."
I had thought by your comments about rare earths you we're based somewhere around the North East (or at least had a place there).
But to be clear this is a purely academic issue for you, yes?
There are a hell of a lot of jobs outside London (horrible place - I grew up there and have no intention of ever living there again!)..
Even in the public sector, the idea that you must be based in London is fading fast - MOD has (largely) moved to Bristol, DVLA is (and always was) in Wales..
Bring back Motorail. Drive your electric car to the station and on to the train, plug it in to the wagon which is tapping a bit extra from the overhead, drive your electric car off again at the other end with a nice recharge.
Your robot self driving electric car could even drop you off by the ticket office, park itself on the wagon and hook up to the charger and be waiting outside the exit at the far end...
They also never seem to factor in the "opportunity-cost" of these big projects:
That is, "If we didn't do thing X, what other things Y, Z, A, B could we spend the money and would that give a better return?"
Or - in this case given the UK's current fiscal situation it should better be expressed as "if we didn't borrow £35Bn to blow on HS2 how much less-in-debt would the country be?".
But not all work time is of equal value. Your businessman might be worth £50 an hour on average, but the work he can do in the train or the driverless car isn't the same work that he can do in the office. In my experience the work you can do on the train is of much lower value, e.g. sorting your inbox, adding animations to your Powerpoint presentation, or dashing off quick emails like "I'll get back to you when I'm back in the office".
Putting these numbers into the mythical cost/benefit spreadsheet would still give HS2 a lower benefit than assuming no work at all is done on the train; but a higher benefit than assuming that all work is equal.
There is of course a uniquely British disease of saying that what we've got is good enough, and that rather than build more we should just charge people more to use it. This applies to trains, airports, housing, water, energy, etc. I'd be glad to have HS2 just to prove that we're capable of pulling our collective finger out.
I don't work on trains or planes. I use part of the time to think rather than react to emails, twats, skypes etc.
A little time spent thinking about the problems often works wonders. You can't really do that safely behind the wheel of a car.
The fact the the El-Reg Hack who wrote this piece sits in Portugal says a lot. He obviously has not (recently anyways) faced the daily grind of the M3/M25/M4 (change to other roads as needed). Pah, you arrive for work ready to take a kip sometimes.
As the old BR saying went,
Let the Train take the strain.
I do as much as I can from my part of Hampshire.
I'm flying to Reunion soon. There is no way I'm changing planes in Paris. I'll take Eurostar right to CDG. At least then Air France can't leave my bags in LHR.
There a massive benefits in doing business face to face. I've spent enough of my life on conference calls to know how hard it is to make them productive. Plenty of the real stuff is done around the metaphorical water cooler.
If the journey times are shorter people are more likely to turn up.
That will be why everybody is rushing to build Concorde replacements then
If it's vital that cockneys and brummies meet face to face to discuss the massive West Midland-London trade deals then it shoudl be vital for me to supersonic to Shenzen everytime I need a circuit board making.
"The lack of the Concord-NT has a lot to do with the scum of the earth aka Greenies. They basically castrated the Concord with "environmental laws" restricting it's full use."
Partly true, but think on this.
Concorde was a joint English/French government programme to carry 100 people at a time at M2.2 (and its prototypes had to be re-designed because the French insisted it did not need to be that big).
According to British Airways
it took them about 30 years to transport 2.5 million passengers.
A US report estimated the programme cost governments c$770m in 1965 dollars.
If you're balking at the cost of HS2 think what a modern 300 seat M2.2+ passenger plane will cost. You can bet no plane maker (or more probably consortium) would go into this without strong government backing.
Completely agree, build new motorways, up the speed limit on motorways to 90mph (managed motorways only of course, so 90 is the real limit) and you will benefit the economy...
Oh and build a new airport or add a runway to heathrow, we need a larger hub, linking airports with high speed rail is a pipe dream...
is a total waste of time if there are going to be vehicles on it that don't do the maximum.
The *effective* speed limit on most motorways is about 60mph. Why ? Because you get 2 dickbrained HGVs neck-and-necking for miles, and the traffic builds into an ever lagging line of cars getting up to 56mph, and then trying to overtake, pulling into L3, thereby slowing *that* down to the pre-overtake speed of - guess what - 56mph.
I have driven for 10 miles, stuck behind two HGVs on the 2 lane A34.
Is that face-to-face meetings are entirely substitutable for remote ones.
Speaking as a human being, I'd like to suggest that this is not true for the great majority of people. I've had more contracts signed over a pint of beer than via an email exchange or phone conversation.
Now if your work doesn't actually require you to actually deal with social nuances every day, commuting any serious distance is a colossal waste of time and money.
Yes, but it isn't the only thing that isn't being cut out from this pseudoinvestigation. Other mitigating factors that make the train time non-productive involves:
- Working in secure environments. Some resources might not be available outside the corporate network, and sometimes even with VPN access they are unavailable for security or legal reasons.
- Sometimes, internet access while on the move will be flakey. If your work needs constant internet access, you will suffer.
- If the trip is long enough, instead of working on the move, I'll revert to sleeping through. That'll end up being wasted time anyway.
Again, the claim isn't that it's fully productive either, just that the productivity isn't the zero it is assumed to be.
If you travel regularly on trains you arrange your work such that you can do the train compatible bits on the train where possible, mostly so you don't have to look up and see the horrors around you.
I suspect you'll not see much economic benefit from tourists using the route either, given the large amount of the journey which will be in tunnels. One benefit of trains is being able to watch the countryside pass by, being plunged in to the blackness of tunnels and subjected to large pressures changes every few minutes is a pretty awful experience. So I can't see it being used by anyone other than commuters or business travellers with their heads down looking at a laptop.
There's a clear benefit to tourists - not having to drive into and park in London/Birmingham/Manchester (and risk straying into the congestion zone in the former if you get caught out by a one-way system or no right/left turn where your satnav thought there was one). And that's before you address the cost of parking.
Depending what part of the country you're in, some railway journeys are quite scenic, but even now a lot are in cuttings or semi-urban areas with sound-control barriers lining the trackside - I just open a book (or the laptop if it's at a silly hour and I've managed to snaffle a table).
Many tourists to the UK come from right-side-of-the-road countries. Among many, that is why I planned my upcoming business trip to the UK in terms of taking the Tube and the train rather than driving - the LAST thing I want to have to do after 14 hours on planes/in airports is have to keep reminding myself "keep left".
You are right about the future of driverless cars and its future implications for work productivity. However, if you make the argument that making new roads is productive as people get to work sooner and can work more, doesn't building new Railway lines also have the potential to be beneficial for the same reason? If more people are switching from cars to train (which they have been for quite some time) then we get an economic fillip. Therefore building increased train capacity will allow more people to make the switch to trains and become more productive. I agree this would be hard to model but you would think Whitehall might have the capacity......
Which is faulty assumption number 1made by critics - that the case for HS2 has anything to do with speed.
Fact is, the West coast mainline is about full.
You can either build more slow lanes which do little to improve the attractiveness as a network as a whole, and go through paths that are inneffecent with modern technology (remember the current route was built for trains going 20mph, not 200mph, when slowing down to do a tight curve wasnt such a big deal).
Or you can try and improve the current line to make it go faster (Tried and failed a few years back, overcost and underdelivered)
Or you can build an express lane for long distance traffic, opening more capacity for local services on the old line where speed isnt a big issue
Or you can put your thumb in your mouth and never draw the connection between poor transport and poor economic growth.
Disagree strongly with the article. Those that use the West Coast Mainline regularly will tell you of the never ending delays, cancellations and the problems that happen with signalling and congestion where fast trains are sharing a track with slower local commuter trains.
It is cheaper and better to have HS2 take intercity travel away from the west coast mainline and use the west coast mainline mainly for local rail. It also means the West Coast mainline can be improved as well for other uses too.
Rail travel is on the increase and there will be no denying it. Any major investment in transport requires a lot of Government money and it is a very very long term project that will pay dividends in the future and in the short term providing jobs that should boost the economy.
Using the environment argument against rail and for the car is absurd. Yes we will need to dig out some land, remove some trees and annoy the Nimby's. However, we will be using less petrol, less road traffic, less pollution compared with doing nothing. We will have world class public transport system we can be really proud of. I know the people who are in their late 50's don't care much, but being younger I have something to look forward to. I wish the selfish old fogeys think about our future and not their short term thinking that only benefits them. It's our future and these old fogeys need to stop and let us get on with making our world a better place. They had their fun and it is time we get on with shaping our environment that is better for us.
The article itself lost me with the first mention of "model toy trains". I'm currently living the hell caused by a government actually axing intercity rail transportation: trying to get into or out of Mexico City is HELL. At certain times, even when you've left the city, there's a particular toll station that will be packed with lorries, and it will take 30 to 40 minutes just to get through the damn thing!
If we had even a not-so-high-speed train linking say, Mexico City with Querétaro, the 2.5-hour trip would cut down to little more than an hour. But noooo ... our government decided to hear the stupid car-centric gringos, and now we all suffer the consequences!
"When they're on the train they can't be doin' stuff. So, if their time in the office is worth £50 an hour (say) then their time on the train is a loss of £50 per hour. Halve the journey time and we've thus created a value of £25 per passenger per trip. This forms part of the “value added” benefits of such transport projects."
I thought the point of smart phones, tablets and ultraportables was that people could work on the train and therefore there level of productivity should not be counted as 0 while they are on the train.
The business case for this is a piece of piss - you spend £16 beellion building a railway that takes 30 minutes off the journey time between london and birmingham, or 1 hour off the lon - manc time but forget about the pisspoor reliability of the tube when you get there, that negates all the percieved benefits of having a quicker link in the first place....
Add to that rampant congestion on most road links servicing major train stations and its fairly obvious that its a waste of bloody money because the real end to end journey time has at least as much to do as getting onto and off the HS2 train as it does with HS2 itself. And as you cant effectively use a laptop while stuck in a traffic jam or searching for a fucking parking space so its pretty bloody obvious the stated economic benefits are seriously flawed....
No, it's worse. He's "a retired to South Kent (the sunshine) after making pots of money Torygraph reader" who always knows best and doesn't think the government should spend money on anything but his pension and pet projects: Northerners don't need good rail connections, poor people don't need schools or hospitals, etc.
Britain's rail infrastructure has suffered from decades of under investment. Bringing it into line with other countries who have been investing in their rail networks was always going to be tremendously expensive but anyone who has travelled on the successful (yes, there are failures) high-speed rail connections such as Cologne-Frankfurt or Madrid-Barcelona will testify, they are running at near capacity and replacing journeys that would either be taken by road, adding to already heavily congested roads, or not at all. Furthermore, as Berkshire Hathaway's investment has shown: new track for passenger trains means more capacity for profitable freight and fewer (or at least a lower rate of increase in their numbers) of those ruinously heavy lorries on the road.
In my mind governments should be carrying the load for large scale infrastructure projects which show little or no economic gains but still deliver a worthwhile service. If a project is simply monetary then we have companies that will do it. If they don't do it then the market won't support it. If we want governments to be run like companies why not just let companies run the government (in the open, not behind closed doors)? I don't think anyone really wants that though. Expecting a government to function like a company but still have cultural, national or scientific aims is foolishness however, someone has to do those things. Is it government? I think that's their correct role.
I am wondering, if the government need to spend money on an infrastucture project, then perhaps Fibre to the Home would benefit the country more.
1. More people can work from home reducing the traffic/rail load.
2. It would benefit all the country, not just a london-centric travel-verse.
3. Enable services country-wide
4. Really good pron quality
5. Environmentally - not as destructive.
Point 4 would also be a nice transition point for those 14 year olds discovering that trains are not as interesting as girls.
By 202x (might even be 203x!) where will video conferencing be?
Why would you NEED to travel across the country just for a meeting?
When I'm travelling around I've normally got a car-full of kit, so the train wouldn't be an option even if HS2 actually stopped in the county that I live in....
Then there's the route... Why doesn't it connect with our major hub airport at Heathrow?
A much simpler and cheaper solution would be to put a couple of carriages on each train (maybe double decker for the commuter stock) and extend the platforms accordingly...
You're right about double deckers. But the DfT published a study that showed you could upgrade the WCML to full speed and introduce in-cab signalling to increase traffic density, lengthen the platforms (except Liverpool and Birmingham which are in deep cuttings) and electrify the Chiltern Line for ~1/4 the cost of HS2. The study has now been buried as another 'inconvenient truth' but Google should still be able to find it.
The Chiltern (nee Great Central) line isn't too low:
"Unlike other railway lines in Britain, the line was built to an expanded continental loading gauge which meant it could accommodate larger sized continental trains, in anticipation of traffic to a future Channel Tunnel. There is, however, a popular myth that the GCR was built to the standard continental Berne loading gauge - impossible, since the Berne gauge convention was not held until 1912." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Central_Main_Line)
They've getting more carriages already, but this will be as far as they can go.
The capacity issue isn't about seats and carriages anyway, it's about the number of trains you can run in the signalling system. We tried upgrading the WCML not long ago to alleviate this; it was an unmitigated disaster.
As for more tracks on the current route... Remember this is a route built for trains that go 20mph with all the wrong curves in all the wrong places...
"As for more tracks on the current route... Remember this is a route built for trains that go 20mph with all the wrong curves in all the wrong places..."
I'm guessing due to IK Brunnel, who'd worked out it was cheaper to snake round "high" points and eliminate grades than take the speed/fuel hit going over them or the cost of flattening them.
WIth HS2 speeds 10x faster the rules change somewhat.
"At the time he was dead right. Now however, he's just dead."
That could have been more sensitively put.
Brunel's solution was right given the key constraints of the time.a)Trains not good at going up grades b)Flattening grades takes an army of (mostly Irish) hole diggers.
At the time it was SoA. But things have moved on. It's simpler to lay out a new (straighter) route than try and make it work better.
I'm curious why I got 2 down votes for this.
I wonder what would have happened if someone had applied the same economic arguments to the building of the railway between, let's say, Croydon and London Bridge. Just imagine all those thousands and thousands who travel to London Bridge every morning having to get the bus - or walk ! Maybe there is no economic argument to keep it running today. What's the alternative - replace it with a 7 mile long supermarket ? Properly managed, railways are an asset for the future, and there in lies the biggest, and probably only argument against HS2. Politicians with short attention spans can't manage anything today, let alone tomorrow.
Those pesky Victorians were falling over themselves to build railways through private investment, because there was money to be made. In the end, they overdid it and many companies went bust, but the infrastructure was still there. Today, no private company would swallow the nonsense on stilts that is the HS2 cost-justification, but luckily the taxpayers are awash with cash ... oh, wait
The problem is, of course, that we tore up all that nice track they spent lots of money laying.
For example, if the Central Line was still in place, we wouldn't be discussing this at all. In fact, I'd much rather they upgraded the Chiltern Line and reinstated the track in the existing trackbed of the Central Line.
I've not personally calculated the cost, but since a lot of the cuttings, embankments, drainage, and in some cases, bridges are still there, surely that would be a better way of spending the money.
I also have a problem with the capacity argument. The two tracks are not in the same place, merely have the same end points, e.g. London and Birmingham. I would argue that most of the capacity problems are at either end on the commuter routes, and I'm willing to bet that during the daytime, the trains are at best half full. Are there really that many people in Birmingham wanting to visit London & visa-versa? It's not even going to Heathrow, for goodness sake!
Finally, If you are going to go to all that effort, at least lay four tracks, not two, or at the very least reserve enough land for four tracks, and add a bit of future proofing.
Oh, and I was told that the HS2 would not be suitable for freight at all, as the slow freight trains would get in the way of the high speed trains, and would thus negate their purpose.
Disclaimer: HS2 will pass about 200 metres from my house. This is something I would be perfectly happy with if I thought it could be justified at all.
Private companies are desperate to get their hands on government bonds which finance exactly this kind of project. In fact, pension and sovereign wealth funds are becoming increasingly interested in financing infrastructure projects directly because: firstly, the timescales suit them; and, secondly, the risk-adjusted yields are likely to better than those from government bonds.
That's a fallacious argument that assumes that no investment/spending is worthwhile.
If you can go from horse to train, the cost/benefit is immense. It's a total no-brainer. You can have people going from London to Bristol in a few hours (at Victorian speeds) rather than 2 days. Someone no-longer has to waste 4 days to go someone, but can do it in one day. No coaching inn costs.
We're talking about a change from an hour and a quarter to around 45 minutes.
It's like someone owning an old 386 PC and then buying an i3. Should they then buy an i7 that's barely going to improve their performance?
Wow. Clearly the author does not believe that there might be tangible benefits to be had from a system of moving people from the non-capital area into said area in doublequick time above and beyond those of the weekday business world. I wonder what the London restaurant, theatre, museum and art gallery owners think about that?
For a good example of what happens when you run only a bottom-line evaluation on your infrastructure investment, look no further than New York as typified by the late 80s/early 90s, when bridges used every day for upstate suburb to NYC commuter traffic started falling into the Hudson, cars'n'all. The bridge toll monies were being used "to better effect" instead of paying painters and inspectors, as originally intended.
That was about the time BR got privatized and so many trains went for a high-speed walk in the fields on account of no-one was fixing or upgrading anything because it was too expensive. I saw that on TV.
For a nation of people that spends so much time berating the American Way of Life, you seem to want to stampede into it at every opportunity.
"Wow. Clearly the author does not believe that there might be tangible benefits to be had from a system of moving people from the non-capital area into said area in doublequick time above and beyond those of the weekday business world. I wonder what the London restaurant, theatre, museum and art gallery owners think about that?"
The entire piece is about how you calculate whether there are benefits or not. Net benefits that is. To accuse me of not believing that there might be benefits when I'm explaining the system by which we try to decide whether there are benefits is a bit much really....
"To accuse me of not believing that there might be benefits when I'm explaining the system by which we try to decide whether there are benefits is a bit much really...."
Or an indication of how opaque you made the point of your anti-train diatribe. All I brought back from it was "trains bad, internet good".
Perhaps I was misled by your insightful "You know, this lovely train set that the politicians want to plonk down in the middle of England. I've never quite been sure why it is that politicians love such train sets: most of us get over this around the age of 14 when we discover girls."
Or perhaps I failed to find the "but the benefits don't seem to be enough to cover the costs of the project" argument convincing without any sort of quantitative supporting statements.
I apparently did not read closely enough.
Doesn't matter to me anyway. I don't live there any more.
I am sorry to say, you failed miserably in economics and social policy, Tim. I have done a great deal of business between London (where I am based) and Birmingham, where I have some clients. From this, I can tell you: the cost justification is NOT about the time savings in transit. Simply not.
The cost justification MUST be done on the economic and social integration of the UK's two largest cities, one of which is over-stretched, over-populated, and too expensive, and the other of which is lagging in development economically and socially. Fuck how long Mr. Businessman gets to work on his laptop - this is all a strategy play (or should be for anyone with any foresight and intellect) about how the UK better balances development and social striation between London and Birmingham to start with, and perhaps other cities later on.
The idea must be to enable business the choice of locating to outlying cities and still feel that they can be successful away from the congested mess that London is fast becoming, and for cities such as Birmingham to encourage investment and business successes to power their economic survival. For anyone looking historically, it is clear that Birmingham has improved it's city centre markedly recently, but the business development and economic gains still have not accrued to scale. For the UK, as a country, this is a HUGE problem - if cities like Birmingham cannot continue to develop economically, they will become huge, huge millstones around the national economy. There is not room in London to move everyone South, and anyone in business in places like Birmingham must feel that they can get to meetings with clients/customers/co-workers in the business hub of London quickly and easily. The existing roadways are a mess (drove them too many times for anyone to say otherwise), and the Virgin service is OK at best, dismal more often than not. The personal cost of that travel (especially repeated weekly or so) is so high that only very keen or very desperate businesses would willingly locate there in the future. HS2 has the potential to reduce that personal cost.
The REAL cost/benefit analysis of HS2 is to look at the cost of NOT doing it - a Birmingham increasingly filled with non-competitive or local-scale only businesses, a social and economic drain on the rest of England in-perpetuity, and increasingly socially un-restive. Try doing the 50-year projections on THAT future state, and tell me that HS2 is in any way "expensive".
Has always been my thinking, so have an upvote my friend.
Moreover, if it is to be built it should have a "sealed" as in "security side" and "not in the UK" branch line from thiefrow to BHX. It can take well over an hour to get from one part of LHR to another, so why not make the extra runway at the end of a fast, dedicated line? Kill two birds with one stone.
BHX = Europe hub, no long haul (not that it has much anyway) LHR = long haul only, no Europe. City can cover some Europe stuff, BHX the rest.
Result - sorely needed jobs in the Midlands. Extra capacity for London's airspace. Big infrastructure project for whatever Government PLUS all the stuff they boast about now.
I've often pondered this as well. What if you had the train split into 2 sections: "sterile" and "non-sterile". Let me get into the non-sterile side, and then, as the train is rolling, go through the security checkpoints and be admitted into the "sterile" side.
And likewise, let me get off the plane into the "sterile" side, and go through Customs and Immigration as the train rolls.
They love trams as well - can you review Edinburgh trams next please:
* £1 billion+ tram project for 8 miles (£770 per cm) to convert the city centre to eastern europe
* We are already getting hybrid buses and similar green(ish) tech - which is developing all the time - with more route flexibility.
...was all the fees and payments made to the various consultants, upper-ranking engineering-company-bosses, technicians etc who are friends of the people spending the(our) money and who will, in return, invite said spenders to dinner, golf, holidays etc?
Not to mention that the consultants, architects, engineers etc will save an hour a day on traveling, which they will put to good use by spending an extra hour at home, rather than in the office earning the fictitious money on which the whole cost/benefit thing is based?
They could at least be honest about it.
Our railway is an embarrassment if you compare it with faster and more efficiently run French and German trains. I'd love our own TVG or Bullet but we're too broke and too over populated to support it.
However, wouldn't the £12bn be better spent on improving existing lines, increasing capacity, enhancing 3G and 4G reception along on all routes, and the rest spent on smaller infrastructure projects. I would suggest improving Wi-Fi, but that those prices they can get stuffed. I'd rather struggle with 2G/3G on my own device.
The two (HS2 and network improvements) are not mutually exclusive and should both be going ahead and could at least be partially financed by cutting back the subsidies to the train operators.
BTW. for comparison Cologne to Frankfurt cost € 6 bn for 180 km (Wikipedia). It's not without its problems but was transformational for travel. As part of its response to the 2008 financial crisis the German government made lots of cash available for railway improvements. This was both politically expedient - a few years disinvestment had started to cause problems with more and more failures in rolling stock - and economically savvy as doing up stations, track and signals tends to use lots of local workers and keeps them trained. Time lost to delays has decreased noticeably since. There are numbers attached to that sort of thing but they should be taken with a pinch of salt from the bucket you need to read Worstall's diatribes.
Cologne-Frankfurt is one of the few high speed railways in germany. Partially due to the costs.
And german trains have not been reliable for at least a decade. The investments are barely able to keep the situation stable. The ICE (high speed) trains have technical difficulties, mid-level train system (Interregio) was gutted and the local trains are either outsourced (and run to destruction) or 1930s technology repainted the 5th time (1). The rail system has been gutted to a rump system and many planned railroads where never build(2)
(1) Really, many local passenger wagons are from around WWII and rebuild numerous times
(2) They did build a number of new airports in the 1970s that where planned to have rail links. They still do not have them and service is by bus or storing the car on the HUGE parking lots
An "embarrasment"? What's this, keeping up with the Schmidts and the Duponts?
I couldn't care less if France has fast rail or not. Dubai has the smallest skyscraper on earth. Mecca has the largest clock face. So what? If the Germans, French or Arabs want to blow their money on boondoggles, they're welcome to it.
Personally, I'd rather the country spent my taxes wisely. And if fast rail doesn't add up, I'll keep with slow rail.
This only works if business are prepared to let their staff work remotely.
I used to commute 50 from my house miles to an office so that I could use the internet to log in to servers over 300 miles away from my desk. Despite this, I was still told when I asked that the comapny "didn't allow people to work remotely..."
This was an ISP/Hosting company... :(
But we all know a pan-European hi speed rail network was an EU vanity project from the same gang that thought the Euro was a good idea.
The economic 'argument' was always a smoke screen to cover the UK politicans playing poodle to Brussels in the hope getting a job for life, massive pension and 5% income tax
Takes nearly 90 mins to do the 65 miles from down here on the souff coast to London....But tis still better than enduring the hellhole known as the M25 (3hrs to go from the A3 at guildford to heathrow....)
But the UK needs the infrastructure investment, because the vast majority of our infrastructure is victorian in age and will only stay working for so long until either old age takes it out or the system is full to capacity.
Take the express trains off the WCML and you free up more space for commuter trains during the day, and long haul freight heading for europe during the night, leading to a reduction in number of trucks wandering around blocking the motorways with their 2 lane 10 mile overtaking highjinks
The real shame is the amount of time its going to take to build HS2 the 200 odd miles to Manchester(horrid place that it is)... 20+ yrs yeah great progress guys..... Brunel did London to Bristol in 8 yrs armed with 1830's tech...
I do agree with the article that people do work on the train - but I would also argue that you are NOT as productive as in the office (we have 2/3 screens, better chairs, better keyboards etc in the office).
However I think the main benefit is the north/south divide will reduce - manchester to london in 1h 10m and london to birmingham in 49m. Now makes this commutable for a great many people!
The other issue is that the trains are not the fastest in the world, at 250mph it is 50mph slower than the worlds fastest trains. Increase the speed to 300mph (technology has improved and become cheaper since the 2010) and then this will be worthwhile.
All in all though I'm definitely pro-HS2.
I wonder how long it will take for anyone important to figure out that if printable guns are a problem waiting to happen, a very well-camouflaged cruise missile tootling towards its target at 30 mph looking for all the world like a GPS-guided Fiat 500 (or whatever the then-popular fadmobile will look like) is a much more useful terrorist tool?
I'll bet there's an election in that for someone.
No way - we don't need this new fangled stuff. Why not use a horse and cart like we do now? I won't use it and neither will others....
But they did and the first public railway took off. Of course, that was those brave Victorians.
The thing about new developments is that it's always easy to see the downside. The upside takes decades to recognise.
I assume you're aware that it was a private company that built the line? And the benefits of the first railways were obvious to everyone - journeys that took days reduced to hours. In contrast, HS2 will deliver time savings of perhaps 25%, essentially negligible unless you live/work in a flat/office overlooking the station.
As you seem like an economist type, is the Cost:Benefit ratio discounted? So, are we looking at today's terms for the two at a suitable discount rate (comparing like with like), or the future vale of the benefits compared to the cost of today's (comparing unlike with unlike)?
One would assume that if not, the whole darn thing is a pile of junk and even worse than presented.
A quick note for other readers who may be confused by this - £1 today is not worth the same as £1 tomorrow, or next week, or next year. The further away it is, the less it is worth. So, saying "we will get £1.80 in 25 years" is not the same as saying"we will get £1.80 today". An accounting technique can be applied as an exchange rate over time that converts the £1.80 in 25 years to what it is the same as today, that technique is called discounting.
I'd rather see an "M25 train" - i.e. the ability to travel around the UK *without* having to change in central London. Unless London is your destination, then for all the minutes you can save with a fast line, you lose it all in London while dragging yourself across the tube from one side of the city to the other.
Something like an express train from Sevenoaks to Woking to Slough to Hemel to Epping, each with a big station that every main line train into and out of London stops at.
Combination of Crossrail (East West) and Thameslink (North South) is designed to do what you suggest.
No, because they go through London. What was being suggested by "Dave, Portsmouth" was a line that went around London and provided interchanges with all the main in/out routes (including the Crossrail and Thameslink lines). Such a line would ease congestion on lines into the capital, and would be built on relatively inexpensive land.
A railway is properly a network, not a tree.
The DfT's justification for a >billion pound national smartcard scheme has beenohappening based on the argument that if you knock 30 minutes off my morning commute I will spend that time adding to GDP in the office, rather than in bed.
A short survey could clear up that tricky concept for the government's economists?
I agree the times savings are trivial, and as you say we all work on the train regardless how long is the journey.
So the only case for HS2 that makes sense is increasing capacity along the west coast line route. Most trains I'm on are packed to the gills with folks so it sure seems like the route is saturated. I know senior engineers who manager the WCML upgrade and they say the Victorian route is maxed out and, "there isn't much more we can do."
So it's about adding capacity and nothing else really.
As a born-and-raised driving-on-the-right-since-14 cussing-at-Amtrak-to-get-their-act-together Yank, I am amazed that you'd be arguing against a good high speed rail line. We *used* to have a good passenger rail system over here, and we screwed it up when we subsidized both the highway system and the airline system (and didn't subsidize the rail system). Please, don't make the same mistake we made!
Even subsidize does not help if you do not set the priorities right. Germany has a state owned and run rail and it still does not work. If you want to go Hamburg-Frankfurt it is a good move to take the train (1). If you do not life in one of the major "ICE train station" cities - try walking, not much slower and a lot cheaper. I.e
On a bad day I takes me an hour to get from my hometown (100.000 population) to a major city 45km away to a customer by car. On a good day 30min. That's during the rushhour! The same route by train takes at least two hours and needs a cab/taxi since the local station has no parking lot AND there is no bus from my part of the (inner!) city to the 2.5km distant station. And this is a region of germany that is considered "well developed" when it comes to rail networks and both cities are old!
But If I make it to the large town the 300km to Frankfurt will be less than two hours...
(1) Most of the time. Unless it is summer and the clima control heats the ICE "bullet train" up or winter and the heating can not keep it warm
Now that we can both compute at home and communicate from home on a real time basis, why should we bother with traveling at all? Why should the accounting staff be required to show up at our offices? Ninety-nine percent of purchasing is done over the telephone. Why not all of it? Granted, there are some jobs that require the physical presence of the employee and cannot be done any other way. Maintenance and construction are two such fields, but even the construction companies should not be requiring their entire accounting departments to come in to work. There simply is no good reason for such travel by so many people. So far, companies have not even looked at this issue with any real interest. We are still living in the past and using outdated methods to get the same work done. We should be taking full advantage of our machinery and software, not merely partial advantage of it.
If Tim "I know the price of everything and the value of nothing" Worstall puts out a position on something, then you know the right course of action is the exact opposite.
Tim thinks the the internet means we don't need to spend any money trying to get to places quicker or to free up capacity for existing travellers. And he's arrogant enough to think that just because he can use the internet to do his work then everyone else should too (no matter what their employers think).
Contrary to what most people think, Britain still does make stuff. Some of it is quite big and bulky and samples can't be posted to prospective clients. Speeding up connectivity between the light and heavy industry areas of Birmingham, the East Midlands, Yorkshire and Manchester is going to be a boost to these very sectors we are wanting to grow.
Of course, this won't be popular with all the City twats that Tim likes to hobnob with down at the Adam Smith Institute, but then Tim is a symbol of all that's harmed this country in the first place.
"Tim thinks the the internet means we don't need to spend any money trying to get to places quicker or to free up capacity for existing travellers."
I'd love to be able to take new PCs out of the storeroom, take them out to the offices, set them up, configure them, train the users, and take the old ones back down to the storeroom, over the internet.
Many head offices are in London because the transport links are all biased towards London, Transport Links are biased towards London because many head offices are there. Workers are attracted to London because wages are higher. Wages are higher because cost are higher. Cost are higher because resources are limited, Resources are limited because so many workers are attracted to London. See the problem? Add London weighting on wages and you only add to it.
Just as an aside, How much would it cost , infrastructure wise to move parliament to Birmingham or Manchester. Just a little bit away from their banking playmates. Now that might justify a high speed rail link
Costing work on trains is pointless, but there MUST be advantages in better rail links which can be evaluated.
Producing a more comfortable and convenient journey must be worth something. Also, once a journey drops below a critical time, you get many extra people taking advantage of it.
I'm not saying that these figures would justify the HS2. But they would at least be useful.
I understand that the real reason for HS2 anyway is that it was ordered by the EU. So we have to do it - we have no option. Might as well face facts...
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