Monday, 7 October 2013

All aboard the £80 billion High Speed 2?

Last week the High Speed 2 (HS2) Taskforce arrived in Manchester to meet with key figures from across the North West as a,sort of, advance sales force, promoting the potential benefits of high speed rail for local businesses and the economy in general. Investing in our transport system and updating the railway infrastructure has been highlighted by the Government as extremely important for the future success of our economy. So much so, that they are willing to spend around an estimated 80 billion pounds of taxpayer’s money to ensure that it gets completed. 

Costs speeding ahead 

I use the term” estimated” because the cost seems to change week by week, depending on which publication you read. The HS2 website for instance, states the following, “the total for the route is therefore £42.6 billion, including £14.4 billion of contingency.”

In August the cost was estimated at twice that amount, following an independent report from the Institute for Economic Affairs. They highlighted all the additional outlays which include regeneration grants, out of town locations for stations, which will require additional infrastructure and transport costs for people to access them, and so on.

The price tag seems to be spiralling higher and higher to the point where we have to ask, it is going to be economically viable? And where is the government getting the money from? With cuts in public services biting deeper, people having to tighten their belts, NHS trusts that cannot afford to deliver vital health care services and teachers having to strike to protect their pensions, we have to ask – is it worth it? 

A first class return for the Broadband Express? 

On the same day, the HS2 Taskforce hit town, it was announced that UK rail users are to get full mobile broadband coverage, with the rollout being funded by the rail industry. This must be a bit of a kick in the teeth to rural businesses, who have had to put up with appallingly slow broadband speeds that restrict the contracts and work they can access, not to mention the frustration from rural homeowners. However there is hope on the horizon with a 1.5 billion project to roll out high speed broadband to rural communities, with BT winning the contract for 26 counties and expecting to pick up the work for the remaining 18. Plus, the final completion date has only been delayed now to 2017.

At this rate it might be quicker and easier, just to buy get a season rail ticket and operate your business from a train carriage.


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