Big rise in passenger numbers – could digital technology be the cause?

IT is a popular claim by HS2’s ardent critics – most notably, of late, by former Cabinet Minister Cheryl Gillan, who is MP for Chesham and Amersham, writing in The Daily Telegraph – that the plan for HS2 is 30 years too late, and its need has been overtaken by rapid developments in communications technologies.

But rail operating expert William Barter and Chris Howe of the HS2-NorthWest campaign group have now suggested that the real situation is quite the opposite – that actually the rapid developments in digital communications are leading to ever-increasing rail passenger journeys. Continue reading

WHERE IS HS2’S CHAMPION NOW?

A WEEK AGO HS2 Ltd and the Government were full of the news that former London Olympics boss Lord Deighton had been appointed to “ensure HS2 strikes gold for GB growth.”  He is leading a taskforce “to maximise the economic benefits – including job creation – generated by the crucial scheme,” said the Department for Transport.

Since then the high speed rail project has been under growing attack, resulting today in major criticism by Lord Peter Mandelson, after a huge £14.6 billion contingency fund was added to the budget, as well as £7.5 billion for rolling stock that in the past would have been financed by a train operator – that is, until the DfT has got involved controversially in rolling stock procurement for the Intercity Express and Thameslink projects.

But as the criticism has mounted, what has HS2’s new champion – who is also Commercial Secretary to the Treasury – been doing to talk up the project? Continue reading

HS2’s uphill media battle

I NEVER cease to be amazed by the media’s apparently hostile reports about the HS2 scheme.

On 5 June the proposal to restore the Stonebridge Railway and enable many Midlands’ passengers to get directly to Birmingham Airport and the planned HS2 Birmingham Interchange station was published coincidental with distribution of Railnews edition 196.

That morning – as co-author of the report with quantity surveyor Michael Byng – I did a lengthy interview about the project with BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire. I was then interviewed briefly during the lunchtime edition of the BBC-TV Midlands Today programme, and a lengthier interview was recorded for use later in the day.

But Midlands Today carried no more in later editions — perhaps because supportive comments about how our plan would improve links with HS2 were starting to be made.  Continue reading

Plan for Whitacre link gains wide support

THE report that I have co-authored with quantity surveyor and construction economist Michel Byng — in which we propose restoration of the former Stonebridge Railway between Hampton-in-Arden and Whitacre Junction in Warwickshire to serve the HS2 Birmingham Interchange, the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham Airport and the M42 business corridor — has caused quite a stir.

And, despite some of the comments left on the Railnews website, most of the reaction has been extremely positive — from MPs, the City of Coventry, the Black Country, and even organisations representing small businesses and the tourism and travel industry. Continue reading

Re-franchising – still pain and not much gain?

IF bookmakers yesterday shortened the odds a little on a Labour victory at the next general election, I shouldn’t be at all surprised.  The Government’s announcement of its revised franchising policy for rail passenger services clearly indicated they expect to lose the next election in two years and one month’s time.  Re-franchising looks more like a political football than a genuine attempt to seriously improve things for passengers. Continue reading

Is Judicial Review the end of the road for HS2’s opponents?

IT doesn’t really matter how much spin the anti-HS2 campaigners put on the outcome of their Judicial Review.  The result was a disaster for them. Their only achievement has been to secure a re-run of public consultation on compensation to be paid to those affected by the new line. But their principal objective was– and, listening to their subsequent comments, still is – to stop the project going ahead at all.  Continue reading