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Julian Bray provides: Opinion, comment, forward thinking speculation on Travel, Cruise & Aviation: conflict zones, terrorist impact, drone (UAV) issues, safety (black boxes, emergencies), airline operations, aviation finance, political implications, and all forms of incident risk. Worked at board level with several airline and aviation groups, including Alitalia, British Island Airways, British Airways, Galileo , British Aerospace, Skyways, former CEO City firm Leadenhall Assoc. Founder CNS City News Service. Director NTN Television News (joint co. with ITV Wales TWW) Debretts People 2017 and in launch edition of PRWeek Black Book.

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Sunday, 8 January 2012

High Speed Rail? It's in the wrong place Minister!

HS2 Tunnel
Julian Bray Reports: The newspapers over the weekend have been full of The Department for Transport (DfT) plans to construct a high-speed rail link (High Speed 2) from London through the Chilterns, to the West Midlands and then to the north of England. The Coalition Government is this week likely to approve the plans and light the blue and orange touchpaper....but we (Peterbrough Regional Advanced Train Society - PRATS)  think the case for running the HS2 alongside the City of Peterborough has been overlooked if not totally misunderstood. After all, It is only half the width of a by-pass.... This is the route map http://highspeedrail.dft.gov.uk/in-your-area

We've taken several of the reports seemingly rejected by the Transport Minister and dusted them down for another look. The Government claims the new high speed line will produce significant economic benefits: travellers will gain from faster journey times; capacity will be freed up on existing routes including the east coast line; and the economies of the Midlands and the north of England will improve. >>>>




The total cost of the scheme has been estimated at around £34 billion. But some experts say the project will not be commercially viable. It will, all sides agree, require substantial taxpayer subsidies in a period when government and European debt has hit alarming levels and will be an example of perverse government central planning. Taxpayers will bear a high proportion of the financial risk.

High Speed 2 (HS2) is they say an example of a big government project – a political scheme rather
than a commercial one, designed to show off our national skills and provide employment.

The history of such initiatives, such as Concorde, the civil nuclear power programme, the Millennium Dome and, indeed, High Speed 1 (the Channel Tunnel Rail Link) provides the basis for this thinking. All these examples however suffered from cost overruns, delays, lower-than-expected revenues or outputs, or some combination of these problems. The list seems to be endless.
On the plus side, HS2 will provide thousands of jobs over several years and open up Birimingham as a gateway to..... London; but critics will say that as it goes into Euston, no through route is possible and all high speed passengers will come to a grinding halt and then have to face the London Underground if the want to link up with HS1, the Channel Tunnel and the continent.

Which of course was the original idea of having a through route. Get on in Birmingham and get off in Paris or Brussels

If the HS2 was routed along the existing east coast line and then linked up with HS1 it would not only benefit Peterborough as a major hub, but the extra costs involved using the existing east coast route would also provide cost savings as little in the way of additional cuttings and tunnels through the very centre or the spine of England would be needed and the adjacent land all along the east coast route is already under 'railway' control. The overall budget with economies of scale could then be stretched to eventually upgrade the entire east coast line, which is where we all came in...

Supply and logistics would also be substantially easier as much of the material and pre-fabricated metal and other major construction works can be delivered by sea along most of the East Coast route over fairly level terrain (unlike the Chilterns!) and in areas of much lower population densities and with minimal disruption, having grown up in Chorleywood and Amersham areas I can vouch for the difficult terrain and once tghe heavy construction starts middle England will be up in arms agbainst the intrusion in to the chocolate box style of village and life in the shires.

The populations along the length of the East Coast are used to heavy engineering and manufacturing industries. Very few of the substantial construction workforce required for the S2 project would ever be in a position to afford property within a hundred miles of the proposed HS2 route out of London. Something the politicians and thier experts seem to have completely overlooked.

The Shires will in fact have thousands of railway constriction workers swarming all over their villages, probably housed in teemprary camps or settlements. Market Towns and Hamlets throughout the construction period and for some time to follow, these locations along the route will of course dramatically change for ever. Simply cutting a swathe through central England will not only highlight the north /south divide but could well suceed in creating an east/ west divide as well! Truly a first for any administration. ...
HS2 track and tunnel
Politicians and government officials face both knowledge and incentive problems when planning and delivering these major projects. Transport planners cannot obtain accurate information about the preferences of travellers and the demand for services in the absence of genuine market prices and experience. They have no model to work on. It really has to be a 'finger in the air' type of rough calculation. Whe this was first mooted no one would have expected a major world financial upheaval, banks going to the wall, an eleventh hour bail out and indeed the coalition government is preparing us all for several more years ( more like decades... ) of deep austerity.

The rail and transport industries attract a high level of state intervention. Taxpayer subsidies to rail totalled approximately £7 billion in 2009/10, a figure comparable to the £6 billion collected in passenger revenues. Moreover, a high proportion of rail fares have been subject to price controls since privatisation, with increases until recently fares were kept well below rises in average incomes.
The tax system has also favoured rail vis-à-vis competing modes of transport – fares are exempt from VAT, for example, whereas tax is charged on road fuel at a rate of approximately 150% . In addition, planning policies have been traditionally designed to favour rail by preventing the spatial dispersal of economic activity and prohibiting substantial airport expansion. It should also be recognised, however, that state intervention has loaded extra costs on to the rail sector, for example by imposing an artificial structure with very high transaction costs on the industry.

In practice, an accurate assessment of the economic case for HS2 canonly be made once these
distortions (and many others) are removed. In the context of massive subsidies, regulated fares, unfair competition, discriminatory tax treatment and artificial industry structures there is a significant
danger that arguments for expenditure on new rail infrastructure are based on levels of passenger
demand that have been severely distorted by state intervention.

Indeed, it may be the case that existing subsidies are breeding future subsidies. But as we all know, logic in these cases flies out of the window. But if we could like the bankers, effect a last minute bailout, perhaps HS2 could be on our doorstep after all? Have a natter with your MP today!

Contributor: Media, Aviation, Politics & Travel Expert, Broadcaster Julian Bray UK Landline: 01733 345581 Mobile: 07944 217476 ISDN2 downline +44(0)1733 555 319 (B'cast ISDN Remote Studio) G722/APT-X Dual Codecs Glensound C5
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