Living in The Chilterns I have the pleasure of being surrounded by what is known as an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Which basically means for 3 miles either side of my village there is nothing but trees and fields, very little in the way of pavements and street lights, but a lot in the way of fresh air and clear night skies for star-gazing.
I should point out I am a Townie really and living in the countryside wasn’t my idea. It can be a very isolated existence when you aren’t within walking distance of anything in the way of entertainment and the nearest public transport system is over 3 miles away and quite expensive as local buses are not part of the London Underground system.
HS2 will bring nothing to the area where I live. In fact the idea is to run the line in parallel with the existing train line to Birmingham, the one that goes directly from London to Birmingham central. For us we are around an hour, hour and a half drive to Birmingham or a 1 hour 40 to 1 hour 50 minute train ride from High Wycombe which is roughly a 30 minute drive from here. There is literally no advantage.
There will however be massive disadvantages for this area. If parts of the area lose their Outstanding Natural Beauty tag then it will make it easier for the land to be developed. Losing the fields and trees and putting extra strain on the local resources. We will have the constant noise and disruption of the building works and the extra works traffic on our roads. We will lose some of our unspoilt views and have influxes of transient workers into the area drawing on our resources. Importantly there will also be a negative impact on the property prices in the area which has already been seen with people selling up early before the line becomes a certainty.
HS2 will require a considerable workforce to complete. This workforce will be made up of the lowest paid workers and not people from the areas that the line directly affects. The lowest paid workforces are usually made up of foreign workers, brought into the country to undertake these sorts of tasks and the money they make often leaves the country being sent home to create new lives on their return. So how will this money leaving the UK benefit the economy’s growth?
I have worked for an Engineering company for over 10 years. I have been a part of the tendering process for new contracts and seen what happens when contracts are issued to the lowest bidders and some of the problems that arise from this.
Often when trade workers come into this country they have obtained a qualification in their own country and are given jobs on this basis. These qualifications are obtained on different systems than those we operate in this country and the work can be unsafe.
My grandparents had their council house renovated a few years ago. I received a frantic phone call from them to say they had water dripping through their kitchen light from the bathroom above and asking what should they do. I told them to ring the council and get someone round immediately, I would meet them to discuss it.
It turned out not only had the wiring been done incorrectly and unsafely, the water pipes also needed attention. Add to this their gas oven had been re-installed incorrectly by an unqualified tradesperson causing a fire and the oven to be scrapped and you can start to understand my point.
On meeting the council representative I asked him how they were allowing such sub-standard and unsafe work to be done by clearly unqualified personnel. He said they were the lowest bidder and they had qualifications that were obtained abroad on antiquated wiring compared to that which we have over here. Our complaint wasn’t the only one they have received and they had to employ extra qualified staff to go around and correct the mistakes the first people had made at extra cost.
So really is issuing the contract to the lowest bidders and using staff that achieve qualifications abroad without experience on our systems the answer? Is it likely that the HS2 workforce will be made up of local unemployed tradespeople boosting the economy and helping to bring the unemployment figures down, no it’s not. Because the truth is a fully skilled workforce on that scale would be too expensive.
Is the cost of travel in this country currently economically beneficial? I would say no, most people would argue we pay over the odds for the services we receive. I have heard we travel the shortest distance over cost in the world on our rail networks.
Are the current London to Birmingham trains constantly full to demand the need for extra trains? Probably not from what I have heard.
Will anyone be able to afford to travel on HS2 when it is eventually built? I doubt it.
I would rather the money was spent on upgrading the current rail network to lower the cost of travel for everyone in the country and adding extra carriages to oversubscribed trains to allow people to travel in the comfort they pay for.
I would rather see links from London to places in the country where we don’t currently have direct links allowing people to travel faster and easier.
I would rather see the airports linked to the country without the need to travel in and out of London, they had trialed Heathrow to Birmingham as an option for a HS2 branch.
A lot of people are pro-HS2 because it sounds like a good idea. In theory I guess it is. But as a country do we have the money to build it? I would say not.
Let’s face it the big building projects in this country have never been delivered on time and on budget and HS2 will be no exception, no matter the guarantees. The figures are already widely in dispute.
Whoever wins the contract will know that once started the plan will not be able to be abandoned and whatever the cost to deliver will end up being paid to save face, bringing spiralling costs which will then need to be reflected in the prices to recoup investment.
As the country is already struggling financially and having to cut essential services to reduce the economic deficit is now the time to be embarking on an expensive project with little or no guarantee that the economy will ever benefit from its existence? I would say no.
Shouldn’t we be looking at how better we can spend that money to the benefit and improvement of our current services and not just the rail lines?
The current figure for the cost of HS2 is a minimum of £46,000,000,000.
For the benefit of a balanced overview below are the links to pro and anti HS2 websites so you can make your own mind up on what is known locally as the White Elephant!