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Letters: Don’t let the rail lobby get the upper hand with HS2

Don’t let the rail lobby get the upper hand with HS2

Antony Oliver’s editorial (NCE last week) is an admission that the macro arguments in favour of High Speed Two (HS2) have so far not been properly put. It is not the case however that the arguments are not there to be had.

The pro-high speed rail lobby started by selling us the idea that speed is somehow intrinsically good but people have enough common sense to realise that what matters is minimising time and inconvenience door to door and in this respect all the intermediate towns, cities and villages that are not central Birmingham or central Manchester will actually be worse off.

Now the tack has changed − “this line is as much about adding vital capacity”. But this was refuted by Rail Package 2 even before HS2 was launched on the public.

Oliver also states that “of course [HS2 is] hugely beneficial to the economy”. Yet every man, woman and child in the country will be forking out the best part of £1,000 to save a few elite travellers in Birmingham and Manchester a few minutes − all of which is lost in then getting to anywhere they would want to be.

How can this be economically beneficial to anyone other than the rich and powerful rail lobbyists? By American standards we already have a high speed rail service and one with sufficient intermediate stops to serve the country well. Let us build on that at a fraction of the cost of HS2.

  • Bryn Bird (M), bryn.bird@btinternet.com

When considering the macro economics of High Speed Two (HS2) (NCE last week), we should not lose sight of the much wider area that inter-city transport improvements can benefit.

The hinterland of London now encompasses south-east England and Bristol, as well as Birmingham, cities which are dependent upon themselves and one another.

In addition, the international ports of Southampton, Bristol, Felixstowe and London Gateway (when completed) will cement the area even more together.

Thus London is supporting the area through its radiating transport communications, corporate networks and its recreational and retirement opportunities.

The improvement of any of the transport links within that hinterland must be an engine for growth, ultimately benefiting, with widening opportunities, all those people who live in the area, not just those on the line of HS2.

  • Tim Shillam, timshillam@aol.com


Stuart Porter says Northamptonshire, Leicestershire and the area served by the southern part of the West Coast Main Line are economic losers from High Speed Two (Letters last week).

Leicester should be served by HS2, while capacity released by HS2 should allow better services for Northampton and stations to the south. There is so much money in the City of London that they could pay for both Crossrails, which only benefit London and its commuting hinterland.

The trouble is they are unwilling to invest in anything useful in the long term, and governments let them get away with it.

  • David HT Smith, 25 Grange Rd. Shrewsbury SY3 9DG

 

Be thankful you’ve got jobs

I was amused to read that Atkins is inviting its staff to work a longer week (NCE 10 February).

I have worked for several big-name consultants during my career and in all cases the notion of a specific working week was no more than that.

I have very rarely known overtime to be paid nor even extra hours to be reimbursed with time off in lieu. In my experiences it was good form to write off extra hours.

Indeed my last employer subtly encouraged this practice by the regular circulation of a staff list, known unofficially as “the slackers list”, detailing, among other things, excess hours written off. Unsurprisingly those with the highest numbers tended to get the brownie points.

I would say that while Paul Ahdal (Letters last week), may be somewhat naive about the economics of competitive tendering, he is lucky to be paid overtime − especially in these times of austerity.

So all you public sector employees who enjoy a fixed working week and maybe fear a couple of lean years without a pay rise, or who may be looking forward to a brave new world as your employer offers you the opportunity of privatisation − take note and beware!

  • Nicholas Brown (M), nikfjb@live.co.uk

Slow delivery will damage UK’s status

It is disappointing and sobering to compare the articles in last week’s NCE with reference to high speed railway construction.

The Hong Kong Government set itself a six year programme in 2009 to get its high speed line from Kowloon to Shenzhen complete by 2015, concurrent with a new underground line and it is on programme.

The UK Government in 2009 set itself a six year programme to commence construction of its high speed line to Birmingham by 2015 and after less than two years there is concern about whether this date can be met− a virtual repeat of the Terminal 5 and Chep Lap Kok fiasco.

There can be no starker comparison than this to lead us to the conclusion that within a very short time we will be totally eclipsed by the economies of the Far East and reduced to, at best, second world status. Am I alone in feeling appalled by developments such as this?

  • Derek Limbert (F), Knotty Green, Beaconsfield HP9 2BB

Don’t pay for other people’s flood defences

Your correspondent Charlie Rickard (Letters last week) is so wrong.

“Public” money should be spent for the greatest good for the greatest number. Spending tax-payers’ money for schemes that only benefit a few identifiable people is reprehensible and morally wrong.

People whose homes or businesses are at risk of flooding have no-one to blame but themselves, and should not expect other people to bail them out, either literally or financially.

All too often I read in NCE about yet another flood prevention scheme funded by the Environment Agency or a local council, usually to the tune of around £10,000 to £30,000 per property, and this is wrong.

All that is needed is for that body to write to the property owners likely to be affected along these lines:
“Your house/business premises is at risk of flooding. It is therefore worthless. Your mortgage company will be after you for the amount you have borrowed. Your property is also uninsurable. The good news is that we propose to arrange for a flood prevention scheme that will safeguard your property, such that it will be saleable, mortgageable and insurable. The cost to you will be £35,000, and your mortgage company will provide the necessary funds by increasing your mortgage.”

Problem sorted, at no cost to anyone not at risk!

  • Robin Clay (M), Thornhill Farmhouse, Okeford Fitzpaine, Blandford Forum, Dorset DT11 0RQ

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