It’s 1997 and coming up to Christmas and you live in Gateshead and your girlfriend lives in Atlanta.
Awkward? So whaddya do? This is what I did. I tried the internet (I was an early adopter – I still recall using Mosaic) and tried the phone lines and that was a hilarity. One numpty said, “No flights to Atlanta except we could try business class or possibly Concorde”. Concorde! Well, it would be nice mate but I’m a post-graduate student and we are not noted for being Entwhistled. He quoted me a fuck-off price – in the Northern regions of the 5K. So I phoned my Dad and he said, try BA direct. So I did and they had me on a DC-10 (yeah, a DC-10, not and MD-11, it was falling apart) out of Gatwick for 300 notes. Why BA hadn’t occurred to me given that Hartsfield – Gatwick via BA was her usual route over here is beyond me. Gods almighty there is a lot of the Atlantic and it’s fucking dull. And no ciggies but a terrible movie. And on take-off a flight attendant had to jam a magazine (perfume adverts, not bullets) between two overhead baggage holders because they were oscillating like bastards at a free cunting party. Or cunts at a free bastarding party. It was going like the minge flaps of the Whore of Babylon (drunk on the blood of the saints). I shouldn’t have even thought that, should I? But I said it. And ’tis true. I thought I was going to be dental records across Sussex if I was lucky. And don’t ask about Delta. I’d rather flap my arms very hard than go with those fuckers again.
So what has any of this to do with HS2?
Everything. At midnight I get on the National Distress Bus headed for Gatwick, from Newcastle, and the coach station stinks of piss and kebabs. At about 1AM a fat, sweaty, smoggie cunt wakes me up (My Dad had given me a Clancy to read and I had clearly fallen asleep with it over me). (POTUS said to CINCLANT and all that). What an unmitigated cunt. He poked me despite this and asked for a remarkable sum of monies for a foam thimble of some brown liquid that was allegedly “tea”. So I told him to piss off. And then there is a couple of hours hanging in Gatwick, and then an eight hour flight on something driven by Mutley (they had to jump-lead the cunt – literally). And then I have to get the Marta train up to Midtown and then the bus. Now the bus is interesting because it was the final phase (and I was dead – well wished I was or couldn’t tell the difference). I normally traveled with a ruck-sack. But not this time. My mum insisted I took a ginormous purple suitcase. God alone knows why I went along with that. I paid for the tickets. Anyway, I was 5 time-zones out of kilter and it had been a day and that fucker of a case almost destroyed the cab of the bus when it came to my stop in Buckhead. The driver said rude words but I was past caring by that stage. The bus did mind tie in very well with the Marta train. And the whole Marta system does through ticketing.
So what has this to do with a railway from London to Birmingham?
A lot. I spent longer on the National Distress than on the ‘plane – being poked in the ribs by the “Steward” when he was absolutely not the person I wanted any poking with – if you catch my drift. And aircraft being about 10 times faster than buses and all. I then had to get from Hartsfield Terminal Six to Northern Atlanta. Newcastle to Gatwick took longer than crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Hartsfield to Buckhead took… I didn’t know by this point – as you can imagine I was kinda excited so hadn’t slept the night before. I fell into her arms after having been even more discombolated by the vision of a life-size cardboard cut-out of Han Solo in the lobby. Her mum was a big Harrison Ford fan. A life-size one.
My point is almost nobody travels from X to Y. So what is the point of HS2? It shaves 23 minutes off travel between London and Birmingham. I used to live in London. I have relies living in West Brom. I lived in Stepney. Obviously the big ticket item of my trip to Atlanta that time was the DC-10 but it was the connections that took most of the time. You will take well over 23 minutes to get from Stepney Green tube station to Euston – I’ve done it and then from New Street to West Brom – Gods know. It makes no sense to destroy people’s property and spend a fortune on a rail-line nobody needs because practically no one travels between Euston and New Street. They go from Brixton to Edgbaston or some such. And that is the myth and flaw. 23 minutes means nothing when you take the connections into account.
And then there is the plan to extend HS2 to Manchester, and possibly Glasgow. I dunno about Glasgow but I know about Manchester. The commuter trains take twice as long as they oughta because they are stacked for entry into Piccadilly. And you know how the flying fuck can they increase capacity into Manchester? What will they have to demolish for a new station? Of course Dr Beaching took out the orbital railways of Manchester (and elsewhere) and they are now cycle tracks and this is deemed progress. It is progress the same way replacing F-15s with kites is.
A while back Paul Marks said something of interest to me (he always says interesting things but this really stuck). We need railway feeder lines was the gist. Even if Dr Beaching deemed this uneconomic he didn’t see the whole of the system. The supermarkets got it – loss-leaders. Get ‘em in for the cheap bread and they’ll stay for the sirloin. Time is indeed money. Nobody, and I mean nobody wants to shop around supermarkets. They want it done. It is Sainsburys or TESCO for moi. It used to be Lidl and Asda where I used to live. Convenience matters. In travel it is up there with price as a factor. Flash-bang super-rapid trains matter not a toss when the infrastructure to get you to the station is sub-standard. I think Branson gets this. The wankers who think London (10m) and Birmingham (3m) are worth connecting real fast and ignore the rest of it don’t.