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What’s really wrong with HS2.

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.


  1. Dizzy Ringo says:

    I have a feeling it is all part of the Great European Plan so that you will be able to take a train from Athens all the way to Glasgow without changing trains. Seriously.

  2. Mr Ed says:

    Dizzy is right.

    The sensible answer to getting to London earlier from Brum and v.v. is to set your alarm clock and start trains 30 minutes than at present.

  3. Schrodinger's Dog says:


    I’ve never been a fan of HS2, and you have now clarified my reasons why.

    And you didn’t even mention the cost of approximately £32 billion. I don’t have the article to hand, but I remember reading that, rather than building HS2, it would be cheaper to give everyone likely to use it their own Ford Ka.

  4. Edward Lud says:

    NickM, you make a very good point.

  5. john b says:

    Absolutely agree, *if* the point of HS2 were to knock 15 minutes of travelling from London to Brum.

    But it isn’t. The main point is to add capacity, reflecting the projection that the West Coast Main Line from London to Rugby will be over capacity by
    2025 (despite predicted signalling improvements between now and then). A new railway is needed to provide the required capacity improvements – we know from the WCML upgrade that when disruption costs are factored in, upgrading operational railways costs *more*.

    If you’re building a brand new railway, the additional cost of making it high-speed is negligible – the civil engineering is the same, the planning and legal costs that are the single largest element of any scheme are the same, the signalling is the same – it’s just a case of using slightly higher-spec track and cabling. Even the train cost isn’t much greater, as HS lines can use off-the-shelf trains from anywhere rather than custom trains to fit the UK classic lines’ tight loading gauge.

    Once the intercity trains are taken out, that improves capacity on the classic lines for the kind of local services that Nick is talking about (the WCML upgrade destroyed local services for many people in smaller towns along the route in the Midlands and Northwest, and the plan that anti-HS2 campaigners have proposed to improve WCML capacity would make this even worse).

    Manchester is planned to be served like Birmingham, with a new city-centre station that doesn’t require the use of the Piccadilly approach (both because Picc is full, and because Picc isn’t condusive to sending trains further north), and also a stop at Manchester Airport (both to improve connectivity and as a park-and-ride scheme aimed at people in outer-suburban southern Manchester – same as the Birmingham Airport stop).

    Finally, the gbp35bn is the estimated cost for the whole network, not just the phase 1 line to Birmingham.

  6. John Galt says:

    And don’t ask about Delta. I’d rather flap my arms very hard than go with those fuckers again.


    Hell’s too good for those Fokkers! May they suffer the Pear of Anguish for all eternity!

  7. NickM says:

    I was supposed to be on the Delta MD-80 at 11am from Laguardia. They consolidated it to fuck and back. And this was (f)lying to their alleged hub in Atlanta. Three flights mysteriously canceled and then I’m on the 4pm one. And then the numptie in the pit of cock and bull almost hits a bloody 747 on the peri at Hartsfield, Atlanta and has to zoom climb and go back in the stack. I have never felt such acceleration in my life. He absolutely caned it. Then he’s back on the intercom and breathless and saying we narrowly avoided an “incident”. That wasn’t an incident. That would have made Fox.

  8. Thornavis says:

    john b is right, except. It isn’t being sold to the punters as an increase in capacity but rather as a boost to the regions, a spur to regeneration, a fast way of linking north and south thereby evening out inequality etc etc, all the usual nonsense. Even the capacity argument is dubious since we’ve no idea how long the recession will last or what the likely demand for rail twenty years hence will be. Since at the moment everything on the railways appears to be going tits up with the DfT in as big a melt down as the BBC and all sorts of doubt over franchising and sustainable costs with the inevitable uncertainty and risk aversion this brings, I’m not at all sure that at this stage of the crisis what we need is a pointless gesture in the shape of HS2. It made sense ten years ago but right now what would make a lot more sense is stopping the apparently unstoppable determination of idiots to wreck the entire industry.

  9. Paul Marks says:

    HS2 is an insane government project that was planned to steal private land and cost the taxpayers tens of billions of Pounds.

    And “john b” is in favour of it.

    I suspect that he is one of Sean Gabb’s lads.

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