by Ian Shires on 4 January, 2022
What is it about us English which makes us so negative when it comes to major infrastructure projects such as High-Speed Rail?
HS1 in the Southeast seemed to go ahead without much fuss. But when it came to pushing forward with a plan to add much needed capacity heading out of London to the Midlands and the North it has been a whole different story. Heaven forbid that any Westminster Government should consider such a plan; a plan which would divert funding to improve transport links outside of the Southeast corner of the UK.
Probably because it was a decision taken at Westminster HS2 was promoted as reducing the time it took to get folk from the Midlands and up North down to London. There were so many much better reasons for promoting HS2!
The most obvious was to increase capacity on the over-crowded West Coast Mainline. This in turn would lead to much improved commuter services across Birmingham, the Black Country, and the wider West Midlands. The same would apply to Greater Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield as well as improving across the East Midlands.
At the same time as freeing up space for commuter trains HS2 would also provide a vital opportunity to shift goods and freight off our over-crowded road system onto the rail network. This in itself would have the added benefit of improving air quality particularly along the motorway corridors through major conurbations.
Perhaps not so obvious an advantage would be to link up major airports like Heathrow, Birmingham, and Manchester. Spreading access to air travel would reduce the need to keep expanding Heathrow and would help to spread investment and the wealth which would go with it outside of the Capital and the much over-crowded Southeast corner of England.
And of course, the benefits of a Highspeed Rail Network should not stop within England. They should push on up into Scotland and across to Wales. And yes, given the many advances in technology and construction methods, it may well be possible to link across to Northern Ireland.
“That’s all well and good” I hear you say, “but we live in Willenhall. What’s HS2 got to do with us? How does it benefit us?”
Well, without going all over the benefits I’ve already outlined, let me say just this. Very soon Willenhall will have its link to the rail network restored, after many years and countless campaigns work is beginning on a new train station. Without HS2 it will struggle to survive.
Without the added network capacity that comes with HS2, there is only sufficient space for an hourly service between Wolverhampton and Walsall, and an hourly link to Birmingham New Street.
Bring HS2 into the equation and it’s a whole different ball game. Easy access into Birmingham and the Black Country, across to Solihull, Coventry, up to Stafford and beyond The possibilities are endless opening up job opportunities, options for Further and Higher Education as well as business opportunities.
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