Causing a few ruffled feathers in the DfT, a new report by think tank Greengauge 21 has suggested that the UK would benefit significantly from a national high speed rail network, changing the HS2 network "from a Y to an X" (See the full report here).
What does that mean in practice? Well simply put, a mixture of upgrading existing lines such as the East Coast Mainline, providing more connectivity between lines across the UK and investing in new lines in places like Scotland and East Anglia.
The argument is relatively simple, invest in rail and the improved connectivity delivers increased productivity and business outputs.
Being a daily rail user I can see the attraction of faster connection times between cities, but I would question whether the investment needed really delivers the outputs that the report suggests. With HS2 having a price tag of over £50Bn, the cost of delivering all the recommendations of the report feels unachievable.
Add to this the advances in driverless vehicles and new forms of transport, I can see rail travel becoming less attractive in the next fifty years, particularly as technology and lifestyle choices change how we work, commute and travel.
One thing from the report I do believe is very true is a remark from Jim Steer, a Director at Greengauge21: “Fundamentally, we need to completely re-orientate the railway from a ‘hub-and-spoke’ centred on London to a fully national network.” Anyone who's tried traveling east to west by rail will likely agree!
Greengauge 21 director Jim Steer said: “Britain lacks a long-term national railway strategy beyond HS2. “We need a plan to put rocket fuel into our economic productivity and today’s report sets out proposals to do so. “It is vital for the future of the country that no region is left behind, and the national railway strategy needs to reach all parts of the country.”