Despite Peter Mandelson’s U-turn over High Speed 2, we need it now more than ever. Mandy – criticised for seeing the world only out of a private jet window – ponders that Britain can make do with a network developed by our Victorian forefathers.

English: Peter Mandelson speaking at the Polic...

English: Peter Mandelson speaking at the Policy Network’s Politics of Climate Change event. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Grand Lord of Davos appears content for us to sit on the sidelines and watch the rest of the world pull away at 300mph. Not for Britain the slick speedy network already enjoyed in Japan, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.
The rest of the world is moving on – in exactly the same way as we were a century or so ago.  The best countries have high speed trains linking their major cities – and then within those cities they often have a top-notch network of underground and tram routes to whizz you relatively seamlessly across the city. That could be our future, if only we have the vision.

If it’s good enough for the French and Germans, then it’s good enough for us. It amazes me that with so many Brits going on regular holidays to France, Germany and the Netherlands, they fail to see or learn from the best innovations in those countries. I can only assume most people are continuously drunk or high on drugs – or spend their whole time with their head buried in a tourist map. I wish they would open their eyes.

Beware the NIMBYs

Admittedly HS2 is not a complete utopia. There are drawbacks. I have some sympathy with those concerned about the negative impact on the environment such as ancient woodlands. But many arguments against HS2 are often motivated by people who are more concerned about preserving the pricey view from their gardens, rather than prioritising the essential need of the nation.
We are a small country and we don’t need it, say opponents. They suggest we could  put the money into the existing network. But most of our railways were built by the Victorians. Yes, the existing network needs an upgrade, but to manage rising demand, cut road congestion and send a message to the world that we are still in the game, HS2 is a no-brainer.
Without high speed, visitors to UKplc will face a visible sign of our decline as we fail to keep up with cutting-edge progress. We invented the railways, for God’s sake. Time for the next generation.

Germany's High Speed ICE train (Photo: Wikipedia)

Germany’s High Speed ICE train (Photo: Wikipedia)

Full steam ahead?

HS2 will lead to more jobs and faster journey times to the north. It’s one temporary `blot on the landscape’ during construction that will be worth it, provided people affected along the route are handsomely compensated and environmental damange mitigated. With its fast and greener credentials it contrasts with the blight that will follow the inevitable rise in pollution and traffic jams as the Government embarks on yet more plans for road building.
The main debate should focus on this project’s snail-like timescale. Will northern cities like Leeds and Manchester have to wait until at least 2032 before phase 2 is completed? That seems ridiculous.

If HS2 is ditched, we might as well unplug our railways from the national grid and bring back mothballed steam trains for all our services.  At least we’ll be honest and show how we are no longer at the forefront of developments in technology and engineering – and are content for Mandy and his friends to lord it up, whilst the rest of us chug along in `cattle class’.

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