I was both saddened and annoyed by the HS2 release, and I wrote an earlier blog on the issue. The fact is that the potential savings in journey time are a sick joke. How a 30 minute saving per person between London and Leeds can justify such a huge cost is staggering. I am reminded of the idiocy of the guided bus system which runs down sections of the York Road in Leeds. Here in a nutshell is how that works. Point one, add extra guide wheels to buses = extra cost. Point two, build a central roadway with a fabricated raised curb to guide the bus = hideous extra cost! Point three, provide additional passenger entry/exit points in the newly created central reservation = extra cost. Finally create massive interruption whilst undertaking the project = extra cost. All this could have been achieved by simply surfacing the full width of the road and painting suitable coloured lines to indicate the bus only lane down the centre. Minimum interruption and cost, any bus could have used the lane, not just suitably equipped vehicles; but no, like all these schemes, they, because it is not their money have no trouble throwing it away like it grew on trees! HS2 will be the same. Any way the idea of an eighteenth century technology “rail” guided motive transport is so stupid in the present age it beggars belief.
Looking logically at transport you cannot escape a few facts, road transport with individual choice on timing, duration, route, speed, etc wins on every count against a train. The train departs at a pre-ordained time and arrives at (in the case of HS2) a single destination, there is no scope for a different route, stopping on route, or other manipulations on the journey. Rail = low flexibility, you can’t even accommodate different speeds for other users without building a suitable siding at pre-determined locations! (all of which have to be managed by paid personnel). The simple fact that wheels running on a pavement surface, free to move anywhere within pre-determined rules, is a million times more effective than a fixed rail.
The cost of additional passengers over and above a single passenger is a straight line cost, £x for 1, £2x for 2 and so on, whereas a car the cost of transporting up to say 4 people does not change the journey cost significantly, save for a small amount of additional fuel. There are many other advantages of personal transport use over the utility of a public system. The biggest issue is the fact most travellers prefer to make their journeys this way which has created a large number traffic congestion problems. So if we are to think logically, it is here we should expend money and brain power to derive a solution, especially as the HS2 will do nothing for the great bulk of journeys people make.
Cars and other forms of road going transport gain because they incrementally improve, this cannot be said of state monopolies or regulated services like the railway. I have a car, I maintain it, I do not require any civil servants to set a budget for my expenditure, indeed the money I might expend is largely invested in the local economy. The rolling stock, namely my car may be changed at regular intervals, much more often than railways which look at 20-30 year cycles, therefore the free market flourishes!
The biggest problem with road transport in respect of moving large volumes of traffic on the likes of the M1 is an issue of queueing causing traffic jams, it is very common to come upon a congestion only to discover after a long crawl stopping and starting, that there appears to be no reason for the congestion, the queue has simply evaporated! This is complicated by junction tailback which can also contribute to congestion.
So if we are thinking 20 years hence to the time at which HS2 becomes a reality, then we can reasonably suggest that the free market in computing will have delivered by that time a very low cost, 100% reliable failsafe automotive “chauffeur”, which you can plug and play rather like todays sat-nav systems. Then the ability to increase traffic density to one moving “crocodile”, with fail safe systems seems obvious. Plus it doesn’t cost anything, the market decides! No Government interference, we keep our independence! Voila what’s not to like!
Sorry if this seems like a rant, but I do believe that the train is a busted flush, I certainly question the notion that it is greener than a car, having travelled from Leeds to Garforth on many occasions when the passenger count was in single numbers, and to boot we have to pay for a driver and guard! So trains weighing hundreds of tons carrying no more than a dozen people are more cost effective than a car, which only travels when it is required weighing less than a tonne in the case of most small cars, is the greener choice… nonsense!
One thing that really does worry me about the route is that it will slice through the old fly line, which is probably the most direct route from Aberford to Garforth, and whilst not heavily used, it is a great facility for people to vent a certain amount of calories and enjoy the local fauna! I don’t see them including a footbridge in the scheme, nothing is shown on the plans.
There are cases for mass public transport in dense areas of population, like London, as a system like the Underground is greatly more capable of moving huge numbers of travellers, but the mechanics of inter-city transport and other out of town travels are very different. Of course our metropolitan based MP’s would see things through the tint of such a lifestyle, and I also suspect they hate the notion that we can freely transport ourselves in our personal and very private cars, over which they have limited control, save for the inexorable hike in fuel taxes.