David Begg in Yorkshire Post: High-speed line too important to be derailed
Professor David Begg, Director of the Campaign for High Speed Rail, wrote a comments piece that was published in today’s Yorkshire Post. The article can be read in full below, or accessed online here.
David Begg: High-speed line too important to be derailed
IF Yorkshire and the North does not step up and make a strong case for high-speed rail, I fear that this once-in-a-generation opportunity to re-draw the economic map of Britain will be wasted.
Those opposed to high-speed rail are gaining in strength. I worry that unless we are ready to make the case for investment, vested interests in the South who care little about our prosperity will prevail, and high-speed rail will be shunted into the sidelines.
I can understand the arguments put forward by the anti-rail lobby in the Chilterns. Their concerns about threats to the landscape of the Chilterns and local disruption are reasonable.
What is unreasonable is the way in which they continue to use misleading statistics and propaganda instead of facts. I am shocked at how bogus the anti arguments are. It’s time to set the record straight on the myths being propagated by the southern squirearchy.
Myth: Opponents repeatedly claim the national high-speed network will cost each household £1,000 in taxes.
Fact: This is untrue. The overall costs of the proposed Y-shaped network will be offset by fare revenues, in turn reducing the cost of the proposed network from around £30bn to nearer £17bn. The “£1,000” figure also ignores the substantial returns to the economy that high-speed rail will generate, estimated to be double its net costs. The estimated Government figure currently stands at £44bn, a figure criticised by leading specialists for being too conservative.
Myth: The UK is too small to gain much advantage from a high-speed rail network.
Fact: Wrong. The most successful high-speed lines in other countries have been between cities at similar distances to those that are being proposed here. The most successful high-speed service in Germany is between Frankfurt and Cologne, around 110 miles – of comparable proportions to the distance that separates London and Birmingham.
The distance between Edinburgh and London (332 miles) is similar to another successful service – the line that runs between Tokyo and Osaka (325 miles) in Japan.
Myth: High-speed rail is not worth its cost.
Fact: Look at the success of investment in HS1. Original projections predicted that HS1 would unlock £500m of investment, but an independent report issued in 2009 put the value of HS1 at almost £20bn – forty times the original estimate. This “regeneration effect” includes HS1 directly helping to deliver tens of thousands of homes and almost 100,000 jobs in the South East, particularly in Ashford, Kings Cross and Stratford. HSR will deliver similar results for Yorkshire and the North.
Myth: The only places that will benefit are big city centres. Outlying areas will have limited benefits.
Fact: There is no evidence for this. All of Yorkshire and the North will benefit from high-speed rail. Accountants KPMG have quantified wider economic benefits from high-speed rail for the North at £12bn a year while local economic partnership group, The Northern Way, valued the impact at £6bn a year.
High-speed rail will also increase capacity across existing lines so that commuter trains run more efficiently. Trains can run more often and on time if they are all running at the same speed. This additional capacity will be needed to accommodate the growth in passenger and freight traffic that a newly-revived Northern economy will bring. HS2 will also link to the existing East Coast Main Line.
Myth: Money would be better spent on roads in the South.
Fact: It is unacceptable to leave the North stuck in an economic cul-de-sac. According to government statistics, GDP per person is one third higher in the South than the North. Productivity in Yorkshire and the Humber is the second-lowest in England and declining. But here is an investment that helps us to help ourselves, and also increase the wealth of the whole country at the same time.
High-speed rail will help to narrow the North-South productivity gap by bringing our cities closer together.
In a globalised world, workers find they have to leave their home towns to find work; and employers look further for the right skills.
All around the world, businesspeople are seeking new markets and opportunities, while the North is stuck without the access high-speed rail would bring.
But I fear we are not doing enough to make the case for high-speed rail. The anti-HS2 lobby in the South is gaining traction.
Their negative message is in tune with times. And they have recruited expensive lawyers and lobbyists. If Yorkshire and the North wants this massive £32bn investment, we have to stand up now and make our voice heard.
Professor David Begg is the Chief Executive of Transport Times and the Director of the Campaign for High-Speed Rail.
The full article can be accessed online here.