Tweet It's interesting to contrast the attitude of those living in the cities designated as destinations for the UK's high-speed rail network with that of the areas closer to London through which the lines will need to travel. Destination cities are, by and large, competing vigorously to demand that they be served; whilst those closer to London are rubbishing the whole concept.
I've never been entirely convinced that high-speed rail will be quite the panacea as which some seem to see it; I suspect that the benefits in terms of economic growth have been somewhat exaggerated. I am convinced though that once a network starts to come into being, not being on it is not a good place to be – the disbenefits of not being served are likely to be greater than the benefits of having the service. What I am also convinced about, however, is that faced with an ever-increasing demand for transport, a reliable high-speed surface system is going to be much less damaging than continued expansion of air transport.
The problem with the UK Government's approach is that, even after the routes to Leeds and Manchester (High Speed 2A) have been made public, it's still a piecemeal approach. There is no overall plan for a comprehensive UK network. The result of that is that it positively encourages those not included to oppose the whole scheme rather than to look at how they elevate themselves up the list.
Here in Wales, specifically, it's led to some arguing that Wales sees no benefit, so the scheme should either be scrapped or else a Barnett consequential paid over to us. But if what is being proposed now were truly to be seen as just one step in a process – and having laid that foundation, Wales would in due course benefit - the whole picture would look very different. It's a short-sighted approach by the UK Government.
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