Justine Greening has announced this week that HS2 will go ahead – which is enormously welcome. It is still surprising how many people have fallen for the proposition that is will be an expensive white elephant. Even the leader writers of the Financial Times have been captured by the Nimbys and the naysayers.
The fact remains that the long distance rail system is creaking at the seams. The West Coast Main Line is one of the busiest railways in Europe and managing its maintenance, even after its refurbishment, is a nightmare. The southern end, with massive commuter use, already needs more capacity. So we don’t just need HS2 to meet projected growth – we need it here and now.
Running infrastructure too close to capacity is risky, just as we see at Heathrow. This has to operate at 98% capacity, so that the slightest thing that goes wrong means lengthy trouble and hours to get the system back into normal running.
But the extra capacity will generate additional benefits. Accessibility is crucial to modern economies. With globalisation and the fact that cities are the focus of growth, intercity connectivity will be a key element in maintaining the UK’s economic performance. Our work for the Core Cities has shown that city centre growth will both generate and be generated by extra trips.