February 16th 2011Claims by the Taxpayers Alliance that High Speed Two is a white elephant and would only benefit a minority of rail passengers have been heartily dismissed by a newly confident rail industry. High Speed Two is for the benefit of the whole of Britain not just a few fast moving passengers.
First, by opening a new railway more paths are freed up for freight trains, suburban and regional passenger services. HS2 thus benefits the hard pressed commuter without a seat on the 0802 out of Long Buckby just as it does the shipping agent desperate to move more 40 foot containers northwards out of Felixstowe.
Secondly, the new railway directly benefits people trying to use Britain's hideously crowded airports as well as motorists trapped in a slow moving hiatus of steel and chrome. HS2 frees up transport capacity elsewhere.
However, there is a deeper argument which escapes its detractors. Of course the rail industry and this paper in particular is supporting and arguing for High Speed Two. Our readers are the men and women who will build the line and crew the trains. Our advertisers, always at the forefront of a good challenge, will supply staff, equipment and an ingenuity for which they are already justly renowned.
Essentially the real reason is a much simpler one. This country has come a long way since the funeral of Winston Churchill which we describe elsewhere on this page with the help of James Lester. Much of it is down hill. Successive economic crises, the search for Britain's post imperial identity, and a growing concern about terrorism inform our fears.
More basic still, to compete with the emerging economic giants of Asia, to be ready to defend our freedom against our troubled foes and to bequeath our children a stable and secure future is the concern of us all, irrespective of background. We need a resilient, functioning modern state.
Irrespective of nebulous considerations of culture and society we need to be able to trade, to create wealth and engage in commerce unfettered by gridlock and delay. Britain, however it is defined, is a trading nation, more at home in an engineering work shop than an artist's studio. Trade demands clear communications. The physical ability to move quickly.
All would agree our rail network as it expands will promote further development. The aim of spreading the economic engines of the southeast can best be promulgated by an up to date high speed rail network. To do nothing is not an option. We must advance our well being, forge ahead with High Speed Two - as Churchill put it, whatever the cost may be.
In the railway industry we were told to prepare for managed decline. We refused and re-invented this industry. In this achievement railways hold the lesson for the wider United Kingdom. Forget the decline, the failed economies and broken dreams. This is still the best place in the world to live and to do business.
We do not have to accept what the bean counters tell us. High Speed Two is a statement of confidence in the future of a trading nation, at once articulate, ingenious and endlessly inventive. HS2 is no white elephant but the trunk route to our future.