Saturday, 7 January 2012

One-Way Ticket on the Oblivion Express

HS2 train
I read over at the estimable that the rough cost of creating a new $35,000 pa job in America (via the endless trillions of stimulus) is $235,000. The economics of the madhouse? Not necessarily; economic growth is about optimism more than anything and if the US is now back onto a sustainable growth path, so be it.

For a real madhouse decision, stay closer to home, and prepare for it next week. Cameron, despite being a classic home counties squire by upbringing, is going to give the go ahead for an unfeasibly expensive railway line to Birmingham, cutting through fine English countryside, making hundreds of square miles of it un-huntable. And for what? Jobs? Not many. GDP? Minimal impact. Crucial infrastructure development? Hardly. Time-saving necessity? 20 minutes, at HUGE cost per minute per punter; so huge, in fact, that the minimum ticket price for a one-way ticket on the Great White Elephant Line (trademark, Idle) looks like being £80 (in today's money) when the thing finally gets rolling. This is, in other words, a line for people travelling on expenses - businessmen and public servants. Or the carelessly rich. All of whom, obviously, have smartphones and tablets at their disposal to work in transit. The pro-HS2 lobby, unsurprisingly, provide their cost/benefit analysis on the basis that time spent on a train is time wasted. This isn't so much stupid as plainly dishonest. As for improving the Midlands and Northern economies.... how? High speed trains don't build cars or widgets or train hairdressers or teach Mandarin. All they do is allow professional types to whizz up from London a few minutes quicker. It may even be actively harmful to Midlands service industries.

We are talking £30bn here. And who amongst us doesn't believe it will be subject to MASSIVE cost overruns and delays? The mind boggles. I'd even wager that the majority of the ditchdiggers and line layers will be foreign workers, thankful for work from the bottomless pocket of the dear old UK taxpayer.

If Cameron wants to spend £30bn-£50bn on trains, let him take the mainline services back into public ownership, provide more trains and better signalling, and above all subsidise ticket prices so that mass railway travel takes more cars off the road. Railway travel for ALL, in other words, rather than this idiotic grand projet which will benefit few and hang around his neck like an albatross until the day he dies.


Elby the Beserk said...

Idle - on the US economy, I would suggest that there has been a huge deployment of smoke and mirrors by concentrating simply on jobs.

Here's another look at what is really happening there, and it casts a huge shadow over the USA, and their idiot president

The above from the excellent blog, "The Slog" - Evidence-based bollocks deconstruction, the author subtitles it. He's been very good reading on the Decline and Fall of the EU Empire as well.

As for HS2, from a country boy's point of view, it is fantastic that they are reducing the time of a journey from London to B'ham - or is it Manchester? to the same time as a journey from Frome to Bristol (when the train turns up, being the obvious rural public services rider to that). And we get to pay for it. Fab. As a taxpayer, it is a joy to keep on funding transport projects (add Crossrail to the above) which do nothing to improve our simple bucolic lives at all).

Demetrius said...

As someone who once worked on the old Great Central line in the 1950's built to continental loading gauge and closed by Beeching, I have had a few things to say about HST2, in line with your comments. It is a barking mad scheme, especially as their are currently three alternative routes to Birmingham available. The other cost of this will be all the work needed that will not be done. On my patch when SE HST came in we lost 30% of our services and all fares have shot up.

Wild Highlander said...

Idle - at last genuinely back and on form.
Re HS2 - could not agree more but then without large sums of 'misspent' cash we would have an undeniably healthy population, economy and future - but very little in the way of political debate, vitriol or difference.
Politics, (as an exercise in benevolent common sense rather than as a thinly veiled excuse to feather, butter, lard and bolster one's nest), is the last bastion for talented amatuers. Ergo, remains the preserve of the feckless professionals.

Love to all. Cromarty has a new brother - Border-Jack cross - called Berwick obviously. 8 weeks and shit everywhere. Maybe a divorce on this one.

Happy New Year ( still just valid methinks).

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Nomad said...

This train thingy will help we Nomads get to and from Birmingham 15 minutes quicker than today (or at least that's the theory when there are no broken signals, frozen points, leaves etc on the line!), but I am lost as to just why we would want to do that.

Nonetheless, if 'they' want to build a proper high speed line, they should look to it being an up to date driverless maglev system which allows for far higher speeds than olde fashioned 19th century wheely things. The improved technology has now been proven and those running in China and elsewhere are hugely popular and effective. And take up less space and are pollution free so that would shut the environmental nutters up.

But in 10 years' time advances in telecomms and computing will have made tele-conferencing the norm so actually having to go and physically sit in the same room as somebody to speak to them will be totally unnecessary.

Call me Dave is trying to provide himself with a 'legacy'. All well and good, but I think it will turn out to be a rather unfavourable one among the general public and I agree that re-apportioning this vast amount of cash to investing in bringing our current railways up to scratch would be a better use of scarce resources.

But then, I don't have a legacy to worry about.

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