Why HS2 is the exact opposite of a White Elephant

I was tweeted about a recent blog post by Lawrence Jones today, entitled ‘The £43bn White Elephant‘.

HS2 is very much not a white elephant and indeed is crucial for our country to prosper over the next 100+ years.

Let me explain with just a few reasons…

Reason one: Since 1997, the leading countries in terms of increase of train track length (based on % of existing track lengths) are China, USA, Canada and Brazil.  Of those, only Canada is slightly behind us in terms of GDP.  Increases in track length can be a good indicator of a nation’s growth patterns and also its economic power.  The less tracks built, the less economic growth.  This is a mathematical trusim, not my own theory.  The same can be said for space programs.  Train tracks are just something that dictates power/growth in this stage in our history.

Reason two:HS2 will provide a less fractured country.  Power and strength is very much in keeping with nations having contiguous, harmonious regions that all get along and that are easy to travel to and from.  Russia has lost much of it’s power since the 1980s for reasons that we all know.  The USA become the powerhouse it is today once all states decided to get along after the civil war.  In the time that the USA has become a superpower, us ‘little islanders’ in the UK have discussed and argued about things such as HS2 over tea and biscuits, while watching other countries leaving us behind.  We still have aging, creaking, piss-poor, 100-year old lines between supposed great cities such as Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester. Pah!

Reason three: Jobs boosts.  Around 100,000 jobs will be created just to build the lines.  Think about all of the clothing and equipment needed by these people.  Think about where they will buy bacon sandwiches from in the morning, or the chip shops that they will go to buy lunch.  And then think of the pubs, B&Bs and hotels that they will be staying in each night.  These are just the direct effects of the line.  The 2nd and 3rd tier effects will create another half a million to a million jobs over a number of years.  The economy cannot help but to dramatically improve because of the line.  Even the negative effects such as demolition of houses, villages and farms will give jobs to people.

Reason four: HS2 will be GOOD for the environment! Yes, I said it.  Here’s why. Millions of road and air trips will be saved because of the line. Hundreds of hours of HGV traffic will be removed from motorways.  To those who will be losing houses, farms, villages – tough luck.  There is a price for progress and you tiny, insignificant people in the way of progress simply have to pay.  One of my own houses will be lost or at the very least lose a lot of value, but I am not NIMBY enough to understand that for our country to prosper, these things need to happen.  And you know what, let’s say that it isn’t as good for the environment as I say, with the amount of income generated by the country because of the line and its offsprings, we will be able to innovate and create energy-saving resources that will go on to power our world for thousands of years to come.

Reason five: Train lines are recession busters.  In the last 17 years, demand for train travel has increased by 40% and freight has even greater figures – and this has been through some of our most economically tough times in our history.  Train lines are the arteries of the nation.  They will pump despite other effects.

As a country, and as citizens, we need to disregard our short-term thinking.  We need to have 100 year plans. The powers that be in the United Kingdom over the past 100 years have shown a tremendous amount of lack of foresight while other countries have embarrassed us with their own visions.  The very reason that the UK is still regarded as a powerhouse (but it’s slipping away) is that we pioneered the greatest train lines of their day – shipping routes.  I probably wouldn’t be free to write this blog post if Great Britain hadn’t ruled the waves and allowed us our freedom.

So why would we, knowing that links (be that road, shipping, air or train tracks) are a surefire way to build success for a nation, want to stop this happening?  It belies belief, but more importantly, belies solid, mathematical rules.  The more transport links that a country has, the better it will do economically.  So, why would a new, fast, capacity-giving line be something detrimental for us over the next 100 years?

We try to muscle-in when Chinese leaders or the President of the USA attend world meetings.  However, they take us less seriously than they ever did.  The reasons are very obvious – we are just not that important to them.  But, if we had a booming, speedy infrastructure, that could transport people and wares across the country and reduced time (i.e. money), then we would be taken much more seriously indeed.

Ask yourself this question. If you were a Chinese investor with £10bn to build a car factory to sell cars in Europe, would you choose somewhere like an efficient country, with their great transport network, or would you choose the rickety old UK?  You know, those guys that used to be important, but argue and dallie too much about what and how they should do things?  Those guys that will stop hundreds of billions of inward investment over the next 100 years for the sake of cottages in the Chilterns?

The UK needs to get serious about the future or mark my words, in less than 100 years, when an inevitable balance of power takes place across the globe, we will be some other country’s little play thing and won’t be able to make any decisions at all.  That’s the thing you see, HS2 is something that will, down the line, afford us the capability to build more bombs, planes, warships and bullets to prepare ourselves in the future.

Do you still think that the HS2 is a bad idea?    By no means is my post an exhaustable list of reasons for HS2.  I have only touched the surface of reasons why it is mathematically necessary for our future.

By the way, China is doubling the size of its train network at the moment…

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One thought on “Why HS2 is the exact opposite of a White Elephant

  1. Reason 1) Actually the main reason why track length has increased in the USA, China and Brazil is because they didn’t have much track to start with (the US had previously closed much of it down). Also Brazil’s economy is shrinking, or hadn’t you noticed.

    Reason 2) HS2 will unite the country? Seriously? Sure; I mean, high-speed rail is certainly better than 19th century dirt tracks, but we have a pretty comprehensive road and rail network already; and, anyway, 99.9% of places won’t have an HS2 station, so they’ll not be connected to anything new at all.

    Reason 3) Jobs boost. Yup, when you spend 50 billion you will indeed create some jobs; the only problem is than when you have to pay back the inevitable debt (60 billion including interest) you will destroy at least as many jobs as you created.

    Reason 4) HS2 is good for the environment. Pure nonsense. I won’t even bother to argue this one.

    Reason 5) High speed lines are recession busters. Oh please! Look, if you really want to borrow and spend 50 billion to stimulate the economy, at least spend it on something that will have an immediate impact rather than spending it on something that will take twenty years to have even the slightest effect. Something like tax cuts, or recruiting new teachers and nurses, if you’d prefer a progressive alternative.

    And the denouement of your argument? If we don’t build HS2 we are doomed. DOOMED! The Chinese will take us over, presumably because they’ll have built a high speed line all the way from Beijing to Calais on which they’ll transport millions of troops at 400 mph. In which case, it’s a good job the’ll have to slow down once they’ve crossed the Channel, because that’ll at least give our boys a fighting chance.

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