There are plenty of reasons why High Speed 1 made sense: The Channel Tunnel should be linked to London by an equivalent high-speed line if the rail is to compete with City-Paris-Orly air route. I of course remain devastated that the trains from Paris no longer arrive at Waterloo station, which used to be a calculated and wonderful middle-finger to any Frenchman visiting London. However the new St Pancras international station is quite magnificent and streets ahead of le Gare du Nord, and it's an easy change for me, as my London trains get into Kings Cross. This puts Paris closer for me than Leeds, Manchester, Edinburgh or even Birmingham. This sounds like an argument for HS2. It isn't
The reason HS2 is going to be given the go-ahead are not the same reasons why it might be a good idea.
HS2 aims to link the North of England with high-speed rail links, putting Birmingham 2 hours, not 3 from London. The argument goes that this will save business time and money, and help the regeneration of Northern shitholes. This is utter bollocks. The evidence from Lyon and Osaka is that provincial cities have the life sucked out of them by fast rail links to the capital, as it reduces the importance of regional offices of national companies. It's easier to do business in Birmingham with a London base. And unfortunately for Birmingham, the greater rewards of London mean that as it's easier to do business in London, at the Margin, jobs and capital will be further sucked from the provinces to the capital as a result of high speed rail.
It will end up moving the commuter belt farther out along the rail corridor, to the detriment of the local job and economy. So HS2 will suck jobs and capital out of Birmingham leaving empty industrial parks and office blocks surrounded by sterile commuter "communities".
HS2 will wreak this devastation at a cost vastly greater than increasing the capacity or extending the regular trains. Of course ministers and mandarins know this. So why is it going ahead?
- Mandarins and Ministers are overconfident in their analysis (guesswork) and think they know better than experience of other countries.
- Mandarins and Ministers are the kind of people who benefit from a shiny new train to and from London, as are the 'business leaders' who are also said to be in favour. They benefit, the cities don't.
- Ministers need to do "something" about the economy and capital spending is seen as something. HS2 is therefore 'something', so it will get done.
- High speed rail is shiny and high-tech, and Ministers like to be photgraphed next to shiny modern and expensive bits of engineering.