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Inside of a trainI’ve thought long and hard about the proposed HS2 service that was announced last month and whereas at the outset I thought ‘yes, that’s ok, that’ll be good’, I now oppose it wholeheartedly.

The HS2 plan is to forge a new line from London to the north (2 lines actually, with what looks like a fork to York) that will reduce journey times between London and the north (Birmingham is the main destination, the forks will go to Leeds and Manchester). Fair enough, but at what cost? £17billion (£32b total inc. phase one).

AND it will take 20 years to build. 20 years!!!!!!

Let’s take a look back 20 years right now and see what’s happened in that time …

1993 was the year in which:

  • Teletext launched its new service on ITV and C4 – replaced ORACLE,
  • Ford revealed it’s brand new model – The Mondeo!
  • Unemployment reached 3,000,000 (no change there then)
  • John Smith was still leader of the labour party,
  • Meatloaf would ‘do anything for love’
  • The Pet Shop Boys ‘went west’.

In 1993 you’d be hard pushed to find a public telephone box that wasn’t damaged – or – anyone who had a mobile phone contract:

Old steam train passing through Mirfield

Sir Nigel Gresley

So, what will shorter journey times do for business people and travellers in the future?

Not a right lot as far as I can see. We can already get from Leeds to London in just about 2 hours and we can still (almost) work on the internet all the way*. So what is it that makes the need to get from Leeds to London quicker worth £17+billion? Really – what? Afterall it’s that direction that gets the ticket sales, not London – Leeds.

Getting to any of the connecting HS2 stations will still take some time as those non-high speed lines will not have had the benefit of anything like the same investment over the ensuing 20 years. It is those lines that need the investment NOW.

When I travelled around London recently I boarded trains of between eight and twelve coaches – I’ve never seen a twelve coach train ‘up north’ other than those going to London, and not all of those have so many coaches.

Trains regularly cross the Pennines with 2 and 3 coaches (the odd one doubles up at busy times to become 4 or 6 coaches) and all are full to the ginnels. Just try to board an inter-city train in Leeds (or Manchester) between 4:00pm and 6:00pm and you’ll be very lucky to get a seat, sometimes lucky to get on the train!

The whole rail network needs investment now, not new HS lines.

More coaches, more passing tracks that allow slower ‘local’ trains to operate normally, and … More services. That way, those hoping for faster journey times will get them by not having to wait for huge chunks of time for their connecting, expensive, HS2 service.

*And finally, an investment in better, more robust, in-train internet services will pay massive dividends for business travellers.

Job done.

http://stophs2.org/

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I feel that I have to say this in the defence of coffee itself and of future coffee drinkers: ‘Why do we have to put up with paying £2.60 for a ‘bean’ coffee that is vended from a machine?’ Why?

In France it would cost half that and taste twice as good!

I stopped at a motorway service station the other day and decided on impulse to have a coffee. To be fair, it was the machine (by Costa) that attracted me. When I saw that there wasn’t a ‘small’ option and that the ‘regular’ was £2.60 I was repelled. I was so angry at the price Costa was charging that I walked across to another ‘unbranded’ machine and put £1.60 in to buy a similar product.

And that’s really where I got stuffed!

Once my money was in, it told me that all of the fresh ‘bean’ coffee options were ‘off’. I could have instant coffee: Not a chance – I’d rather walk away and leave my £1.60 in the machine, which I almost had to do because the reject button didn’t work. Sadly I fell back on upbringing (I am a Yorkshireman!) and chose hot chocolate, rather than lose the £1.60.

I should be taken out and shot for doing this – it was even worse than you could imagine. I was cross with me for being so stupid, with Costa for charging so much for machine vended coffee and for Knutsford Service Station for being so old fashioned, unwelcoming and well – just for being there!

But seriously – £2.60 and there’s no ‘barista’ to pay. Really?

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