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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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April has been an absolutely cracking month so far. It started with lots of ‘meeting friends’ and driving to Glasgow (reported on my EduVel blog) and hasn’t yet finished: there’s much more planned. The weather has been unseasonably brilliant.

girl skippingBecause we have Sharon’s mum Pat staying with us until almost the end of May, Steven and Rosie popped up the other weekend to stay with us and to attend the Wake that was planned in Honley for Steven and Sharon’s aunt (Pat’s sister – try to stay with me). Betony joined us for what was a really pleasant afternoon in the sun. No one wanted it to be a morbid affair although many had missed last week’s funeral in Scotland. And it wasn’t.

It was a great pleasure having Steven and Rosie stay with us, but as soon as they had gone Emma and the girls came round for a fabulous afternoon playing in the garden. I’d just cut the grass and hidden some chocolate rabbits in the garden, so we spend some time looking for those, before playing hide-and-seek together. I’m not sure that Charlotte quite gets the ‘hide’ bit, but she loved the ‘seeking’ bit. This was a lovely day.

Then on Thursday last, Maundy Thursday, Martin and Lin came along to stay with us for Easter. We had a few beers at the Commercial in Slaithwaite after they’d arrived before coming home for dinner. On Friday, after a relaxed morning we set off with a picnic for a drive around Holmfirth and Upperthong before returning home and walking up to the Golcar Lily for more beers and dinner.


Beer Train Trip

On Saturday we had planned to meet John and Carol in Slaithwaite before all six of us set off on a day-long train ride. We rode to Stalybridge first of all and then had drinks at the Station Bar (and in town) before catching a train to Greenfield, where we alighted once more – this time to The Railway, just across the road from the station. Its namesake in Marsden was the next to welcome us. Once again this pub is right outside the station and like all of the others we visited, serves a selection of Real Ales – which of course if the real reason behind the trip, although we also ate (after a fashion) here. Next stop was Slaithwaite and The Commercial. Here we met Joanne and Paul with their kiddie Florence. There’s a train from each village every hour. So once we’d caught the 17.04 from Slaithwaite to Huddersfield (our next and final port of call) – we’d been on the go for five an a half hours. In Huddersfield we avoided the two on-platform pubs and visited The Sportsman and The Cherry Tree, before going to Kebabish for a right nice curry.


The following day, we were invited to John and Carol’s for a barbecue, something you can’t usually plan even a day in advance, but the weather held well and we had a brilliant afternoon with all of yesterday’s crowd as well as Debbie and Ian.

Martin and Lin left yesterday and we picked Pat back up from Brighouse where she’d been visiting over Easter.

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