been carried out, estimated to cost £42 Billion and up?
What project was rated by the Department for Trade as grossly overestimating its
financial benefits in a report that was then officially buried for three years?
What project has come under repeated criticism for inaccurately stating its business
model, passenger levels and levels of profit?
What project is going to cut a swath across the British countryside, result in massive
drops in the value of peoples home and lead to the forced expulsion of many families
as their homes are subject to a compulsory purchase order?
What project is going to cut through and devastate areas of outstanding natural beauty,
nature reserves and wildlife habitats?
That would be HS2.
The government has put forward a number of claims about how profitable the line will be,
about how cutting journey times for businessmen will cut wasted time and make them
more productive. That tourists and holiday makers will be more likely to visit the midlands
if the train trips are faster and that everyone benefits from an increase in trade and
For business types who do travel by train they have mobiles, laptops, tablets and every other
type of work on the move technology known to science. This makes the actual journey time
an extension of office time. Given that the whole basis for the HS2s productivity is that it saves
time with a shorter journey meaning that business types are only wasting 50 minutes on the
long runs rather than 70 minutes as they do now the HS2 argument is highly spurious.
For those tourists and holiday travellers are they going to pay extra to save a few minutes on
the train, those with young children may well do but how much more is it going to cost.
Given that the costs so far are at £42 Billion and they haven’t even started yet I suspect the
ticket prices will need to be eye watering to even try to break even.
The Government's own Major Projects Agency, has reported "major risks or issues in a number
of key areas."
Given that we live in the 21st century there is something a little bit quaint about the idea of actually
catching a train every day or week just to meet a business customer. I understand the need for face
to face every so often but for day to day have these people not heard of video meetings, Skype,
PC2PC conferences and all the other ways by which modern technology allows people to look each
other in the eye and talk while hundreds or thousands of miles apart.
I would have thought that rather than spending huge amounts of money the UK doesn’t actually have
on a train line that official reports say will struggle to break even, we could be encouraging our
businesses to use technology to stay in touch.
It seems just a tiny bit silly to be doing business globally across the Internet and then hop on a train to
talk to someone only a hundred miles away.
UKPLC is in financial trouble. Income is less than outgoings. Our national debt is very large and getting
larger. As a nation we are spending a huge amount of money just paying interest on that debt. Just
paying the normal bills involves the country borrowing from international banks and investors.
The idea of building a white elephant that is going to add at least another £42 Billion and more to our
national debt and which will consume yet more of our tax money just to support that debt seems
more than a little silly.
So what can we do rather than build HS2?
I mentioned above that we are in the 21stCentury, a third of the way through the second decade of that
century. We are now solidly into the post industrial or Information age. Digital communications are the
heart of our current age.
Smart phones, other mobiles, texts, emails, online buying and selling, access to and transfer of huge
volumes of data and knowledge, almost immediate contact with customers, traders, business people
and companies and keeping in touch with friends and family.
All of these and many more are the advantages of our information age and its communications
technology. The speed of scientific development increases along with the ability to communicate. Just
as the printed word led to a rapid expansion in invention and knowledge so to is out ability to
communicate and share research and data driving the 21st century’s’scientific development and
Several recent reports into the impact of broadband have concluded that broadband is responsible
for over 5% of the UKs GDP. In case anyone is curious GDP for 2012 was £1.898 Trillion, that would
make broadband responsible for more than £95 Billion of the UKs 2012 income.
If you look at the UKs broadband distribution even most of London does not have truly high speed
and high bandwidth service. The midlands have fairly poor access with the North West being very
poorly served. Much of Wales and the highlands have very poor access to even moderate speed
What effect does this have? Well how many times have you tried to access a company website or
contact a company and given up because they do not answer or because the site is too slow coming
up? How often do you take your business elsewhere? Recent reports indicate that we, as a nation, are
becoming short of time and patience. We are prepared to wait less time in any form of queue before
we give up and go elsewhere, this applies far more online since it is so easy to go to another site.
Companies without access to good speed broadband struggle to do business, they are unable to compete
with those that can provide a high quality online presence. In a global marketplace the ability to compete
is critical and anyone who cannot keep up will be left by the wayside.
Consider the benefits of increasing UK broadband capacity and speed. Bringing the entire UK up to
speed allows companies that are not based in the South East to compete for business, it can create jobs
and income for parts of the country that are currently blighted by mass unemployment. If we can
double the business generated in the UK by high speed broadband we can add another £95 Billion to our
More than just companies we should look at the impact of digital communications to the people of this
country. Internet connected mobiles, free wifi zones, tablets, smart phones and more allow people to not
only keep in touch but also to access data, information, knowledge. Tablets and broadband in every school
allows our children to be taught the skills they need to function within the modern technological workplace,
we cannot keep on churning out teenagers who are not fully computer literate.
As I have mentioned before we are sleep walking into a situation where huge numbers of our population
are not just unemployed but unemployable.
The only way we can help these people is to give them the skills they need to be competitive in our modern
world. This means internet and computing skills and this means not just training them but also making it
possible for them to have access to keep those skills sharp and to in use.
There is no point training a class full of teenagers in all the skills they need to use modern technology
then leaving them in a Welsh or Scottish town or village with snail like broadband.
Given a price of about £200 per tablet we can give every man, woman and child in the UK a tablet for a
third of the price that HS2 is estimated to cost so far. High speed broadband for the entire country will cost
a lot less than £30 Billion that would be left from the HS2 budget.
Rather than throwing such massive sums of money into building a railway that is competing with existing
services does it not make more sense to benefit the entire country and all of its people by bringing high
speed high capacity broadband to everyone.