22 November, 2021

AUTHOR: James Dowen

JUST WILLIAM: High Speed Fail

Hello, and thanks for reading!

It’s always nice to start these things on a positive note, so let me begin by congratulating our Betting Shop Champion Angie Dinham. Angie, well known and loved by the locals around Clapham for her wonderful cakemaking and community spirit, is a deserving recipient of the award and has done us all proud – read more about that below:

Congratulations Angie!

Northern Failhouse:

Onto other news, and Dear Reader, I’m afraid I’m about to talk about trains again.

Long-time readers of this column will know that I am passionate about public transport, and trains especially. I’m also a big supporter of HS2, the decades-long plan to create new, high speed only lines between London and North of England.

It’s fair to say that there’s been plenty of bumps in the road for HS2 – namely those of spiralling costs, opposition from those who are unfortunately affected by the route, and so forth, all of which is understandable.

However, in my view the benefits of HS2 – and the necessity for it existing – has always dwarfed any potential opposition, so it was extremely disappointing to read the confirmation that the Government is scrapping the Eastern leg of HS2 this morning.

The official defence for the integrated rail plan is that it will deliver improvements quicker than original plans for the HS2 eastern leg and Northern Powerhouse Rail, thanks to upgrades and electrification in certain areas.

However nice those things sound, however, taking away high-speed lines from Birmingham to Sheffield and Leeds – and also a high-speed line between Manchester and Leeds too – is a devasting blow on a number of fronts.

One of the key claims launched at HS2 – and wrongly so – is that it’s a project which benefits high status commuters in the south by reducing journey times. Whilst journey times will be reduced by HS2 –and considerably so on the lines that are being built from London – the core reason behind HS2 is increasing capacity, something which all rail users and the country as a whole could desperately do with.

The problems suffered by most railway users – overpriced, overcrowded, late running services that aren’t as reliable as driving – stem from capacity issues, especially on the West Coast Main Line. For those who aren’t into their travel as much as me, it’s the line which links London and Glasgow to Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Edinburgh – and it carries freight rail too, making it the busiest mixed rail network in Europe.

This leads to many services being stuck behind others – local stopping services being stuck behind freight services, and fast trains being stuck behind the local stopping services. The fast trains are also often going through stations that are meant to serve local commuters for shorter journeys, meaning that again, services can end up being stuck behind one another.

The entirely new tracks HS2 plan to lay down from London to Birmingham will give High Speed services their own space, meaning that space is not only free for them, but also for the local services and the freight trains that have been stuck behind each other for so long, meaning more cars and lorries can be taken off the road, services become more reliable and more frequent, and everyone wins!

That will be the case for the lucky areas getting HS2 – but unfortunately this will bring many losers.

One of the biggest losers from this plan – can you tell I feel passionately about this? – is Bradford. The seventh biggest City in England, it is filled with young people (26.3% of the population are aged under 18 compared with 21.4% nationally making Bradford the youngest city in the UK), packed with businesses (is home to over 16,000 businesses employing around 250,000 people across the UK with a combined turnover of over £30 billion) and desperate for better links to not only other major northern cities, but the rest of the UK as a whole.

Bradford, which also happens to be the largest UK city not connected to a mainline railway, was set to benefit massively from connection to HS2, but misses out – and even with electrification, journey makers will still need to head to Leeds for to reach other major areas, creating a huge missed opportunity for a promising city which is doing great things under the radar.

Call that levelling up? I don’t think so. But as Geoffrey Cox – admittedly on a different matter – remarked, it’s up to the constituents to decide.

Long Live The (Six) & Ten

Speaking of travel to different areas, it was absolutely wonderful to see the BBC Six and Ten O’Clock news broadcast from Belfast this week. The Northern Ireland protocol is obviously a key story – and reason enough to broadcast live from Northern Ireland – but it was good to see local faces, landmarks and a perspective that still (especially in the case of Northern Ireland).

I’m told that the BBC will be moving the Six and Ten around a bit more, which is excellent to hear – and hopefully there’ll be even more new faces and places to see on the BBC’s flagship programme in the foreseeable future.


Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.