I said last week that I'd say a bit more about transport this week and so I will. The war of words over High Speed 2 ( HS2 ) is already hotting up fuelled primarily by Home County nimbyism. Of course London and the Home Counties already have access to the developing European High Speed rail network via HS1 and most of them won't give two hoots about the impact of a two-speed Britain with all of us north of the Chilterns excluded from the system. But they ought to because unless we start planning for HS2, there will in the long term be a negative impact on the whole of the UK economy. I'm not going to spend time here discussing the importance of good transport links to economic growth, but knowledge and connectivity are the twin foundation stones of a modern economy.
Many opponents now are arguing that instead of investment in High Speed, government should be investing in the " classic " ie existing network. The fallacy in this argument is that this is not an either/or situation. If we look from a Manchester perspective, we already have severe overcrowding in most of our commuter train services. There is no capacity for more trains so that means we need more carriages, we need some station platforms lengthened to take longer trains and we need that now.
High Speed won't improve journey times Liverpool - Manchester - Leeds/Sheffield and beyond. Electrification will and that is already underway and should be completed around 2016, and with a few minor modifications on the Leeds - Manchester line, travel time could be down to 30/35 minutes. To get more services we need to resolve what used to be called the Manchester hub, is now called the Northern Hub, but is essentially a number of pinch points in the railway network around Manchester which limit the number of train pathways and regularly cause severe congestion impacting across the whole of the North and the North Midlands. Network Rail have developed a realistic plan to free up the Northern Hub, their Chief Executive has identified at as their number one priority, and with a fair wind we could see work start on that in the next 2/3 years.