I WAS invited onto Talk Radio’s Julia Hartley-Brewer show yesterday to discuss the government’s abandonment of the eastern leg to Leeds of HS2, the new high -speed line to the north, as well as the scrapping of the Northern Powerhouse high-speed line from Leeds to Manchester. I described it as a “shambles”, and I’ve been left wondering if there is now any point at all to the rest of this pricey vanity project. (Costs have ballooned from £30 billion to £100 billion – and growing.) One of the main benefits, as I can see it, is to shave minutes off the journey for wealthy commuters travelling between Birmingham and London.
Wouldn’t it have been better for ministers to pluck up the courage to scrap the project altogether and redistribute the money to improve rail services around the country – many of which are terrible? (Levelling up is not just about North v. South.) And what about reversing some of those Beeching closures of the 1960s?
What can be done in this respect is shown brilliantly this week in the West Country, where the Dartmoor Line from Exeter to Okehampton will reopen on Saturday after services were withdrawn by Beeching fifty years ago. Here is a brand-new service, set up with a modest amount of money and benefitting the local community. What marvellous value compared with HS2!