32 billion for high speed rail and 17 years to build it. They are actually taking the mick aren’t they?
Let’s compare and contrast.
Spain has high speed rail of course. Probably the best high speed rail system in the World actually. It started because of the Expo in Seville in 1992. The government of the time built a railway on a different gauge to the rest of Spain that finished in Madrid over 500km away from the nearest international border with that same gauge just so Madrileños could get to Seville for the expo.
Oh how we laughed.
I remember cutting out an article from the front page of the Guardian with a description of what a huge white elephant it was written by John Hooper, (the guy who wrote the definitive guide to the Spanish “The Spaniards” and later the update “The New Spaniards”).
Yes we laughed. And then there was a gap of a few years until Spain decided we actually wanted some more high speed railways as it would be able to connect the original line up to the French border. Now the obvious thing is to connect Madrid up with Barcelona of course. Then from Barcelona to the French border. And so on and so forth.
The tentacles of the high speed rail system now go all over Spain. It arrived in Valencia last year and everybody who uses it loves it. Just an hour and forty minutes to Madrid and as it is city centre to city centre it has actually put the airlines out of business because it is quicker.
But (you knew there was a but coming didn’t you?)
Not one line in Spain makes a profit.
In fact the costs of maintenance of the lines are huge. Apparently it costs 20000 euros per year just for the upkeep of each kilometre of line. There are so many kilometres now, more than in China and Japan combined, that you could almost solve Spain’s huge unemployment problem, 23% and rising, by employing people to look after a kilometre of line each for the same price.
I won’t go through the figures but can you imagine any scenario where that 32 billion pound is going to be paid back?
How much will people be charged to travel on this train that will only connect up London and Birmingham and then Manchester and Leeds.
Look on the bright side though people will get from Birmingham to London in half the time they currently do. This means that some people will be able to commute to London every day and enjoy the benefits of living in Birmingham. Whoops I think I am stretching a point too much. I cannot imagine one person taking up that option. Living in Birmingham (Shivers)!