What is the quickest way of travelling between London and Crewe? This is one of those no-brainers: a non-stop train covers the 158 miles in 90 minutes flat. Driving? That’ll be a minimum of three hours, and a lot longer at busy times, which means most of the working week. The HS2 project will lop half an hour off that rail journey. It will then be even more of a no-brainer.
Not becoming obsolete any time soon
None of this, though, is allowed to enter the world of Allister Heath, supposedly independent thinking editor of freesheet City AM, but as any fule kno a stooge of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), which has been reduced to increasingly desperate measures in its efforts to rubbish HS2. Heath has today declared that HS2 is dead because, er, of driverless cars.
“HS2 is already obsolete, David Cameron should be preparing the UK for self-driving cars” he announced in the Maily Telegraph. Yes, Heath has discovered that these have been tested across the USA, and along with his ability to slip jaw-droppingly false assumptions into his copy (“David Cameron likes to think that he is making Britain more like California”), declares that this trumps HS2.
“By allowing people to relax or work as they commute, they will deal a devastating blow to public transport in all but the densest, most congested areas”. Ah yes, the public transport the TPA hates, but which its staff all use to a greater or lesser extent. But Heath fails to understand that a rubber-tyred vehicle running on a tarmac surface is going to be horrendously fuel-inefficient at high speed.
So they will not be assisting commuters in Peterborough, Swindon, Rugby, Northampton, Colchester, Kettering, Ashford, Basingstoke or Brighton any time in the near future, if ever. And what works under ideal conditions out in Silicon Valley may have its own little local difficulty when confronted with the vagaries of the British climate. Then he talks about going on holiday in one.
How much he wants to blow on another Channel fixed link is not told, and nor does he explain how all the UK’s self-driving cars will manage in an EU he and his TPA pals want to leave, and whose common standards they want nothing to do with. Nor does Heath explain how all these new wonder vehicles will be stored away when out of use, or indeed how the explosion in demand will be (literally) fuelled.
Speeding up rail travel has, from suburban electrification and streamliners in the 1930s to InterCity 125 and TGV in the modern era, been profitable both for operators and customers. There is no reason to suppose that HS2 will be any different. Self-driving cars, in any case, are a demonstration of false equivalence by the stooge of an Astroturf lobby group that has already lost the argument.
But it keeps Allister Heath and his masters out of mischief, so that’s all right, then.