Margaret Thatcher famously told “If you want something said, ask a man … If you want something done, ask a woman”. Many of those who claim to follow in her footsteps have long forgotten her advice, and will not be remembering it today, when alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson regales the more easily impressed on the subject of the mythical new railway known as HS3.
High speed rail - but not in the UK
Brave Bozo is attempting today to con swing voters in the North of England into favouring the Tories - by offering them a bribe which is yet to take on a discernible form. As the BBC has reported, “Prime Minister Boris Johnson will pledge to fund a new high-speed rail route between Leeds and Manchester … In a speech in Manchester later, Mr Johnson will give his backing to the trans-Pennine transport link to ‘turbo-charge the economy’”.
There was more. “It is claimed the plans would cut journey times on the 36-mile (58km) route from 50 minutes to less than 30”. Fine. So how are we defining HS3? “The full details of the route are expected to be published in the autumn following the review into HS2”. Exactly what HS3 means, we don’t get to find out until later.
Why does this matter? Well, right now, HS3 means many things to many interest groups, and the “many things” includes how much railway it will mean, and where it will go. For instance, the BBC report pencilled in not only Manchester to Leeds, but also Manchester to Liverpool, Manchester to Sheffield, and Leeds to Hull and York.
But under the map illustrating all of those possibilities, the Beeb reminds readers “Mr Johnson is only proposing to fund the route between Manchester and Leeds”. So no Warrington Parkway station, no link to Liverpool to give the city an HS2 direct connection, nothing for Sheffield. Just a speculative line on the map joining two cities.
A complete Muppet. And Elmo from Sesame Street
And that’s the difference between what Johnson is supposedly backing today, and HS2, which has had its route planned, pored over, refined and the rest so that we can be certain where it’s going and what population it’s going to serve. Also, to reduce the journey time between Manchester and Leeds by the amounts suggested means something straight and direct - which, given the terrain, means lots of tunnelling.
That means it will cost significant amounts of money. We are told that the cost will be “up to £39bn”, which was considered, by all those opposed to HS2, to be too onerous a sum. So it will be interesting to see which way the TPA, IEA, CPS and ASI jump, now they have their man in Downing Street. If, of course, they say anything at all.
Or perhaps they will say nothing because they are well aware of Johnson’s ability to promise well, but deliver less. Until there is a firmed up route for HS3, and a commitment extending beyond just Manchester to Leeds, this is no more than a cheap pre-election bribe. Promising something not yet defined is easy. Delivering it is not.
Hence the BBC report’s analysis concluding “Attention will now turn to the precise route and if the HS2 experience is anything to go by that's when the difficulties of building a railway become apparent”. But by then, Johnson will have moved on.
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