This country faces an impending rail crisis. We need more capacity as our population grows, although our current crumbling tracks are struggling as it is. With Chris Grayling, the new transport minister, seeming to be an advocate of HS2, it seems it will be introduced to solve the crisis. However, I do not believe HS2 is the way forward. Surprisingly, I will not claim that the large sum of money should be spent on upgrading current tracks. This would be a short-term answer, not dealing with the capacity crisis and the tracks would need another huge cash injection not long after. Instead, the Government should announce it is bypassing HS2 and going for a much more ambitious plan for the country.
If the Government wish to truly prove how modern Britain is, they should consider skipping HS2 altogether and replace it with HS3. The trains have been dubbed the, ‘Rail revolution of the 21st century’ and bring the opportunity to connect our nation and boost our economy. Already in the pipelines is the introduction of HS3 to connect the North, mainly Manchester and Leeds, with planning set to start next year. Instead of proposing a slither of a route, the Government should be bold and recommend it is rolled out nationwide. It would be more expensive – the line from Liverpool to Hull alone will cost around £7 billion – although the investment will be a huge statement for the future of our country. The planned route would slash journey times by nearly 40%, meaning workers could be more productive and creative with their time. The property group JLL claim that the HS3 line could reduce unemployment in Liverpool by a huge 36%, emphasising its effect on local economies. If the Government roll it out through the old industrial heartlands, it could have the same effect on unemployment levels. With HS3 requiring high-skilled employees, a new Northern route will help stop the ‘brain drain’ and keep high-skilled employees in Northern England. The 140mph trains would help connect a nation, with shorter journeys and greater capacity. Lord Adonis claimed that HS3 will be at the, “Heart of High Speed North.” I recommend our Government is ambitious and installs HS3 at the Heart of High Speed Britain.
To be more ambitious than any Government in post-war times, the Government could decide to go further than HS3, by introducing the next stage; HS4. This would be very expensive but shorten journey times considerably, boosting local economies and innovation. According to property consultants Lambert Smith Hampton HS4 would, “increase our capacity for freight and logistics, connect cities and create jobs.” By instantly upgrading our tracks to HS4, we would avoid lengthy and costly upgrades in the future, as well as kick-starting our economy after Brexit. As our nation faces an impending identity crisis, our Government could mould our nation into an engineering powerhouse by choosing HS4. However, with budgets tight and Chancellor Hammond known to be a cautious politician, don’t hold your breath.
As the Government attempts to help Britain prepare for the future, they may consider an old idea; replicating Japans maglev trains. This was an idea of George Osborne’s when he was Shadow Chancellor, before it was finished off by Labour spin doctors. Furthermore, PM Tony Blair was known to have favoured a plan to install a maglev train route before a Government white paper strongly rejected the idea. Maglev trains have a high-speed of 310 mph, helping cut the journey time between London and Manchester in half. This compares with HS2’s top speed of 250mph. The trains, which have a world-record speed, could also boost our economy, with 92% of UK businesses saying it would make us more attractive for investment compared to Europe. However, with a cost of over £60 billion, it is unlikely we will see the levitating trains come to the UK anytime soon.
With many commentators calling for more risks to be taken to boost our economy post-Brexit, the Government could plunge money into a very risky project; Hyperloop. This would need reduced pressure tubes and could see trains reach 800mph, far faster than any rail competitor. The project, set up by Elon Musk, is being pushed forward in the USA and ten European countries are expected to explore the possibility of Hyperloop. If implemented in the UK we would likely see journey times plummet as well as increased business. It is likely, however, that Hyperloop will never set off in the UK. Many original criticisms of the Maglev trains were that they were too fast at 310mph, potentially putting passengers in danger. How dangerous would the 800mph Hyperloop be? Furthermore, it is likely to be a very expensive project, with the trains having to be installed on pylons or stilts.
Great Britain, once the home of rail innovation, is facing an impending rail crisis. Crumbling tracks. Long Journeys. Outdated technology. To solve this, the UK Government must be bold and ambitious, ready to take huge risks for potentially huge rewards. They must invest in new technology, to bring Britain back to the forefront of rail transport and enhance our economy. I do not believe HS2 is the answer to our problems, with there being far more modern and effective options. Although some of the alternatives look far-fetched and expensive, such as Hyperloop, there are credible options available to Britain. HS3 and HS4 would be an upgrade to HS2, allowing the UK to more modern and productive. Furthermore, maglev trains will boost business and lead to large decreases in journey times. As we approach Brexit, Britain must become a modern and dynamic nation, open to investment and trade. To do this, we must have a modern and dynamic rail transport system. To do this, we must scrap HS2 and replace it with something spectacular.