Finally - a rail link we can be proud of

From Bernard Moore, address supplied

February marks the start of the public consultation period on the Government’s proposals for HS2, the high speed railway line linking London and Birmingham.

I should be grateful if I could use your columns to present a more objective and, hopefully, a less jaundiced view than is usual in your newspaper.

Since the proposals for the final preferred route for the railway were announced just before last Christmas, I have taken the trouble to look at them in detail, via the department’s website.

I must confess to having an immense feeling of excitement that at last this country of ours is getting its act together and preparing a transport structure to complement those in much of Europe.

We are woefully behind our main European colleagues in this and the potential benefits are enormous.

Much has been written and spoken about the damage to the local environment, but could I point out that the proposed route utilises an existing transport corridor through the Chilterns created when the two lines were driven through, one in Victorian times and the second during the 1900s.

The corridor also includes the A41 and A413, the principal routes from West London to Aylesbury.

More recently still, the M40 was driven through some parts of the Chilterns. In a piece for BBC1’s Country File, Geoffrey Palmer makes great issue about a 400 metre viaduct crossing an open landscape.

I wish to remind Mr Palmer that there are literally hundreds of viaducts across Great Britain that were built in Victorian times and many of these are considered to be outstanding works of art.

They have become pilgrimage sites for all lovers of architecture; indeed the two outstanding ones must surely be Ribblehead and Glenfinnan, this last acquiring additional attraction from the Harry Potter films as well as being the very first poured concrete structure of that nature. No doubt many of the viaducts required for HS2 will also be attractive as features of modern architecture and will become icons of our age.

I come now to the question: What is in it for us? Unfortunately, no major project of this size can be carried out without spoiling some peoples’ lifestyle.

There will be some who will have to move completely, hopefully as few as possible.

There will also be some, probably more than the first group, who will be greatly inconvenienced.

However this will be true wherever the railway goes and the work to date has resulted in the current proposals.

I am forced to speculate as to the number of these objectors regularly use the Channel tunnel, either on Eurostar or by car, plus of course all the benefits of convenient freight usage for all the things that we buy.

When HS1, the feeder line to the tunnel, was driven through the Garden of England, I wonder how much protest was against that from the good people of Kent.

As to the real long term benefits to UK plc as a whole, the ultimate provision of a high speed network connecting the two sides of Scotland, both sides of Northern and Middle England to the South East and into Europe will bring enormous benefits.

It is already known that the West Coast Main Line will be full to capacity by 2015 and the ultimate prospect of real alternatives to the domestic airlines is a considerable attraction.

Finally, the prospect of much freight being put onto rail must be welcome for all the present sufferers of the M6!

I should like to think that this contribution can trigger some alternative and more objective discussion in your columns than has been the case.

Editor’s note: Many thanks for your letter and for reinvigorating the debate on HS2. To clarify, the Advertiser and Review has followed both sides of this story since the plans were announced and the views which have been represented have been those of the people who will be directly affected by it - many of whom fear for their homes and livelihoods. Whatever your opinion we would love to hear from you. Send your letters and emails to the addresses on these pages.