John Woodhouse: London is the only place that will benefit from high speed rail
THERE'S several things confusing me about the new high speed rail link. The main one being why anyone would want to get to Birmingham more quickly. Everyone knows the best train to Birmingham is the one that's cancelled.
When it comes to HS2, it seems to me there's only one winner. What is this line for? What is its express (geddit?) purpose? It's not so the people of London can easier access the north. Most of them think you need jabs to go further than Luton. It's so the people of the oh-so patronisingly called 'regions' can get to London faster. In other words, to make the country one vast commuter belt. Basically, if you live in Biddulph, Leek, Fenton, Madeley, you're coughing up £33bn to increase the influence of an already overbearingly powerful capital. You're paying £33bn to make your own position weaker.
David Cameron – a man who I'd always urge to stick his head out of a train window at 225mph – argues that we need a high speed rail link because other countries have already got one. I expect as a kid he always had to have whatever latest toy Cecil had next door.
Thing is, other countries are bigger than Britain. The idea seems to be to carve up ancient woodlands, career drunkenly through villages, trash farms, and exterminate species to shave 10 minutes off some suit-clad bore's business commute from Leeds.
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I mean, by that score I could part-ex my car for a JCB and cut my daily journey in half by avoiding the roads and careering through several hundred back gardens, an adult store, and an old people's home.
But I don't because it'd be a tad anti-social. Oh, and unlike Westminster's life-sappingly joyless drones I'd be thrown in jail.
Theresa May was at Crewe Station as part of the launch. I saw the news footage, initially mistaking her for a burst mailbag. She's a big fan of HS2, mainly because, if she's still in politics in 20 years (my expectation is by then she'll have been unmasked as a lizard by David Icke), she'll be able to use it on expenses.
Because of course we've had HS2 before, the airborne version. Concorde looked great. Everyone paid for it. And then it was only available to a super-rich elite. I suppose, on the plus-side, the populations of every village west of Stoke-on-Trent didn't have to sacrifice the resale value of their homes.
Of course, there won't be an HS2 station in North Staffordshire. To senior civil servants, Stoke-on-Trent's the place that once made the china teacups they're offered while in the dominatrix's waiting room. They just don't do creativity – unless it's accounting.
Personally I wouldn't get too upset about it. I don't think HS2 will ever happen. They have enough trouble operating the low speed ones.
Nevertheless, I keep hearing supporters banging on about how it'll be the first new line going north for 100-plus years. Er, isn't that because the Victorians pretty much got it covered? We don't need new lines. We just need them to reopen the old ones.
The last time we travelled to London from Stoke, it took 90 minutes. Decent service too. Edible snacks and everything. Yes, I feel for that elderly lady who was exposed to the corridor when the toilet door swung open at Nuneaton, but that's a quirk of electronic rolling stock.
I mean, how fast does transport have to be? By the time the HS2 arrives – just to put that in some kind of perspective, Anthea Turner will be 72 – the Japanese will have invented the teleportation booth and the whole thing will be irrelevant anyway.
If you're that desperate to experience London, get a Tommy Steele LP.