Full-speed ahead for HS2 trains
There is a lot of negativity about the government's plans for a new high-speed rail network. However, it makes sense. At the moment, a huge number of businesses, and the people who work for them, are packed into London and the south-east. People earn higher wages on average in these areas than in the rest of the country and enjoy a better standard of living. The result is a country which is economically and socially divided between one highly prosperous and well-rewarded region, and everybody else.
The high-speed rail network will make it as quick to get from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds as it is to travel to and from areas much closer to the capital. That will mean companies will be more inclined to base themselves in the Midlands and the north, bringing jobs and more prosperity with them.
The route details announced yesterday for the second phase of the rail line have left people with the impression that it is all pain and no gain for Leicestershire. This is because the line will pass through part of north-west Leicestershire, causing problems for property owners, but there will be no stations in Leicestershire.
However, Leicestershire will certainly benefit from the general improvement in prosperity and trade in the Midlands which the high-speed network will bring. And it should be remembered that journey times to Leicestershire will be cut long before the high-speed network is in operation because of a separate project to electrify the Midland mainline in 2019.
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There is also concern that the proposals for the high-speed rail network clash with plans for a planned rail freight distribution depot near East Midlands Airport, potentially jeopardising the creation of 6.000 jobs.
However, HS2 Ltd, the company developing the high-speed network, yesterday issued a statement saying it wants to ensure both projects can go ahead and it will be meeting with developers shortly to discuss the best routes for each.
Clearly, this will be only one of many issues that will have to be worked out and resolved in developing the high-speed rail network. However, the thinking behind it is right and, while the timescale means many of us may not live to see it in operation, the benefits it will bring to the Midlands and the north will be a good thing for our children and grandchildren.