Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Get the better of Pete? You Should Be So Lucky!

Posted in Great Britain, High Speed, Politics by Chairman Pip on 1 August 2011

The deadline for the government’s consultation on High Speed 2 was the end of last week, and it was marked on various news channels and broadcasts. One of the more interesting was on Channel 4 News on Thursday, when Jon Snow interviewed Joe Rukin from the Stop HS2 campaign, and noted music producer and former reality TV judge Pete Waterman. Yes, this is the same Pete Waterman who is responsible for such musical highlights as I Should Be So Lucky and Never Gonna Give You Up, a bizarre choice to represent the pro HS2 faction you might think. Except that Pete Waterman was born next to a railway, grew up with railways, worked on the railways and, even after he entered the music business, maintained his love and interest in the railways, even going so far as to own and operate the largest private rail maintenance company in Britain, LNWR, which he eventually sold in 2008. As a consequence, Pete Waterman is very much, as Jon Snow described him, a “railwayman”. Joe Rukin is not, and this was very much apparent in the interview on Channel 4, which did get, let’s not beat about the bush, heated. I’m sure it would have been less so had the Stop HS2 campaign nominated someone that at least knew what they were talking about to go on with Pete Waterman. Clearly Pete Waterman was quite frustrated at having to try and debate with someone that was out of their depth, which came out most noticably when Mr Rukin trotted out the standard argument that the anti HS2 groups make when asked how to increase capacity on the existing railway network if they don’t build High Speed 2; add coaches to existing trains. To which Pete Waterman simply had to throw his hands up in disgust, because we know that it isn’t simply a case of “adding coaches” – to do that, timetables would need redrafting to take account of longer and heavier trains, which would need more stopping time and distance, which in all likelihood would negate the physical capacity increase of more seats by reducing the number of trains that can be run. So, a large amount of capital spending would then be needed on improving the infrastructure, that would end up causing huge disruption to the existing network for a long time. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – do people not remember the 10 years and £10bn it took to upgrade the WCML? Do people not remember the weeks and months and years of weekend closures and replacement buses and disruption, and all of the complaints about it? Because that is what will happen if the decision is made to upgrade the WCML instead of building HS2. Pete Waterman said it succinctly when he said that the existing network was full. Asked how, in this age of austerity, how we could afford to build something like HS2, his reply was direct:

We can’t afford not to build it

Think on that.

“Deadline looms for high-speed HS2 rail”

Pete Waterman

Pete Waterman is a knowledgeable spokesman for the pro HS2 campaign

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