EVEN though the Government is unlikely to radically revise its HS2 routes to take account of the alternative high-speed rail plan published today by a well-respected team of transport engineers, it would be remiss of Ministers not to reflect on the thinking behind this thought-provoking proposal.
This blueprint reaffirms the view that a major new railway line will be required if capacity is to be significantly increased in the coming decades, and Yorkshire is central to both plans. In this regard, High Speed UK finds itself in agreement with Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin’s stance.
The primary disagreement, however, is over the precise details of the route and the ability of HS2 to benefit as many travellers as possible – one of the reasons why Wakefield Council has become the latest town hall to oppose the Government’s plan.
Even though this places Wakefield MP Mary Creagh, the Shadow Transport Secretary, in a slightly invidious position as she considers whether Labour should back the existing plans or not, it is High Speed UK’s view that more use can be made of existing tracks so HS2 services can stop at more destinations.
Yet, while this may appear to be a noble aspiration, high speed rail will lose many of its advantages if journey times rise because of an increased number of stops – even in locations like Wakefield and Doncaster that will be bypassed by HS2.
It is a concern that stems, in part, from the failure of the Department for Transport and Leeds Council to properly explain the logic behind the planned HS2 terminus on the city’s New Lane site.
This has allowed opponents to say that it will take at least 15 minutes to walk between New Lane and the existing station in the city centre. This is mistaken. The transfer is expected to take no more than eight minutes – the time that it can take to walk from an East Coast train arriving at King’s Cross to a London Underground service or from one end of Wellington Street to the other. It is also a precursor to the dilemma about whether Sheffield’s station should be built in the city centre or at Meadhowhall.
As such, High Speed UK’s vision should not be dismissed in its entirety but used to improve the existing HS2 plan for the benefit of all.
Food for thought
IT is not just the profit margins of the major supermarkets that sit uneasily with some consumers, particularly those who bemoan the decline of the traditional high street where independent butchers, bakers and greengrocers once flourished and when people could buy fresh items in quantities that suited their specific needs.
It is also the fact that these stores need to keep their shelves stacked at all times – retail is now a 24/7 business – and this contributes to an extraordinary amount of food waste at a time when there are countless people, both here and overseas, who are suffering from malnutrition.
As such, it is welcome that the major supermarkets have pledged to reveal the amount of food that they discard – there was shock when Tesco disclosed that this amounted to 28,500 tonnes for the first six months of last year alone.
Yet, while some stores have signalled an intention to review special promotions like “buy one get one free” that encourage people to make bulk purchases, the onus needs to be placed on the supermarkets as to whether unwanted stock can be made available to needy groups.
There can be a significant difference between “sell by” and “use by” dates and it should not be beyond the expertise and capability of supermarkets to make unwanted food available at much discounted prices – or for free.
Rather than praising this change of heart, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson – the politician whose limitations have been highlighted by his poor response to the winter flooding – should be challenging the retail industry to go even further on the issue of waste, perhaps as part of the “Big Society” agenda.
Join the ride
FOR two days this summer, one of the world’s greatest sporting events is coming to Yorkshire.
The visit of the Tour de France will be a brief one – as perhaps will the glimpse of the competitors as they whizz along the region’s roads – but its potential impact is enormous.
Securing the first two stages of this year’s race was a tremendous coup for Yorkshire, which is why it is important that everyone is made to feel part of it.
This newspaper aims to do just that by bringing readers as close to the action as possible through unrivalled, interactive coverage of the countdown to the Grand Départ in Leeds on July 5 and the entirety of the Tour’s stay in the Broad Acres.
Yellow Yorkshire will seek to turn the county the colour of the race leader’s iconic jersey, featuring fun photographs of all things yellow taken by readers.
Meanwhile, the Let’s Get Cycling campaign will tap into the Tour’s visit to encourage people of all ages to get on their bikes.
This is a once in a lifetime event that will bring the world to our doorstep. It’s time to saddle up and join the ride.