YP Comment: High-speed rail’s new milestone. HS2 is finally passed into law

An artist's impression of HS2.

An artist's impression of HS2.

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LIKE it or not, HS2 is here to say after legislation paving the way for a high-speed railway from London to Birmingham was given Royal Assent.

This major milestone rebuffs those who believed that the scheme would be derailed by the absence of a political consensus at the Houses of Parliament.

It also matters because new railways – this is the first in more than a century– are key if capacity is to be increased on the rest of the network. Future generations will not thank today’s leaders if they don’t take a longer-term view,

Fifty years after the short-termist Beeching cuts that destroyed so much of the country’s rail infrastructure, it is ironic that a record number of people now travel by train each day.

That said, HS2 could have been better handled – successive transport ministers should have been far clearer about its primary purpose, namely the need to operate more regional and long-distance trains to meet the demands of an increasingly transient population.

Moving forward, the newly-appointed HS2 chief executive Mark Thurston needs to justify his £650,000
annual salary by being far more astute than his predecessor Simon Kirby who earned even more.

First, HS2’s links to Yorkshire and the North West are as important and integral as the London to Birmingham section. Political momentum needs to be maintained for the long haul.

Second, there needs to be a greater appreciation of the route’s potential impact on local communities like Mexborough where a newly-constructed housing estate might be demolished – hiring outside consultants to ascertain the future eating habits of potential passengers is not effective PR or communications.

Finally, HS2 hubs in Leeds and Manchester need, from the very outset, to link up to the upgraded trans-Pennine railway. If not, the economic and political case becomes harder to justify.

Migrant controls

THE significant fall in net long-term migration to 273,000 people provides some respite to Theresa May – this issue was her Achilles heel during her meritorious six-year tenureship of the Home Office.

However it also vindicates those older voters who contend that public services are at breaking point due to immigration. By way of example, the latest influx is in excess of the 256,406 people living in Hull at the time of the last census.

And these figures also give credence to the argument that priority should be given to indigenous residents whose unemployed status is a financial drain on the welfare system. If only it was this simple.

A record 31.84 million people are currently in work and many employers are struggling to recruit able and willing staff. Not only is this a reminder that Britain’s 1.6 million jobless need to reassess their skills, competencies and lifestyles, but that the UK can’t afford to become isolationist as a result of Brexit. The country’s future prosperity depends on Britain being attractive to the brightest and best, whether they are innovators ahead of their time or world-leading surgeons.

These people won’t be found on the dole queue. They need to be inspired and nurtured. And, in some cases, they will be living abroad. It begs this question: will supremely talented individuals move here if their spouse is, for whatever reason, not earning £18.600 a year, the threshold rubber-stamped by the Supreme Court this week, because they’re looking after the couple’s children? Yes, Britain’s immigration policy has been left unchecked for too long – but it is also not in the country’s best long-term interests to pull up the drawbridge.

Storm warnings

THIRTY years after weather forecaster Michael Fish ignored a viewer’s warning about an impending hurricane, the most infamous meteorological mishap of the last century, with calamitous consequences for a country unprepared for the unstoppable forces of Mother Nature, the same could not be said yesterday as Storm Doris breezed across Yorkshire.

This was a county which was able to batten down the hatches, and put contingency plans in place, thanks to the increased public awareness, especially on social media, as a result of the Met Office’s relatively recent decision to follow America’s example and name those gathering storms which have the potential to cause lasting damage to buildings and endanger human life.

And although the quaint and old-fashioned name Doris brings to mind the legendary American actress Doris Day, she was – in this instance – doing her day job.

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