Why HS2 can be the biggest change to our railways since the Beeching Report - Natalie Sykes

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Travel is never far from my mind, whether it’s reaching the North of England from the capital or trying to travel across the world amid extreme weather conditions.

Last week, I was trying to navigate my way around the devastating category five Hurricane Dorian, seeing my flight plans change several times including a diversion from Manchester to London.



There are so many issues at play, underpinned by that deafening climate change alarm bell.

When you get to London, everything is so easily connected and that’s before we factor in Crossrail. Even my BA in-flight screen boasted that London has a ‘renowned public transport system.’ But why is it stopping there, and what about the rest of the UK?

There has been anger and frustration from the Yorkshire business community at the government’s decision to review HS2 and the subsequent announcement of a lengthy delay.

At a time when we need major investment in north-south and east-west rail infrastructure following decades of under investment, the scrapping of HS2 would be a kick in the teeth.



The government must commit to completing HS2, though ideally something more transformational that will not be outdated once built. Whatever it is, it must form a new backbone to our ageing rail network and free up space on existing lines to run more trains in line with increasing passenger demand.

But, even then, the debacle of Brexit provides many questions: who exactly will review HS2? Are there any innovative minds that can see how, rather than canning it, we must move into the 21st century with a better solution?

Poor connectivity to, and within, the North slows companies’ growth and holds back inward investment. Investment will help balance the north-south divide by speeding up the flow of investment across the Midlands, the North and into Scotland.

We need a solution to the North-South divide so let’s take this opportunity of a review to consider the art of the possible.

Building HS2 or ‘similar but better’ would be a game changer and a statement of intent, more than 50 years after the Beeching Report, which led to the closure of thousands of stations and hundreds of branch lines.

Beeching aimed to focus on trunk routes and journeys between major cities. I’d argue that half a century later that plan has proved itself to be a 100 per cent failure, as anyone who travels between Leeds to Manchester will testify. Even worse, try Harrogate to Manchester.

Meanwhile, large settlements such as Ripon and Wetherby have been cut off from the rail network entirely. During my seven years of living in Ripon, I would look at the houses built across the line and think ‘but, why?’.

We shouldn’t stop at HS2. We should be leading the way on the research and development of state-of-the-art technology such as Hyperloop.

Made famous by the entrepreneur Elon Musk, Hyperloop carries passengers or cargo in pods, which can be accessed on demand. The pods travel inside a vacuum tube system at speeds of up to 600mph. This could, for example, reduce east-west journeys across the North to mere minutes.

But so much depends on Brexit, and who will be leading our country. We plan to run a series of Navigating Brexit events in October and Allie Renison, IoD Head of Europe and Trade Policy, will be at our Open Doors event at Cloth Hall Court on November 13.

This free-to-attend event is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the IoD and hear from our very own ‘Voice of Reason’ on all that is Brexit.

Allie will also be the special guest the following day for our regular Harrogate Breakfast at the West Park Hotel. We have two complimentary tickets to Yorkshire Post readers, simply email iod.yorkshire@iod.com quoting ‘YP Reader’ to secure your tickets.