Missing the train

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FOR politicians across the political divide, and for businesses large and small, the advent of high-speed rail promises a huge economic boost to the entire nation. For the Prime Minister’s father-in-law, however, it appears merely to offer an opportunity for the perpetuation of class warfare.

Writing in a London magazine, Lord Astor says that the HS2 network, which will cut up to an hour off journeys between Sheffield and the capital, is backed largely by “northern Labour MPs who relish the thought of the beauty of the Chilterns being destroyed”.

However, while Samantha Cameron’s stepfather may still harbour a vision of northern England as a dark and inhospitable place where unreconstructed socialists think only of how to disrupt the leisured lives of the southern gentry, the rest of the country has moved on.

Of course, it is true that HS2 was a cause first championed by the former Labour government. But the very fact that a Conservative-led coalition has taken up the fight with equal enthusiasm – in spite of the fact that it is opposed by a cohort of Tory MPs from the Home Counties – ought to suggest to Lord Astor that HS2 is a good idea whose time has come.

For the facts, according to a host of hard-headed business analysts, are that HS2 will be worth £2bn to the Yorkshire economy alone, never mind the benefits it will bring to the rest of the country. And Lord Astor’s apparent belief that the internet has removed the need for people to travel, whether for business or pleasure, is simply risible.

Like many of his fellow objectors, Lord Astor has demonstrated that intolerance and ignorance of the needs of northern England still thrives in certain pockets of the Home Counties. What is important here, however, is that his son-in-law’s Government thinks very differently and is prepared to embrace the modern age of transport for the good of the whole country.