North needs more than two-tier HS2

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From: Professor Paul Salveson, Huddersfield.

I WISH I shared your optimism about the ‘Higgins Report’ on HS2 (The Yorkshire Post, January 17).

It contains many nice aspirations about improving rail links across the North, but the reality is that Sir David Higgins has absolutely no power to do anything about them: he is chairman of HS2 Ltd with a very specific remit which doesn’t include the rail network as a whole.

His actual recommendations on the project, in what can best be described as a very lightweight report, are not good news for Yorkshire.

His recommendations, eagerly endorsed by the Government, abandon the direct link between HS2 and the HS1 route to the Channel Tunnel, meaning that travellers to the continent will have to change stations in London. This is casually dismissed as a mere ‘single tube stop’ from Euston to St Pancras. Tell that to people with luggage and children.

The other recommendation is to extend the first phase to a new hub at Crewe. You don’t have to be a railway geek to see that this would do nothing for Yorkshire, whilst offering faster links to Manchester, Liverpool and Preston.

Challenging HS2 in its current form isn’t ‘dithering’ – it’s vital we get this right. Yes, the North needs a high-speed railway but it needs to connect our great towns and cities as part of an integrated whole, not create a two-tier railway. And it needs to offer a direct link to the continent.

From: Ron Firth, Woodgarth Court, Campsall, Doncaster.

sir David Higgins has got the ‘cart before the horse’ in suggesting that any massive overhaul of the rail network in the North must accompany HS2 development. It must precede HS2 as it is needed now and cannot wait 15 years or so as, if developed sensibly, it will bring more benefits to the region than HS2 ever will, particularly as Sir David has ruled out a direct link with HS1.

The country as a whole desperately needs to increase its exports to the whole of Europe and beyond, and this will not be helped if all our exporters have to channel everything through the London termini or Heathrow. London will act like a giant egg timer or toll booth between the two high speed entry and exits. How much more advantageous would it be for exports and exporters to link up with the HS1 junction at Ebbsfleet (with the proposed garden city linked in) and be in the heart of Europe in four or five hours unstressed?

We need to spend our scant resources where it will do our region most good, rather than on many branch lines linking into Leeds or Sheffield just to get bogged down in London more quickly.

From: Malcolm Bulpitt, Loose, Maidstone, Kent.

THE HS2 saga moves on. Now that the suggested link to HS1 and the rest of Europe is being abandoned, this highlights the fact that HS2 is in reality no more than London’s Crossrail 3 – an extended suburban commuter route.

If it is being built to regenerate the provincial cities it is supposedly serving, the line would go into their existing central stations and connect with the local rail, and other transport services, that are the potential means of distributing the chimera of incoming wealth and influential individuals supposedly heading up from London.

The clue to the capital’s local and national politicians’ real intentions is in the location of the stations. They are all planned as car-served railhead park-and-ride facilities for people to drive-to and join the fast commuter railway to the employment and business opportunities that London has, and wishes to serve and build upon.

If people are supposedly intending to head by train to Leeds, or wherever, they will not need a massive car park at their destination, but good onward connections. Like it or loathe it, London is booming and is in need of people to serve it, and is short of affordable housing, so why not let the people it needs to run its economy commute from further afield?

Mutual benefit of seasonal work

From: Martin D. Stern, Hanover Gardens, Salford.

TIM Mickleburgh (The Yorkshire Post, March 14) is making a valuable contribution to the debate on unemployment in suggesting that a “useful step would be to let those on the dole earn more in part-time work”.

Seeing the piles of leaves on our streets last autumn suggested a similar idea to me. Obviously sweeping them up would be very labour intensive and local councils, with budgets increasingly under pressure, could not keep a large number of people fully employed for such occasional work. A similar situation, which we did not experience this winter, is the occasional heavy snowfall.

Offering those currently unemployed the chance to earn something by doing these sort of seasonal jobs, especially if this were allowed without any reduction in their jobseekers’ allowance, would probably be welcomed by many of them.

Of course, nobody should be forced to take them on but, undoubtedly, sufficient would be attracted to make it worthwhile and there would be no threat to full-time jobs.

We would all benefit – the general public by not being liable to slip on unswept pavements and the unemployed by having a little extra which they would, no doubt, welcome especially at that time of year. That they would also be making a worthwhile contribution to society would also raise their morale.