Two decisions by Philip Hammond over the past couple of days. First he is apparently going to scrap the bus lane on the M4 and now he is going to announce that the S shaped route for the new high speed line has been scrapped in favour of Labour’s Y shape.
Both these are pure politics. Scrapping the bus lane, which was controversial when it first opened, is yet another tick in the ‘ending the war on the motorist’ box. In fact, the bus lane – which actually makes little difference because the M4 is only two lanes on the elevated section anyway – is a clever way of using the extra road space. It is, too, the sort of innovation to encourage multi occupation of vehicles that should be encouraged – why not, instead, turn it into a high occupancy vehicle only lane?
As for the high speed line, the S shape, as with the now scrapped diversion via Heathrow, never made any sense whatsoever. The notion that people from Leeds would have to go to London via Manchester was just plain daft. The extra half an hour in journey time would have ensured that most simply stuck with the old trains, which are likely to be cheaper. Again, given that the HS2 is a mere line on the map at the moment, this is clever politics, reassuring Yorkshire residents that they will get a line, even though at best this is twenty years into the future.