Hammond is all politics

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.

  • Matt

    This sentence:-

    “As for the high speed line, the S shape, as with the now scrapped diversion via Heathrow, never made any sense whatsoever. ”

    Should have read

    “the high speed line never made any sense whatsoever.”

    Modern Railways contains a wonderful demolition of the case for HS2 this month. A white elephant that will suck much needed investment away from the rest of the network.

    Check it out.

  • Steve B

    The M4 bus lane is a ‘red rag to a bull’ for many people. However, if it becomes a free-for-all, there will be the chaos we usually associate with motorway road-works where 3 lanes reduce to 2. Let’s hope that the effects of the change will be closely monitored.

    The bus lane would make an ideal experimental HOV lane. The rule can be simple – the lane should be open for two or more people in a car, taxi or bus. The rest should use the inner lanes, and HGVs should be restricted to the slow lane with no overtaking.

  • RapidAssistant

    The irony is that even in car-obsessed America, HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes on major Interstates into big cities are commonplace – as are tolls. They’d never get away with it here. Sure it’s offset by bargain basement petrol (although this situation is slowly changing in the States – to much public outcry). A recent public survey on who would make up a “dream cabinet” said that Jeremy Clarkson should be transport secretary – that just about sums up wider public opinion.

  • Dave

    Ironically we are already getting a speeded up route to Birmingham developed and driven without the intervention demanded by HS2, albeit to a deliver a slightly lower top speed but fitted in to existing infrastructure – so let us perhaps follow through with the exampes of additional platform capacity added in to a few stations (Kings Cross, Haymarket, Stockport) which has been designated Platform 0. So ladies & gentlemen can I moot the option of HS0 – a high speed network delivered not to a bickering and small band of favoured cities but such that all journeys benefit for shorter end to end journeys.

    We are already delivering insidiously here & now by several London commuters cutting up to 60 minutes from a 100-150 minute door to desk journey, and one acquaintance I meet occasionally on the Pendolino from Euston who has cut an hour from the Preston – Gillingham trips he makes regularly for business. My own experience recently delivered a Glasgow-Leicester trip in 4h 22m and the 5 minute connections at Peterborough also work to cut an hour off the ‘official’ journey times. A bit of sorting out that delivers the solution to pathing and timing problems through a few bottlenecks could chop huge chunks of time from through travel opportunities and not repeat the delivery of Ebbsfleet which has panned the quality of service to the places in Kent on the old lines and doesn’t give any benefit for my prospect of a future trip to Sevenoaks or Tonbridge. There isn’t even a direct and signposted route from Ebbsfleet to Northfleet to transfer to local trains in the same way that the Great Western arranged their ‘cascade’ pattern of semi fast services connecting to the train for next block of stops and then running fast to Paddington

    So Christian can I call for promotion of the High Speed Zero project – where Zero indicates both the fact that it fits into the existing infrastructure, and bears a close approximation to the cost in £bn, and key projects might be identified such as a train from Crewe to Warrington that improves Journey times and connections between Wales, the East Midlands and Scotland, now that the London-Glasgow services rarely stop at Crewe.. Plugging some of these holes will give High Speed Rail for a much wider delivery of High Speed rail to the whole country.