The other day the Government announced a provisional route for High Speed 2. Now they’ll consult, and announce the final route at some point in the future. The first phase – the section between London and Birmingham – is due to start construction in 2017, and due to be completed by 2026.
In May 1961, President Kennedy announced that he wanted America to do something radical, something that no-one had ever done before. He announced that by the end of the decade, America would put a man on the Moon. You probably know how that turned out.
Getting to the Moon required lots of research, and working at the cutting edge of technology. High speed rail isn’t new technology, it’s been around for decades. Yet we’re saying that it’ll take longer to build a couple of hundred miles of rail line than it took to figure out how to complete a round trip of almost a million miles, using new technology, in the sixties.
Final cost of the Apollo project: $25 billion in 1970, or about £80 billion in present money. Projected cost of HS2: £32 billion.
Does it really sound reasonable that the entire Moon landing programme should cost about 2.5 times more than a high-speed rail link? I think not.
It’s a good idea to build a high-speed rail link. In fact we probably should’ve done it before now, and we should probably be at the stage of having a high-speed network, as in other developed countries. But it baffles me that it’s going to take so long, and cost so much.