Friday, 20 January 2012

Track Off! Five Very Important Reasons to Derail HS2

Pugs in Space - Whiteleaf Cross on the edge of the Chilterns   
Having been delayed, overcharged and jiggled about on many an unsatisfactory train journey in the UK, I understand the need for this country to improve its rail infrastructure.
I also appreciate that a high-speed super train will bring us in line with the rest of Europe (although interstellar space travel services are likely to be in operation before the HS2 is complete in 2026). 
I also concede that HS2 might encourage more foreign and domestic travellers to see more of our country, making it less ‘London centric’. 
But, really, is writing a highly bounceable cheque for 32 billion for a rail scheme in the hope that a few more outlying towns along the route will be colonised by Body Shop or Costa Coffee, worth it?
If the Government insists on putting forward such a flabby business case, here are my five very important reasons on why the HS2 needs to ‘track off’.
Housing - Buckinghamshire’s housing market is already in a fairly vulnerable and sad state. 
Latest provisional figures show that only 492 new homes were started in the county in the last quarter of 2011. That’s 33% less than the same quarter the previous year. Also, you only have to look around at the vast number of stagnating ‘for sale’ signs to see the lack of movement between buyers and sellers. 
Although confirming HS2’s route may have brought relief to some homeowners concerned whether high-speed Thomas the Tank Engine was going to be rattling their condiments, HS2 has brought uncertainty about house prices and homes ‘saleabiity’ to the whole area, hitting an already flagging market in the housing gooch. 
Passenger Productivity – HS2’s PR machine is working overtime telling us that the HS2 super train will shave 30 minutes off journey times.
That’s 30 minutes of cramming for an exam, 30 minutes finalising a presentation, 30 minutes pondering your ‘flat pack bee hive’ pitch for Dragons’ Den, 30 minutes thinking about bypassing Jimmy’s Pizza and cooking something real for dinner. 
When you consider what ideas may come to fruition in 30 minutes, denying thousands of passengers’ 'thought time' is a false economy, surely?
Show Business - DCI Barnaby: “You see Vicar, Miss Ingleby wasn’t hosting the cake stall at our jolly summer fete, she was conducting an affair with...” *225 mph HS2 train explodes out of tunnel in neighbouring garden, taking several red kites with it*.
The Vale of Aylesbury and Chiltern Hills’ villages, with their easy access to Pinewood Studios, have long been a backdrop for national and international programmes and films. 
From murder happy Midsomer and Oxford loving Lewis, through to Hollywood blockbusters like Sleepy Hollow and Nanny McPhee, these peaceful locations are prime fodder for producers. 
Not only will HS2 threaten to crush the investment and tourism these productions bring, but it will significantly reduce our chances of bumping into Johnny Depp at the hot food counter in Co-op. Has anyone sent a memo about HS2 to Spielberg, hmm? I wonder.
Red Kites – thanks to an intensive protection programme and people feeding them at transport cafes (not allowed apparently), the skies above the Chiltern’s are once again populated with these graceful forked-tailed birds of prey.
So much so, that we have caught them stalking our Pug.  Anyway, the point is, we’ve only just got them back, haven’t we?  
And finally, has the HS2 think tank not seen the disaster film Unstoppable? 

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