From our Swindon correspondent:
From the Birmingham Mail
The Government has given formal approval for the HS2 project to begin the construction phase.
It has issued a notice to proceed to the companies that will build the high speed railway.
HS2 minister Andrew Stephenson said: “While the Government’s top priority is rightly to combat the spread of coronavirus, protect the NHS and save lives, we cannot delay work on our long-term plan to level up the country.
“HS2 will be the spine of the country’s transport network, boosting capacity and connectivity while also re-balancing opportunity fairly across our towns and cities.
Look, we’re currently going through the Covid-19 thing and part of that is businesses adapting to working from home. Not all of them, of course. You can’t work an industrial lathe from the spare room, but in terms of the people who mostly use railways, and where peak demand is, it’s people going into offices to sit at PCs, and most of them can, to a certain extent, do it from home.
Now, at the end of this, lots of businesses that were previously reluctant to do it might reflect on it and decide that actually, this works out fine. They can cut the amount of office space they rent and people can work from laptops if they like. Maybe they can attract people from a slightly larger radius if they only have to do an hour’s commute every week.
I’m going to guess that there’ll be at least a 10% fall in rail travel, but I just don’t know. It’s already falling at peak every year as the culture changes, and this should give that a shot in the arm. But wouldn’t it be best to let this all finish, wait 3 or 4 months and see what the data tells us about demand? If it’s 20%, HS2 is going to be a glorious white elephant full of empty carriages by the time it’s open. Because it’s not like the remote work trend isn’t a gradually growing trend anyway.
“Following the decision earlier this year to proceed with the project, this next step provides thousands of construction workers and businesses across the country with certainty at a time when they need it, and means that work can truly begin on delivering this transformational project.”
Why do companies making railways need that certainty? If the employee is in a job, they’re already getting furlough money if they’re at home. Worst case, why not just pay the companies an advance until the decision is made and if we can it, they keep it? Why commit to the whole gazillions of quid this is going to cost?