HS2 and the INFRASTRUCTURE DEBATE

This subject is rather irrelevant to East Anglia; we have not had significant improvements to our infrastructure since Queen Victoria was a young woman. It was then that the railways linking our East Anglian counties to the wider world were built. The motor age was largely ignored in the East. To go west one still has to take one’s life in one’s hands along single carriageway roads; there is no Motorway in East Anglia. Only the A11 is dual carriageway along its entire length and that is disrupted by severe delays at roundabouts like that at Barton Mills. Even our ‘International’ airport has regular flights to just one foreign destination. There are no ferry ports in Norfolk or Suffolk, and even Harwich has only a service to the Hook of Holland, since that to Denmark was abandoned. There has been no investment in our railways for thirty years, since the lines from Kings Lynn and Norwich to London were electrified. Even a slight track realignment at Ely junction which is desperately needed has been delayed because the funds are not available. A similar plan to reinstate dual track through the town of  Soham (and to reopen the station there) has been put off indefinitely because we cannot afford it; and this is just to restore a small part of our railway infrastructure to the status it enjoyed a hundred years ago.

It is not that we are a sleepy backwater in term of nationally important facilities. Forget the agricultural industry which produces more crops than any other region in Britain; it no longer employs many workers. But most of the country’s natural gas comes ashore at the terminal at Bacton in Norfolk and Felixstowe in Suffolk is one of our largest container ports. The Cambridge to Norwich corridor is promoted as a major artery in Life Sciences research. The North Sea wind farms are supplied from East Anglian ports. There is a strong possibility that we will we get another nuclear reactor at Sizewell. We are buzzing with state of the art industrial advances, yet the transport infrastructure lags woefully behind.

Compare this with the enormous sums of money being wasted on HS2 (the High Speed railway line from London to Northern England). This involves an eye-watering investment even on current projections, which will inevitably prove to be far too small. Nor will the communities through which this white elephant will charge gain any advantage; to reach their destination in Birmingham or Manchester a few minutes earlier the trains will not be able to stop on the way. Surely the investment in HS2 would be better spent on smaller improvements that are so desperately needed across the country, but especially in East Anglia.

March railway depot in happier times; 1964.

March railway depot in happier times; 1964.

Even the reopening of the line from Wisbech to March has no prospect of happening. The track is still in place, although with years of neglect it would all need to be replaced. The only politician who sees the restoration of rail passenger services to Wisbech as a matter of urgency is Jeremy Corbyn, and this project alone makes me look wistfully at the distant prospect of him becoming Prime Minister.

Corbyn is against nuclear defence. If we could afford both nuclear and conventional weapons I would be in favour, but we can’t. These American missiles hardly constitute a genuine independent deterrent anyway. Once they had been binned by the Corbynistas this would leave the way clear for some future government to spend the money saved on real defence – the ships and aircraft that we cannot at present afford. It is true that Jeremy has the bizarre notion of removing the nuclear missiles but retaining the submarines they are held in, to protect Scottish jobs. In fact the loss of Trident would remove the last thing connecting Clydebank in Scotland with England and free the way for Scottish Independence; the inhabitants of that benighted country could then pursue whatever third world future they chose. They seem to have forgotten the terrible muddle they got into that led to the Act of Union in the first place.

So will any of these things ever come to pass? Will any infrastructure improvements come our way? Well there is a plan to speed up the trains from Liverpool Street to Norwich by closing level crossings in Norfolk, but the loss of road connections hardly sounds like improving anything. There is also the prospect of building the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, but this will be a brand new Motorway, not the reopening of the Varsity railway line. This rail link would not require huge civil engineering investment as the line is still mostly intact, though large stretches of it are overgrown with weeds. In every particular the clever people at the top get all these decisions totally wrong. I could understand them making a few mistakes, but to be so monumentally incompetent takes some doing. We need the infrastructure but not what is proposed, at such great expense. Perhaps that explains why our national debt is about the largest in the world in terms of GDP, and it is growing by nearly one and a half billion pounds a week.

JOSEPH MASON

THE BLOG FOR THE FUTURE OF EAST ANGLIA

joemasonspage@gmail.com

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One response

  1. Agreed. Soham was where the munitions train was courageously moved on out of the town.

    I think the Oxbridge railway may go ahead – that is what I read.

    HS2 a complete waste of time – nothing to do with the north !

    Like

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