Recently I had to divert through the congested roads of Kings Heath and Moseley. Whilst inching along, I reflected on the stupidity of Parliament in approving HS2 when for a fraction of the cost, dozens of long closed suburban lines could be reopened, taking away traffic from the highways, and reducing our carbon output.
A hundred years ago, there was a regular commuter service from New Street to Kings Heath, via Camp Hill and Moseley, and that line is still in situ to this day, used mostly for freight traffic and the occasional excursion. So to reinstate the stations would be relatively cheap. The same applies to the Sutton Park line, which if brought back into use for passengers, would dramatically reduce road traffic in Streetly and Sutton Coldfield.
During the HS2 debate in Parliament, it was not denied that the cost for the project has now risen to £50 billion.
Amazingly, the Labour opposition, in the shape of Ed Balls, was stating earlier this year, that they would take another look at HS2 to see if value for money was being obtained should they win power at the next election. Now they have voted to go ahead, with no caveats.
In this day and age, when we have an underfunded NHS, due to an expanding population, coupled with lengthening life cycles, a shortage of electricity generating plants and huge investment needed in the field of education, it is morally wrong to spend so much money on a single project that will benefit relatively few.
Many people living close to the planned line will have to suffer the inconvenience of construction and the subsequent noise, let alone the reduction in value of their properties, with only limited compensation currently being offered.
If we are going to see a continuing reduction in unemployment figures, demand on local transport services will increase. Government should be giving a lead to enable councils and Network Rail to reopen long closed suburban lines and stations, which will benefit daily commuters rather than less regular long distance passengers.
Supporters of HS2 claim there is a capacity problem. This is nonsense, for with the latest signalling techniques coming on stream, present availability can be doubled using existing lines.
A rethink is needed.
* Russell Luckock is chairman of pressings firm AE Harris