The thought of ripping up thousands of miles of beautiful countryside, blighting properties, wrecking wildlife habitat and ancient woodland just to create a high-speed rail link to London (HS2) leaves this normally placid chap seething. That’s before I even mention the cost. As far as I can see the only benefit will be that you’ll be able to get far away from the capital a little bit quicker. If the hypothetical figures about creating thousands of jobs and how the North and Midlands will be so much better off actually comes off I’ll eat my flat cap. I’m not saying I don’t believe in railways, I just think we should be making better use of what we’ve got, improving stock, bringing back more local lines and increasing the number of people working on the railways.
I thought of this while I was struggling up a hill outside Horton-in-Ribblesdale last week. I made the excuse to stop to watch this train working down the Settle-Carlisle line beaneath Penyghent. The line is underused by the quarry owners who prefer to send huge clanking trucks through the villages. And there’s a perfectly good line from Lancashire that joins up with the Settle-Carlisle line at Hellifield… but there’s no passenger timetable for it. Tourists bringing business and prosperity to this to this part of the Dales have to take an hour or more detour.
I assume the locals and landowners were up in arms when the Victorians decided to rip up this bit of the countryside to build the Settle-Carlisle railway but now it’s here – thanks mainly to volunteers – we should be making the most of it instead of pandering to some political pipe-dream.