HS2 viability row

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Alf Young (Perspective, 24 August) is right that the case for HS2 is weak.

Spain has incurred huge debts on its “world-class rail system” and its economy is a disaster.

In Mexico, by contrast, growth has been massive since inter-city passenger services largely ceased when the government stopped subsidising them in 2000.

Turkey has enjoyed rapid economic growth despite its very limited rail passenger services.

Canada, Australia and New Zealand are among the world’s best-off countries and have weathered recent world economic conditions exceptionally well.

Yet their long-distance passenger train services have been hugely reduced and play a very minor role in transportation.

Once I went to travel by train overnight from Melbourne to Sydney. There were so few passengers that a bus was provided instead.

Even wealthy Calgary, with more residents than Edinburgh, now has no passenger trains. Neither has Dunedin, Edinburgh’s antipodean relative.

Presently in the UK about 30 per cent of passenger train costs are paid by taxpayers, some of whom rarely travel by train. Many would not be able to afford the fares on HS2. In Japan I have seen many “bullet trains” under half full.

Given the huge energy costs in construction, the argument that new rail services would be energy-efficent is dubious.

The argument over HS2 is not primarily about speed but inability of the system to carry the huge increases in numbers expected.

This will not be a problem North of Lancashire and Yorkshire, so there will be no sound case for extensions beyond these.

Whatever their counterparts in the Engish North think, Scottish politicians and businesses should realise that, even if HS2 is built, it will not much benefit us here for the next 20 years, if at all, and think of better, cheaper, less risky, quicker and more equitable, reliable and “sustainable” ways of addressing our many problems.

John Munro

Buccleuch Street

Glasgow

If HS2 is to be justified because of what it will do to heal the north-south divide, then why not start with Glasgow to Manchester and Edinburgh to Newcastle?

Stephen Salter

Blackford Road

Edinburgh

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