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  1. Wealth
March 12, 2012

Scrap HS2 and save ’25 billion

By Spear's

All this so people can be in Birmingham in forty minutes, on a route that cuts a huge unsightly swathe through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Now that the Greek crisis has reached possible salvation, or more likely probable damnation, it is time to take a quick snapshot of the UK situation, where the deficit is still running at around £120 billion for the year. Two weeks ago, the talk was all about avoiding the double-dip, but last week such optimism was dispelled before it had settled.

And not just here, but over in America the same question was beginning to be raised too. All this despite the Coalition’s massive cuts, that Ed Balls says were too severe, as though £120 billion just grows on trees, notwithstanding the BoE’s printing presses!

Indeed, some of the Coalition cuts really are questionable, but they’re not the ones that Ed Minibrand’s shadow chancellor has complained about. For example, the scrapping of Ark Royal and her battle-proven Sea Harriers, which has left the UK without carrier protection for the next ten years, while we build TWO new enormous carriers for £5 billion, for which the aircraft of choice, the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), is now discovered not to be a maritime application at all, and whose cost is now over £100 million a copy, and won’t even be ready when the carriers are!

That, and chopping the wings off our maritime reconnaissance capability to save £2.5 billion, doesn’t begin to plug the gap, but does leave us all naked.

So, it makes it all the more incomprehensible that the Coalition is determined to press on with the EU-inspired HS2, at a cost of £25 billion; based on the Crossrail experience, this will eventually cost over £50 billion. And all this so people can be in Birmingham in forty minutes, on a route that cuts a huge unsightly swathe through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, namely the Chilterns.

Hang on a mo! There’s a perfectly good service already that gets you there in an hour! Ah, well, it’s all about getting to Manchester too, and then onto the future Soviet Socialist Republic of Scotland.

Well, last week I had to travel from Euston to Manchester on Virgin’s Pendolino service, and found myself in Manchester bang on time after just two hours six minutes! I mean, does anyone want to go to Manchester voluntarily in the first place, but if you have got to there, what’s wrong with a couple of hours?

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The only thing wrong on my journey was the bacon roll: it was presented in a durex-like heating bag, only lukewarm, with a cheap slab of imported bacon between a soggy roll. Come on Sir Richard, having sorted out the hard bit, namely the track and the rolling-stock, can’t you serve a proper bit of British streaky on a well-buttered crispy roll? Honest, Guv, I would pay a fiver for a cuppa and a proper bit of Greasy Joe’s A1 bacon.

And there is nothing else this discerning traveller would change at all, as the Pendolino is an outright winner, even tilting on the bends to keep you in your seat as you roar up the track like a rocket.

The chancellor will tell us in next week’s budget that there is no money left in the Treasury to boost the economy: no wonder there’s no wedge left, if the Coalition really wants to blow £50 billion on the absurdity known as HS2. The only beneficiaries of this nonsense will be Man U and Man City who will have an extra hour in bed before they head south to duff up the Arsenal or the Spurs or the hapless Chelsea; them, and the Have-it-away-day ladies of the night, who will be home back in Salford even before their partner begins to stir in the morning.

If the Treasury cannot axe this one, bung it across to ‘Elf and Safety, say I, and on into the long grass. At least they could do something useful, for a change. Besides, Londoners don’t want Mancunians coming any nearer, and I bet the feeling is well reciprocated ‘up t’North’: they have proper jam-butties up there, whatever they are!

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