Chamber Chat with John O'Neill

November 30, 2021 - 12:00am

Chamber Chat with John O'Neill

HSwho?

On Saturday I was booked on a train to London from Lancaster for a reunion, but Storm Arwen changed all that as train after train was cancelled. So, I stayed at home and managed to find a roofer to replace the missing tiles from the night before.That got me thinking about HS2 and the "uproar" that has been caused by the cancellation of the Leeds link that many people didn't want anyway. What really does HS2 offer North Lancashire post-pandemic? It doesn't offer new tracks, new stations, or even extended platforms. In fact, it offers a reduced direct service and longer waiting times for a changeover at Preston for non-direct services. The proposed '20 minutes savings' starts to look like a salesman's dream when pitted against reality. The economic study into the benefits of HS2 originally stated that the North Lancashire District would experience the most adverse economic impact with an estimated 8% drop in local GDP.

Recently a number of partners attended a presentation by HS2 Ltd where they were presented with an "aspirational timetable" that looked, on the surface, to be quite acceptable, however a bit of questioning soon uncovered the reality. In fact, HS2 is only the delivery partner and, once again, the timetables were only a "salesman's dream". The people we should have been talking to a few years ago were the Department for Transport. Only two years ago a delegation from the Chamber, Lancaster City Council and Lancaster University met with the then Minister for Transport, Nusrat Ghani, and her civil servants, in Westminster. Two years, however, is a long time in politics and faces have changed again.

Plus ça change, it seems we are back to square one and the fight begins again