HS2, bringing you yesterday’s trains, tomorrow.
In America, entrepreneur Elon Musk, the man responsible for bringing us SpaceX, Tesla and PayPal, is looking at a ‘Hyperloop’ that will connect cities Los Angeles and San Francisco, 380 miles apart, in just 30 minutes. He estimates the project will cost £3.9bn, with a prototype taking four years to build.
The ‘Hyperloop’ is speculated to use a combination of magnets and fans to achieve speeds of up to 720mph – nearly the speed of sound. Musk himself, however, currently has his plate full with his SpaceX project so has stated that he is currently too busy at present, though it’s certainly not something we can rule out over the coming years.
Hyperloop couldn’t paint a more different picture to our own Governments high-speed rail project, HS2. Musk’s project takes a fresh approach and is, by a considerable margin, the most forward-looking transport solution in the world right now. HS2, by contrast, is already out-dated by today’s standards. Trains in Japan and some in Europe are today already outstripping HS2, and, worst of all, HS2 won’t be completed until 2025, at which point it’s likely to be embarrassingly far behind the global curve.
Financially, HS2 doesn’t paint a pretty picture. Large state infrastructure projects are notorious for their abject inability to stay on budget. HS2, not wishing to be left out has already had £10bn added to its price tag, a now whopping £42bn, before a single track has even been laid. That’s 10 times the estimated cost of Musk’s Hyperloop. Lessons should have been learned from watching Japan’s budgetary nightmare with their own Shinkansen project. A project estimated at 200bn Yen ended up costing 400bn Yen, a catastrophic overspend. In 2010, the then Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond stated that Governmental support for the project is not contingent on the projects ability to directly break even. HS2 will happen, and everyone else be damned.
A far cheaper alternative would have been to allow companies like Virgin the ability to improve the lines/tracks they operate, allowing them to reap the subsequent profits from their improvements. High-speed rail would have naturally evolved over the next decade at little or no cost to the taxpayer.
The Government has said HS2 will open up the North creating new jobs as ease of movement allows positions to be filled more easily. A sensible enough sounding argument. However, when a comparison is made where other countries have added faster rail links to the capital, it is shown that more people seek employment in the capital, not outside, like the Government are hoping.
Hyperloop is the future rebuttal to the age old statist go to card “But who will build the roads?” Private companies will engage in infrastructure projects, and they’ll do it for a tenth of the cost. There is no denying that there is a genuine demand for high-speed rail in the UK. But there is a difference between wanting high-speed rail, and wanting HS2.
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