HS2 little, too late? Why we need to consider alternatives to rail

HS2 little, too late? Why we need to consider alternatives to rail

Chances are, unless you've been living under a rock for the last year, you've at least heard about the government's much talked-about High Speed 2 (HS2) rail project.

Linking London with Birmingham before joining up with Manchester and Leeds, the eventual aim is to then connect the route all the way up to Glasgow and Edinburgh. 

This multi-billion pound scheme is being hailed by those supporting it as the future saviour of the UK economy. By 2033, bosses reckon the travel time between the capital and Manchester, for example, will have been reduced from the 128 minutes it is at the moment to just 68 minutes.

What difference does that make? According to official estimates, HS2 will carry 5.4 million extra passengers who would have otherwise travelled by air and a further 9.8 million who will choose to take the train over the car. 

Not only that, but official statistics also suggest the scheme will secure around 400,000 jobs as a result of increased connectivity and strengthen the economy by encouraging businesses to invest in the affected areas. The government, which says it is committed to providing value for money for the £21 billion initiative, has said it expects around £2 of benefit to be delivered for every £1 spent.

On the wrong track

However, here at Buzz Conferencing, we're yet to be convinced. The estimates, by definition, are merely guesses, which appear to have one major flaw. They're based around the fact the technology they're using is likely to be completely outdated by the time its fully operational in just under 20-years' time.

In fact, it's already happening. The frailties of rail travel have been exposed on numerous occasions in just the first two months of this year, leaving many businesses to count the cost of missed meetings and stranded staff.

The unfortunate truth is that when the going gets tough and Mother Nature spits her dummy out, the rail network has a tendency to pack up and go home. Some of the most iconic images coming from the domestic news round-ups since the turn of the year have been those of train cancellation boards and lines devastated by heavy rain and subsequent flooding.

There comes a point when you have to learn from your mistakes and a large proportion of businesses are learning it's no longer a viable option to rely on public transport if they want to keep their productivity levels up. Any aspirations for growth in a year that is supposed to herald a new era of confidence and expansion are so far being hampered by an inability for employees to actually carry out their duties on a daily basis.

Do we seriously expect that, two decades into the future, the situation is going to be any different? The technology being planned for HS2 is already in existence and susceptible to the same flaws that today's trains are coming up against time and time again.

Rail replacement service

We've previously explained how business continuity can be a breeze if companies take advantage of modern facilities to ensure they no longer need to be held to ransom by rail operators and if it makes sense now, then why should the same philosophy not apply to HS2?

If ministers are bragging about how the scheme will see it take just over an hour to travel halfway up the country, so what? By utilising free conference call services, you can hold a meeting across the same area in a matter of minutes, seconds even.

Furthermore, you can connect between multiple offices, meaning personnel from three or more locations can all get involved at the same time, regardless of how bad the weather is or who is on strike.

Connectivity issues

A recent study by O2 and the Centre for Economic and Business Research provided some food for thought. According to the two organisations, small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK are losing out on a collective £30 billion of economic growth every year as a result of insufficient internet connectivity.

The report suggested that as many as 127 hours could be saved annually per employee by cutting out unnecessary travel to and from the office, while business leaders estimated they could boost their sales by 43 per cent through better access to technology that allowed them to work more flexibly.

Here's a suggestion. Instead of ploughing billions into an already antiquated system, take that government money and use it to invest in our technology infrastructure. There'll be no ruined countryside, nobody's home needs to be knocked down and it won't take 20 years or more to put into action. 

It gets our vote, how about yours?