“Do they think we’re stupid?” – latest high-speed-rail ‘research’ meets with ridicule

Latest research from the Leeds pro-high-speed-rail lobby has met with continuing disbelief and ridicule.

The research, reported today in local and national media, says that investment in a full HSR network would support the creation of 400,000 jobs in eight UK core cities, including Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle, and 1 million jobs in total across the cities’ wider urban areas.

While the mainstream media are pretty much overwhelmingly backing the HSR project, ordinary people, it appears, aren’t. As reported earlier, a recent poll on the Guardian’s Northerner website came out heavily against the project. That’s a feeling that’s backed up by most comments from the public published online.

“Supporting one million jobs! Do they think we are totally stupid?” asks kingsnewclothes commenting on a report on the latest research in today’s Yorkshire Post. “This is a railway line that saves a bit of time off some journeys! The jobs created will be in the thousands — many of them in relocated retail outlets at new stations. More will be overseas supporting manufacturing jobs at Siemens or Hitachi.”

Figures plucked out of the air
Commenatator Pockman is unconvinced too: “Once again gigantic figures plucked out of the air by ‘experts’. Give us the methodology that proves this claim. Of course the weasel word here is ‘could’ create new jobs. 1M jobs could be created – but will they?”

A comment from Leonardoy asks how on earth such “statistics” can be measured.

“They’re absolute nonsense. High speed rail (or any other rail facility) has only marginal economic effects at best. People use these networks primarily for leisure these days. What with IT, internet etc most business can be conducted effortlessly at source. Gone are the days when business people found it essential to make daily trips to the capital or wherever.”

Supporting agglomerations

Men in suits head for agglomeration

It’s a fair point. Here at the leeds citizen we’ve wondered aloud before about just what it was about these fast train journeys that was magically going to create wealth. We guessed it was all about people in suits rushing around having meetings. And we were right!

“Successful city economies require high volumes and densities of face-to-face contacts between firms, and access to wide pools of skilled labour,” says today’s research. “Good transport links, particularly rail are essential in supporting this agglomeration, as well as the high levels of physical accessibility nationally and internationally needed for cities to be economically competitive.”

Supporting agglomerations of face-to-face contacts? Gotcha. Convincing argument? No.

Research paid for by…
And then there’s the question of the latest research itself. Who’s behind it and who’s paid for it?

Well, independent it ain’t. It’s been put together by economic consultants Volterra, who have nailed their colours publicly to the pro-high-speed-rail lobby, and engineering consultants Arup, who have an, erm, strategic relationship with one of the HSR project’s main backers, Leeds City Council. No vested interests there then.

As for who’s paying for it…we can guess but don’t know. We’re working on it.


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