UK Politics

HS2: Waterman backs high speed London to Midlands rail

Media captionHS2 rail will end 'north-south divide', claims Pete Waterman

Music man and train lover, Pete Waterman argues in a personal piece for the Daily Politics, in favour of the controversial High Speed (HS2) rail link from London to Birmingham and beyond.

The first electric train from Birmingham to Euston changed my life.

It was in 1967. As the new Inter-City rail service was launched with its electric trains, the old steam locomotives were decommissioned. (I now collect them at our facility in Crewe.)

The journey from my home town of Coventry to Euston was cut to under an hour.

That train meant a kid from Coventry could work in the music business in London. The rest, as they say, is history!

So I love trains because they changed my life.

But many of the people living near the planned route of the High Speed link from Euston through the Chilterns to the Midlands, claim it is a white elephant that a country in recession cannot afford.

HS2 problem areas

But I know that building the high speed rail link will change the lives of millions.

When the Victorians built Britain's railways in a generation, they combined engineering skills with vision and self-belief to create jobs for millions of people.

Nowadays, despite that head start, Britain's railways are lagging behind our competitors' and passengers often find trains are packed.

HS2 will change that. It's the only plausible solution to our capacity problems.

If the line is not built, then when the train lines become increasingly over-filled and fares go up dramatically to ration places, we will be kicking ourselves that we did not build it.

We will wonder why we lacked the vision and self-belief of our Victorian predecessors and our economic competitors.

More important for me, HS2 will help to rebalance the economy and create opportunities for those who, like me, struggled to find work in the north.

Railway innovation has always driven economic growth, and I believe it will create jobs in the parts of Britain that need them most by linking major northern cities with Birmingham and London.

Six months ago, HS2 was given the green-light by the Department for Transport but sadly the project is still facing a loud and organised opposition along the high-speed route, from Tory MPs, ideologues who oppose public transport, rich landowners, big trucking firms and the car lobby.

Media captionThe HS2 rail route from above

I may be a northerner, but I am sensitive to the problems high speed rail will present the people who live near the line in southern England.

But I believe some of their arguments are overstated, and we all have to play our part in modernising the country so there are jobs and prosperity for our children.

Furthermore, the arguments of the opposition fail to recognise or appreciate any of the wider benefits that HS2 will bring. These include regeneration around stations, the creation of jobs not directly created in the construction of the line, inward investment, connectivity of the regions, and increased trade links.

We all need to look at the bigger picture and realise that HS2 will transform the lives of millions of people all over the UK, much like the new electric rail line from Coventry to London transformed life for me.

Heck, I want a station at Crewe!

Media captionMr Waterman debated his film with Buckinghamshire County Council leader Martin Tett, and MPs Caroline Flint and Grant Shapps

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