This blog being tangentially one about tranport and more or less about the North I am probably obliged to have an opinion on HS2. I haven’t done anything on this because it is not really cycling related, I haven’t in all honesty got anything new to add to the debate, and of course principally I couldn’t be arsed but seeing as you’ve asked and seeing as I haven’t got any cycling pictures to post because I have been battling headwinds rather than photographically pootling this weekend there are one or two reasons that immediately spring to mind which would count against me coming out as a ‘pro’:
1. When HS2 is finished the northern terminus will still be quite some distance to the south of where I live so not terribly relevent to me personally.
2. By the time it is finished I will probably have no use for it anyway as I will be too old and poor to travel anywhere, so even less relevent to me personally.
3. HS2 will probably result in the trains I do use suffering a reduction in speed and frequency due to the operational requirements of HS2 and also the capital and running costs sucked from the rest of the network to build and run the new line.
4. Many years ago there was a promise of direct trains to the continent from the North via the planned channel tunnel. These services will still not materialise even when TGVs can travel to Leeds and it is unlikely the new line will even join onto the existing channel tunnel line and it makes me very sceptical of any promises made for any new project.
5. I live a bit nearer to Edinburgh than London so HS2 seems very much a South of England project like cross rail or the tunnel rail link and I can’t help the suspicion that London gets more out of this than the North.
6. HS2 looks like being another Concorde: a glamorous toy for the wealthy only made possible by the tax money of ordinary people who’ll never use it themselves and which may well turn out to be a technological dead end as Tony ‘man of the people’ Benn’s superwhizzo pointy airliners were.
7. I have an instinctive caution against imposing disruptive projects on people’s homes and communities be they wind turbines, open cast mines or railways. I know many of the southern objectors will happily be using HS1 to head off on their skiing holidays without any worry in their mind that this detracts from their moral authority on the subject of building fast new railways but something has to be pretty urgent to justify turfing people out of their homes by compulsory demolition or just by making it really crap to live there anymore and I am not sure if this is.
8. I also have an instinctive caution against putting all the transport eggs in one railway line shaped basket because if it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to there is no plan B.
9. HS2 is a big government project and government doesn’t do big projects well. Government doesn’t do small projects well. Government can’t buy a can of coke from a vending machine without it being late, over budget and exploding in someone’s face when they open it.
10. It is not travel times between the large cities that is the problem, it is the time it takes to get between smaller centres which don’t have direct links, don’t have links which run early or late or at weekends, or don’t have any links at all, not even a bus never mind a train. HS2 is the answer to the wrong question.
I am not, however, an against either. This island is long and thin on a north south axis and it is still laboriously slow to get from one end to the other, or even from and to places which are nowhere near the ends and any amount of tinkering by adding a lane to this motorway or a track to that rail line won’t solve that. The problem needs some imagination. In a park in a town not far away are some of the original stone sleepers from the world’s first commercial powered rail service and folks in the North East perhaps still retain a belief in innovation and engineering that home counties florists and bank managers don’t have. We also have a need for a decent transport system, a need which well catered for home counties florists and bank managers don’t have and we have a railway heritage that home counties florists and bank managers don’t have. On top of that, despite perhaps what experience tells us, we maybe have more faith in the shared and communal than home counties florists and bank managers have.
So my view on HS2 is that the information available is not complete nor accurate enough to have a view so therefore I do not yet have an opinion that could be labelled ‘for’ or against’ and this means I have signally failed in my duty as a supposedly opionated blogger. I would go and throw myself under a train out of shame except there isn’t one for ages now so I will just have to learn to live with myself. For more stories of unfeasibly high speed travel I hope to return to pictures of hills what I have been riding my bike down soon.
It was the local 10km running race today. Runners seem to denominate their runs in kilometres to make them appear longer which is something I hope bike races never lower themselves to. Imagine if you found out that Milan-San Remo when converted to proper english miles amounted to the same as a round trip to the shops to fetch some milk, possibly detouring to the library to use their internet to update your wise and knowledgeable bike blog. Measuring in kilometres also means the distance marker signs come around quicker to make up for running being that much slower than riding a bike which I certainly appreciated today, when I could see them through the fog that is. I thought I should support my local race, not that they need my support as they always sell all the places, although as I’ve said before I’m not really a runner; bloody runners, I always say, don’t pay road tax; but winter in these parts is sometimes not conducive to going out on two wheels, four wheels being a bit dicy at times and it’s the out of control people on four wheels who are the main reason for not heading out on two, so running gets me out of the house occasionally, and without having to venture too much onto the highway, over that period, which isn’t far away now, when those who apparently know about these things and think it’s a really good idea put us all back on GMT for six months.
Looking around at the club vests with names such as hard bastards fell climbers and badass harriers I felt distinctly under qualified to take part in this race, especially as the name of the event includes the word hilly in the title. With bike riders having to take care when doing anything standing up that their freakishly overdeveloped cardio-vascular system doesn’t write cheques their non-impact-bearing legs can’t cash I am also quite unusual amongst runners in using treking poles to keep the weight off my knees during a race. Sorry about the clicking of metal on tarmac for those who had to follow me round the course by the way. Nervous as I was though I suddenly remembered that I live here and anything you choose to do outdoors around here is hilly. To calm my reluctance further I recalled that they do say that pinning a number on your chest makes you go 10% quicker on its own although the history of top level athletics suggests it’s the pharmaceuticals taken over the previous off season that really make the difference. I’ve got my finger on the pulse of pro cycling and I’m pretty sure none of that kind of thing has ever gone on in our sport so there’s another reason for my feeling that cycling and running don’t mix. A number just seems to provide additional wind resistance if you ask me. I did have a pint of commeratively named 10k ale last night at the beer festival which was being held over this weekend but I have an assurance from the UCI that they’ll give me the nod if anyone is testing for novelty brewing products in my area.
Anyway, I got round with several runners still behind me when I finished and not all of them were those whom I stabbed through the feet with my ski poles during the bottleneck at the start. The prize was a rather snazzy buff in the local club colours with a picture of a sheep of the breed named for this valley in running shoes, and looking a bit knackered it has to be said, which I shall wear with pride as there is no other buff like the one I got today so should you ever be in town and see me running in the buff please come over and have a chat. I’m very approachable and really not that hard to keep up with.
Running is something bike riders do for many different reasons; Perhaps they are a hardcore cyclocross rider who has to carry their bike up muddy hills, perhaps they are a nervous descender who has to carry it down hills, perhaps they do that thing where you park your bike by a lake and go for a swim in some freezing water before you are allowed to start your ride then just as you’re getting going you have to ditch the bike again and run the rest of the way, perhaps they just forget where they parked their bike or perhaps they remember where they left it but also remember they forgot to bring a lock. These are all perfectly legitimate reasons for running but in every case it seems like more of an ancillery activity and riding the bike is still the main thing.
Although needing a massage and one of those silver blankets at the end if I even try to run up a flight of stairs I was pursuaded to take part in something called Park Run this weekend. I’m not sure if Park Run is a charity, a movement, or a religious faith; to me it seemed a bit like an AA meeting in shorts with the organisers asking first timers to identify themselves to applause from the assembled veterans, but it’s a national thing; all done by volunteers, a phenomenon of which I was blissfully unaware until quite recently. Park run is really a runner’s gig and I was very afraid I might be recognised for the outsider I was, perhaps subtly given away as a bike rider by my tan lines, perhaps by the sound of the visor on my teardrop time trial helmet accidently dropping down during the pre race briefing, and slow hand clapped out of the park. In actual fact everyone was really nice and the only thing that really might have given me away as not being a runner, the fact that I can’t run to save my life, was probably just put down to first time nerves by the regulars, or to having some kind of incontinence problem requiring shorts with a massive pad between my legs.
Anyway, apart from not being unmasked as mostly being inclined to one of those types of sports where you sit down to do it, and finding out that running can be fun even if it isn’t associated with a bike ride, it was lovely to see some things you see less and less nowadays; volunteers for instance; the folks out at 9am on a Saturday with little finish funnel cones, yellow tabards and barcode readers were doing it for nowt but the love of their sport, children out of doors for another; there were children running, and running like the flippin’ clappers in some cases, and last but not least, in the park there were ducks. I can’t remember the last time I saw a duck. Ducks walk like they’re wearing cleats and I’d forgotten how cool ducks are. Ducks could wear sunglasses indoors and nobody would think they looked wrong, and even if anyone did say anything it would just be, well…