HS2 or H2O?

Since it’s a Bank Holiday – and a fine and sunny one at that – I’ll restrict myself to a brief post today so I can return to the outside part of the Universe and get a bit of sun while it lasts.

I saw an article in the Observer yesterday about the proposed High Speed 2 rail link (`HS2′) between London and the Midlands. The budget for this project has risen to a whopping £42.6 billion pounds. Another article in today’s Grauniad argues that HS2 is `certainly not for northerners’ benefit’, which is clearly the case because according to current plans it only goes as far as Leeds, which as everyone knows, is in the Midlands.  But  the real point is that I find it extraordinary that  we are  even considering investing such a staggering sum in a new railway with few obvious benefits to anyone other than the lucky company that gets the contract to build it. In the mean time our existing railways will continue to be poorly maintained, shockingly unreliable and of course excruciatingly expensive.

Thinking about the cost of HS2, which had earlier been estimated at a mere £30 billion, reminded me of an old post about renewable energy, and specifically the proposed Severn Barrage, which has an estimated cost somewhere between £10 billion and £35 billlion, but which could generate 2GW average power from tidal energy extracted from plain old H2O,  which is about 6% of the UK’s average demand. Of course there are important environmental issues to be dealt with – no form of electricity generation is free from such concerns – and the power generated by a Severn Barrage would be variable, with peaks not necessarily coinciding with peak demand. At least the variation is predictable, though, which is more than can be said for wind power…

Anyway, let’s suppose for the sake of argument that the price tags on these two projects are both £30 billion. I’d be interested in knowing how many people think, as I do, that £30 billion invested in tidal energy generation would be a far better use of funds than a fast train from London to nowhere interesting.

6 Responses to “HS2 or H2O?”

  1. Severn Bore Says:

    You can’t expect me to agree that Manchester is nowhere interesting, but I think HS2 is crap (put differently, H2S to HS2).

    I’m not sure I want to draw a comparison with the Severn barrier because I’m not sure if the problem of silting-up has been solved; at least, does that quoted cost include a bucket chain of dredgers?

    Anton (under pseudonym)

    • telescoper Says:

      Sorry it took me so long to approve your comment. Your pseudonym made me suspect you might be Prof. Disney.

      I think the likelihood of the HS2 line silting up is rather small, although it might flood given the incessant rainfall in the Manchester area.

  2. Actually today is a glorious sunny day in Manchester. And the point of the HS2 is to get people from here to London, not the other way around. But the proposes HS2 line goes through one of the e-Merlin telescopes which is of course a fatal flaw. I think the e-Merlin high-speed data transfer link confused someone.

    As most of the cost of HS2 seems to be due to solving all the problems it creates, why not build the whole thing underground? I have in mind that that would cost something like 100M/mile?

    What else could we do with the money! Buy SKA, e-ELT and JWST and still have enough left for a postdoc or two. (Well – that depends on the final cost of JWST).

    • Bryn Jones Says:

      I read recently that the cost of building twin rail tunnels is £60 million per kilometre, the same figure as Albert’s £100 million/mile.

      This raises the question, why is the proposed HS2 railway line so expensive? Building a railway line at ground level should be very much cheaper than building it underground.

  3. I don’t agree with a Severn Barrage either, as it will do far too much harm to wildlife in that area. I would be prepared to contemplate turbines or other forms of wave energy about the coast. Whatever happened to hydro-electric schemes on inland waterways?

  4. Michael Kenyon Says:

    Don’t know enough about tidal power but HS2 has to be derailed.

    Cameron’s vanity project, loads of backhanders and holiday homes riding on it going in, at least Labour have started to say it’s a bad idea. All the studies of high speed projects abroad show they suck people and money into the capital, and not to the cities at the ends of the lines.

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