Archive for High Speed 2

HS2 or H2O?

Posted in Finance, Politics, Science Politics with tags , , , on August 26, 2013 by telescoper

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.