Michael McCarthy: No sensible person would want this destruction. Yet it's worth it, to give rail a future

Parts of the economic case are dodgy, not least the cost-benefit analysis, plucking figures from air
  • @mjpmccarthy

The lack of MAMBA – that's the main problem with building the new High Speed Rail Line northwards from London. You can find MAMBA in the USA, and you can find it in France, but there's not a lot of it in Britain, as the acronym stands for Miles and Miles of Bugger All, meaning emptiness. Vast plains.

Not here. In the intimate, closely packed landscape of our island, any really major infrastructure project is going to run smack up against things no sensible person would want to destroy. A wood. A meadow. A tranquil valley.

However much the Government tries to accommodate objectors, then, there is nothing it can do to satisfy them all, short of putting the whole 140-mile line in a tunnel (it is currently planning to put 22 miles of it underground).

I personally would not want to see any parts of the natural world in England destroyed by HS2, nor anyone's amenities. But I have to say that I am torn by the idea of HS2 because I personally am strongly in favour of railways.

Thus, it does not matter to me how dodgy is the economic case for the project, and parts of it will be well dodgy, not least the cost-benefit analysis: the cost is obvious, yet the "benefit" is always arrived at by giving a monetary value to notional travel time saved – talk about plucking figures out of thin air!

But as far as I am concerned, railways are not a profit-making business but a social service that should be paid for by the state, and Dr Beeching's slashing of the network in the 1960s, and John Major's reprivatisation in the 1990s, were disasters.

I'm sorry, but I love railways, and HS2 gives rail in Britain a 21st century future.