Letters: HS2 must not be developed in isolation

These letters appear in the 28th October issue of The Independent

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A crucial factor in the success of the HS2 rail project will be making sure that individual transport projects are not developed in isolation. We must look at our transport network as a whole – that includes roads, rail and air travel.

The new proposal for a high-speed link between Manchester and Leeds reiterates the fact that high-speed rail is about improving transport links in the North and not just connecting infrastructure to London. Having a clear strategy that allows Network Rail, the Highways Agency and local authorities to work together is therefore crucial to ensure northern cities can take advantage of the new infrastructure.

HS2 will be a huge catalyst for economic redevelopment along parts of the route. We’ve heard a lot about these opportunities for the major cities connected by the high-speed line but, until now, little or nothing about the potential wins for cities beyond the immediate confines of the HS2 network.

There is great potential through the connections to the east and west coast main lines for cities other than Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds to benefit from HS2, but the challenges around realising these benefits must be tackled now to ensure these locations do not fall behind.

Another crucial factor for the success of HS2 is the availability of engineers to deliver them on time and on budget. Currently, demand for engineers remains high in the UK but companies are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit the people they need. This is only going to get worse as major projects such as HS2 move a step closer to reality.

Sahar Danesh, Institution of Engineering and Technology



Sir David Higgins’ backing of HS3 is a fillip for the campaign to create a “northern powerhouse”. Let’s hope the Government’s commitment isn’t just pre-election banter that will fall short of actual results. As ever, the devil is in the detail.

Savvy young investors ought to watch these future infrastructure improvements closely. Already buy-to-let yields achieved in the North are stronger than in London and the South-east. Key northern student cities, including Leeds and Manchester, are top for investment and the strength of the property investment market is set to grow as leading companies relocate around the new “powerhouse”.

With excellent transport links and prime opportunities for investment we will see far more talent grown at the top universities in the North stay put rather than the majority of graduates gravitating south. 

Stuart Law, CEO Assetz



Ed Balls and Andrew Adonis complain that, “Only a quarter of projects in the Government’s infrastructure pipeline are in the North-east, North-west or Yorkshire and the Humber” (Independent Voices, 26 October)

However, what they don’t mention is that these areas also contain around a quarter of the country’s population. So if Labour thinks those parts of the country should get a larger share of infrastructure than their share of the population, perhaps they could also tell us which areas they want to see getting a disproportionately lower share?

Mark Pack



Fallon’s apology was disingenuous

Shortly after he made the ludicrous claim that some British towns were being “swamped” by immigrants who were putting their residents “under siege” the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon withdrew the remarks as “careless” (report, 27 October).

He went on to insist that he had framed his argument in words he “would not usually use” but stood by the central claim. This is disingenuous. Fallon’s words were carefully chosen to provoke a very specific response.

“Swamped” was the word Margaret Thatcher employed in relation to immigrants in her notorious 1978 interview for the current affairs programme World in Action. Thatcher was trying to win back racist voters from the National Front. Fallon, I’d argue, is mobilising the same language in trying to win back racist Tory voters lost to Ukip.

Fallon is blowing hard on the racist dog whistle. The mobilisation and encouragement of anti-migrant racism by politicians is not simply “careless”, it is criminally irresponsible.

Tory austerity is destroying services across the country – not migrants. And the only thing “swamping” British towns at present is racism and xenophobia

Sasha Simic (second-generation east European immigrant)

London N16


What a relief to see and hear Michael Fallon revert to type at last. I recall his poisonous first successful electoral campaign in north London where he became elected as one of Margaret Thatcher’s disciples.

More right-wing attack dog than serious Cabinet material, he has managed to keep his true persona well hidden to attain a sufficient air of respectability to become Defence Secretary.

However in an unguarded moment on the BBC he has exposed the prejudices that run through today’s Tory party like the proverbial stick of rock. Mr Fallon should be congratulated; I for one, am deeply indebted to him.

Peter Coghlan

Broadstone, Dorset


We need to know cost of radioactive waste

I compliment The Independent for highlighting the lack of information from the UK Government of what the costs of radioactive waste management will be from the development of new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point (report, 27 October). The European Commission was rightly concerned to understand more fully this critical matter. This is important to the UK taxpayer, who is already paying tens of billions of pounds to resolve the radioactive waste burden from the existing 60 years of the UK nuclear programme.

I believe the European Commission is looking separately at the waste transfer pricing element of the contract between the UK Government and EDF, and I urge the Commission to come to a conclusion on this matter as soon as possible.

I believe the “small print” of the contract reveals there will be a cap on costs for the nuclear plant operator, EDF. If costs escalate above this cap – and the long-term experience of the nuclear industry shows that costs always escalate – then the top-up costs will fall once again to the taxpayer.

This is yet another reason why the Commission should have rejected the deal, and why it has another crucial opportunity to question the waste part of this exorbitant deal. It is another reason why a joint legal challenge by the Austrian Government and environmental groups is urgently required. Otherwise, the taxpayer is saddled with a very bad deal.

Mark Hackett, Chair of UK & Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities



Farage’s column is more than a tease

Bob Gilmurray’s response to my letter is wonderfully subtle (letter, 27 October), and maybe including Nigel Farage as an Independent columnist is a clever form of harm reduction. And, to be fair to Farage, his column does show what a good communicator he is; but then, Ronald Reagan was known as “the Great Communicator”.

However Farage’s last piece went beyond being “teasingly at variance” with the paper’s editorial policy; and I did not know when I wrote my letter that it was part of a co-ordinated campaign for the election of a Crime Commissioner. That makes it even worse than I thought.

Perhaps it is better that such nastiness is out in the open, and in a forum like the pages of The Independent. However, your leader worryingly suggests that a Ukip candidate may win the election for Crime Commissioner.

John Dakin



Could The Independent allow Natalie Bennett of the Green Party a weekly column in line with that privilege given to Nigel Farage? The Greens appear to be the only party at present with a socialist agenda and they offer something truly different from the other four parties. They also have a purpose other than just obtaining or retaining power. I believe this used to be called commitment politics. It would be interesting to hear their point of view each week.

Steven Williams



Scottish labour a shell of former self

I am surprised that anybody in the Scottish Labour Party could countenance as their leader Jim Murphy, who will always be known as The Man Who Was Scared Of An Egg.

But maybe their London masters see things differently and they will do as they’re told if frightened by frequent re-telling of Humpty Dumpty.

John Hein



Scandal of old men sleeping on benches

It saddens me to know that about a thousand elderly people, mostly men, are to be found sleeping on benches most days and evenings in central London in this wealthy country of ours. I see them regularly whenever the television shows the backbenchers on live news programmes from Parliament.

Ioan Richard