The plan for a new high speed national rail network, HS2, has invited strong reactions from UK residents, governmental figures and business leaders alike. Supporters say it will relieve congestion on existing intercity routes, shorten lengthy commutes and benefit the economy. Opponents fear the noise and sight of the trains will be a blot on the landscape, and are also sceptical of the return on investment that HS2 will bring. It is now speculated that costs could reach £80bn. There are arguments aplenty for both sides, but little is being said about the projected effects of HS2 on congestion levels in London.
The capital is a crowded city as it stands - anyone who has travelled on the Northern Line during rush hour can attest to that. But we have bigger problems than being squished into tube carriages like sardines. It's not a pretty situation above ground either. Currently, over 4,000 people in the capital city die prematurely every year because of the poor air quality; and motorists in London already spend nine working days every year stuck in traffic.
By significantly cutting journey times between London and Birmingham, HS2 may result in a dramatic increase in the number of people getting jobs in the capital. This would put an immense pressure on London's public transport system, worsen the congestion levels and lead to increased spending on transport infrastructure - everything that the Government is desperately trying to avoid by building HS2.
It seems an odd move, when we are living and working in an increasingly digitised world, to put so much emphasis on getting workers to physically be in one city. Technology is evolving at such a rate that this is becoming unnecessary. In fact, by the time HS2 even gets round to being built, it may already be irrelevant. Video conferencing brings us closer together - and it certainly doesn't have a £80 billion price tag.
Over the last few years, I've seen more and more companies realising the many benefits available from remote working. They have enjoyed increased employee productivity, reduced costs from travel and office space and better work-life balance for employees. Perhaps, then, we should focus less on cramming so many people into the capital, and more on making cities all over England as business-focused as London. Instead of spending £80 billion on this new rail network and ruffling the feathers of residents, we would be much better off spending money on improving networking infrastructure throughout the country. This would boost the economy, make UK businesses more competitive long-term, and benefit all of the country - not just London and Birmingham.