Thursday, 5 September 2013


Before a spade has been turned controversy is already raging over the coalition government's plans for HS2, the High Speed Route linking London and the North, the northern section of which passes very close to Middlewich indeed. MRLC member Dr Peter Hirst wrote to the Northwich, Winsford & Middlewich Guardian pointing out the advantages of the scheme and soon had the anti-HS2 protesters in full cry.
Among the replies to Dr Hirst's letter was one from a certain Mr  Alan Langley and, in the grand old Middlewich Rail Link Campaign tradition, we couldn't resist replying. - Ed


From Alan Langley:
I NOTE in last week’s paper Dr Peter Hirst, for whom I have admiration, is airing views on the benefits of going ahead with this money gobbler, HS2.
Whilst Dr Hirst acknowledges that it is going to cost a ‘pot of gold’ to initiate this project, and says it will save us all money in saving on taxes the construction will generate with jobs etc, who does he think will be paying taxes to build it in the first place?
It is estimated it will cost up to £80 billion to build.
Even today the Institute of Directors (IOD) has questioned the monetary return.
Virgin Train taking advantage of the ballast. PHOTO: GLEN LEIGH
This photograph is copyright and cannot be used without the photographer's permission

Whilst I agree that more needs to be done to get freight on the rails, and tourist trade is all very good, but, apart from the well-heeled tourists and anyone who can claim back the cost of a ticket estimated to be in the region of #400. In the words of Lionel Bart's musical Oliver, Who Will Buy This Wonderful Morning?
Dr Hirst states the time and savings in carbon footprint are well worth saving. If you can only get on it at certain stations such as Manchester how much time and carbon footprint will that extend by people having to travel say to Manchester and grid lock in the town?
He says local network rail can be improved with an improved localised rail structure – will priority be given to the HS2 where lines converge putting local rail to the back burner?
Dr Hirst does not mention leaves on the line and other general hold-ups due to broken down trains and engineering works?

Currently the Flying Scotsman in its centenary year still holds the speed record of over 120 mph, so whether you are in favour or not of construction going ahead let’s hope the writer along with the rest of us has deep pockets.

I suspect the writer is unaware when I used to work in King Street, that the Middlewich branch line, he endeavours to reopen, had to be constantly re- ballasted just to maintain it for freight use.
Localised employment will be minimal any sensible constructor will have a national gang of rail construction workers who will just move along the country as the project if undertaken.
True there maybe some hotel type employment created close to the construction/West Coast line but even this will be short-lived and when the high speed line is operational who will want to stay in a local hotel along the line anyway?
With the IOD questioning construction – will this be a fast track to recovery?
The outstanding debt on the privatised M6 is in millions – would a full line ever be completed if costs spiral, or would it run out of steam and turn this dream into a nightmare burdening future generations to come with debt for years?
Alan Langley,  Middlewich

MRLC's reply:

I'm a little confused by the part of Mr Langley's letter which refers to the Middlewich Branch Line. 
He 'suspects' that Dr Hirst is 'unaware' that the Branch line 'had to be constantly re-ballasted just to maintain it for freight use'.
I can tell you that Dr Hirst, like any intelligent person, is aware that the Middlewich line, like every other railway line, has to be re-ballasted from time to time. 
Mr Langley's use of the word 'constantly' is very misleading, conjuring up as it does visions of gallant teams of platelayers furiously battling to keep the line open and re-ballasting away like Trojans in a race against time.
The more prosaic truth is that, like every other railway line, the Middlewich Branch is re-ballasted as and when necessary. 

And it is not being maintained just for freight use, either. It's an integral part of the West Coast Main Line and is maintained to a very high standard for the use of diverted passenger trains.
Mr Langley's reference to the Flying Scotsman is also puzzling. 

For his information, regular steam traction ceased on the network in 1968, so what relevance this iconic loco has to the discussion of HS2 is anybody's guess.
And, far be it from me to accuse anyone of a basic 'schoolboy error', but surely any schoolboy (even today) knows that the speed record for steam traction is held by Mallard'and not the Scotsman?
I can assure Mr Langley and the other 'anti-HS2' correspondents in your pages that Dr Hirst is a very intelligent man, and very thorough in his research. 
I am not going to enter into this particular bear-pit, but I too have read all the arguments for and against HS2.
Wild horses, however, wouldn't drag my opinion from me at this stage.

 Dave Roberts, Chairman, Middlewich Rail Link Campaign.

With many thanks to the