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October 29, 2013 1:29 PM
By Joe Otten in Liberal Democrat Voice
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

Monsal Head ViaductThe BBC and newspapers are reporting that proposals to upgrade the existing rail network instead of investing in HS2, would lead to 14 years of weekend closures and replacement buses. The cost of upgrading these main lines is not given, but it is worth reminding ourselves of the 1998-2008 upgrade to the West Coast Main Line which cost around £9bn after being scaled back due to technical problems and cost overruns.

Meanwhile Labour continues its lukewarm positioning on HS2, floating the idea of a reopening of the Grand Central line at a cost of between £10bn and £15bn (Ed Balls suggesting a lower figure of £6bn), though not reaching the speed or capacity of HS2. I have some affection for the Grand Central, having had - as a birthday present - a morning driving a Peak Rail steam loco, on a remnant of the route. I will wax lyrical on that on request, as did the engine crew about the potential to re-open the Buxton to Derby segment as a main line. But I guess the bridge I was told to take at no more than 10mph (Where is the speedo? There isn't one.) would need some upgrading for high speed rail.

Do we really want to spend £9bn+ each on three line upgrades, and £6bn to £15bn on a new old Victorian line, and face years of disruption, for relatively marginal improvements to our rail network, or £42bn for a step change in capacity and speed?

* Joe Otten is a councillor in Sheffield, and a prospective European Parliamentary candidate for Yorkshire and the Humber