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Superfast Broadband is better than HS2 Trains

January 30th, 2013 at 09:30 by Dave Tomlinson

700-seat train used for Cruise Ship Marco Polo Passengers

A couple of days ago, the Government announced plans to spend £33bn on a new high speed train line HS2 from London to Birmingham and then on to Leeds and Manchester. The new line, which will take around 20 years to build, will see journey times from Birmingham to London reduced by about 25 minutes and Leeds to Birmingham reduced by about an hour. £33bn is a lot of money to spend on reducing journey times between some of Britain’s cities but the investment is largely being sold as a way to boost UK economy, across the entire country. But is it faster trains or faster broadband that this business nation needs ..?

From A to B

One benefit of a faster train is that it will allow business people to spend less time travelling and more time at their meeting or doing other work. While that’s true in 20 years time who are going to be the business leaders doing those meetings? It’s today’s teenagers who today spend their time on FaceTime or Skype or Twitter. Increasingly, we will see an ever more reliance on technology to allow us to communicate better, especially in the business world where expensive face-to-face meetings no longer need be the norm.

Is it worth it?

How much does an average meeting cost? Even just the travel cost could run to several hundred pounds and – albeit significantly reduced travelling time – there’s still the inconvenience of time travelling. Today laptops have built-in web cams and phones that enable video calling. Imagine what the next 20 years will bring to improve communication? Are holographic communication devices like George Lucas imagined in Star Wars out of the question? Video calling on your TV like Back to the Future II with Skype is already here and is Charlie Brooker’s vision of virtual worlds and every wall a TV screen that far away? Last year, when we celebrated our 15th birthday, we looked at what the Internet would offer 15 years in to the future; among the findings was the suggestion face recognition would become part of your home security.

The Digital Age

In the time it takes to build the new train line we may well see all of this happen. Business will always have face-to-face meetings but the amount of meetings that will be conducted remotely – over the Internet – will increase as the technology advances and makes those meetings more productive and more comfortable. As these meetings start to be conducted by a generation that hasn’t known life without being online and being able to communicate virtually anywhere and everywhere, face-to-face meetings will be seen as an increasingly alien concept. Supporting all of this will be the fixed and mobile data networks, and to drive it, we’ll need superfast broadband for everyone in their home.

To paraphrase Doc Brown:

“Rails? Where we’re going we don’t need rails!”

What do you think’s more critical when it comes to boosting the UK economy, superfast trains or superfast broadband? Let us know by leaving a comment below …

dave

This entry was posted by Dave Tomlinson on Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 at 9:30 am and is tagged with , , , and is posted in the category Plusnet News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


6 comments on "Superfast Broadband is better than HS2 Trains"

mattturner

I both agree and disagree!

I think there is already plenty of investment in the broadband networks in the UK, we're seeing huge investment both in fixed and mobile networks with speeds and capacity increasing enormously. I don't think the plans from HS2 are taking anything away from investment in Broadband in the UK.

However, a significant part of the cost benefit model for HS2 relies on reducing lost (non productive) time due to travel. I think this is flawed as many people work on the train using laptops with 3G dongles/onboard wifi/at seat power sockets. In the future with the investment in mobile data networks this will become even easier.
Train travel is no longer a non-productive waste of time, people use it to get lots of work done, I think the benefits of HS2 in this sense have been overstated.

journeys

I agree, superfast Broadband (to my small business) would be a major improvement, HS2 in 2025 will do nothing for us. What would be better than faster broadband and HS2 would be 2G mobile coverage.

Trying to move jobs from the South to the North is like trying to throw water up a slide. The whole project is just political. In reality the improved communications is more likely to increase commuting into London and turn Northern towns into City of London dormitories. Improved communications is the answer to efficiency and productivity; with cheap accessible 4g coverage, 3d conferencing, and better mobile devices and the right attitude I bet we could get rid of most work-related journeys altogether.

Considering the fact that train prices have just increased. Spending that amount of money to reduce journey times by up to 1 hour! I personally don't see the benefit. How much would train tickets on HS2 cost? I bet a considerable amount more.

As far as Broadband goes, as Matt has said, there are numerous plans to increase the average speed of broadband in the UK by 2016 as it stands.

I might be missing the point and as I'm not a regular passenger of the network rail services my views might be a tad bias.

pimpernel

To spend £33bn on such a scheme is ludicrous, purely political and will, as others have said, produce exactly the opposite result - MORE people will now want to commute INTO London from the North.
There are so many greatly needed improvements in transport needed elsewhere that would produce much more benefits for far more people.
But there is never enough money to do such things in the NORTH is there?
HS2 is totally bonkers!

kopperdrake

The Victorians built cracking rail lines as that's what they needed at the time to transport their greatest assets - products from the new factories of the industrial revolution. Fast forward 150 years or so and our greatest asset today is information. We do not need fast trains to do business these days, we need a fast and reliable communication system. We also need new and improved business models that make use of that communication, to allow and trust people to work from home or a local work hub more often (or completely) rather than commute long distances to a central work place. I stepped out of the commute 9 years ago and now work from a home studio. I have clients from the UK and abroad I have never met face to face, been involved in projects both national and international, arranged manufacturing here in the UK for export to the other side of the world. It is all very doable, it just needs trust in those you work with, good work practice, and the nouse to make it work. Sure, it's not applicable to those in factory-based manufacturing or on-site work, but how many in that industry are going to be able to afford the no-doubt costly ticket on the HS2? It's for top brass, and it's a waste of money.

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