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New Rail Infrastructures - Solving the Commuter's Hell?
Posted on Feb 04, 2015

New Rail Infrastructures - Solving the Commuter's Hell?

It’s an exciting time for the UK infrastructure industry, particularly rail lines. Infrastructure is a new industry for us here at Blayze and we have seen the need for people required on new projects increase rapidly. Our consultancy surveying team are in high demand from clients needing project managers and cost managers for the famous High Speed 2 (HS2) and Crossrail projects. This has led us as a company to develop our skills and interests in the new infrastructure developments being planned and created around London. The resounding question is however, are these drastic changes that are effecting the millions of those living or commuting into London a good thing or a bad thing?

There are many factors to consider when pondering over this question; necessity, disruption, environment, utility, property demolition, noise and sight pollution are amongst some to reflect on. From the perspective of someone who is a London commuter, I am thrilled with the possibility that my commute could get less sweaty, less passive aggressive and generally just more comfortable. However, those who do not utilise the British train service daily and will thus not get a lot of direct benefit from HS2 and Crossrail, probably do not feel quite as enthralled as I and my work colleagues do.

Anyone who is required to push, shove, shuffle and jostle their way onto London trains every day during rush hour can vouch for the desperate need of more trains (or at least, more space and seats). Those of us who have to commute in and out of London from the Home Counties or other, further away places can also endorse the idea that more trains (and ideally faster ones) need to be put in place not only for physical purposes but also, for our sanity.

As the population of Britain is rapidly growing, our railways are becoming increasingly busy. Britain’s population is forecast to increase by 10 million over the next 25 years… How on earth are the swelling numbers of London commuters supposed to keep squishing into the already heavily overcrowded tubes and over ground trains? High Speed 1 (HS1), HS2 and Cross Rail propose that they have found the solution to the commuter’s hell, albeit at a large cost. HS1 and HS2 plan to invest £70 billion into all forms of transport by 2021.

HS1 has been in place since 2007 and has already started having an impact. It is the railway between St Pancras Intl and the Channel Tunnel, connecting the UK with international high speed routes (up to 300kph). As this has proven to be such a success in reducing journey times for international and domestic commuters alike, the launch of HS2 project was announced in 2012 after the identification for the need of high speed rail transport between London and Birmingham.

The initial proposal for the route had to be altered in order to reduce the impact on local communities and the environment. This highlights one very important issue that HS2 has had to compromise on and tackle in order to proceed and one reason why people may oppose to the building of HS2. After phase one of London to Birmingham is complete, they will then move onto phase two which will be a route from Birmingham to Leeds and to Manchester. This will greatly increase capacity and treble the number of seats on trains into Euston and almost double the number of trains per hour on the West Coast Main Line. As well as creating more capacity on trains, HS2 also promises to free up capacity on existing rail lines for more commuters, rural and freight train services which will decrease the number of cars and Lorries on the roads. This very large and ambitious project is predicted to be completed by 2026 - we will see!

The other company promising and predicting big things for future commuters is Crossrail. If you haven’t already noticed, the new Crossrail stations are currently being built through central London and surrounding stations in order to reduce pressure for transport from West to East London and Heathrow to Essex. It is envisaged that around 200 million passengers will travel on Crossrail each year, and it will provide a resulting 10% increase to rail capacity in the capital – thank goodness.

Crossrail are already having an impact in London but not the one we were hoping for. Disruptions are evident all around the capital with road works, congestion and buildings being torn down. One big issue that has arisen and one that we, as a property recruitment company have been keeping an eye on, has been regarding people’s private properties. As this is a government approved and run project, civilians have encountered devastating problems where no compromise or negotiation can be made and people’s properties are being demolished with compensation not even reaching the true value of the property.

Civilians are not the only ones who are encountering issues however. Like any major project, major difficulties are being revealed as the tunnels under Maidenhead, Heathrow, Shenfield, Abbey Wood, Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street and Whitechapel are being dug. This adds up to a final 42km of rail tunnels under the busy streets of London. Sewage pipes are being hit, along with interesting archaeological findings that require archaeologists to come in and inspect, thus adding delays to the process. The cost to taxpayers for this project is already huge and these unpredictable occurrences are costing even more than what was initially planned and without even being able to see the process (as it is all underground) unsurprisingly, the public are not taking to the disruption to their days (or for some, their properties) with much patience.

Whilst the issue of cost is a huge one being discussed amongst critics, analysts and lay people alike, the restorative fact and overriding positive feature is the fact that these new infrastructure changes will greatly improve our global presence and our profile on the world stage. Good infrastructure allows for growth and makes the UK a lot more appealing to the outside world. A country with easy transportation in, out and around the capital city invites business and encourages growth thus helping the business world as well as the economic world. It is argued that the revenue created from the completed HS1, HS2 and Crossrail will provide the UK with more money whilst also creating easier routes and commutes for the taxpayer.

However, one particular problem which cannot be redeemed with time is the environmental impact. Building HS1 and HS2 means destroying tranquil countryside, replacing grass with metal tracks, the sound of birds with the sound of a 250kph train and the view of hills and trees with a blue and yellow metal blur. This has been a key point of dispute amongst consultants, HS and civilians. The final announcement from HS was that they recognise the impact on the local environment and communities and have said that they are “committed to minimising these impacts and treated those affected fairly”. I doubt this will satisfy those who will not be utilising HS2 but will still experience the disturbance but ultimately, the utilitarian approach taken by the government seems to have trumped any surrounding issues.

From Blayze Group’s point of view, this national investment is a good thing. It will expand the catchment area for our candidate pool as commuting from further away will become easier, thus improving the quality of candidates taken on by our clients. A further benefit is that this could help negate wage inflation, particularly in London as it will become viable to employ people from the midlands for example. From a broader perspective, this could ultimately bring house pricing down in London and the surrounding areas as not all people working in London will need to be working in London and the Home Counties in order to commute.

It would be interesting to know what the faith is in these new infrastructure projects. Do you think that the demand for more trains and transport is worth the money and disruption? Or is there an underlying problem which needs to be solved first, such as the fact that the best paid and most important jobs are in London which is what creates the floods of people rushing in and out of our capital every day? Does this sort of core problem maybe need to be addressed before the government spend billions of pounds encouraging even people to spend a couple of hours a day on trains? Or maybe this is just a natural growth and progression of the economy, modernity and the human race – a necessity for modern day Britain.

Emily Hickey-Mason
Marketing Executive
Blayze Group


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