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Express & Star comment: Would HS2 cash be better spent helping commuters?

By Star Comment | Opinions | Published:

There is one key point that supporters of HS2 always seem to miss when they attempt to persuade us of its necessity.

What HS2 could look like at the Birmingham and Fazeley viaduct, part of the proposed route for the high speed rail scheme

They will talk forever about the line's connectivity, and of how people will be able to travel up and down the country faster than ever before.

While this may be true, the vast majority of people in the West Midlands are far more concerned about their daily commute on the region's atrocious transport networks.

For years we have been forced to put up with delayed and cancelled trains.

And if one does turn up there is a strong likelihood that it will be overcrowded, meaning passengers who have forked out exorbitant ticket prices cannot even get a seat.

The situation is so desperate that West Midlands Trains faces being stripped of its franchise at the end of the month following a sustained period of poor performance.

It is not just on the railways where commuters suffer.

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Our clogged road network is not fit for purpose, with a number of main stretches of highway unable to cope with the cripplingly high and ever-increasing volume of traffic.

All of this is disastrous for productivity.

As it is pointed out in today's Star by a member of the West Midlands Economic Forum, the business case for HS2 makes less sense by the day.

Barely a week goes by without the publication of another report regarding its soaring budget – now thought to be above £100 billion.

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With the Oakervee report into HS2's future due out in the coming weeks, it is time for the powers that be to examine how this huge amount of taxpayers' cash could be better used at a local level.

Quite simply, there are a multitude of improvements that could have a positive impact on people's lives.

For example, Government plans to re-open old lines and stations could be fast-tracked, freeing up capacity and at the same time encouraging more people to use our railways.

Year after year we are promised that local train services will improve, only for matters to deteriorate further.

Commuters in conurbations such as the West Midlands have suffered for long enough.

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