Skip Navigation

HS2 proclaimed as answer to all our problems
Monday 21 January 2013 09:48:46 by Andrew Ferguson

In the broadband world lots of people have complained that the money currently allocated to the HS2 rail project providing a faster rail link between London and Birmingham could finance full FTTH for every property in the UK it would appear that the politicians have finally noticed.

At the weekend The Telegraph reported that there are plans underway to run fibre optic cabling along the route, and possibly other utilities such as water and electricity.

"HS2 is far more than a new railway line — it is a national infrastructure project that will bring places and people closer together while creating jobs and driving growth.

Construction of HS2 gives us the perfect opportunity to explore how we can make it easier for even more people to benefit from ultra-fast broadband — and potentially deliver improvements to the provision of other utility services, including water and electricity."

Simon Burns, Minister of State for Transport

Building a £33bn rail line is a very expensive way of installing a new fibre backbone that home owners can benefit from, something like 170,000 homes are expected to be impacted by the building of the rail link. Many of the towns that are skirted around will already have full fibre connectivity available as of Spring 2013, and there are numerous operators with fibre links already running between Birmingham and London. Another aspect possibly overlooked by the minister is that sections of the line that go through tunnels will not benefit the surrounding area with regard to fibre optic backbone.

Projects like HS2 potentially represent a way to keep traditional industries like the construction industry busy and employing people for some years, but as more people use the Internet for video conferences and remote working the need to commute or travel to meetings is decreasing every year and by 2026 the 30 year old executives will have known nothing but an Internet connected world and work to the philosophy that any time spent travelling to a meeting is time wasted unless meeting a new customer for the first time.


Posted by KarlAustin over 4 years ago
Some of us 30 somethings already view travelling time to meetings as wasted time :) Especially given the patchy nature of 3G coverage along the railways and the often very very ropey Wifi on trains.

The only exception I make is for meeting new clients or if it's quite a big project and the client has a ropey net connection (it happens).
Posted by Dixinormous over 4 years ago
The minister is clueless. Their phone exchanges will already have fibre running to them.

How's he planning on getting connectivity between the fibre under HS2 and people's properties?
Posted by michaels_perry over 4 years ago
Not all exchanges have a fibre backbone feed as yet, my local one doesn't and is not planned to have for at least 2 years!
HS2 is a white elephant that may offer jobs in construction but little else so is a waste in my view. Get the money spent on delivering high speed broadband to every home and business in the UK then that will mean something.
Posted by capistrano over 4 years ago
The comment by the minister is clearly ill thought out and prbably a bit of window-dressing to sell the rail link, but the authors contention that we will all be sitting at home never moving from our PCs is faintly ridiculous since only massive social engineering will change the human desire to congregate at places of work.
Posted by capistrano over 4 years ago
michaels_perry -

We need BOTH. The nation needs more capacity and more speed in both its physical and data networks, though combining the two into one project isn't necessarily the right answer.
Posted by mervl over 4 years ago
Clever Minister. He understands there's no such thing as bad publicity . . .
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@capistrano Check the article, I never claimed 100% home working, simply that as the social fabric changes more people will accept business meetings over Internet rather than spend a couple of hours travelling for a 60 minute meeting.

The home worker versus office worker is another debate, but .
Posted by Chrismb over 4 years ago
Good idea. IIRC Fibernet (bought by Global Crossing and then Level 3) made their name by running fibre along railway lines and canal towpaths.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@chrismb That is the point, those backbone links are very common already, Birmingham invariably shows up as a point of presence for any self respecting fibre backbone provider.
Posted by camieabz over 4 years ago
I wonder what the cost would be to run fibre backbone under the central reservations of motorways?

And while we're at it, build Maglev monorail above the central reservations. The space is there, and the routes are per the busiest traffic, and are generally quite straight (by roads' standards).
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@camieabz You will probably find that there is ducting running along many motorways on the verge - safer than central reservation. Using for things like power/fibre/comms to the overhead gantries etc

Posted by vicdupreez over 4 years ago
National Infrastructure my backside... None of that benefits Northern Ireland... I am not sure it touches Scotland either...
Posted by AndrueC over 4 years ago
I'm convinced many people will use HS2 anyway. Given the pricing it's more likely to be the elite few - CEOs, CFOs etc. No-one else will be able to get the expense signed off.

It's just a white elephant - a shiny toy to parade around the world to show how advanced we are.
Posted by AndrueC over 4 years ago
^ I'm NOT convinced ^.
Posted by ccsnet over 4 years ago
Hs2... a waste of money....

Posted by Bob_s2 over 4 years ago
A more sensible approach is more homeworking. If you have 50% of staff working from home each day you half the office & car parking space needed as well as halving Commuter traffic . This would not cost a lot and giving companies a small tax break for each homeworker would encourage them to adopt it
Posted by mabibby over 4 years ago
I'm all for home working, but if we sit in the house don't wander further than our local Tesco, this will become a very depressing country.

I say support HS2, at least it's pumping money into the system for workers and professionals to take out, instead of benefit scroungers!

Posted by dustofnations over 4 years ago
@ AndrueC - it isn't even going to be technologically impressive though. Other countries are deploying or developing maglev and various other lower maintenance and lower noise technologies. Plus, as you say, the present plan is that it is a 'premium service' for wealth people, on the assumption that their modestly reduced travel times will somehow result in significant economic benefits.
Posted by Bob_s2 over 4 years ago
HS2 makes no economic sense. WE are not mainland Europe. Only 10% of people travel by rail and 90% of those journeys are 50 miles or less.
It makes far better sense to have people home working for 50% of the time. The other 50% being office based. Companies save on office space and car parking space & commuter traffic is halved
All HS2 would do it to encourage more people to commute to London not a particularly sensible thing to do
A small tax break for companies for each employee they have homeworking would encourage greater take up of this by companies
Posted by AndrueC over 4 years ago
One of the good things about the current weather is that it's given me a legitimate reason to work from home. In theory I can work from home any time I want but in practice people still expect a reason.

Our office only has four staff (all engineers, one in a separate room) and we work as part of a trans-Atlantic software development team. We're used to spending all day in near silence and our managers never see us face to face.

Yet they prefer us to be in the office most of the time :-/
Posted by AndrueC over 4 years ago
So every day I have to drive 12 miles to work. Leaving behind a 70/13 Mb/s connection and all the comforts of home. The office has a 4/1Mb/s connection and that's about it.

Oh well. At least they do allow us to work from home on occasion.
Posted by batfastad over 4 years ago
I would rather they spent £30bn of our money on making sure we have a healthier and better educated population, with cheaper public transport for all. Instead of shaving 15 minutes off a 75 minute journey time.
"Politicians are not born, they are excreted"
- Marcus Tulius Cicero
Posted by chrysalis over 4 years ago
sorry I had to laugh when reading that minister statement.
Posted by michaels_perry over 4 years ago
Very expensive way to do less work! Main gains from HS2 won't appear until northern extensions are running. But the route could be used for a water distribution network as well as fibre backbone with extreme speeds. For train travel between London and Birmingham it is profligate and saves just 30 minutes.
You must be logged in to post comments. Click here to login.