High Speed 2 – Regulate for self driving cars instead.

Dear George Osborne and David Cameron,

You seem to be very keen on a large infrastructure project known as, “High Speed 2”. This is a nineteenth century solution to a twentieth century problem. First of all let me be very clear, I love trains and I frequently use the West Coast Mainline as my fiancée lives and works in Birmingham while I live and work in Poplar and Canary Wharf. The journey from London to Birmingham International takes one hour and ten minutes and costs an astonishing £11.20 return. While the journey from Canary Wharf to Euston takes  one hour and costs £5.60 return. The trains are often feel full, but this is really just that one person is sat on each of the double seats so they are in fact not full at all.

If you were planning to build a twenty-first century train, a magnetically levitating train that travels at up to 400 mph and brings the journey to Birmingham down to twenty minutes and connects London to Glasgow in an hour or so then perhaps I would support your plan, but this is not what you are going to do. Instead you are going to shave fifteen minutes off a journey which is currently just long enough to get some work done on, if you are worried about capacity spend a billion and add some extra signals, this could more than double capacity.

However, I understand what you are trying to achieve. You think that connecting the North with the South would be a good thing and speaking as someone who hails from the conurbation of Manchester I agree with your ambition. However, there is a cheaper and simpler way.

Create the regulatory framework required to enable self driving cars to become a reality in Britain.

  • What will the test look like for a self drive car?
  • What insurance will need to be in place?
  • Who will ultimately be liable when accidents do eventually occur?
  • How will ordinary drivers have to interact with them?

We have a great car industry here in Britain and this is the future. I know it is hard to put yourself in the mind of the ordinary person when you have a chauffeur to drive you to and from the train station, but imagine, chauffeur driven cars for everyone, designed with tables in them so you can get on with your work, or have a well deserved nap after a successful meeting.

By the time the High Speed 2 is completed self driving cars will have been perfected in California and Nevada. Put Britain at the head of the race. Create a new industry here in Britain and rebalance the economy. Don’t steal £50bn of me and my children to build the greatest white elephant in history.

I know that I am shouting in the wind. You really want to feel like you’ve built something and achieved something, which I can understand is difficult as a minister of the crown, but the reality is – a strong regulatory system that allows the free market to produce solutions will always, always out perform some highly detailed plan designed in immense detail inside Whitehall. The Department for Transport is a joke, you’ve promised so many tunnels to your MPs that the journey will ultimately be a dark and dismal experience. Listen to your members, Listen to your party: Don’t build high speed 2, an outdated germo-japenese technology, regulate for self driving cars and create a world leading industry right here in Britain.

Yours sincerely,

James Robinson

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