H2 or not H2, that is the question

I must respond to Mr Richard Tilden Smith’s letter (Observer 4th October). I apologise to him if I did not get my facts right. Perhaps more attention should have been given by me to the activities of the East Sussex Rail Alliance (ESRA), but councillors are busy people and sometimes items of news get missed. (I felt naming Railtrack instead of Network Rail was of minor importance though).

The main thrust of my letter, however, was the seemingly total disregard by this coalition government to invest in the many other major infrastructure projects which require attention, rather than to spend billions on HS2. Ed Balls in his recent conference speech to the Labour conference said “the question is not just whether a new high-speed line is a good idea, but whether it is the best way to spend £50bn for the future of the country”. We can argue the figures it would cost till the cows come home, but unfortunately Mr Tilden Smith misses the point. According to the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons, chaired by the redoubtable Margaret Hodge MP, she said “so far the Department for Transport has made decisions based on fragile numbers, out-of-date data and assumptions which do not reflect real life” I don’t believe the Government or any one else have the foggiest idea of the real cost.

This country risks falling behind in national competitiveness if it does not deliver on infrastructure. In addition to refurbishing our national railway net work, we are talking here of investment in energy supply, high-speed broadband, airport capacity in the southeast, road congestion, water sewerage and flood defence system, the last three being very pertinent to Rye, and on which committees I serve in my capacity as a representative for Rye Town Council.

However, to bring the argument closer to the people of Rye, I do hope that ESRA will succeed with its inter-rail groups to persuade Network Rail to upgrade the whole railway line from Hastings to Ashford by having the line twin tracked and electrified, and the signalling improved. I wish you well in your endeavours.

Cllr Granville Bantick, Rye Town Councillor