HS2 is already obsolete, David Cameron should be preparing the UK for self-driving cars

Anybody who still believes high-speed rail is the answer to our transport problems, rather than an unaffordably grandiose throwback to a bygone era, needs to take a trip to Silicon Valley.

Some of the world’s cleverest scientists and engineers, including those at Google, are pioneering a new generation of driverless cars that will change our lives as much as the internet has already done.

ern:  "They will trigger a burst of economic growth, transform transport around the world, including in Britain, free vast amounts of time, increase productivity, make us a lot wealthier and unleash drastic, unpredictable economic and cultural changes." We were promised the same thing in the 60's regarding automation and robotics, and, what happened?. We still work the same number of hours, millions unemployed and the rich have got all the loot.

globalise: How many hours did you put in down the mines last week then ern?

Moneycircus:  globalise. ern's point was this, I think: In the 1970s at school we were taught, as if it was fact, that: Robots would replace workers People would no longer work The task facing governments would be how to build enough leisure centres to occupy the masses. And all this was supposed to happen in the near future.

redbanjoblue: HS2 is just a vanity project to get Britain to catch up with France and Japan circa 1980.  'Go from London to a station 20 minutes from Birmingham in 20 minutes less than you can get to Birmingham direct and for only twice the price,' is hardly tempting but it is accurate. 

lacoste: redb: HS2 is a progressive Victorian concept. Like H2S, it smells. Electric, self-driven cars are a latter-day Elizabethan concept. Motorways with self-driven vehicles are a totally archaic concept. The future? Magnetic motorways transporting small individual vehicles safely at high speed. No individual drivers for long distances; no accidental collisions. The technology is there; we'll never get there if we pursue yesterday's technology - electric/ hybrid cars. 'Driving' should be a holiday leisure activity in remote areas.

workweek_creep: That's all yesterday's technology, invest in the future … teleportation!

tanker21: Beautifully put. If the anti-HS2 brigade along the route started bombarding us with that description (which it's hard to falsify) I  think public pressure would kill it off. Even in Cameron's Britain where the public can be ignored.

scorpion_derooftrouser:  It's an EU project, so forget it - its going ahead.

max_of_mayfair: Who would want to go to Birmingham ?

DJPainless: You misunderstand, it's so people can get out faster

bromhead: Who would want to go to London? 

lacoste: The French had the French Resistance; Maybe the English should form the English Resistance . . .

jamesbd: Quite !  Cameron is a Eurofanatic .  He will talk tough to get elected but once in power he will do what he is told by his masters in Brussels.  They see him as the man who carries the can.

workweek_creep: How it works on HS1 is 20 minutes less each journey, means 40 minutes saved per day for a commuter, more than three hours a week  — or approximately 150 hours a year.  Plenty of commuters will be prepared to pay extra to get 150 hours a year of their lives back.

ritritrit:  Not an economist then.  Think about it marginally.  How much extra wages does that 20 minutes each wayearn them?  At even £40 a hour it is only a £26.67 more - for a train ticket that costs a hundred quid more and if it was fairly priced more like £400 more. Not going to happen.  Would be cheaper to hire Rolls Royces for the passengers than to build and operate HS2.

workweek_creep: You're obviously not an economist as you'd be considering people's behaviour; which I pointed out we can see with a real-life example HS1.  But yet again someone points out what actually happens with HS1, and the behaviours of travellers, yet is conveniently ignored by some … I notice you didn't even mention HS1 in your post.  "for a train ticket that costs a hundred quid more", how do you know how much the train tickets will cost?  As I pointed out, on HS1 the commuters pack the high-speed commuter trains out even though the tickets cost significantly more than the old slow trains on the old tracks. Some people see value in their time, even if you see little in yours.  "Not going to happen" so what is so fundamentally different for HS2 than HS1? Are there going to be no services for commuters? Are the people of the midlands not going to value their time as much as the peoples of Kent and Essex?  "Would be cheaper to hire Rolls Royces for the passengers than to build and operate HS2" which is true of every off-peak train run in the country, and has been since WW2, would be cheaper for all rail operators to pay for every passenger to go by taxi at off-peak times.  I'm pretty agnostic to HS2, but wonder where all the anti-HS2 lot were when HS1 was tearing up Kent and Essex … quaffing their G&T whilst booking EuroStar tickets no doubt. 

dalai guevara: ritritrit 'would be cheaper' to stay at home altogether, or introduce mattresses at work. The shower's already there, so surely not as big a quantum leap as one would initially expect it to be.

andp: Cheaper still to work from home.

keithre: But people don't make these decisions "marginally". The notional cost of the saved time wouldn't have to be less than the fare in everyone's eyes.

antonylds: Keithre, you're assuming (incorrectly) that business people don't work on their journeys.

keithre: I wasn't covering all eventualities, but fair point.

yoyoegg: HS2 is mandated by the EU - it came from the same era as the Euro - as part of a grand plan for pan-European rail network. That's why, as usual, 'Call me Dave' Dave as rolled-over like a lap-dog to please his European chums.

Pheasant_Plucker: What if house prices go up in the midlands because of HS2 with an offset for the HS2 season pass. That might be the real driver for the project. Effectively HS2 boosts the commuter range for London workers. Driving is far too dangerous to let humans operate the vehicles. Just like most jet aircraft manuals state that manual flying is not recommended at cruise altitude. The computer just does a better job. The pilot/driver should be there to monitor and take over if thinks go wrong. This is why airbus pilot seats have a nice slide out meal tray. Most commercial pilots do minimal manual flying -  only a few minutes each trip.

workweek_creep: That is exactly what has happened in Kent with HS1.  House prices have risen in the areas in and around the towns with HS1 stations, because it boosts the commuter range for London workers.