Posted by: Pete | January 14, 2012

What is more important, education or a high speed rail link?

Despite the continuous ‘What can we do, there’s no money?’ announcements by the Government, there are clear choices and the coalition would rather spend our money on a rail link than education. 

It’s hard to believe a massive £32 billion pounds can be pulled out of nowhere when we’re being told about the need for austerity measures. But if that money can be found, the question must be asked, ‘Where is the best place to spend it?’

This money, like the millions they could save by keeping the 50p tax rate for our highest earners, could send countless young people to university who will otherwise not be able to afford the cost. Whilst the promise was made that only a few universities would charge the maximum rate for tuition fees, it seems most are now doing so. Bright young individuals are wisely avoiding the debt legacy that would stay with them for much of their working lives, but the result will be a less educated workforce. That will cost Britain heavily in future years by crippling our innovation and competitiveness.

So what is the overwhelming need that justifies diverting funds away from education and into a high speed rail link?

The argument can only be that regional economic development will follow further up country. But even if this were true, it simply moves jobs and money from area to another. And it’s hardly likely to be true anyway. The high speed link will only save 30 minutes journey time from station to station, which means the number of businesses that will benefit are a minute number with premises close enough to the stations for that to matter.

Anyone with urgent business needs will fly, which remains much faster. Those visiting out of town premises will do what they’ve always done, they’ll drive, because getting to the station is only part of the journey. The public won’t pay the extortionate ticket costs to visit family and friends, so the only people to benefit will be a handful of wealthy business people who happen to have offices near the stations.

Well not quite, the Government will be able to say the are doing something, even if it’s the wrong thing.

What would you rather do with £32 billion, send more young people to university or shave half an hour off the rail journey to the Midlands, destroying much of our dwindling countryside into the bargain?

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