The Guardian on 4 May 2006 published an article summarising a parliamentary committe report under the headline MPs criticise slow start to Britain’s fastest railway line as costs mount. I felt impelled to write to the Guardian and protest because the article argued that “regeneration” benefits in North London might be the saving grace of the project. The letter I wrote was as follows…
The economic disaster of the Channel tunnel rail link arrangements are even worse than the Public Accounts Committee suggests (‘MPs criticise slow start to Britain’s fastest railway…’ May 3) in two ways:
Eurostar will never justify itself with today’s pricing policy. The cost benefit analysis for the Victoria Line in the 1960s showed that, if fares were high enough to cover all the costs, usage would be so low that the social benefits of the projects would never be realised. In the event, fares were low, the line was heavily used and the benefits were massive. With Eurostar fares, a few people travel, with empty seats all around them, and we neither recoup the costs nor gain the social and environmental benefits. It was all utterly predictable (and predicted). Someone up there never learns.
You say that “regeneration benefits” may be the balancing item, justifying the whole thing. That is a bitter statement for all those in the area around King’s Cross and St Pancras where London and Continental Railways just won planning permission for a truly voracious property development designed to plug the losses of the railway. The imperatives of railway financing have been used to justify yet another anonymous office zone, speeding the gentrification of Camden and Islington, the displacement of small firms by corporate slabs and the removal of historic buildings which are in the way. Governments at all three levels are complict in this, along with English Heritage, but it is degeneration, nor regeneration. Don’t let’s pretend.
King’s Cross Railway Lands Group
5 Calendonian Road
The version they published was a bit truncated and softened. Here