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I must agree. Only a very small percentage of people use trains regularly. As the Transport Secretary has said, 10 million people travel annually on HS1, or about 30,000 people a day; another, say, 1.5 million people travel on all the other trains. What is the number of those not travelling? Practically everyone else in the country—59 million, say. That is the difference: 1.5 million on the one hand and 59 million on the other.
Another argument in favour of HS2 is that current trains are too full and the project will provide the opportunity to increase capacity. I disagree. If trains are currently too full, why not put the prices up? The way to make that fair would be to say to current regular commuters, “Yes, you can keep the current rate but a new user of the trains should be required to pay a bit more.” That would encourage further growth and investment in towns and cities outside London and raise more money towards the costs of running trains.
If it is to be delivered, the project must be delivered using private funds. The public sector should not be expected to foot the bill for HS2 while people are having to make their own financial sacrifices, and there will be no need at all to spend public money once we are out of austerity.