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Controversial UK HS2 Train Project Set to Boost Fibre Optic Broadband

Monday, January 21st, 2013 (8:02 am) - Score 1,014
hs2 trains to improve uk broadband

The UK governments Department for Transport (DfT) has confirmed that its costly £33bn High Speed Two (HS2) project, which aims to build a new high speed rail link between the midlands and northern England, will also deliver broadband benefits into more areas by laying fibre optic cables alongside its tracks.

The controversial scheme, which has faced heavy criticism due to its exceptionally high cost and allegedly limited potential for creating new jobs and boosting the economy, is keen to show that it’s about more than just transport and could also improve broadband, water and electricity supplies to areas along its route.

Simon Burns MP, Minister of State for Transport, said (The Guardian):

HS2 is far more than a new railway line – it is a national infrastructure project that will bring places and people closer together while creating jobs and driving growth.

Construction of HS2 gives us the perfect opportunity to explore how we can make it easier for even more people to benefit from ultra-fast broadband and potentially deliver improvements to the provision of other utility services.”

But data from the telecoms regulator, Ofcom, allegedly shows that between 70% and 90% of homes along HS2’s planned development can already access some form of superfast broadband connection. On the other hand a further improvement to network capacity couldn’t hurt and might even help to support coverage beyond the immediate areas.

Talk of a new “broadband superhighway” along the HS2 route from London to Birmingham is all very well but many may wonder why so much money is being spent on such a development when it could potentially be used elsewhere, such as to bring a true fibre optic link to every home and business across the entire United Kingdom. Not that such a thing would strictly be necessary but it’s worth considering.

Mr Burns, whom is also the Conservative MP for Chelmsford, expects the bill to pass in 2014 and HS2 itself is then scheduled to be completed by 2032.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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10 Responses
  1. Avatar Somerset

    ‘opportunity to explore’. Non story.

  2. Most of the railways have fibre on them anyway, but you can’t get access to it… so do the motorways.
    That’s just pie in the sky from the HS2 lobby.

  3. Avatar New_Londoner

    As this would primarily benefit trunk network capacity, it’s not at all obvious how anyone could reach the conclusion that it will “will also deliver broadband benefits into rural areas”. Such a proposal would surely need state aid approval, showing there is market failure – does this apply to trunk network links?

    Better to make the case for HS2 on its own merits rather than look for spurious side benefits too.

  4. Political sound bite or what???!!?

    They are going to install a fibre optic (trunk) route between London and Birmingham that will be completed by 2032! And that is always assuming it is on time (fat chance!!).

    There really ought to be a law somewhere about locking up and throwing away the key when muppets in power come up with rubbish like this.

  5. Avatar Bob

    Clearly getting desperate to try to justify HS2. Railway lines already have Fibre as do most major roads as it is a cheap way to put fibre in. HS” will do nothing at all to help get fibre to rural areas. It is just daft to even claim that

    HS2 brings little benefit. Having a 10 minute faster journey is just a nice to have. The effect could as well be negative as it may well encourage longer commutes into London

    I would say investing in FTTP would give a better pay back and does not have the negative of attracting more commytors to London

    • Avatar DTMark

      The trains are the future model for broadband services. No real competition owing to single conduits (tracks) with ongoing government subsidies to supposedly private companies.

      I’m all for combining projects where it’s possible, but does anyone know how the connectivity from the fibre that runs along the tracks gets to homes?

    • Avatar FibreFred

      “but does anyone know how the connectivity from the fibre that runs along the tracks gets to homes?”

      Exactly

      It doesn’t

  6. Avatar Bob

    You can make a strong business case for investing in Fibre but not in HS2. All HS2 will do is to encourage more people to commute into London. Otherr than during construction there is no economic benefit. In fact after construction it would require higher levels of subsidy

    The sensible approach is to not build HS2 and instead encourage Home based working. If companies say have 50% of there workers at home on any one day you half the Office space and car parrking space and half the comuter traffic and reducce fuel consumption & pollution and reduce car accidents.

    Currently many companies are relucatant to have workers at home but a tax break for each person a company allows to work from home for say about 50% of the time would focus there minds. A sensible approach would be to have people working in the office half the week & at home the other half of the week

    • Avatar zemadeiran

      Nice one Bob,

      It is very interesting that the HS2 lobby is using fibre to bolster their position?

      Maybe they can see that a national open fibre network is really the project that will be funded and not it’s white elephant…

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