2020欧洲杯体育投注开户

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Scrap HS2 – we need to focus on boosting our digital future

In 2020, where we have all been quick to embrace remote working, it is quite clear that a multi-billion pound trainline is not the answer

A HS2 worker walks past signage on perimeter fencing
It's hard to see the railway as anything more than a means to get commuters from the North into the capital faster Credit: Toby Melville/Reuters

2020欧洲杯体育投注开户It has been six years since George Obsorne made his Northern Powerhouse speech, promising to create a better-connected cluster of Northern cities to counterbalance the dominating economic power of London and hailing HS2 as “the most important investment in the north for a century”.

If they say a week is a long time in politics, then it is difficult to comprehend just how much has changed since that speech in 2014. 

2020欧洲杯体育投注开户In many ways, the overall ambition of today remains unchanged; the Prime Minister’s “levelling up” agenda is Northern Powerhouse re-branded – a recognition that the same modern and globalised economy that has propelled London forward has not been equally distributed around the country. 

2020欧洲杯体育投注开户HS2 has been a point of political and economic contention for over decade. Predicted costs have skyrocketed – with the latest estimate at a staggering £106bn – and the validation for the project has been steadily in decline. 

First proposed in 2009, the HS2 is an infrastructure project that was designed to address accessibility, connectivity and was set to underpin a new Northern economy. In 2020, where we have all been quick to embrace remote working, it is quite clear that a multi-billion pound trainline is not the answer. It is also clear that references to accessibility, connectivity and economic success can now only link to digital. 

HS2 promised to link together the Northern cities, but upon closer inspection, it’s hard to see the railway as anything more than a means to get commuters from the North into the capital faster.

Let’s be clear: this operates on entirely the wrong premise – now more than ever. 

Cities in the North and the Midlands should not resort to becoming commuter towns. Instead, these areas need to be invested in, so that they can grow digital economies in their own right. As millions of people across the country are working remotely, we’ve fast come to a collective realisation that we do not need to be together in order to work together. 

Thanks to broadband and Wi-Fi, connectivity has grown by leaps and bounds. Suddenly it’s become clear that we don’t need an office environment to work collaboratively or efficiently. The last thing anyone needs is a transport system that funnels even more people into an already overcrowded city. 

After so many years of campaigning, it will be hard for the government to now backtrack on HS2. But it would be the right decision2020欧洲杯体育投注开户 made for the right reasons. 

2020欧洲杯体育投注开户At a time when our public purse is stretched, it would be the right decision to forget the project altogether and redirect funds where they will make an immediate impact: combating digital poverty. Bridging the digital divide by ensuring every child and adult in the UK has equal opportunity to engage with digital services would do more for our economy in the long-run than any railway ever could.

The digital divide has long been a concern, but the current crisis means there is more at stake than ever before. Currently, there are 1.9 million households with no access to the internet. This is for a plethora of reasons, from the lack of infrastructure in rural areas to people simply not being able to afford the monthly costs. Whatever the reason, this must be addressed. 

2020欧洲杯体育投注开户And now Covid-19 has worryingly exposed a new reality in digital poverty. As school lessons have moved online, Labour MP Siobhan McDonagh has reported there are 700,000 disadvantaged children without the technology needed to study online at home. 

It is absurd that in this digital era, fundamental education can be stalled due to a lack of connectivity. For young people all across the country, a laptop or tablet is not an accessory; it is the gateway into the economy. 

After so many years of consultation, it will be difficult for the Government to reverse its decision on the HS2, but we must accept we are living in a different time. It needs to move on from the H2S fiasco and create a strategy whereby every individual in the UK has a right to 5G and sufficient Wi-Fi.

2020欧洲杯体育投注开户According to the ONS, one in 10 people do not have access to the internet – and with economic struggles ahead, this could decrease further, as families struggle to pay bills. It is imperative everyone has affordable and reliable digital access. We’ve become accustomed to many U-turns from the Government of late, and HS2 should be next on the list. 

2020欧洲杯体育投注开户Clearly, we have funds at our disposal, which if allocated wisely have the potential to transform our economy, boost regional development and help tackle digital poverty.

2020欧洲杯体育投注开户It’s not a question of if, but when. We can either move ahead with the time or invest in outdated infrastructure. It’s clear there is only one right answer.

 David Richards is the chief executive and co-founder of WANdisco