High-speed rail? Just an ordinary bus would be nice sometimes

WE witnessed two very different economic realities this week: First, on Monday, the route for the extension to the UK high-speed rail line (HS2) was announced by the government at a cost of a hefty £32 billion.

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By the UK they mean between London, Manchester and Leeds, so I'm off to check my Ordnance Survey maps, because I'm sure they've missed some bits out.

The estimated economic benefits are just as staggering, with 100,000 jobs and many more billions promised for the UK and even £3bn for Scotland, even though we don't figure in the plan.

Isn't it wonderful, all that lovely economic benefit we can spend on the things that matter, right?

Which leads us to the other side, the dark side of the economic moon.

This week doctors told how the poorest communities have been failed for decades as the health inequality gap widens despite improvements.

Anyone who has lived or worked in any such area in Glasgow knows that schools have closed, community centres have been demolished, big employers have disappeared and care services are diminished.

We learned that people have to pay ever-increasing bus fares to get to hospital referrals miles away from their homes and wonder why there is such a high rate of missed appointments.

Doctors, who have witnessed the changes over those decades, say community health services are being devalued and undermined and the very people who need the NHS most are being isolated.

Back to HS2, which will create many jobs and reduce journey times for people travelling between the big cities and would be welcome here too.

Nick Clegg said it would heal the north-south divide, but he seems to be ignoring rather a lot of north in his analysis.

If it is extended to Glasgow, a high-speed rail line will be good for the city but, like the improvements in medical science and health innovations, it won't have much of an impact on the poorest communities.

When it opens in 2033, HS1 will cut journey times from Manchester to London by half, but some people will still struggle to afford to get from Possilpark to Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

For too long Glasgow has been home to the poorest areas in the UK, a harsh reality that some people seem to regard as a fact of life.

That is unacceptable and the warnings of the GPs this week must be heeded and the problems given the priority they deserve.


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