The importance of the HS2 railway
I’m a believer in youth. Young people are the future and it is the duty of us oldies to lay the foundations for them to progress in their lives, which will improve the lives of generations to come. Music is, of course a huge part of my life, but my other two great passions are railways and where I live, Cheshire. HS2, the high-speed rail network from London to Birmingham and to Manchester and Leeds, is being built to improve the UK economy through investment. It will get us moving quicker and open up cities and areas we once thought were inaccessible because it took hours to get there.
In the future, on HS2, a journey between Manchester and Crewe could be around 18 minutes. It would mean businesses would no longer need to cram into London because they can have an office in Crewe, Liverpool, Manchester, Warrington or anywhere else. It becomes far easier to commute all over the UK. It can take up to 1 hour 40 minutes or more to travel into London from outside the city and on some nights it has taken me around an hour to travel across central London. London can’t take any more businesses, it’s virtually at bursting point. Prices of property are astronomical, floor space in an office is premium and at ridiculous rates. Our rail network, although it’s been upgraded since the late fifties has never been radically changed.
If you could travel between London and the North West (and the North) in effectively one hour, the whole way the country does business and lives will be changed. I could be past Crewe, which could probably become the second biggest roundabout on a railway network in Britain after Clapham Junction, and on my way to Manchester in 55 minutes.There are lots of skills and lots of outstanding schools and colleges in Cheshire and in the North, but a lot of the talent here has to leave or travel to other areas actually to find employment. But if those businesses come to Cheshire, the quality of life here would be even better than it is now. People would be able to set up businesses and do business anywhere in the country rather than struggle with travel to London or Leeds.
They would make more money all while living in a county which has breath-taking countryside, home-grown cheese, wine, gin, ice cream, Chester, forests, castles, beautiful walks, outdoor trails, a zoo, country pubs, incredible restaurants, amazing sport and an ever-growing list of things to do and see. Another thing that people forget is Cheshire and Staffordshire have an enormous food export industry which is phenomenally successful. We have a lot of green land to keep the cows happy and it’s staggering to see government statistics about food export in the North West. We’ve also got world-beating technology here, for example we’ve got Jodrell Bank where a massive four out of five international telephone calls goes through, as well as Britain’s email and texts. It’s phenomenal. It looks like a great big telescope for looking at the stars, but it is in fact helping us to communicate faster – and it’s a great setting for a music festival, like the impressive Bluedot.
Music is a huge part of our culture and it is the blood pumping through the vein of a country which is on the brink of a prosperous future by linking Cheshire and other regions with each other. Just as the HS2 railway will connect people with businesses, music connects people with each other and this is why I have created a playlist for MIPIM. When I appear at MIPIM with Jackie Sadek, the independent chair of the Northern Gateway Development Zone, I will be explaining why this green county is already a world class place for technology companies, food export, science and manufacturing. We’re talking as investors and people who are going about changing the whole face of Cheshire and the UK. But we’re older than people who buy JP Cooper records – the first artist on my playlist, and chosen because new music and the interests of the younger generation should be a huge consideration for investors.
I’ve put a couple of oldies on there for particular reasons – like ELO, Glenn Miller and French singer, Charles Trenet – to prove that we still have a good ear for a tune. I’m lucky enough to work for the BBC once a week and I play around 30 records in about two hours and I balance it between the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. But half of the show is always new records, even if my audience is in their 50s or older I make sure I don’t exclude new records because they are great pieces of music and new music comes along to remind us oldies that the next generation is as excited about music and life as we were.In the same respect, HS2 and the Northern Gateway Development Zone are not for our generation and I hope that is music to the ears of any young person reading this. We must remember we are doing all this to make life for the next generation and the next generation after that better and more connected.