Time-Space-Movement: HS2 – High Speed rail connections

by Fiona Ferbrache

Photograph by Eric Ferbrache, reproduced with his permission

As I write, minutes remain in which to have your say regarding the Department of Transport’s High Speed Rail proposals (HS2, 2011).   Plans to develop a high speed line involve a proposed route between London and the West Midlands, connecting Leeds and Manchester to Birmingham and London.  Construction is estimated at £32 billion with anticipated economic benefits at more than twice this cost.

The HS2 consultation phase began five months ago, and ended on Friday.  During this time, anti- and pro- arguments have been too and fro in highly animated debates that have come alive through geographies of time and space.  For example, high speed networks may enable territorial, economic and social cohesion, as travel times between key cities will be reduced, effectively bringing people and places closer together.  On the other hand, high speed corridors may ‘splinter’ the UK as economic benefits become concentrated on particular key places, thus undermining smaller, unconnected locations (Stop HS2, 2011).

Situating phenomena in time and space is a core value of geography, but Merriman (in press) questions the assumption of using space-time as a foundational framework.  His article critically considers “Human Geography without time-space” and explores how we might think about events unfolding in terms of movement-space, where rhythm, affect and sensation, for example, are just as important as notions of space and time (also see Bissell, 2010 who illustrates the importance of movement and rhythm in train travel).  Merriman’s paper thus offers geographers an alternative, and post-phenomenological way of engaging with HS2.

Bissell, D. (2010) Vibrating materialities: mobility-body-technology relations. Area. 42.4 pp.479-486

HS2 (2011) High Speed Rail: investing in Britain’s future – consultation. Department for Transport.

Merriman, P. (in press) Human Geography without time-space. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers.  

Stop HS2 (2011) Stop HS2: no business case, no environmental case, no money to pay for it.  

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