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My experience of living and working in the North is that transport is a huge issue. None of the economic areas outside London/SE are as large as London, which means sooner or later you're going to need to do business with someone either from a different city.

Half the time in the Midlands, that involves travelling via London.

In the North, it's just painful to realise that Leeds to Manchester is a grand total of 36 miles and it takes roughly an hour on the train.

The final insult is the total lack of cross-London rail lines and links. There's a substantial concentration of multinational companies in the Thames Valley and the main way you get there from the North is... train to London, tube to another part of London, train out to Reading/Slough/etc.

Freight is an even bigger problem - the natural advantage of places outside the South East is space for big manufacturing enterprise. But the lack of investment in freight rail means that transport costs on ever more clogged roads just go up and up.

To be clear, up to now, none of this is really about HS2.

I do believe in some kind of HS2 project - some say other investments are a better payback, but I think that concedes too much. If we actually want to get people out of the SE, we need to do the cross-regional projects and HS2.

And it's not all about HS2 tracks - we're still waiting for direct trains to Paris/Brussels. It's 2 hrs from St Pancras to Brussels by Eurostar. In principle that's 4-5 hours from Leeds to Brussels by train. That competes with air travel and makes a business relationship with that part of Europe easier, without moving to Buckinghamshire.

Of course it would be nice if Britain were not so centralised around London, if some radical government in 1970 had made a change... but starting from where we are, some things have been moved (parts of the BBC to Salford, DWP to Leeds) - and what makes or breaks the deployment is the ease of continued access to London. If those things work, then there's the potential to get some critical mass going.

All this is predicated on the notion that the convenience of the managerial class is the defining factor. But I think that's realistic. It's never stopped being cheaper and better for access to good graduates to base a business in one of the good university cities of the North - but it's rarely happened.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Jun 1st, 2011 at 03:02:33 AM EST
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Of course, to take up TBG's point, if we actually had world leading internet infrastructure then we might be in a position to let transport rot.

But we don't - the early days of the UK internet saw a lot of activity in the M62 corridor and also in Nottingham - but as bandwidth requirements rose, the data centres drifted south...

World-class internet interconnection touches the UK in London - and basically nowhere else...

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Jun 1st, 2011 at 03:12:58 AM EST
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One plan discussed in Finland was to set up office centres next to schools which would both be provided with best broadband access. The offices would be places where outworkers from different companies could gather. Office space would be flexible (all you need is your laptop) FCFS, and there would be a cafe/lunch restaurant, copying/office printing services, a library and so on.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jun 1st, 2011 at 03:57:00 AM EST
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Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to suggest that there's no internet outside of London.

My focus is on the extremely high bandwidth infrastructure that cutting edge applications require. That's an area where government planning and investment could affect the whole business landscape.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Jun 1st, 2011 at 04:22:40 AM EST
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Absolutely.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jun 1st, 2011 at 05:31:50 AM EST
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That's an area where government planning and investment

You must be referring to another country. British government doesn't do planning and investment

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jun 1st, 2011 at 06:50:19 AM EST
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The one thing the Tories are doing right is pushing rural Internet. Wiltshire is getting £5 million for a local roll-out, and Somerset is getting something like £15m.

But for cutting-edge hosting, there's no real need to keep a server at home. You can hire or co-locate in London and get all the usual bandwidth and benefits, with remote management. For a lot of applications it's cheaper to do that than it is to buy a custom server and pay for a spare high speed broadband line.

Industrial data centres will usually have a leased line anyway, so they're not so dependent on public broadband.

It does mean they won't be based in the Hebrides, but there's no technical reason why they can't be based in the Midlands.

I know someone who ran a dating site on a cheap PC she kept in a spare bedroom. Initially it was connected to a couple of ISDN lines.

She happened to live in London, but she could have done it anywhere.

She sold the site a few years ago for half a million.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jun 1st, 2011 at 07:29:21 AM EST
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Metatone:
Leeds to Manchester is a grand total of 36 miles and it takes roughly an hour on the train

For the same distance in 1830, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway took twice that time.

Travel time halved in well-nigh two centuries. You can't stop progress, can you?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jun 1st, 2011 at 05:45:26 AM EST
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Lack of investment in Rail freight,

 did you see the salon piece a couple of nights ago, that they've had to bring in a hobbyists diesel loco to move some freight in the north thats class was retired 30 years ago, due to unanticipated increases in freight use.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jun 1st, 2011 at 05:47:30 AM EST
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Even so, the point remains valid. An awful lot of freight handling depots have been mothballed and left to rot such that re-establishing a widespread freight network would be quite expensive.

It's no good being able to move the freight to within a couple of miles if you've no sidings where you can process it and no infrastructure to do so.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jun 1st, 2011 at 06:36:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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