Waiting at Oxford’s railway station, the Tannoy conveys apologises for any disruption caused by delay to the 1331 service to London’s Paddington station. We are reminded that a key determinant in rail service provision relates to journey time, at least from the perspective of travel policy and, to some extent, for a group of Keble Geographers travelling to the Palace of Westminster the same afternoon. Travelling to the capital to attend a Parliamentary seminar on The Case for High Speed rail: a regional, social and economic perspective could hardly be more appropriate under such circumstances. Alas, the overground and underground rail journey did not prevent us reaching the Houses of Parliament in good time to clear security checks and take seats in the House of Commons.
Co-hosted by the Royal Geographical Society,AcademyofSocial Sciencesand Regional Studies Association, this parliamentary seminar had an academic stance to examine ways in which social scientific evidence can contribute to the debate on the future of high speed rail. Chaired by Louise Ellman, MP for Liverpool Riverside and Chair of the Transport Select Committee, the session drew on the expertise of four specialists invited to form the panel. Following the government’s announcement that development of HS2 will proceed, this seminar was dominated by discussion around this particular rail link. What emerged among the panel, and through comments and questions of the audience, was the overall inadequacy of the research base on which major (financial) investment projects, such as HS2, are decided.
While this trip offered Keble Geographers an opportunity to participate in a parliamentary debate, and to gain first-hand insight to a contemporary political and economic UK issue, the occasion also introduced the field of transport studies, which Geographers have more chance to explore in the second year Transport and Mobilities option. Fitting with the theme of the seminar, the journey transpired to produce social scientific evidence to counter the assumption that time spend travelling is ‘unproductive’ time. Instead, as this photograph represents, travel time can be used productively – in this instance to prepare for next week’s Geographical Controversies presentations.
Thank you to all who travelled to London to represent Keble College at this event.