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HS2: An expensive white elephant?

The planned High Speed 2 (HS2) railway - which famously promises faster connectivity between London, the Midlands and the North West - has been beset with controversy since its inception.

Its champions say it is the next step in the grand rail pathways that enabled the Industrial Revolution, and will bring better business to regions of the UK too remote from London to benefit from its prosperity.

Detractors, meanwhile, cite the soaring costs: the Department of Transport has given a figure of £43 billion, but with the UK’s record of projects running well over budget and over time, few would be surprised if it reached the £80 billion figure estimated by the Institute of Economic Affairs.

And all this for a proposed opening date of 2026 (a date the cynics among us will suspect is wildly optimistic)? It’s small wonder that many would prefer those vast sums to be sunk into an ailing NHS – or, dare we say it, support Legal Aid.

Perhaps most importantly, the notion that for business to thrive between cities requires a physical connection is increasingly outdated. As a recent commenter has observed, the breakneck speed of developments in communication technology may well render HS2 obsolete long before completion date.

Already there is a range of platforms enabling virtual meetings at distances far greater than that between London and Birmingham. VOIP conferencing and Skype are increasingly used to conduct business, whilst the legal profession is turning to the security and speed of e-Signatures, e-Discovery and the use of digital bundles, removing the barrier of physical distance at the click of a mouse.

And where will legal tech be in 2026? The advances in legal IT which we are now able to take for granted would have seemed a preposterous fantasy less than a decade ago. Predictions for where tech innovations will take us in the next ten years include widespread use of augmented reality tech such as Google glass, a 3D printer in every firm, and devices that translate language in real time. Suddenly knocking 30 minutes off a journey to Birmingham New Street doesn’t seem such an achievement.

Whatever comes of HS2, one thing is certain: professional litigation support partners such as Legastat will continue to remain ahead of the curve, ensuring firms and chambers are able to provide a future-proof service to their clients.

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