– Or will Video Kill The Railway Train?

Birmingham City Council has revealed its Curzon HS2 Masterplan, with all manner of artist’s impressions to show how the 25 year plan will re-shape Birmingham, all kick-started by the arrival of the HS2 high-speed (and high-price) rail-link with London. But is HS2 really a 21st century solution to the problem of greater connectivity between the UK’s commercial centres? Matt Rhodes, Commercial Services Manager for Tamworth-based IT specialists Quiss Technology, argues that HS2 is a retrograde step…

hs2 crossing b&wClaims the business advantages for HS2 outweigh the immense cost, significant environmental damage and huge disruption along the route, concentrate on the speed and capacity of new trains, but completely ignore how advances in communications technology will render the project, Britain’s biggest white elephant.

September 1830 was the start of passenger rail services in this country, but almost 200 years later we’re still shoving people into trains, telling business people only face-to-face meetings deliver results and the journey is worth it. Whilst Information technology moves forward almost every day, pushing boundaries in every direction, rail travel has not really moved far in such a long time, yet the huge investment in HS2 appears to be a done deal, with little room for debate.

Even if the deadlines do not slip and trains start to run on the line in 2026, you have to ask, just how far will communications technology have advanced in the next decade? Skype, only just over ten years old, was a game changer as far as person to person communications was concerned, bringing video communications out of the video conferencing suite and onto the laptop, tablet and smartphone.

Advancements in video conferencing technology will render traveling to business meetings an unnecessary inconvenience and expense. Video conferencing systems now allow multiple participants to engage with each other simultaneously and have adopted Skype’s approach to mobility. Systems allow users to take video calls at their desk on their PC, transfer to their tablet to walk around the factory, before finishing the call on their smartphone on the train, if necessary.

Modern commercial systems, unlike the free consumer applications, are standards-based, which ensures there is little of the disruption and loss of quality associated with the free applications. This technology has already found traction with the business community, allowing closer collaboration between colleagues and less wasted time traveling between offices. Importantly, as increasing numbers of businesses begin to appreciate the benefits on offer from the latest video conferencing technology, the greater the likelihood of interaction between client and customer too.

The latest technology brings together individuals from multiple locations, or allows users to be in more than one place and all without ever having to leave the office. This ability to converse and collaborate without wasting time or money on travel is driving productivity up and delivering new levels of engagement. The switch to video conferencing, available to everyone in the business without booking the video conferencing suite and trying to synchronise diaries, is helping businesses make decisions faster and complete projects sooner.

Whilst video conferencing is currently seen as no substitute for face-to-face meetings, just how much farther will this technology have advanced by the time the first trains roll into Curzon Street Station in 2026? The technology is being driven by some of the world’s most innovative companies, all of whom recognise the benefit to business and indeed the planet by cutting travel, rather than spending billions to just shorten journey times by a few minutes.