Despite my hopes I’ve not had as much time for blogging as I’d wanted, but here’s a quick update on Hs2 as we’ve had an interesting few weeks.
On November 15th the Government make the long-awaited announcement on the phase 2 and 2a sections of the route. These have now gone out for consultation. The only really contentious issue was the decision to adopt a change to allow Hs2 trains to run directly through Sheffield Midland via a loop off a section of Hs2 which has been shifted Eastwards through South Yorkshire. The announcements were greeted favourably by the vast majority of politicians (nationally and locally) and by the business community. As usual, the only fly in the ointment was getting the folks of Yorkshire to agree on anything! There’s currently a battle between the counties politicians as towns like Barnsley and Doncaster wanted the original Meadowhall route, whilst Sheffield had lobbied hard for a city centre route. A new housing estate outside Mexborough (Shimmer) has been caught up in the furore and provided an classic example of just how disorganised, fractious (and deceitful) the Yorkshire StopHs2 campaign is. Some campaigners tried to claim that Hs2 wanted to knock down all 215 properties. Here’s the claim on the blog page on the website of one of the main Yorkshire groups.
There’s only one problem. It’s a complete fabrication. The Higgins report contains no such figure! Not only that, but H2 Ltd confirmed in an interview to the iPaper yesterday that the figure is actually 16, not 215 properties!
The article’s a very good example of balance and unsensational journalism that reveals not everyone on the estate is anti Hs2 – a fact often ignored by more sensationalist sources. You’ll see the same levels of division if you visit the Facebook pages of some of the Yorkshire Stophs2 groups. What comes across is that some people are using the campaign as a vehicle for their 15 minutes of fame, leaving other residents feeling they’re doing more harm than good. The fact cracks have appeared so early, plus the inability of local politicians to agree, doesn’t bode well for the Stophs2 campaign in Yorkshire.
Worse news was to come on the national political stage with the news that the one party that’s really exploited the Stophs2 campaign (UKIP) is continuing to implode. They’ve lost yet another Leadership candidate, plus the EU is demanding back 400,000 euros in funding that UKIP have ‘misspent’ on UK campaigns. There’s now the delicious irony that Stophs2 and UKIP appear to be a race to see who can implode first…
As if this wasn’t bad enough, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addressed the CBI yesterday. His speech restated Labour’s commitment to building Hs2.
So, who’s going to stop Hs2 now? No-one. Phase 1 will have Royal Assent within weeks. £900m of enabling work contracts have been let and work has already started on ground investigations and re-routing services. The consultations over the phase 2 routes will continue for a year or two now, but the political will behind the project remains steadfast and solid.
It’s going to be a cold, cold Christmas without any cheer for the anti Hs2 campaign.