It’s now the best part of a week since the Hs2 Phase 2a Hybrid Bill sailed past its 2nd reading in the House of Commons by 295 votes to 12. I’ve been crunching the numbers on the latest Stophs2 petition so I thought I’d take a look to see if this has galvanised opposition to Hs2 along the Manchester route. The answer is – anything but. Here’s a spreadsheet examining signatures to the petition allocated by constituency. I’ve data going back to November but this snapshot goes back to a few days before the bill had its 2nd reading – along with totals for December and January.
The first five constituencies on the list are on the Phase 2 a route and the numbers are lousy, the ‘best’ (Lichfield) has only just managed to get over a third of one percent. It’s slightly behind the overall best which is Tatton with a measly 0.35% of constituents. The petition’s doomed of course, but it does provide an interesting snapshot of feelings along the route and provides an indicator of where the ‘active’ Stophs2 action groups are. They’re few and far between – and nothing in the Greater Manchester area at all.
Here’s what passes for an active group – Mid Cheshire against Hs2 (link). Don’t bother clicking on the ‘events’ section of their website ‘cos there’s nothing there! It’s the same with their Facebook page. Googling them doesn’t reveal any activity either other than moaning to newspapers!
Meanwhile, what of the MPs along the route? Well, of the five phase 2a MPs, only two (Bill Cash & Michael Fabricant) voted against the Phase 2a bill, two abstained and one – Tamworth’s Christopher Pincher voted yes. The 13 MPs on the rest of the route abstained!
I’ll be monitoring the petition result to the bitter end in order to mine the data and judge the strength of the opposition to Hs2 but on current results it’s fair to say it’s ineffectual. The next data of interest will be the number of petitions posted on phase 2a. Unlike on phase 1 there’s no groups trying to canvas petitions or issuing templates for people to follow, so the results are likely to be very different. Of course, the template petitions were a waste of time as they were grouped together!
Now that the national anti Hs2 campaign’s collapsed, the local groups are increasingly isolated. Their ability to lobby MPs is both limited and ineffective as Hs2 continues to enjoy cross-party support and has the backing of most regional political and business leaders, especially in the metropolitan areas. I expect that support to grow as more and more Hs2 construction contracts are let and firms recruit staff and place orders for equipment.
2018 is going to be a very interesting year for Hs2 – if not for its opponents!