I’ve not had time to blog about HS2 or the doomed stop Hs2 campaign recently as I’ve been too busy and the news has been anything but positive for the antis. Yes, they’ve had two high profile events in the past week, but one of them was an excruciating failure and the other (which wasn’t much better) will make no difference at all.
The first ‘big’ event was the Taxpayers Alliance releasing a ‘report’ into what they claimed were viable alternatives to HS2. Who did they get to launch the report? David Davis MP, formerly the Brexit Minister until he resigned – just as he has from so many positions before! Why on earth they though the man who Dominic Cummings, former Campaign Director of Vote Leave famously described as thick as “thick as mince, lazy as a toad and vain as Narcissus” would add credibility is a mystery! At the launch, Davis described the plans as worked out in “exquisite” detail. His problem? Many of them were worked out on the back of a fag packet! As usual, Davis was just making stuff up. Then again, so were the TPA, so maybe that was his attraction?
Not only were some of the schemes mentioned sketchy to say the least, the TPA had lifted many of them without permission, leaving their original proposers spitting blood! It got worse. The High Speed Rail Industry Leaders put out a waspish press release which pointed out that the TPA couldn’t even add up! Here’s what they said. Feel the burn!
Things got even worse for the TPA when it became clear Northern leaders were having none of their nonsense either. Here’s what Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, had to say in the Chronicle!
“Northern business and civic leaders all agree we need HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and more investment in key road and mass transit schemes for city regions.
Why should hard pressed taxpayers in the North, who pay double the amount of road tax and fuel duty than those living in London, be forced to make a choice between them after decades of underinvestment here?
This half-baked plan is an embarrassment to the Tax Payers Alliance because the sums don’t add up.” He added: “Northerners are not going to stand for cancelling HS2 in order to pay for a list of schemes decided by a bunch of Westminster bubble types trying to impress Tory leadership candidates”.
Another burn delivered!
Of course, it’s no co-incidence that most of the Tory opposition to Hs2 comes from the same Brexity right-wing fringe that David Davis et al inhabit. Much of it is centred on the address of those secretive lobby groups the TPA and IEA: 55 Tufton St.
The next embarrassment came with the release of the House of Lords Economic Committee report into Hs2. It was a wishy-washy, piss-poor bit of work that had clearly decided what it was going to say before they’d even bothered taking evidence. They tried to cast doubts on Hs2, mostly by trotting out the same old stuff the last Lords Committee had (see this earlier blog). Their tactic of trying to play off Northern rail investment against Hs2 is straight out of the IEA/TPA playbook. But that’s hardly surprising as the collusion is obvious, as is the prominence of Brexiters on the Ctte, like Lord Lamont and the Chair of the Committee, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean.
The morning the report was published, Alistair Darling (aka Lord Darling of Roulanish)was trotted out to on the TV to say that more investment is needed in the North – but Hs2 isn’t it. As usual he was given a free ride by the media, none of whom seemed to know his history. I’ll sum it up thus “Man who cancelled major investment in the North calls for major investment in the North”. Hypocritical, no? As Labour Transport Minister and later Chancellor of the Exchequer Darling created the very problem he was complaining about. It was he who pulled money from the Liverpool and Leeds tram schemes at the last moment (Liverpool had even gone out and bought the tramway rails in readiness!). He also stopped the ‘big bang’ expansion of the Manchester tram network. As Transport Minister he oversaw electrification of a piddling 9 miles of UK railway, the section from Crewe to Kidsgrove, and that was it.
The report has not gone down well. The British Chambers of Commerce were less than impressed. Their spokesman said this:
Worse was to come as others digested the report. Nottingham MP and Chair of the Transport Select Committee spotted a faux-pas straight away, tweeting this;
Both Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) and the West Midlands Rail Executive (WMRE) piled in too, issuing this well informed and highly critical statement. The Nottingham Post followed up on Lilian’s point, observing that the Lords hadn’t mentioned Toton once! The absence of mentions of the Midlands is hardly surprising when you think about it. The region gets in the way of the Lords trying to play the Northern narrative. I’ve little doubt that this report will be as unsuccessful at stopping Hs2 as the last one, which it’s destined to sit alongside on the Lords library shelves, gathering dust.
On Thursday afternoon I listened to Labour’s Shadow Transport Minister make his keynote speech at the Railtex trade fair. he made it crystal clear that neither the TPA or Lords had changed the party’s stance on Hs2 and they remained solidly behind the project.
The week got even worse for stophs2 when the latest YouGov opinion poll came out, as it blew out of the water their oft-repeated claim that the country ‘overwhelmingly’ opposes HS2. They often trot out figures claiming 80-90% of folk don’t want it. Here’s the reality.
Note the figure for London where more folks support than oppose Hs2! This will cause consternation amongst the remaining Camden Nimbys. The reality is that a huge amount of work putting the case for Hs2 is now being made by regional political and business leaders across the country. Add to that the fact the economic impact of 1000s of Hs2 related jobs is being felt and you can start to understand why opinions will shift in favour of Hs2. There’s also a lot more positive publicity around the project and there’s an awful lot more to come. The fact work on the ground has started means that what was seen as a vague concept for so many years is now being seen as something that’s tangible.
There’s two other pieces of bad news for Hs2 antis. The two new petitions they’ve started on the Government website are both bombing. They both close in October but they’ve already run out of steam. The one started by the Bucks Herald has a measly 8521 signatures after a month, whilst the one StopHs2 started has just scraped past the 16,000 mark today. It’s only been going 20 days but its already falling well below the daily average it needs to succeed. It’s doomed.
The final piece of bad news for Hs2 antis is that the High Court has extended the scope of the injunction governing the (ineffectual) protests at the Harvil Rd site. This will cramp their style even futher.