I can’t help laughing, I really can’t! Those of us who’ve observed the formerly occasional London Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson for years have known that you can’t trust him as far as you can throw him. HS2 antis however, have always been good at grasping any straw. So much so they could have thatched the dome of the O2 arena with them by now.
Today, the predictable has happened. The Birmingham Mail has carried an exclusive story from the Tory leadership hustings in Birmingham. Written by Johnathan Walker, the piece reports that Mr Johnson said: “I have already asked provisionally Douglas Oakervee, who was the original chair of Crossrail, to have a look at the business case for HS2 and to think about whether and how we proceed.”
Chair of Crossrail eh? Hang on a minute, Oakervee was ALSO HS2 Ltd Chairman between Apr 2012 – Dec 2013! Does anyone honestly think Oakervee, a man who’s been building major civil engineering projects (including railways) around the world for decades, and who’s seen their transformational impacts, is going to say “HS2? Nah, scrap it”.
Furthermore, Johnson is also quoted as saying “I worry about cancelling a big national project of that scale without anything else to replace it.” Now, given Johnson’s penchant for large infrastructure projects that he can put his not inconsiderable ego – sorry – name to, does anyone seriously think he’s going to cancel HS2?
Even some HS2 antis are beginning to realise that they’re on to a loser as Johnson isn’t the only Tory leadership hopeful to row back from opposition to HS2. I predict further wailing and gnashing of teeth from what’s left of the StopHs2 camp as it’s clear the political support of regional leaders like Birmingham’s Mayor Andy Street (a fellow Tory to Johnson) and Labour Mayors in the North is firmly behind HS2. If he manages to become PM, Johnson’s going to need some good news pretty fast – and cancelling HS2 isn’t it. It might satisfy a tiny bunch of Nimbys and the lobbyists of 55 Tufton St, but the political shit-storm it would unleash in the Midlands and the North (not to mention in London) is the last thing Johnson would need.
My old friend Alan Marshall has been in touch to remind me of something…
“Despite Boris seemingly (or reportedly) being very anti-HS2, in fact when he was Mayor of London he was very much for it . . . so much so that in 2015 he set up the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation to exploit the opportunities arising from the OOC interchange with the new Crossrail station to be built on the GWML. What’s more, he made himself the first chairman of the OOPRDC”.
No HS2 = no OOPRDC = no 24,000 new homes and no 55,000 jobs…