OK, no-one actually expects the Tories tell the truth anymore. Let’s face it, they’ve spent years blatantly lying to Parliament and the public and it’s been from top to bottom. MPs, Junior Ministers, Cabinet Ministers and even Prime Ministers no longer feel the need to tell the truth and will tell the most awful whoppers if they think they can get away with it (and they often do). That’s what happens when you elect as Prime Minister a man twice sacked for lying during his career. Yes you Boris Johnson.
Johnson may have gone but the culture remains only now it seems that culture of rewriting history has spread to senior members of the civil service who really should know better.
On Wednesday 19th April the Transport Select Committee had an oral session where they heard evidence on transport matters (including HS2) from Rt Hon. Mark Harper MP, Secretary of State for Transport and Dame Bernadette Kelly DCB, Permanent Secretary, Department for Transport. You can read the transcript of the session here.
It was an awkward session for Harper as he had to admit that delaying sections of HS2 wouldn’t save money as claimed, the whole raison d’être the government had given for the decision. Embarrassingly, it was the rabidly anti HS2 MP and fellow Tory MP Greg Smith (MP for Nimby Bucks) who made Harper squirm on this point!
But it’s the answer to Question 556 when Bernadette Kelly interjects that things get very odd. Here’s what she said;
“The last thing I would say is to the point you made at the beginning about pressure on other parts of the network. It was always anticipated that Old Oak Common would open in advance of Euston and that there would be a gap between the two stations being operational. That’s always been a factor in the planning for HS2″.
Eh? This is blatantly untrue!
Anyone familiar with the history of HS2 from the beginning will know that Euston was planned to accept HS2 trains from day 1 of phase 1 opening. It was a given in all the business cases, environmental statements and plans right up to the Oakervee review published in February 2020. Oakervee’s report addressed the mess Euston had become and suggested Old Oak Common as a temporary terminus whilst Euston was sorted out. Kelly must know this as the Oakervee review happened on her watch!
Piecing together the evidence for the truth is difficult as some of the original HS2 documents have ‘disappeared’ – especially appendices to larger documents which contained timelines, but plenty still exist to prove that Euston was always meant to open from Day 1. Here’s a selection.
In 2014 the then Chairman of HS2, Sir David Higgins gave an interview to the magazine Transport Intelligence. It makes interesting reading, not least because it contains some graphs, including one of the original timeline for building HS2’s Euston station.
Meanwhile, here’s a link to the 2013 strategic case for HS2. Where does it mention Euston is to open ‘later’ than Old Oak Common? It doesn’t. Exactly the opposite in fact. Look at the first sentence here.
And there’s more. Here’s a link to a February 2018 Government press release that also confirms Euston was expected to open at the same time as the other 3 phase 1 stations (Old Oak Common, Solihull and Curzon St).
Now, I’m sure if I spend another day digging I can find lots more evidence of the fact Euston station was planned to open as part of phase 1 from day 1, but there’s already enough here to establish that. But, if anyone would like to help by forwarding links to reports or charts I’ll be happy in include them and expand this blog.
So, what’s Kelly playing at? Kelly has been permanent secretary for the Department for Transport since 18 April 2017. It’s inconceivable that she wasn’t aware that Euston was always planned to open the same time as the rest of phase 1, so how can she justify misleading the Transport Select Committee on this matter?
If if Kelly’s misinformation wasn’t bad enough, on the 17th April Shadow Transport Minister Louise Hague tabled a written question of the secretary of state for transport, Hugh Merriman MP.
“To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will make an assessment of the potential impact of recent changes to the construction schedule for High Speed Rail 2 on passenger demand for Elizabeth Line services; and whether his Department plans to take steps to address potential changes in demand”.
Merriman’s reply repeated the misinformation about Euston.
“As has always been planned, Old Oak Common will act as HS2’s temporary London terminus prior to the opening of the High Speed station at Euston”
As has been shown, this is blatantly untrue and now we have Ministers indulging in rewriting the facts. As this was a written question I’m unclear if this can be classed as misleading Parliament. That used to be a serious offense, a resigning matter before this Tory government came along. Now, to be fair to Merriman, he’s only been in post for a short time, so could be forgiven for not knowing the full history of HS2. So, who fed him this line?
What are Ministers and civil servants playing at here? The shambles that the Government has made of Euston is clearly an embarrassment and one that makes the UK look pathetic on the world stage. ‘World – beating’? Oh, please, we can’t even build a bloody railway in one piece!
I’ve a small favour to ask…
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