I’m preparing to head off to Halifax station for a journey to Barrow Hill for today’s TALGO press event. Let’s see how the day progresses…
I timed my walk to the station impeccably. As I crested the top of the hill above our house I arrived at the same time as a snowstorm! The weather often changes here as Spring Edge is the high point of the valley summit. After here it’s a long, gradual descent sll the way to Halifax town centre and the railway station. The snow was whipped by the wind and lasted for several minutes, leaving me (in my long black coat) looking like a Dalmation!
I arrived at the station with a few minutes to soare before the 07:07 to York arrived. This is being worked by a 3-car Class 195, so there’s been no struggle to get a seat. I’m now defrosting slowly in the warmth of the front coach.
Whilst I was waiting one of the new Hull – Halifax services arrived. In a sign of the times this was worked hy a 3-car Class 158, the type of units that were the backbone of Northern’s ‘express’ services before the CAF units arrived. The fact they can be spared and cascaded to secondary duties says a lot about the way the Northern fleet’s expanded. The train was almost empty when it terminated at Halifax, although I’ve no doubt its return trip will be profitable…
I’ve arrived at Leeds via the usual game of sitting outside waiting for a platform to become free…
I’m now rammed into the luggage area (formerly the shop) on a 4-car Voyager that’s running 9 mins late due to congestion between York-Leeds. The train’s packed with a mixture of long and short distance passengers. Folk heading down South of Birmingham as far as Plymouth whilst others are taking the short hop from Leeds to Wakefield. It’s one of my dislikes about the Cross-Country network. It’s neither fish nor fowl.
Having left Wakefield 10 mins late I’ve 25 mins to enjoy staring at this bulkhead..
At least my time in Leeds was profitable. The station was awash with new trains operated by Northern, LNER and TPE and passengers scurrying through the place, heads down or buried in scarves as they head to work on this cold winter’s day.
Phew! A busy few hours af Barrow Hill where Talgo handed over one of their former sleeper cars which were used on Madrid/Barcelona- Paris services. Fitted with the company’s unique Rodal independent wheel system they’ve never been seen in the UK before. I’ll blog about this event separately as it justifies it.
Well, that was an interesting day! Not only was it a chance to catch up with a lot of old friends, it was also a great opportunity to learn more about the exciting plans Talgo have for the UK as they’ve developed.
After the event a few of us congregated to talk about the world before heading off in different directions. I’d plans to make the most of the sunny weather. Sadly neither lasted. Snow flurries followed me South and by the time the last two of us started the trek Northwards the weather was positively Arctic! I left Jon at Sheffield to leg it from an EMR 158 tl one of its Northern cousins. By the time I transferred to yet another of the Class at Leeds to get to Halifax I felt I should’ve been wearing thermals!
I’ve had another busy day at home scanning yet more old slides, whilst also preparing to move on to other activities this week. Tomorrow will see me back on the rails as I head to a press event at Barrow Hill near Chesterfield. All will be revealed in tomorrow’s rolling blog. In the meantime, if you want to have a look at the latest batch of Brazilian travel pictures, visit this gallery. If you want to see more of the vintage railway pictures from 1980, click on this link.
In between scanning pictures I’ve been keeping abreast of the world news and antics of social media. The health scare in China’s certainly having an impact on the world’s financial markets. The UK FTSE Index lost 2.29% of its value today, which is wiping out most of January’s gains. Not much fun if you’re an investor…
Still, social media provided some unintentional light hearted moments thanks to the latest shenanigan’s by the tiny bunch of StopHs2 protesters. They’ve been very quiet recently since their main protest camp at Harvil Rd was broken up as most of it’s been evicted, leaving them with nothing to film to bore social media with. But today they staged a comeback – of sorts, only not at Harvil Rd. A new camp has been started to ‘protect’ some trees and hedgerows that are being removed from along a road on the route at Offchurch, Warwickshire, but it’s all been a bit of a farce. Their ‘camp’ is a handful of tents but most of the land is already occupied and fenced off by contractors, so the work is continuing unhindered. StopHs2 have tried to make a meal of it on their website as their grandly titled ‘campaign manager’ Joe Rukin turned up to film earlier today. You can find the videos here on the StopHs2 website, but I can assure you you’re not missing much if you don’t bother!
As you can see from this screengrab, the handful of protestors are kept away by fencing which is looked after by security and police officers. Try and get in and you’re nicked – which three protesters were! The worksite continues for quite some way, which means the protesters are totally overstretched as there’s so few of them. Quite how any of this is meant to stop Hs2 is a mystery. If they can’t even stop minor work like hedgerows being removed they’re really going to struggle when the heavy equipment arrives!
No doubt farces like this will continue for a while yet, but they’ll achieve nothing. The protesters problem is that they’ve relied on social media for so long they’ve forgotten one simple thing. Twitter trolls and their fake accounts don’t exist in real life. They won’t turn up to protests, and neither will the ‘keyboard warriors’ on Facebook! The hastily reprogrammed pro Brexit bots that are keeping the #hs2 hashtag busy on Twitter are worse then useless when it comes to the real world…
Right, it’s time to say goodnight. I’ve got to be on a train at 07:20 in the morning, so watch out for tomorrow’s rolling blog, which will feature a rail vehicle of a type never seen in the UK before…
Considering that January is the month I’m normally trotting the globe I seem to have spent an awful lot of this year’s opening month sat at home staring at computer screens. I shouldn’t complain. The British weather has been pretty typical. It’s reminded me why I normally flee the UK now. It’s been predictably dull, but it has allowed me to make big inroads into scanning my old rail and travel pictures as I’ve scanned over 600 so for this month, which has freed up a not inconsiderable amount of space in my office! I’ll add a few samples later In this blog.
Whilst the weekend’s seen me busy at home I have been keeping an eye on the media and the continuing saga of HS2 as it’s played out in the press. The Fourth Estate have done themselves no favours in the way they’ve reported events. What’s sad (but predictable nowadays) is the way most of them (print or TV) can’t be arsed to do the slightest bit of independent research, so we’re into “send three and fourpence” territory (aka ‘Chinese whispers’) where the message gets distorted down the line. The FT originally reported an anonymous Government briefer who claimed the cost of HS2 was now £106bn. This was picked up and amplified by a cohort of lazy journalists who turned it into an official figure in a ‘secret’ report, when in fact it was total bollocks. The fact the National Audit Office then published an official report into HS2 and £106bn was never even mentioned (as it’s bollocks) matters not. Joe Public’s seen the figure mentioned and swallowed it, hook, line and sinker. Are these journalists apologetic? Are they hell as like. This is the ‘post truth’ world after all.
On the bright side, this whole furore does seem to have registered in Downing St where some people do seem to have realised they just might need to do something about this rubbish as it looks bad on them. The logical thing to do would be to release the Oakervee review which would show up that fact £106bn is bollocks, we’ll have to wait and see it that’s not just to sensible. In the meantime, it’s looking increasingly likely that the Government will be announcing HS2 will go ahead within the next couple of weeks – hence a lot of the froth we’re seeing in the general and social media as this really is the last chance saloon for the stophs2 campaign. Once phase 1 is given the go-ahead, they’re toast.
OK, enough of this. This theatre will play out over the next few weeks until the fat lady sings.
In the meantime, next week will be interesting for other reasons. I’ll be out and about at a couple of events next week – including volunteering for the Railway Children charity at this event, their sleepout on the 30th. Whilst this will be a fully supported fundraiser and I’m volunteering to help out, it’s a cause close to my heart. Plus, when I was a lot younger back in the 1970s-80s I’ve known just what it’s like to sleep rough on railway stations when you’ve nowhere else to go.
Now, it’s time for a change of tempo. I mentioned earlier about the pictures I’ve been scanning. I’ve been swapping between two albums. One’s old railway pictures from the 1980s whilst the other is travel shots from Brazil back in 2002. Here’s a couple of examples.
It’s a long time since Manchester Victoria looked like this! This particular picture was taken in May 1990. The area you’re seeing now has all disappeared under the arena. The platform I was stood on to take the picture still exists (it’s now platform 3) but everything else is long gone. The two locomotives were stabled in the roads that were used by engines that would push heavy freight trains up Miles Platting bank.
Now for a travel shot. Here’s the stunning island of Fernando de Noronha and the ‘Bay of Pigs’.
This morning the NAO released their latest report into the HS2 building programme. Like most NAO reports, it’s a solid piece of work that details dispassionately the project successes, failures and the challenges it faces as the UK cracks on with the biggest civil engineering project in Europe that’s going to be under construction for (potentially) the next 20 years. You can find the full report here.
Needlesss to say, the media and social media is already full of froth from people who’ve never even read the report, or at best, have skim-read its conclusions. No doubt some journo’s will trot out their usual trite appelation to claim the it’s a “damning” report (it isn’t. The NAO don’t do ‘damning’, they do sober assessments). You’ll also see ridiculous numbers North of £100bn bandied around, numbers that never appear in the NAO report at all and that have no official recognition. It says a lot about the febrile state of UK journalism that many (including the BBC) will regurgitate this spin. Nowadays it seems even supposedly respected organs like the BBC are merely parasites who lazily feed off other sections of the media to report what they say, rather than do some real research to report the actual facts.
So, what DOES the report say? Nothing that new, or earth-shattering. It’s simply an update on previous NAO reports that have highlighted the complexities and challenges of the HS2 project from its inception.
The report notes that the expected savings HS2 Ltd hoped to make haven’t materialised. Instead, there’s been an increase in costs for almost everything (bar the new trains themselves) – for multiple reasons.
These increases include mundane stuff like greater costs in moving utilities (cables, pipes etc) away from the route – which is hardly surprising as I don’t think any major project hasn’t suffered from this. The report also notes that significant costs have been added in the petitioning process by the Hybrid Bill Committee placating NIMBYs. Here’s what the report says, in their own words.
The irony? The NIMBYS who insisted that HS2 must be buried in tunnels or deep cuttings so they didn’t have to gaze upon it will be the same people who’ll now be screaming about the cost of HS2 rising! The rising costs and the reasons for them are summed up rather neatly in this table.
The report also details that costs have risen because the contractors recruited to deliver the construction of the project were expected to bear more of the financial risks than is usual – but that this is now being addressed.
What does the report say about the actual cost of HS2? Not unreasonably, it reports that this is still a figure liable to change, as is the timescale for opening. Here’s the details.
Note the final costs for the whole of HS2 are in the range of £65-88bn (including contingency). NOT £106bn! Of course you can guarantee much of the media will only use the higher of those two figures, whilst others will still insist on using the fictitious figures of £106-108bn which have no validity whatsoever. They’re certainly aren’t official figures.
What does all this do to the expected benefits of HS2 which are crudely calculated on a Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR). Here’s what the NAO say.
Until the figures are updated in the revised business case, HS2 is now regarded as poor value for money, but not so poor as StopHs2 claim, as they’ve invented a 60p in the pound figure, whilst the NAO say it’s 1:1.4! No surprise there then! Of course, as this is an NAO report, there’s a lot of things it doesn’t cover. What these bare figures don’t do is look at what would happen if we don’t build HS2. What would be the costs of the rail gridlock that would lead to, and how would we meet our targets to cut carbon emissions when we’d no loner have the means to get modal shift from road/air to rail? These are crucial matters, but not within the purview of the report. Neither will it mention that the OECD recommends that baseline infra investment is 5.5% of GDP annually for an economy with aspirations to growth. We have only spent this amount twice since WW2 leaving us woefully behind other developed (and developing) countries when it comes to infrastructure.
It doesn’t talk of the wider political aspects of building HS2 or the merits of doing so, such as the Governments aims of rebalancing the economy. That’s not the NAO’s job either – although that won’t stop some of the more bizarre claims and speculation from the pundits.
What we can see from the report is a sober assessment of where the HS2 project has got to so far and the challenges it faces over the next few years as it goes from design to (finally) construction. A decision to go-ahead will be made next month. The report assumes construction will begin in March 2020.
This won’t be the last report the NAO do on HS2. They’ll be keeping an eye of the project right through to completion when they’ll then look at the question of value for money. Their reports always make interesting reading as they’re authorititive and free of hyperbole or politicking. Now, watch how the media spins it…
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Today’s been another one where I’ve been tied to the office as I’ve continued to make inroads into scanning my old slide library in order to get them onto my Zenfolio website. Mind you, it does free up an awful lot of physical space too – and now they can be seen by anyone and I can access them anywhere!
Yesterday I added another batch of old rail pictures from 1990. This morning I was up at Sparrowfart to start scanning more travel pictures from Brazil, this time from the Island of Fernando de Noronha which I was lucky enough to visit in 2002. I have to say it’s been one of my favourite Islands. It’s pretty unique and (at least in those day) unspoilt. It’s now a world Heritage and conservation site and the main reasons to go there are to enjoy the wild coastlines, beautiful beaches and the flora and fauna. I must admit, scanning these pictures is really giving me itchy feet! Anyway, here’s a link to the gallery. I’ve still plenty more pictures to add and I’ll alternate them with the railway shots.
Here’s a selection of both as a sample.
Whilst scanning archive pictures I’ve also been keeping abreast of various news. Originally I thought I might need to take a trip down to London today to visit the latest national StopHs2 protest, but as I predicted the other day – it’s turned into a damp squib that wasn’t worth bothering with. If it had happened it would have been the first national StopHs2 demonstration since 2004. As it is, the Stop Hs2 website lowered expectations yesterday when they published this excuse.
“On Wednesday, Elizabeth Cairns and Matt Bishop invite you to join them in Parliament. This event will NOT be happening in Portcullis House, no matter what Facebook says, and there is no rally in outside Parliament either. Stop HS2 will also be launching our latest briefing for MPs that day, but that is a separate thing, so sorry for any confusion as the two things got a bit mixed up!”
Really? So what WILL be happening? Not a lot it seems. This is a classic example of someone writing cheques they can’t cash. I don’t think Ms Cairns actually understood what this entailed. Hence this…
“I’m asking people to come as individuals, to use your democratic right to visit parliament, lobby your MP and make your voice heard. I will be there with my family from 11am and plan to stay in the public spaces (st Stephens hall) peacefully as long as I am able to be there and welcome anyone who wishes to join me.“
OK, so no-one’s actually made an appointment to see their MP then? By the way, here’s today’s Order paper. Somehow, I think many MPs may have better tings to do…
Later, this video appeared on Facebook. Apparently, all of 6 MPs were lobbied and that was a ‘success’. Excuse me if I’m underwhelmed! Meanwhile, back in the wider world, Grant Shapps, the Transport Minister has yet again confirmed that an announcement on Hs2 will be made next month.
Daft anti HS2 stuff aside I was saddened to hear that today, yet another of the Monty Python team has passed away. We lost Neil Innes at the end of last year. Today, Terry Jones joined the choir invisible after battling a rare form of dementia since 2017. There’s so much that I could write about this subject, but this isn’t the blog to do it in. Suffice to say I feel so much for Terry’s family. It’s an awful thing to happen. Dementia and mental illness rob you of the person you loved. It takes their essence and leaves a husk. Personally (having experienced lost a for few loved ones in my time) I think it’s one of the worst things to have to cope with. My heart goes out to them, but I’m also grateful that Terry (and Neil) have left us all with so many happy memories – and a huge amount of laughs!
Today’s been yet another mixed bag where I’ve been keeping a wary eye on the world whilst keeping occupied scanning a selection of old slides – both rail and travel. I was up early in order to get another selection of travel shots from Brazil under my belt. That particular album’s coming along quite nicely now as I’m 2/3 of the way through the first folio and I’ll soon be starting on the selection from the island of Fernando do Noronha. Meanwhile, here’s a sample of one of today’s images from Olinda in Pernambuco state. It’s an incredibly colourful old town with some fine old buildings. You can find the rest of the Brazilian pictures here.
In order to add variety I’m simultaneously scanning some old rail shots from 1990. The idea will be to swap between rail and travel so there’s always something of interest to someone. of course, the railways looked very different in 1990 as privatisation wasn’t even on the agenda at that time.
In those days Euston was still dominated by electric locomotives – as this picture shows.
I was passing through Euston to head on up to an open day at Bescot locomotive depot just outside Birmingham. The depot put on a good show with a large variety of locomotives on display, including some withdrawn examples like 47901 here in the foreground. The weather was ideal for such an event and I certainly chewed through some film that day!
I’m still scanning the Bescot shots which you’ll be able to find in this gallery when they’re all done.
Whilst I was busy scanning the media was full of the latest leak about HS2 and a supposed ‘draft’ of the Oakervee report. Initially reported in the Financial Times the story was soon picked up by other outlets including the BBC. The leak was an odd one as it seems to have come from within government. It was soon clear that it was more spin than fact, as Andrew Sentance (one of the Oakervee Committee members made clear to the BBC. here’s how it was covered on Twitter by the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones..
Sentence also had this to say (via the BBC).
Yet again HS2 gets caught up in political games in Downing St. Mind you, HS2 isn’t the only mixed message coming out of No 10. There’s also the whole farce around Brexit the economy and promises made by Johnson to car makers before the election that have already fallen by the wayside. Let’s face it, when you have a Prime Minister who’s been sacked twice for lying you can hardly trust them, can you? Johnson may have an 80 seat majority but it’s becoming clear that his government isn’t coherent or clear in purpose. Improving the UKs infrastructure post Brexit is meant to be one of their big ideas, but the message is already riven by briefings and counter briefings, such as on HS2, which suggests a Government that’s less than united. It would be very interesting to know who in Government is briefing against HS2. Cummings?
Northern and Midlands leaders and several MPs have reacted with fury to these games by Downing St, demanding the the Oakervee review’s published so that there can’t be any more spin about its contents. We will have to see if they get their wish anytime soon…
Away from the shenanigans in Downing St it’s clear that the Harvil Rd protest has fizzled out again. Despite a few dozen Extinction Rebellion supporters and StopHs2’s Joe Rukin pitching up to make a few self-congratulatory videos claiming they’d ‘retaken’ Harvil Rd (they hadn’t) most of them had already drifted off by Sunday. It’s now business as usual as a visit to the ‘Protect the Colne Valley’ Facebook page will show. The flow of Facebook videos has dried up and work to clear the site continues pretty much unhindered.
The traditional day of rest has been anything but for me as I was up at 07:30 this morning in order to scan yet another batch of old travel slides which I’d set up in readiness the night before. This selection were from a trip to Brazil and I’m making good progress getting through the two albums which have been sitting in the archives since 2002. Many of them have never seen the light of day since but now they’re appearing on my Zenfolio website in this gallery. So far I’ve managed to scan all the pictures from Rio de Janeiro. Now I’ve moved on to the historical town of Olinda in Pernambuco state before the next batch which will be of the fantastic island nature park of Fernando de Noronha. Here’s a couple of samples from today’s batch.
Hopefully I’ll have this albums fully scanned in a couple of weeks, then it’s time to move on to another set of old railway slides. On Saturday we visited Dawn’s parents who’ve been keeping many of the albums in safe storage for me. I’ve now dug out four albums of rail images from 1990 to 1992 so this next batch really are stepping back in time, nearly 30 years in fact!
Besides rooting through the archives we’ve both been busy with more mundane chores around the house which was rather frustrating as the day had started as one of those perfect frosty winter mornings with wall to wall sunshine, but there was no time to drop everything and head out for a ramble as we’ve both got too many things to do. The law of Sod often guarantees that there’ll be perfect walking weather on the weekends you’re busy, then it’ll be raining cats and dogs when you’re at a loose end…
Never mind, I’m hoping to get out a couple of times this next week although the weather looks like a mixed bag.
Talking of the weather I noticed that it put a bit of a damper on the latest instalment of the saga that’s the StopHs2 protest at Harvil Rd. There was meant to be three days of protests at the site starting last Friday, but it’s not exactly caught the media’s eye. That’s because only a few dozen people turned up on Saturday and many of them were day-trippers. Quite how these weekend warriors are meant to stop Hs2 is a mystery as the vast majority of them will have faded away by Monday after making their video’s and pretending they’ve actually achieved something. Then it’s back to business as usual with contractors continuing work on the site. It’s all pretty pointless, all the protesters are doing is wasting time and money, but that’s life.
Apoarently, despite the fact the tiny area still available to the protesters resembled the Somme, the group that dress up in red to pose in order to attract media attention were there. Quite what the point is has always been unclear.
“I say Prime Minister, I’ve just seen a tiny group of protesters dressed in red sheets pretending to be Marcel Marceau whilst stood in a muddy wood. It’s made me realise we don’t need HS2 after all and we should scrap it” – said no MP, ever…
Meanwhile, the clock keeps ticking towards an announcement from Government about Hs2 getting the final go-ahead. Expect that next month.
Apparently, there’s meant to be a StopHs2 rally at Parliament on Wednesday, but it doesn’t seem to be gaining much interest. Somehow I can’t see the Metropolitan Police cancelling any leave over it, or coach firms suddenly being inundated with bookings to ferry the demonstrators to London. We shall see…
Having pretty much been staring at four walls all week (OK, and looking at lots of colourful pictures, but that’s not the point) I’ve made an escape from the office to try and get some contemporary library shots. Unfortunately the weather’s nowhere near as nice as last Friday, exactly the opposite in fact. We’ve low, grey clouds and drizzle, so I’m leaving the confines of the Calder valley to head West for a change of scenery and (hopefully) weather.
After strolling down to Sowerby Bridge station I was just in time to join some of the local rail enthusiasts who were waiting for a pair of DRS Class 20s which were heading to York in readiness for a railtour, which nade a nice change. As I was heading for Preston and the Blackpool North services have stopped calling at Sowerby Bridge I caught a late running Chester service to Hebden Bridge to make the connection. Fortunately, the Chester wasn’t so late that the Blackpool was put out ahead or I’d have been kicking my heels for another hour.
I’m now on a rather careworn and unrefurbished 2-car Class 158, having drawn the short-straw rather than having a new Class 195 on the route.
We’re now at Accrington, an archetypal former mill town with its rows of terraces climbing up the hillsides the the railway gives a fantastic view of as it bisects the town on a viaduct. I keep meaning to take a day out here to explore as there must be several different shots to be had of the juxtaposition of town and railway. Now the new trains are more common this is the year to make the idea a reality.
I’m now on my way from Wigan North Western after leaving Preston to continue my way West. Preston was interesting as the forms of traction really have changed in just a few months. Last year it was a nexus for driver training on Northern’s new trains. Those runs till appear, but now many of the new trains are in service, having taken over from the old BR units that were a staple of the Northern fleet. I’d hooed I might have found some of the new TPE sets in service but it wasn’t to be. Nir did I bag any Pendolinos in Avanti livery but hey ho…
Instead, I’m heading to Liverpool in search of photo-opportunities there as the weather seems to be picking up. I’m currently on one of Northern’s new 3-car Class 331s which have taken over services on this route. They’re a far cry from the pedestrian diesel units that worked the line untol it was electrified. These are old haunts for me as I grew up not far away in Southport and spent many a weekend travelling these routes back in the early 1970s. How things have changed!
Liverpool Lime St was interesting. The station’s changed so much since I first got to know it in the early 1970s. Now it’s busier than ever with new trains, new platforms and new services, like the Transport for Wales route to Chester via the long-abandoned Halton curve. It’s cleaner too as many of the services tgat used diesel units are now electrically operated. That said, there’s a bit of an odd throwback in the shape of the Trans Pennine service I caught to head back East. 5 coaches hauled (or pushed) by a Class 68 diesel locomotive! I’m not going to be too critical as the extended sets mean that I can get a seat unlike on the 3-car 185s. They’re comfortable vehicles too.
Sadly I had to bail out at Manchester Victoria where I transferred to a Northern service to get me back to Sowerby Bridge. The 3-car Class 158 I’m on now is rammed. They always are as far as Rochdale but with this being a Friday we’ve also got a complement of hen parties and other folk heading for nights out along the route.
As the countdown to the Government making its final decision on building HS2 the opposition has ramped up their anti HS2 PR, the latest being today’s overly-long 34 page report from the Wildlife Trusts.
It’s a masterpiece of speculation and scaremongering. Long on apocalyptic predictions of what HS2 will do the UKs flora and fauna but woefully short of facts. It also ignores the critical question. If not HS2, what?
The report’s been collated using responses from 14 Wildlife Trusts and a number of conservation and landowning organisations along the full route of HS2 who’ve all been busy staring into their crystal balls in order to predict a future where HS2 has supposedly laid waste to this green and pleasent land. Here’s some examples. Here’s this from the Executive summary.
“HS2 will result in the loss of irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodlands, veteran trees, wood pasture, old meadows, mires and wetlands. A total of 108 ancient woodlands are known to be threatened with loss or damage under current plans. Many other important wildlife habitats will be negatively impacted by the construction of HS2 and will not recover their existing biodiversity value, under the timescales used in HS2’s calculations”
At the risk of being flippant, the old expression “you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs” springs to mind here. The idea that we can build anything on the scale of HS2 in the UK without affecting something or someone is pie in the sky. The point is to ensure the least damage is caused as possible, to mitigate the losses and to ensure there’s replacements for what has to be lost. Because (make no mistake) there’s something much bigger at stake here. It’s called planet Earth – but more of that later….
Here’s some more examples.
“1.3 Species at risk It is anticipated that HS2 will impact a wide range of wildlife significantly”
Anticipated? By whom? This is a good example of the language used throughout the report. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen the words and phrases “risk”, “potential risk”,”jeopardised”, “may”, “likely”,
Then there’s these classic bits of daft scaremongering from the introduction.
“HS2 is a huge infrastructure project, which will cut and divide England’s natural habitats in two, from London to Manchester and Leeds”…”HS2 will cut right through the heart of England, slashing a large part of the countryside in two”.
Err, hello? This is a railway, it’s not the Berlin wall! And, it’s a damned sight more permeable for wildlife than the alternative – more motorways. It’s this sort of blinkered thinking that is so frustrating, because at no point in the report are any alternatives considered – or a comparison of the destruction they would cause even mentioned. Because – if you did that, the effects of HS2 on the environment would look very different indeed to the bleak picture painted by these groups.
It’s that lack of a bigger picture that makes organisations like this part of the Climate Change problem, not the solution. They’re single-issue campaigners. They daren’t look at the bigger picture, because if they did it would make people realise that they (literally) can’t see the woods for the trees.
Great, say they managed to stop HS2. What then? The need for it won’t go away. Instead, the Government would have to come up with an alternative and the only obvious alternative is more motorways. The old axiom ‘be careful what you wish for’ is very appropriate here. If ‘green’ groups think building a new railway is too higher price to pay, what price is several hundred miles of new motorways?
Of course, the stock answer you get from groups like the Wildlife or Woodland Trusts is “not my problem Guv, we’re only here to campaign about UK trees, or newts, or bats”.
Which brings me back to planet Earth – if only I could bring these groups back there too!
Transport is one of the biggest emitters of Co2. If we’re serious about tackling GLOBAL climate change we need to get modal shift from road and air to the greenest form of mass land transport: Rail. But we can’t do that without the vastly enhanced rail capacity HS2 gives us as our existing network is full and can’t be expanded in any meaningful way. Oh, we can tinker around the edges, removing a few pinch-points here and there, but the truth is we need a new line. The rest of the world has realised that High-Speed rail’s the solution, but many here are too blinkered, too conservative and (seemingly) incapable of grasping the scale of the problem.
Great, we get to ‘save’ a tiny patch of ancient woodland. For now. But in doing so we put the whole ecosystem at risk. Not just in the UK but across the planet as there’s a clue in the name ‘Global Warming’.
This is ultimately my frustration with these supposed environmental groups. Their inability to see and deal with the bigger picture won’t save anything. Just the opposite! There’s another hypocrisy here. ‘Green’ groups constantly shout about the ‘climate emergency’ and the need to act NOW! Yet, when it comes to building HS2 they say “not so fast, we must go back to the drawing board”, thus delaying the means to enable modal shift for several years if not decades. Some ’emergency’! It’s taken us 10 years to get to this point, yet HS2 still won’t be ready for years!
I could spend hours critiqueing the rest of the scaremongering in this report, but I think you get the drift. I want to see the environment protecting too – after all, I’ve got to live on this planet as well. I just wish we had a decent environmental and truly ‘green’ party in the UK, because what we’ve got now is just doing the road lobby and oil companies jobs for them.
Despite all this there has been one very refreshing thing and that’s HS2 Ltd finally taking the gloves off by starting to challenge these factual inaccuracies and spin rather then leaving it to people like myself and Gareth Dennis. Here’s a sample of their ripostes on Twitter.
This challenging of factual inaccuracies and willingness to stand up for the project rather than rely on people like myself, Gareth Dennis and RAIL’s Nigel Harris amongst others is long overdue but nevertheless welcome. Maybe now we can start to cut through the crap and talk about the serious issues as construction of HS2 gets underway.
UPDATE: 16th January.
I know I’ve been a stern critic of the environmental movement in this blog, but I’m going to share this with you as evidence of why this is. Here’s a tweet from Craig David, who is the CEO of the England and Wales ‘friends’ of the Earth (FoE).
This mind-numbingly banal and intellectually bankrupt comparison is the best that a CEO can come up with? Seriously? If anything makes me worry for the future of the planet it’s the fact that these people are the ‘leaders’ of the ‘green’ movement. Talk about out-gunned and out-manoeuvred. Christ on a bike…
We’ve had a fun 24 hours here in the Calder Valley due to storm Brendan which has brought with it lashes of rain and high winds as well as dismal skies that have reduced us to half-light. The camera has stayed firmly in its bag and apart from forays on foot to go shopping and get some exercise I’ve been pretty much glued to the office.
This morning I was up at 6am as Dawn had an early start. This gave me the opportunity to try and integrate back into the library some of the old slides I had back from picture agencies a couple of years back. They’ve gone back into the albums they were taken from in an effort to give me some continuity. In order to save space (and time) I’m weeding out duplicate images. The problem with slides was that I used to back up pictures by taking 2-3 shots that were exactly the same. This served a dual purpose. If the original got damaged or lost I had a back-up. I could also send one to a picture library whilst keeping another version for myself. Of course, in the digital age such redundancy is, well, redundant! Now I can duplicate an image with a click of a mouse!
The stuff I’ve had returned covers many different subjects. Apart from all the travel shots and rail images one of the libraries I contributed to was a social issues picture agency based in Brixton called Photofusion. The stuff I placed with them covered a rainbow of subjects, from Housing (which I still worked in at the time) to UK travel, politics, demonstrations like the miners strikes or Iraq War and festivals like Gay Pride. Looking back at the pictures makes me realise that – if nothing else – I’ve certainly had an interesting life and covered an awful lot of things in my time! I’m looking forward to getting most of them scanned, although a few are destined for the bin as the things they covered have little relevance today. It’s a sad waste and another advantage of digital. When I consider how much each of those mounted slides cost me to take and the mountain of plastic waste they’re reduced to I wish I’d switched to digital long before I did.
Here’s a few of today’s scans spanning the years from the early 1990s to the 2000s, just to give you an idea of what I have in the archive. First up is a May day protest in central London back in 2001. These events could get out of control quite quickly so the police always turned up dressed up in full riot gear to make a point. As a photographer it could get quite hairy as you were in the thick of it, with police on one side and demonstrators on the other. This photo shows a stand-off between protestors and riot police outside the John Lewis store in Oxford St. As you can see, the copper to the left wasn’t too pleased to see me!
Here’s an earlier shot taken in 1992 – although it looks like it could have been the early 1980s. This is a miners demonstration in London, protesting about the mass closure of some of the remaining UK pits – strange as that might seem now when climate-change is the most important issue that faces us and the days of ‘King Coal’ are long gone. In the photo is Tony Benn MP, NUM President Arthur Scargill and Dennis Skinner MP. Like the May day demonstration I’ve a large archive of pictures of this event to scan (one day). The miners were very well organised and also media savvy. A group of them worked with photographers to ensure you got the shots you both needed. They’d escort you out in front of the procession leaders and guide you so that you could face backwards getting the shots you wanted before moving you on so the next photographer could get their shots.
Of course I should mention that in the days when these photographs were taken I’d no idea that I was eventually going to change career and become a professional photographer. Then I was a rep for my trade union (NALGO, the local Government Officers Union, or ‘Not A Lot Going On’ as it was sometimes referred to!) and involved in producing the newsletter. I took these pictures because I was interested in photography and social issues, not for a moment thinking that one day this would become my career.
– and now for something completely different, and a lot more camp! Lynn and I would often attend the annual Gay Pride parade in London with friends. When I first met Lynn she worked for the AIDs charity the Terrence Higgins Trust. Needless to say, we made a lot of friends through her work and ‘Pride’ was always a good day out and chance to catch up with people. In 1995 the parade used Victoria Park in East London not far from where we were living, so naturally, we dropped in! This particular couple were spectacular, and this was before Elton John got married in similar style 9 years later…
Time to go back to trains for my final picture which shows how much the railways have changed. Here’s an old Class 508 electric train used by Connex arriving at Maidstone West on the 7th March 2002. Built by British Railways for suburban services out of Waterloo they were transferred to Merseyside. Some surplus units made the trek South once more and ended up working South-Eastern services, first for Connex and later South-Eastern Trains. The SET units remained in service until 2008.
I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane and through elements of social history. If you want to see the full selection of pictures you can find them on my Zenfolio website. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I get around to scanning the rest but as I’ve 1000s to get through we may all need to be patient. I’ve spent a few hours tonight weeding out duplicates from another travel album which includes shots from New Zealand, the UK, India and Denmark. They might not get scanned for a while, but at least they’re taking up a lot less room…