The Stophs2 campaign is going from farce to worse and yesterday has been an outstanding example. The ‘intellectual’ wing of the campaign collapsed several years ago when the folk involved in the ‘High Speed 2 Action Alliance’ (who were essentially a bunch of Chiltern Nimbys) gave up the ghost in 2016. The anti Hs2 ‘flame’ then passed to the sole surviving group known as Stophs2 who were always the ‘Mickey Mouse’ end of the campaign, as yesterday has proved in spades!
Stophs2 have been struggling to stay relevant for a long time now as their Chair, Penny Gaines has buggered off to Bournemouth whilst their Campaign Manager, Joe Rukin remains in Kenilworth. They get wheeled out as rent-a-quotes to various sections of the media who still have them in their contacts lists, but that has no reflection on their actual influence, which is zero. They weren’t even part of the HS2 phase 2a petitioning process.
But you can always rely on Joe Rukin to come up with a Cupid Stunt. Sorry, I meant to say a cunning plan! His latest brainwave was to dress up as a tree in the Uxbridge constituency of Prime Minister Boris Johnson along with some Extinction Rebellion protesters. Quite what Rukin was thinking this would achieve is unfathomable, but I’ll explore that more later. First, here’s a screenshot from the StopHs2 Facebook page that shows you this farce.
If you’re on Facebook and want to view this complete car-crash in all it’s glory, feel free! Here’s another snippet from their FB page.
Interestingly, some StopHs2 supporters were less than impressed by the spectacle, as the comments on Facebook show.
There’s also this little revelation that makes it clear the stophs2 grassroots really aren’t all that keen on getting involved in direct action. A stopHs2 sticker in the back of their 4×4 is one thing, joining a protest is another!
Despite the latter claim it’s clear that Rukin was in Uxbridge with Extinction Rebellion who were presumably hoping to entice people to vote for the Green party with this cringeworthy spectacle. Now, let’s get real for a moment and look at some facts.
In the 2016 EU referendum Uxbridge voted 57.19% to leave the EU. Boris Johnson held Uxbridge at the 2017 election with a 5034 majority.
The Green Party’s candidate, Mark Keir, who has been involved in various anti HS2 stunts, is not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer or obvious Parliamentary material who would be seen as attractive to ordinary voters (see this blog). He came last in 2017 and saw the green vote fall by 1.3% to 1.9%. The only person within spitting distance of Johnson was the Labour candidate, who increased their vote by a sizeable 13.6%. This year Labour have put up a different candidate but Keir is yet again standing for the Green party. So, who is StopHs2 backing? Keir! The one man who is guaranteed not to win and whom voting for will help keep Labour out and Boris Johnson in!
The StopHs2 campaign has been a tragi-comedy for some time. Informed sources tell me that Joe Rukin has been looking for a proper job for some time. Perhaps with his experience in ‘story-telling’ and dressing up, he should consider getting himself an Equity card, after all, he’s clearly got a talent for Pantomime and that season’s fast approaching!
The past couple of days have seen news come out that will have the remaining folks opposed to HS2 either crying into their cornflakes or banging the breakfast table in frustration. More realistically, a few of them will take to social media to spout the usual inane or splenetic nonsense they’ve been trotting out on an endless loop for years. But enough of them, let’s look at what really matters.
A new independent report has been published that was commissioned by High Speed Rail Industry Leaders (HSRIL) and produced by Ralph Smyth, the man who formerly led the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s (CPRE) engagement on HS2. Called ‘HS2 – towards a zero carbon future’. Amongst a number of things, it looks at the most recent evidence of how much carbon will be generated by building HS2, how HS2 is crucial to the Government hitting its zero carbon target by 2050. It counters many of the myths and canards spread by HS2 antis with forensic precision, expert data and facts. Here’s some excerpts. You can download the full report here.
This completely demolishes the antis propaganda that HS2 will be carbon positive for the next 120 years. The report goes on to say…
This highlights something that those who’re opposed to HS2 resolutely refuse to face, the fact that they have no credible alternative to HS2. The report hammers this home on a number of occasions in different ways, such as this, pointing out that HS2 has the same capacity as a 10-lane motorway. So, which would you prefer running through the countryside?
The report goes on to detail why the original (pessimistic ) calculations of how much carbon would be generated by building HS2 are woefully out of date now many aspects of the route design and construction has been finalised.
The last paragraph pointing out the tiny amount of ancient woodland being lost is “remarkable” puts the Woodland Trusts scaremongering into perspective. I’ve blogged about the WT’s dishonesty and distorted figures here.
Another common anti complaint about the speed of HS2 is neatly skewered here…
I’d recommend reading the full report as there’s an awful lot more in it. I just wish the Green party would do so but they’re too dogmatic and hidebound to do so, which is a great shame as this report exposes (in great detail) just why their opposition to HS2 make them part of the problem, not the solution to Climate Change. We desperately need a change of policy from them if they’re going to retain any credibility, but they’re very good at finger-wagging and lousy at listening.
To add further to Hs2 antis woes today’s Times newspaper has published what it claims is a draft copy of the Oakervee review into HS2. Spread over the lower part of the cover and pages 6-7 (plus the pro HS2 Leader on page 29 it’s a well written and in-depth article. The gist of it is that there will be no major changes proposed to HS2 and speculation that the Eastern arm to Leeds would be axed was incorrect. However, earlier suggestions that Phase 1 and 2a should be merged have been accepted. The report reinforces the HSRIL report on the carbon benefits of building HS2, the lack of any credible alternatives and also stresses the positive economic impacts to the North of building the full Y network. It also suggests that Oakervee is keen to see an updated business case that look much further into the future than the current conservative modelling which cut off after 60 years. There is one very curious assertion contained in the page 1 story (albeit carried on to page 7). It claims “Hs2 is due to run through Uxbridge and South Ruislip, the seat Mr Johnson held (held? He still does! Ed), where the StopHS2 campaign has 5000 supporters” Sorry? It has what? This seems to be a glaring typo as the StopHs2 ‘campaign’ doesn’t even have an active action group in the constituency! They’ve clearly confused StopHs2 ‘support’ with Johnson’s 5034 majority at the last election! Here’s how many people in Uxbridge signed the last StopHs2 petition. Just 232!
Needless to say, these leaks have sent the remaining HS2 antis into a meltdown on social media, although the reaction’s very subdued compared to previous years for the simple reason that so many of them have given up and moved on, figuratively and literally! Another interesting thing is the way there are far more pro HS2 voices sticking their heads above the parapet nowadays, and these are organisations with both a physical and political reach, like this tweet from Adam Marshall the DG of the British Chambers of Commerce.
Add Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.
In contrast, we have the usual infantile ramblings from individual Nimbys opposed to HS2, along with a few hastily reprogrammed pro-Brexit bots like this!
Quite how this tiny band of Nimbys and pro-Brexiters are going to stop HS2 is never adequately explained. Mainly because they have absolutely no idea, they’re just going through the same motions that they have for years. They’ve no political clout and their organisation’s collapsed. There’s no national strategy and they’re so skint there’s no anti HS2 advertising, not that it’s made any impact when there was. Their empty threats to vote for Farage’s Brexit Party have been rendered even more laughable by the man’s decision not to stand in Tory seats (which is what the majority of HS2 runs through on Phase 1! Even poor Peter Deeley is starting to realise he’s been shafted by Farage…
HS2 antis are going to have a terrible election. I can’t see the likes of Arch-Brexiters such as Deeley voting Green and damaging Tory chances so I’m looking forward to crunching the post – election numbers in constituencies HS2 passes through – such as the Chilterns, Warwickshire and Tatton!
Until then the voting’s over, stophs2’s tale of woe will continue…
With the general election campaigning in full swing it’s been fun resurrecting this feature as we could all do with a laugh at something, and the tiny anti HS2 campaign is certainly providing a chuckle or two thanks to their bizarre insistence that (God knows how) they’re actually some sort of electoral force to be reckoned with! It’s completely bonkers of course. Their influence is so small they couldn’t even get 25,000 signatures on their recent Stophs2 petition. Still, here’s the latest in laughable delusion, this time it’s from another old favourite, Stephen Leary, who lives in NW Leicestershire constituency. You can find him on Twitter as @MeashamHS2Actio
Leary gave up his one-man campaign against HS2 last December but he’s recently returned to continue his programme of self-promotion. He no longer claims he’s going to set up a new StopH2 ‘action’ group, but he does still advertise the non-existent website of the defunct local group (MAPA) which is was a minor member of before it went to the wall.
Here’s one of today’s Tweets, which is a hilarious miscalculation and misunderstanding of party political support!
Green party candidates in Eddisbury and Congleton, eh? Leaving aside the fact the Greens aren’t predicted to win a single extra seat in the general election and are bobbing around at 5% in the polls, we’re expected to believe that the few Shire Tory Brexit supporters who oppose HS2 are going to vote Green to stop HS2? Especially when the incumbent Tory, Antoinette Sandbach, has had the Tory whip removed over Brexit and has gone off to join the Lib-Dems? I mean, seriously? Has it even occurred to Leary that they just might have other considerations on their minds when it come to placing their X’s on the ballot paper? Obviously not, but then that’s typical of these people as their knowledge of politics never normally gets beyond Parish Council level.
To illustrate just how ridiculous and out of touch these claims are, here’s the 2017 election result for Eddisbury. That’s not a hill for the Greens to claim, that’s bleedin’ Everest!
Meanwhile, what of Congleton? This is a real true-blue Constituency which is held by Fiona Bruce with a majority of 12,619. Here’s the 2017 result.
Why Leary’s even bothered with this one’s a mystery as it’s not on the route of HS2! Just 62 people living there signed the last stophs2 petition, that’s 0.065%! The Greens vote dropped last time too, leaving them last on the board.
You have to laugh! Electoral maths clearly isn’t Leary’s forte. Nor has it occurred to him that even if by some miracle, people were persuaded to change their vote because of HS2 and help unseat the incumbent MP, it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference to anything because HS2 has cross party support from Tory, Labour and Lib-Dems (plus the SNP in Scotland) so it doesn’t make any difference if the seat swaps between any of the major parties – which is the most likely outcome.
To add to the general merriment, Nigel Farage has announced that his Brexit party won’t be standing in any Tory held seats, so that’s really going to rain on the HS2 anti’s parade as there’s no-one else left who opposes HS2 to vote for other than the Greens, who are dead set against Brexit. I’m sure we can expect more laughable nonsense like this from the few remaining HS2 antis over the next few weeks, but there’s no doubt that HS2 won’t be an election issue – despite their desperate and fantastical claims – just like every other election since 2010.
I didn’t expect to be bringing this back twice in a week, but then we’re in general election mode which has thrown up all sorts of nonsense, not least from the anti HS2 camp who’re really making me laugh!
The latest exponent of this craziness is one Peter Deeley, an ardent Brexiter (funny how so often being pro Brexit and anti Hs2 goes together, Ed). Deeley is a former Parish Councillor in Boddington which is in the Daventry constituency. You can find him on Twitter as @PDeeley. He’s always been one of those who’re opposed to HS2 who never lets fact get in the way of fiction, especially when it come to claiming how many people actually oppose HS2! If you believed his rambling tweets, the whole country’s united in opposition to HS2! Here’s one of the latest examples, as Deeley tries (and fails) to get people to retweet him.
This was yesterday. Since then, Deeley’s been on a continuous and tedious loop with the same basic tweet and getting nowhere fast as no-one’s interested. But how can this be? Deeley claims there’s “hundreds of thousands” of potential Tory voters willing to switch allegiance because of HS2!
Well, not in his own constituency for a start! Here’s how many in Daventry signed the last StopHs2 petition which finished last week.
Just 100 signatures, or 0.101% of the 99,130 constituents in Daventry. So where are these ‘hundreds of thousands’ then? They exist only in Deeley’s fevered imagination! That ridiculous petition only got 24,079 signatures, nowhere near ‘hundreds of thousands’. Nor have their been any sign of all these people in a single election since 2010. This is the stupidity of these people, it’s pure bluster and it’s so easy to disprove you have to wonder what the hell’s the point? Who do they think they’re fooling other than themselves?
Of course, there’s the usual hypocrisy at large here. Whilst claiming he’d vote Tory if Johnson releases the Oakervee report, Deeley’s not clever enough not to have let the cat out of the bag in his own Twitter feed. His intention’s always been to support the Brexit party, no matter what.
There’s a double irony here. The MP for Daventry is one Chris Heaton-Harris, a Brexit zealot and member of the European Research Group and former group Chair! But then when have these Brexiters ever made sense?
Talking of Farage and the Brexit party, it’s a great shame the man has declared that he’s not going to stand in any constituency in this election as we’ll be deprived of the pleasure of seeing him beaten for the eighth time. Of course, the Brexit party are only Farage’s latest vehicle for his ego, and it’s certainly the strangest. It’s very much his party as it has no national executive or structure, everything is in his control, right down to him charging folk £100 a head for the chance to get on the list of candidates. To say the whole process is bent and the antithesis of democracy is an understatement, but then it’s typical that the people who bang on about the EU being ‘undemocratic’ are the biggest hypocrites.
These are the people that fantasists like Deeley are in bed with. Is it any wonder no-one takes these StopHs2 keyboard warriors seriously anymore?
Yes, it’s back – after a gap of nearly 18 months! To be honest, there’s been no point in doing one of these for two reasons. One is that there’s so few of these people left nowadays the field is pretty thin and two – the ones left are all pretty much crazy. If you don’t believe me, go and have a look at the comments from people posting on the StopHs2 Facebook page!
But I couldn’t resist resurrecting it after seeing this classic tweet from StopHs2 ‘Chair’ Penny Gaines which went out earlier today. It’s an absolute pearler! The levels of egotism and perspective failure are weapons-grade. Let’s take a look…
“I told them my vote will depend on whether they oppose Hs2” tweets Gaines. Well, I’m sure the canvasser who knocked on her door must be absolutely sick to death of hearing that said to them. Wait, where does Gaines live? That absolute hotbed of anti HS2 activity, otherwise known as err, Bournemouth…
Yes, Bournemouth. Now I don’t know which of the two constituencies she lives in (East or West) but I’m willing to bet that HS2 isn’t exactly high up on their list of concerns. Brexit? Absolutely. The NHS? Almost certainly – but not HS2!
So, how many people in the two constituencies signed that last daft and doomed StopHs2 petition? Here’s the results.
Wow! All of 31 eh? I’m sure that’ll really make Tobias Ellwood MP change his mind on HS2. Oh, wait, he’s a strong supporter of the project as he’s written here as recently as August 2019! Meanwhile, in Bournemouth West…
Oh dear, just 17 signatures, all of 0.016%. I’m sure that’s giving sitting MP Conor Burns and his canvassers sleepless nights! He’s been absent for the past couple of votes on HS2, but then he’s now a Government Minister, so the idea that he’ll vote against party policy is moonshine. It’s also worth mentioning he’s got a healthy majority!
This rubbish from Gaines does show one thing – why no-one takes what’s left of the anti HS2 grassroots campaign seriously anymore. They really are so divorced from reality it’s actually funny! Now we’re in the run-up to an election, expect to hear more nonsense like this as the few remaining antis bluster and try to puff out their chests and flex non-existent political muscle.
I’ve no doubt the election is going to be a fascinating night as I don’t think we’ve had one with these levels of political uncertainty for a very long time, but there’s one thing that isn’t going to be a factor in any of this and that’s HS2. Not in the Chilterns, and certainly not in Bournemouth!
At midnight, yet another StopHs2 turned into the inevitable pumpkin. After a frantic last minute ‘surge’ (well what passes for one in their eyes) it staggered over the finish line with 24,075 signatures, having gained less than 80 in the final 24 hours! The 2018 one managed 28,938. To say this is pathetic is an understatement, especially when you consider this is a national figure. The UK’s current population size is reckoned by the UN to be 67.53 million (as there’s been no UK census since 2011), which rather puts this figure into perspective, it’s just 0.03%. So much for HS2 being a ‘national’ issue! I’ll crunch the numbers here as they make interesting reading when you compare them to the results of the last time Joe Rukin tried one of these petitions back in 2017. I’ll analyse them in detail shortly, but first, let’s look at what conclusions we can draw.
StopHs2 really is just a ‘Nimby’ campaign
Yes, I know they’ve spent years denying this, pretending there’s widespread national opposition to HS2, but these petitions provide the statistics to prove that’s simply not the case. It’s why I love it when Rukin starts yet another one as they provide empirical evidence, not just rumour. These petitions log the number of signatures by Parliamentary constituency, giving a running total and percentage. Here’s the map for England. Those constituencies with the most signatures appear in a darker colour. Now, looking at that map, have a wild guess where Phase 1 of HS2 runs?
Sure, there’s signatures from other parts of the UK, after all, various Green groups and the Brexit party have publicised it amongst their supporters, but they’re statistically insignificant. The fact 4 people in Banff & Buchan in Scotland or 2 in West Tyrone in Northern Ireland have signed is neither here nor there, because 49.64% of all the petition signatures have come from just 9.6% of the UK’s 650 constituencies, the 63 that HS2 just happens to pass through…
Their ‘Grassroots’ campaign is dying
Their 2017 petition managed 28,398 signatures, this one’s only managed 24,075. As you’ll see from the numbers from the different phases, whilst the phase 1 signatures have decreased, the ones for phase 2a and the two phase 2b legs have collapsed. In some cases dramatically.
In reality, this petition is a last gasp from the Chilterns and other areas on phase 1 where minds have been focussed by the fact that workers and machinery are already on the ground, preparing for construction.
Another reason for the collapse is that – because this is essentially a ‘Nimby’ campaign, many of its supporters have been bought out and moved away in the past few years. HS2’s no longer an issue for them. This was always going to happen, but it’s accelerated as the number of homes purchased has accelerated. One only has to look around Euston, where the new homes built to house the people displaced by Hs2 works are now occupied and the old ones are being demolished. This is reflected in the number of signatures to the petition.
Once Phase 1 construction is fully underway, the StopHs2 campaign will fracture and what’s left of its national organisation will collapse
In many ways, this has already happened. Of the three ‘national’ groups, two have already collapsed. AGAHST (Action Groups Against HS2) went to the wall in 2015 and the HS2 ‘Action Alliance’ gave up in 2016. Both were Chiltern based. That leaves ‘StopHs2’ which is a bit of a joke to be honest. It’s Campaign Manager (and I use that term loosely) Joe Rukin runs it from his flat in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, whilst its Chair (of what? Ed) Penny Gaines now lives in Bournemouth! It has little relevance away from Phase1 other than to provide a few campaign materials and Joe’s occasional ‘rent a quotes’ to the national media. In the real world, they never has any involvement in the Phase 2a petitioning process, nor will they have in the phase 2b process when that finally gets off the ground. As much of their funding comes from Phase 1 Nimbys, we can expect that to dry up too. Of course, someone might be foolish enough to offer Joe Rukin a proper job, but he’s been looking for years and his CV isn’t exactly scintillating. Meanwhile, many local ‘action’ groups went to the wall years ago, leaving Facebook and Twitter littered with their remains like an old battlefield.
They still have no political support
10 years on, HS2 still commands enormous cross-party political support. In fact, this has grown, as can be seen the way Northern and Midlands leaders have become an increasingly loud voice in campaigns to ensure that HS2 is built in its entirety. Added to their are the powerful voices of business leaders up and down the country.
In contrast, what do StopHs2 have? A handful of MPs, mostly the same old faces like Cheryl Gillan, the Green Party and now The Brexit party, who are likely to emulate the ‘success’ of their leader’s last chariot for his ego – UKIP – who never managed to get a single MP – even by standing in the Chilterns…
Remember, all these people, along with ‘celebrity’ environmentalist Chris Packham all encouraged people to sign this petition. Packham alone has 356,000 Twitter followers, the Green Party 284,000 and the Brexit party 202,000 – yet they were all spectacularly unsuccessful in getting people to sign the petition. This is why, despite all the bluster you’re seeing from some Nimbys in the run up to the general election, HS2 simply isn’t an election issue.
Right, let’s crunch some numbers!
These are comparison of the signatures between yesterday and when the last petition closed after 6 months in March 2018. First up – phase 1. I’ve highlighted the increases on 2018.
The interesting thing here is that many of the increases are from such a low base number they’re insignificant, especially when you consider what percentage of constituents they are! Their ‘best’ result is in Chesham and Amersham, where long-standing opponent of HS2, Dame Cheryl Gillan MP holds sway. Even there they can’t get beyond 1.9% – and these are meant to be their heartlands! Kenilworth & Southam is their next best number where they have 1.6%, but as this is where Joe Rukin is that’s amazingly poor. Buckingham gets 1.5%, after that the numbers really start to drop.
2,570.105 live in the 23 constituencies phase 1 traverses. Just 0.36% of them have signed the petition – and these constituencies are meant to be the hot-bed of the Stophs2 campaign! Meridian’s the only interesting one, where their number have increased by 256%, but that’s still only 250 signatures and the total’s just 0.32% of all constituents!
Now for the phase 2 routes. First up is the leg to Manchester. This contains 18 constituencies and includes phase 2a to Crewe.
Their numbers here have plummeted by over 27%, in one notable case (Tatton) they’ve dropped by half! Tatton is one of the few places on the Manchester leg where there’s ever been an active ‘action’ group (Mid Cheshire) but even here they’re obviously struggling! Their ‘best’ result here is in Tatton, with a miserly 0.3%. It’s the only constituency off phase 1 that’s highlighted on the map in a darker colour.
Out of all 1,811.397 constituents, a measly 0.08% have signed the petition, down from 0.12% in 2018. Just like the other phases of HS2, it’s worth noting that what these figures show is that the StopHS2 ‘campaign’ get the vast majority of it’s tiny support from rural areas and has virtually bugger-all influence in the cities. There’s never been a single ‘action’ group in urban Birmingham, Leeds or Manchester.
Next up, the 18 constituencies on the phase 2 leg to Leeds, which produces some very interesting results…
The numbers signing have collapsed from 4793 in 2018 to just 1246 now. That’s a huge drop of 74%! Not a single constituency has registered a raise. Look at Rother Valley, down from 1650 to just 121, a drop of 92.6%! Hemsworth’s dropped by 73% and Bolsover by 69.1% whilst NW Leics is down 69.89%.
The route to Leeds was always an interesting one as the anti Hs2 campaign on that leg was always fractious and also full of bluster. They spent a lot of time fighting amongst themselves as some wanted Hs2 cancelling whilst others actually wanted Hs2 but fought against the final route selection. It also suffered from a fair few personalities who could best be described with the old expression, “all mouth and no trousers”! How quickly the ‘action’ groups have collapsed on the Leeds leg has surprised even me, but they’d sown the seeds of their own destruction right from the start.
So, what’s next for the stophs2 ‘campign’? Limbo. Now that a general election’s been called the Oakervee review is almost certainly going to be put on ice until afterwards. Of course, they could always resurrect their daft ‘no votes for you with HS2’ Twitter hashtag, but they’re firing blanks. They’re no political threat to anyone and the electorate has rather more pressing matters to vote on than building a new railway!
For reference, you can find a previous blog looking at the long failure of StopHs2 petitions here. There’s also this blog which crunched the numbers in their 2017-18 petition.
I’m out and about slightly later today as I was up and in the office at 06:30 this morning, sipping coffee whilst I edited yesterdays pictures and got them to the client before start of play so that they could make their selection today.
Whilst doing so I caught up on the days news. Apart from the usual Brexitshambles, HS2’s in the public eye as the Oakervee review is allegedly going to be published ln the 19th. What’s interesting is to see how much public support there is for the project. The North’s politicians and business leaders like the CBI and BCC are queuing up to say that any downgrading of the project would be very damaging. In contrast, the dwindling opposition to HS2 is very muted. The remaining campaign group, StopHs2, have neither the money or the recourses to do much. Their ‘Campaign Director’, Joe Rukin spends most of his time playing “Swampy” with the tiny bunch of protestors in woodland camps on the phase 1 route. The penny slowly serms to be dropping that Phase 1 isn’t going to be cancelled and the carrying over of the phase 2a Hybrid Bill onto this Parliaments agenda is sending signals that no-one expects that to be shelved either. The only questions are over phase 2b – hence all the lobbying from the North’s powerful lobby.
There are a few dissenting voices in the North. What’s mildly depressing is the way some here still play regional and party-political politics with a chip on their shoulder about London. They simply won’t accept that HS2 isn’t all about the capital. The positive thing is they’re very much in a minority and have no credible alternatives to offer, just obfuscation and yet more delays.
As a Lancastrian who lived in London for 25 years before moving to Yorkshire I find this envy and resentment of the South both frustrating and (ultimately) self-destructive. It’s daft, not least because many of us “Southerners” were former Northerners who made the most of the opportunities London and the South-East had to offer, rather than sticking with Northern parochialism and the feeling that the North’s “hard done by”.
A case in point was a discussion I had with someone complaining about the fact HS2 tracks wouldn’t reach Newcastle or Teeside. I asked him to make a positive case why they should. All I got back was resentments and political conspiracy theories. Now there’s no doubt the North has been ignored sometimes, but when all it does is moan and say “it’s not fair” it’s easy to dismiss. Concrete evidence of WHY investment in the North should be made and the benefits it’ll bring are harder to ignore, which is why it’s great to see the North’s political leaders embracing the opportunities “Northern Powerhouse” can bring rather than dismissing it as a political stunt. If only others did…
The frustrating thing is there are many inspirational people in the North and some fantastic things happening. If only we could ditch this Southern envy!
I scribbled the above whilst changing trains at Hebden Bridge. I’m now aboard a 2-car Class 150 heading to Victoria to see some of the Northern Rail investment all too often ignored by some Northern politicians because the ‘wrong’ political party wrote the cheques for it! I’ll also be popping back to Piccadilly for a couple of hours to (hooefully) add a few more assistence pictures to the collection. Watch this space…
Passing through Manchester Victoria I couldn’t help noticing how railway enthusiasts have returned to it’s platforms nowadays. A small group of them huddled at the East end of platform 5. For many years few bothered due to the steady diet of DMUs with an occaisional freight. Now, with a resurgence of freight and loco-hauled passenger services, plus new Nova 2 units snd Class 195s, it’s become a place to visit again!
As the weather changes, so do plans. The miserabke weather we’ve been having over the past few days has given way to sunshine and the opportunity to catch some outdoor shots, so Piccadilly’s been postponed. Instead I’ve been getting shots around Manchesters rapidly changing city skyline (pix will be added later). Right now i’m bouncing my way to Wigan aboard an ostensibly ‘stored’ Northern Pacer (142046 for the number crunchers) which has presumably been resurrected to make uo a stock shortage. No doubt the picture will soon change again. Next week the new Class 195s are due to take over Leeds-Chester services, which (in theory) allows more Pacers to bite the dust before the December deadline.
As we approached Bolton I noticed that the huge red brick “Beehive Mill” that’s adjacent to the line and been wmpty for years is in the process of being flattened. Cotton mills were an important part of Lancashire’s past, but they’ve no part in its future. Hopefully in 2019 the site can be put to better use.
I’m taking a short break in Wigan to get some sonshine shots before heading back across the Pennines. Here’s my chariot, which is looking well for a ‘stored’ train!
What a difference a few hours can nake to the weather! As I headed home through Manchester the sun was beating through cloudless skies and turning rail tracks into golden ribbons. I couldn’t resist stopping off at Victoria for an hour to capture some scenes and the opportunity presented by a flag-waving lookout stationed at just the right place on a platform end. I’ll ad some pictures later. Right now i’m on a busy Class 156 heading to Leeds via Brighouse as the 17:37 off Victoria.
It’s been several weeks since the last load of rubbish about ‘alternatives’ to HS2, so the right-wing lobbyists, sorry ‘think tank’, at the Adam Smith Institute have dug up self-styled ‘rail expert’ Adrian Quine to cobble together the latest one. It’s a bit like Frankenstein’s monster, it’s made up of loads of old parts from previous ‘alternatives’ plus some new stuff that’s completely made up – as you’ll see shortly.
But who is Adrian Quine I hear you ask? Good question, I had to ask that too as I’ve never encountered him in all my years of working with or commenting on the railways. On Twitter he bills himself as a “Thought leadership consultant” (Gawd! Ed) as well as an ex-BBC broadcaster & “occasional Telegraph columnist”. So, no operational or practical experience of the railways then! Some ‘expertise’. Of course, the rail industry is quite familiar with ex-BBC types claiming that their stint at the Beeb makes them experts at everything.
Quine’s long, cobbled-together piece can be found at this link. Titled “Don’t railroad it through: Rethinking HS2” It’s clear that “rethinking” in many cases means “let’s just make it up and hope me claiming to be an ‘expert’ gives me credibility I don’t deserve”!
Here’s a few examples. This is from the opening page.
” Under HS2, a number of key northern cities destinations will lose direct trains to London, including Lancaster, Carlisle and Durham”
Really? And what evidence is offered to support this claim? A link to an HS2 document on the Crewe hub that contains an illustration of a possible service pattern that’s used for modelling purposes and that’s clearly labelled as such, and err – that’s it…
Now, you would expect a ‘railway expert’ to know that any timetable and stopping pattern on HS2 and the East and West coast main lines won’t be decided by HS2 Ltd. It will be decided by the Department of Transport, along with input from Network Rail. So this claim is demonstrably false.
“There are still sections of railway where 4 tracks are reduced to 3 or even 2 creating bottlenecks and severely limiting further growth. The mainlines do not directly serve cities such as Birmingham, Manchester or Leeds, requiring the use of slower regional connecting lines that halve speeds for the final 20-40 miles.“
Leaving aside the fact that the line from London to Birmingham is the original main line (not a ‘regional connecting line’) and that Hs2 will be running into Curzon St, the site of the original London & Birmingham railway station, Quine has shot himself in the foot. This isn’t an argument against HS2, it’s an argument FOR it. The idea that you could four-track the line from Rugby to Birmingham through Coventry except at massive expense, disruption and destruction is risible – and 4-track a live main line whilst it’s still in daily operation? Oh, please!
Next we have this:
“maximising current infrastructure by targeting bottlenecks on conventional lines, including building flyovers at key junctions, upgrading the Chiltern route to Birmingham or reopening the southern section of the Great Central railway, raising line speeds to at least 125mph;”
Not these old chestnuts again? “targeting bottlenecks” is like playing ‘wack-a-mole’, all you do is move the problem elsewhere, as those involved in the Staffordshire Alliance work at Norton Bridge know only too well. You’d think a railway ‘expert’ would too, but that’s the problem with Quine’s work. There’s lots of airy statements about ‘solutions’ but no serious attempt at analysis of them because he’s not capable – and he’s clearly not talked to anyone who is, hence the equally daft claim that you can upgrade the Chiltern route. A few minutes talking with any of Chiltern’s Management team would soon have put him right on that one. Unfortunately, the document is no longer available on line, but back in (around) 2012-13. Chiltern Railways wrote to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on High-Speed Rail in support of HS2. They pointed out that the Chiltern route could never be a substitute for HS2 as it didn’t have the capacity along the route, it was impossible to four track all of it and that there was no space left for extra services at Marylebone. Since then there’s even less as Chiltern have opened the new line to Oxford via Bicester. This is a complete non-starter, as any real ‘rail expert’ should know.
As for reopening the Great Central – give me strength! I blogged about that nonsense at length here. On page 23 Quine adds an extra dimension to this lunacy by suggesting that an “existing spur” between the WCML at Rugby and the Great Central at Rugby could be “reopened”
“Reopen the southern section of the Great Central railways far north as Rugby where it would connect with the WCML and a new or upgraded existing spur at Rugby from the WCML to Birmingham via Coventry and Birmingham Airport.”
What “existing spur”? The two lines were never ever linked! Will someone please buy Quine a map? Here’s the area surrounding Rugby station and I’ve highlighted the route of the old Great Central in Red. How on earth are you going to build a Southbound link between the two without demolishing large parts of Rugby? Oh, and if you did by some miracle manage to get it built, how are you going to deal with the fact several miles of the route is now designated as SSSI’s? Get past them and there’s the teeny little problem there’s no capacity left (and no space to build any more platforms) at Marylebone. The idea’s a complete non-starter.
On page 22 we’re told…
“The Euston Express proposal is designed to fully integrate both HS2 and classic WCML services into the existing station, rather than HS2 having a standalone station alongside”.
However, genuine rail expert William Barter tweeted this.
There’s much more. On page 11 Quine opines that,
“HS2 has unnecessarily used 400kph (250mph) speeds in its modelling to promote more impressive ‘end to end’ journey times.”
This is complete nonsense of course, and yet again William Barter (a man who knows a thing or two about such modelling) puts Quine right.
In fact, once Quine tweeted a link to this nonsense, a number of rail professionals and Journalists have jumped in and picked his rubbish to pieces. Here’s just a few examples.
You can find more at the #HS2 hashtag on Twitter. Suffice it to say, this rehash of failed ideas and fantasies is going nowhere. I could spend most of the day tearing it to pieces, but you get the gist. There’s all the usual nonsense about how digital signalling removes the need for HS2 (without the slightest analysis of how this works, especially on a mixed traffic railway), and just about every other excuse you can find. None of which are actually analysed or referenced. Many of the references listed in Quine’s article aren’t from academic sources or journals but from sources that you wouldn’t touch with a barge-pole! They include many media outlets like The Spectator and the Daily Mail, and those paragons of truth and accuracy, the Taxpayers Alliance!
But then Quine is hardly independent, as a few minutes browsing his Twitter account (@adrianquine) shows. He’s singing from the same libertarian, pro-Brexit, anti Hs2 song-sheet as the people he retweets, the odious Julia Hartley Brewer, the IEA’s Richard Wellings, Kate Hoey MP, Brexit Party funder Richard Tice and many others. This makes his next statement on page 26 especially laughable, and also deeply hypocritical.
“The rail industry is notoriously incestuous and is run almost entirely by engineers and career railway people rather than innovators”
Yet again the right-wing lobbyists try to turn their fire on HS2. Yet again they turn out to be using pop-guns….
I’ve had little time for blogging today as (for once) we actually had a lie-in. After a week of getting up at 06:00-07:00 it was lovely not to have the alarm set. Mind you, we also had a fairly late night as a small group of us went to a friends for a meal last night. Forget the Tories Brugges group, this was a chance for a select six of us to get together and have a lovely meal at Tony Allan’s and chat about our own visit to that fair city.
We had a lovely evening and didn’t miss much by getting up late as the morning was (literally) a washout due to the weather. It’s yet another day where it’s chucked it down, so much so that I didn’t get out for my constitutional stroll until this evening when the wet weather abated. Instead, the pair of us have spent most of the day getting on with chores, not exactly the rock and roll lifestyle, but when needs must…
What I have had chance to do is catch up on the news and seen that the much hyped anti HS2 demonstration led by Chris Packham at Euston yesterday failed to set the world on fire. Sure, it got media attention because of Packham but only a few dozen people turned up. Most of the media photos are tightly cropped to show Packham and a couple of demonstrators with him. The ones that zoom out show just how few folk actually bothered coming along. Of course, all this is a sideshow, the main event is up the West Coast Main Line in Manchester where the Tory party conference is happening. What’s not happening is any StopHs2 presence. Several years ago they would have had a stall inside all the party conferences. Now their campaign’s on its uppers they can’t even be bothered to turn up and leaflet outside.
This evening, whilst Dawn’s been cooking some fabulous Indian curry I’ve been busy delving through the picture archives thanks to a friend who jogged my memory . Earlier today Anthony Roberts posted a picture from Belgium showing one of their Cass 62 diesel locos. This set me thinking, and searching my Zenfoilio site. I realised that I’d never added old pictures from some Belgian tours I did back in 2006. I used to have them on my old Fotopic website, but when that went tits-up I lost a lot of caption details as I’d never added it to the original files (which I still have). So this evening has been spent hunting down info to try and rebuld the collection on my Zenfolio site. You can find the resurrected gallery here. Thank God for websites like six bells junction, which has allowed me to check the details of the tour. I’ve more pictures to add but that’s going to have to wait until later in the week. It’s taken me 8 years, another few days won’t make any difference! Here’s a couple of samples. I must admit these pictures have triggered a real bout of nostalgia for what were some wonderful times with a great bunch of people. I used to go over on these tours with a group of friends from the Gloucester area under the banner of Pathfinder railtours. You’ll see some of them in the pictures.
It’s been one of those days where just opening a single newspaper has highlighted why the UK’s ‘green’ movement simply isn’t fit for purpose. They’re more part of the problem, not the solution. I say this with a huge amount of regret as I see myself as someone with a real concern for the environment with a fear of what we’re doing to the planet, but the past few years has seen me look at these groups with fresh eyes.
Let me explain. I saw a paper copy of yesterday’s Guardian earlier. On one page it carried a story reporting on a new report from the Office of National Statistics that says traffic on our roads has increased by 33% in the past 30 years. Here’s a link.
The article by Gwen Topham quoted someone called Jenny Bates, from (what are supposedly) ‘Friends of the Earth’, who said “Despite noise made by vehicle manufacturers about cleaner petrol and diesel technology, transport is still the most climate-polluting sector and it’s clear petrol and diesel sales have to stop as soon as possible…The only way to stop transport from leading us to further climate breakdown is to drastically cut the miles travelled by car. Cleaner options such as bicycles, buses and trains need to be made more accessible and more affordable” .
Perhaps FoE could explain exactly how they propose we can do this when they actively oppose building the high-speed 2 railway (HS2), the only way our increasingly overcrowded rail network will ever be able to cope with a modal shift from road to rail?
To add insult to injury and highlight just how much environmental groups in the UK have totally lost the plot, the opposite page carried a piece on how the Woodland Trust have secured delays to clearing some of the tiny pockets of UK woodland that will have to be cut down to make way for HS2!
I mean, seriously? They’re going to take the fundamentalist approach that ignores the bigger picture? Every single tree and patch of UK woodland is inviolable. Forget tackling global climate change if it means a single hectare here has to be sacrificed for the greater good…
This is why I’ve no time for UK environmental groups like the Woodland Trust or ‘Friends’ of the Earth. They’re not part of the solution, they’re part of the problem. They’ve no real answers to anything. In fact, they oppose the only workable solution we have to vastly increase capacity on our railways and tackle Co2 emissions from transport! This is through the looking-glass stuff! The road lobby and oil companies must be pissing themselves laughing at the way ‘Green’ groups are doing their job for them. What annoys me is the mealy-mouthed statements we get from these groups, where they say “Oh, we’re not opposed to high-speed rail in principle” (just don’t ever try to build it in practice, because we’ll scream blue murder!).
I’ve written about the hypocrisy of the Woodland Trust in this matter before here. Since then, myself and a few other people have been doing some digging and it turns out their hypocrisy verges on the downright dishonest. I’ll be blogging about that in greater detail soon. So, next time you get bombarded with requests for money from these people via Facebook or whatever, just pause for a moment and wonder, are they really offering any solutions, or are these campaigns just a cynical way to raise more money?
Meanwhile, here’s an illustration of the problem. These are the Medway viaducts in Kent, where the M2 crosses next to HS1.
The M2 requires two massive viaducts, each one far wider than that used by HS1. In the background you see an electric train capable of 140 mph that can carry 352 people seated (and many more standing). Unlike the 60-70mph vehicles on the motorway, it can be carbon-neutral. Yet (supposedly) green groups oppose this as a way to link our major cities! Madness, utter madness…