Today the social and mainstream media are full of a man and his supposed ‘report’ on HS2. Lord Tony Berkeley, a long-time opponent of HS2 has appeared on TV to push his ‘alternative’ to the Oakervee review on HS2 – the one he was the Deputy Chairman of but who was never going to agree with because he was very much in a minority. In fact, the report should be subtitled “Me, myself, I”…
His interview on Sky’s ‘Sophy Ridge on Sunday’ show was a classic example of saying nothing of substance whilst pretending you have. His claims were so heavily caveated they were worthless. Here’s a couple of examples. “My report suggests that the project is completely out of control” Well, no equivocation there then! He then goes on to say that HS2 “doesn’t benefit the North and Midlands in the way that upgrading existing lines could”. Wait, what?
Perhaps being appointed to the Lords means that you instantly start suffering from senility and memory loss, as Berkeley (despite all his years as Chair of the Railfreight Group) has mysteriously forgotten that we spent £9bn upgrading the West Coast Main Line just 15 years ago! Because, whichever way you look at Berkeley’s claim, it’s brass-necked, weapons-grade bollocks and Berkeley knows it, as do all the people who’ve worked on HS2 and the alternatives to providing the capacity the railways need to get modal shift from road to rail from air and road and tackle climate change. So why is he peddling such untruths? What’s his (new) agenda, other than that as a man scorned for coming up with his own daft versions of HS2 stations in London (the ridiculous claim that you could build an underground HS2 station at Euston).
There’s more. Later in the interview, after accusing everyone of “fiddling the figures” on HS2. Berkeley says that “I believe Parliament’s been misled” Then goes on to say “I believe the figure that’s right is about £107bn”. He then admits under questioning that “everything’s an estimate” but pulls another rabbit out of the hat by saying “this project is probably 2-3 times overbudget before the construction’s even started”.
Listening to Berkely is like going to a ‘happy clappy’ Evangelical church, only the amount of times you here “I believe” is probably less in the Church!
Where’s the evidence for any of these claims? It’s never been published, it’s certainly never been peer-reviewed. This is very much a one-man and his dog ‘report’ (the dog being Michael Byng, who Berkeley follows like the proverbial).
In short, we have lots of suggestions, and beliefs, but sod-all verifiable facts. Perhaps I can get Sky news to interview me because I ‘believe’ the moon’s made of green cheese and that the earth’s actually flat – as both claims have as much validity as Berkeley’s, because – at the end of the day – what’s Berkeley said that’s new, or ‘news’? Nothing. This is simply a rehash of claims he’s been making for months.
In a few days time all the froth around this supposed ‘report’ will die down. Already a Government Minister (OK, it’s Dominic Raab, but you can’t have everything) has poured cold-water on the idea the Government are taking this seriously in this interview.
Once the fog has cleared, all that will be left is the smoke and smell from Berkeley’s burning bridges…
It seems Berkeley has published his report, which can be found here. I’ve not had chance to read it all yet, merely his summary, which is (quite frankly) bonkers and makes some classic errors. According to Berkeley, we don’t need phase 2b of HS2. All we have to do is re-instate old sections of four -track railway and Bob’s your Uncle!
This completely ignores several important issues.
1. In many cases that’s impossible as the formations have been built on since the lines were reduced to two tracks. To do so would be horrendously expensive and it wouldn’t raise line speeds one bit. We return the network to ‘pre-Beeching’ – as if that’s the answer to future needs! No speed increases, no curing bottlenecks, no grade separated junctions – just put it back like it was in the early 1960s. It’s sort of classic nostalgia, lack of ambition and backward thinking that’s bedevilling this country.
2. All it would do is replicate the problem we have now – mixed traffic, mixed speed railways that are funnelled through the same old chokepoints! How would it make the railways more attractive to passengers and get the sort of modal shift we need? He’s no answer.
3. How much extra capacity would this add? Berkeley has no answer.
4. It completely ignores why we’re building HS2 in the first place, to free up capacity on the existing network by running high-speed, intercity services on their own lines, this removing the problem of them eating up capacity on the existing network and freeing up the space for more regional, local and freight services. Berkeley has decided we don’t need HS2 then tried to cobble together a series of spurious justifications for that conclusion.
I’ll go through his full report later in the week when I have time. Right now it’s painfully obvious that it’s just the same opinionated, fact-free nonsense as his interviews, full of “I believe”, “I consider”, “I conclude”, “I think” – it’s all about him and no-one else. He’s right and everybody else is wrong, from top to bottom. It’s a solo work of real egotism. What does Berkeley actually *know*, or even prove? As his report shows, very little – at all. It’s one man’s supposition. Actually, belay that – it’s two, because there’s two strings to this report that can be summed up thus, what ‘Berkeley believes’ and what ‘Michael Byng sez’…