Petitions – a double edged sword…

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I’ve blogged about this before but I thought I’d revisit the subject after seeing that some folk who live on the Phase 1 route of Hs2 are still asking people to sign a petition to ‘review’ Hs2 – even though phase 1 has Royal Assent and construction work has started!

The e-petition in question was started by one of the two men who’ve been flogging (as in flogging a dead horse) their own ‘alternative’ to Hs2 called ‘High Speed UK’ (HSUK). They’ve never got anywhere, apart from up many people’s noses (see previous blogs like this). But, their petition IS useful – for all the wrong reasons! What I find interesting about the ones on the Governments petitioning website is the level of detail they contain on who signs them. For example, signatories are grouped together by constituency, which is very useful for MPs wanting to know the strength or weakness of feeling on a particular issue in their area. This is the double-edged sword for campaigners, because it often highlights weakness, not strength.

Let’s take a look at the HSUK petition. You can find it here.

First, the bare facts. It’s had 5,887 signatures since the 11th November 2016. It has 62 days left to run and find over 94,100 signatures. It doesn’t stand a chance of hitting the 10,000 that would get a response from Govt never mind the 100,000 to trigger a debate in the Commons. It’s just another example of how weak the stophs2 campaign is. For HSUK it’s a huge embarrassment because it reveals that most of the folk who’ve signed have done so because they live on the route of Hs2 – not because they support HSUK! Talk about an own goal…

Let’s have a look at the areas where the most signs have come from. Here’s the top 12 constituencies. Between them they account for 3107 signatures, or 52.77% of the total.

HSUK 2.PNG

As you can see, the clear winners are the Chiltern Nimbys in Cheryl Gillan’s constituency of Chesham and Amersham! In fact, phase 1 accounts for 5 of the top 6. Despite this not a single constituency managed to get 1% of the electorate to sign – even in the supposed StopHs2 Phase 1 ‘strongholds’!

What’s just as interesting is the way the figures reveal the weakness of the anti Hs2 campaign on other phases. Only one constituency on Phase 2a (Stone) features and there’s not a single one from the extension of Phase 2a to Manchester – which makes a mockery of the supposed strength of groups like ‘Mid-Cheshire against Hs2’!

The news isn’t much better for the Leicestershire antis or the Yorkshire area, which makes a lot of noise but clearly doesn’t have the influence it claims. Mind you, when you see the half-empty websites of groups like ‘Erewash against Hs2’ it’s not surprising. There’s a lot of bluster from Yorkshire but it’s not backed up by political clout or support.

I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the consultations on the phase 2 routes which closed on March 9th. I have a sneaky suspicion they’ll throw up even more problems for some of the new anti Hs2 groups like the one around Measham (Leics) or in Yorks. They’ve been set up to oppose route changes. But what happens if the majority of people support the changes? Watch this space…

Rail renationalisation will transcend the laws of physics (apparently)…

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Politicians have a habit of saying stupid things about railways – Labour politicians doubly so because of their belief that renationalising the railways will cure all known ills, heralding some sort of socialist nirvana and golden age where all the trains will run on time and nothing will ever break. How else can we explain yesterdays superbly stupid tweet from Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

donnel

The delay was caused by the overhead wires on the East Coast main line near Retford failing, which brought many services to a halt.

How renationalising the railways will stop such incidents happening is a mystery, as to all intents and purposes Network Rail (who maintains the ECML) is already under public ownership and supervision! Perhaps McDonnells answer will be to do what the last Labour Government did and string up less wires? After all, in all their years in office between 1997 and 2010, Labour only managed to electrify a paltry 20 miles of line between Crewe and Kidsgrove. Or perhaps those nasty capitalist trains whose pantographs have a habit of bringing down the wires will have their carbons replaced with copies of ‘Das Kapital’? Unfortunately, inanimate objects still obey the laws of physics and remain stubbornly immune to political rhetoric from right, or left.

Sadly, quite a few Labour MPs have form for this sort of grandstanding. In the past I’ve blogged about both Michael Dugher and Andy Burnham making fools of themselves in this fashion. Mind you, it’s not just Labour who come out with crackpot stuff like this. The ‘Vulcan’ – John Redwood, the Tory MP for Wokingham once suggested trains have their steel wheels replaced by rubber ones – which provoked this riposte from Michael Roberts of ATOC.

Perhaps McDonnell should put down his copy of dialectical materialism for Marxists and pick up a history book. Then he might learn about the fate of the last politician famous for making the trains run on time. Benito Mussolini…

Yorkshire picks a fight with itself (again), this time over Hs2.

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When I moved to from London Yorkshire in 2010 one of the first things I noticed was how much time the county spent in internecine political battles and rivalries. Sheffield, Bradford, Leeds, Doncaster and Wakefield seemed like a bunch of warring states, all fighting against each other over something (or nothing). It sometimes feels like Yorkshire takes itself rather too seriously. I mean – name another English county that has its own political party (Yorkshire First)!

Now tykes really have got something to fight over. Hs2.

Today’s been a cracking example of this. The latest consultation over Hs2 Phase 2 closes today and the ‘war’ between Doncaster and Sheffield over  the new route through South Yorkshire is hotting up. The Mayor of Doncaster, Ros Jones, has taken to Twitter to launch Doncaster’s response to the consultation and made the most curious claim whilst doing it…

Jones Hs2

The “route nobody asked for”? I’m not sure Sheffield or the city’s local newspaper, the  Sheffield Star will see it that way. After all, it was the Star that ran a (successful) campaign to get the route changed in the first place! As the paper said at the time,

star

Personally, I can see the pro’s and con’s of both routes so it will be interesting to see who prevails in the end. If anything, my money is on the new route. That’s because things have changed since the original one was announced. The concept of the Northern Powerhouse has become something far more real. We now have Transport for the North and Northern Powerhouse Rail (nee Hs3). TfN is driving the regions transport strategy and Hs2 and NPR (linked together) are very much part of it and I suspect the new Hs2 route fits in with that strategy more than the old one.

That said, as someone who originated from the other side of the Pennines, I can imagine my fellow Lancastrians cracking a wry smile at the antics of their ever-warring neighbours. Which is more attractive to business. An area that’s managed to put most of its differences aside (look at Manchester and its neighbours). Or the contestant battles and jockeying for position that they observe this side of the chain?

My final observation – whatever happens, it’s very bad news for anti Hs2 campaigners in Yorkshire, because one thing’s clear, the vast majority of the counties politicians and business leader are fighting for Hs2 – not to stop it. This is about who reaps the benefits. Remember, only two of the counties 51 MPs voted against Hs2 Phase 1. To argue over the benefits you first have to agree to build it and there’s little doubt that’s exactly what MPs will agree to do. This means that Yorkshire Hs2 anti’s tactics have fallen at the first hurdle. They’re making the same mistake as the phase 1 antis did by trying to challenge at a local level the business case for a national infrastructure project. As soon as MPs vote through the Phase 2b Hybrid Bill at 2nd reading their arguments are moot. When it comes to hearing petitions a person or organisation will only have locus standi (the right to be heard) if a petitioner’s property or interests are directly and specially affected by the Bill. As we’ve seen from the phase 1 hearings, the Ctte’s take a dim view of a petitioner trying to argue that Hs2 is the ‘wrong’ project or there’s no economic justification for it as Parliament has already decided there is. As most of the antis time seems to be wasted in exactly the wrong sort of arguments, it’s easy to see why they’ll fail.

The Brexit rhetoric gets darker

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Remember when the victorious Leave campaign and it’s leaders assured us that Brexit would be the start of a new golden age in trade with Europe? Then, we were told tha the EU was bound to give us a great deal as ‘they need us more than we need them’. Cast aside for a moment the two very obvious flaws in this logic (the UK is a far smaller market then the EU and why in the name of God would they give a better deal to a country that’s just left?) and remember the idiotic and false claims. Like the one the buffoon Boris made about sales of prosecco? Or when he swore that despite Brexit, we’d still have access to the single market?

johnson

How hollow all those claims sound now.

Or how about David Davis, when he put the cat amongst the pigeons by saying that it was ‘very improbable’ that we’d stay in the single market and got slapped down by the PM, Teresa May?

The truth was, there never was a plan for Brexit and those who campaigned for it routinely lied about the advantages of leaving. There were none. Now the chickens are coming home to roost. The fanciful claims about the super deals we’d get from the EU have been dropped in favour of a much darker rhetoric. Now, it’s “no deal is better than a bad one”

We’ve gone from soft Brexit to hard Brexit in a few short months. Now, we stand to lose all those thing Boris Johnson said we’d always have – access to the single market. The right to live, work and study in the EU, freedom of movement – everything. Not only that, but come the day we actually leave – there would be no trade deals in place. Of course, brexiters love to brush such concerns aside, pretending there’d be no serious consequences if that happened. Really? How about British airlines being unable to fly? Here’s what Ryanair’s Michael O’ Leary and some EU leaders pointed out

Hard Brexit will be bad, very bad. Don’t be under any illusions over that. But that’s exactly the path Teresa May’s government – aided and abetted by Jeremy Corbyn and Co, are leading us down.

We’ve been conned. There is no upside to Brexit for ordinary people. There never was.

Spend HS2 money on the NHS? Here’s why it’s financial illiteracy

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Over the years the anti Hs2 campaign grasped straw after straw. One of the most common ones being binary choices. We could either have flood defences or HS2, or fix potholes in the roads, or build Hs2 or – you name it. As the years went on the list got longer and more stupid.

But there was one they always kept coming back to. Whatever figure they’d invented for the cost of Hs2 that week – it should be spent on the NHS instead. Because everyone (well, except UKIP, Brexiters and various Tories) love the NHS.

Such ‘logic’ is the epitome of intellectual bankruptcy because it fails to understand a fundamental financial fact. The different between capital expenditure (Capex) and operational expenditure (Opex). Let me explain.

Capital expenditure is an expense incurred to create future benefit, such as buying new assets for a business – like buildings, machinery or equipment. Doing so generates profits for the future over several tax years. Hs2 is simply a very large example of the principle. It will generate jobs (which generate tax revenue), kick-start regeneration in some of our major cities and make the UK a more attractive place for businesses (which generate corporation tax). Capital investment on decent infrastructure is well understood as bringing economic benefits. This BBC article sums up the situation. As capital expenditure will generate tax revenue year after year. It’s not just a one off. That income stream would enable the Treasury to spend money on many different things. Including the NHS if it chose to…

Operating expenditure covers the day to day functioning of a business, like wages, utilities, maintenance and repairs. It also covers depreciation. It’s money needed every year.

The cost of building Hs2 is £55.7bn. For that we get all the benefits I mentioned. In contrast, planned expenditure for the NHS in 2016/17 is £120.611bn. That means if we diverted the money for Hs2 to the NHS it would run the NHS for less than 6 months. Then it would be gone, never to return. It wouldn’t solve any problems, because the NHS would need that money every year. Instead, you’d be left with rail gridlock (which would cost money, not save it) and you wouldn’t have a catalyst for regeneration in cities like Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham, so you’re not helping rebalance the economy either.

This (in a nutshell) is why the stophs2 campaigns calls to divert money from HS2 to the NHS is both daft, and ignorant. Even Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell has pointed this out in an interview with the Yorkshire Post.

The UKs political shambles (pt 2)

One of the things about travelling is that it gives you chance to observe other countries political systems and problems. As a Briton, I come from a long established Parliamentary democracy that appeared both mature, and stable. I could look at countries like Thailand – with its long history of takeovers by the military, or Sri Lanka – increasingly run as a family business – and be grateful my country couldn’t be taken over like that.

How wrong I was.

Brexit, and the takeover of the Labour party by the hard left, has changed everything. The country is set on a course to crash out of the EU in the most damaging way possible – both politically and economically – and her majesty’s opposition are actually colluding in it!

Let’s be clear. The biggest losers from Brexit won’t be the multi-millionaires who funded the leave campaign. They’ve already gained from the weakness in Sterling and they’ll gain even more from the Govts plans to turn the UK into a low-tax refuge. The people who will be hurt most will be their poor foot-soldiers. The turkeys who voted for Christmas through a breath-taking series of lies, like the infamous £350m written on the side of a bus and years of disinformation about immigration and the EU. The less well-off (both in terms of finance and education) are going to bear the brunt of the cuts, the economic slowdown and the rises in prices that we’re already seeing. Yet, many of them still support Brexit, because they still believe in the lies and can’t see what’s coming as the newspapers they read are feeding them more lies and diverting their attention from the real problems.

Meanwhile, we have the Labour party, the very party set up to protect these people, colluding in their downfall. Why?

Because the Labour party is dominated by the hard Left whose rigid dogma sees those people as collateral damage in the age old struggle against capitalism. They’ve held on to the old dictum that the people won’t rise up and throw off their chains until they’ve been sufficiently oppressed! Those on the Left are supporting Brexit because they believe the coming disaster will ruin the Tories and an outraged populous will then sweep Labour to power. Politically, it’s a scorched-earth policy from dogmatists who’ve always seen people as a political concept – a theory, not actual human beings. It’s bat-shit crazy of course, but that’s dogmatists for you. Ignore the fact that Corbyn’s about as popular as a fart in a spacesuit with most voters and that the Labour party no longer seems fit for purpose. It’ll all come good in the end when the working classes have reached tipping point and the scales drop from their eyes…

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot of good people in the Labour party, but they’re not the ones in charge. The hard-left lunatics have taken over the asylum.

Meanwhile, even pragmatic Tories are concerned at this turn of events. I’ve never subscribed to the dogmatists view that Labour=Good and Tories=Bad. Their are decent folk on both sides. The biggest difference nowadays is that it seems the Tories are more likely to vote with their conscience than on party lines. It’s Labour MPs who’ve lost their backbones. It’s a sad state of affairs when it’s the politicians of a previous generation – the Thatcher era (Blair, Major, Heseltine and Clarke) who’re the eloquent and logical voices.

Brexit has shown that in the 21st Century it’s frighteningly easy to subvert a long-established democracy if you have the money and metrics to do it – and the opposition is weak, dogmatic and stuck in another time. It speaks volumes that in 2017 it’s the unelected 2nd chamber of the House of Lords that’s the backbone of our democracy, not the elected MPs in the Commons! We have an awful situation where May’s government is so entrenched she sacks Heseltine for dissent, Labour’s left calls for MPs who don’t back Corbyn to be de-selected and the Brexit mob call anyone who doesn’t slavishly follow their hard line ‘traitors’ (so, that’s most of us then).

It’s shocking, and frightening. Many can see what’s about to happen, many more don’t seem to either care, or understand. What’ll happen when the turkeys finally realise it’s Christmas Eve? I’m not sure I want to stick around and find out…

High Speed UK caught telling porkies?

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I’ve never bothered blogging about High Speed UK before. Mainly because the project has no hope of ever getting off the kitchen table it’s been drawn up on.

However, researching yesterday’s blog on the waste of time that was the Yorkshire StopHs2 ‘conference’ in Wakefield threw up something interesting. It was this comment on the Erewash Stop Hs2 groups Facebook page;

erewash

They can’t make the route public because “it would infringe Ordnance Survey copyright”? Really? That’s not what Ordnance Survey say. Here’s the link to the OS website page, which says;

os

So, that’s HSUK’s claim blown out of the water by the OS!

Of course, there IS another reason why HSUK aren’t keen on using OS maps to overlay their pretty lines on. It becomes obvious when you have a look at the maps they have on their website. Here’s part of the map for West Yorkshire.

hsuk-map

As you can see, it’s devoid of detail. Human habitation is drawn in the vaguest of ways and there’s bugger all topographical detail either. Now, let’s examine this in more detail against satellite imagery used by Google Maps. Let’s take Wakefield as an example, seeing as the conference was there yesterday. HSUK propose a new Western chord linking the ECML at Wakefield Westgate with the lower level line through Kirkgate. But what’s actually in the way of such a chord? Well, you won’t find any detail on HSUKs map – and here’s why!

wakefield-map

What HSUK aren’t keen for anyone to see it that chord would cut right through an industrial estate, across Waldorf Way, then pass straight through a housing estate which includes Avondale St, Tew St, Cotton St and Horne St! Can you imagine what the citizens of Wakefield might have said if they saw this map on display yesterday? Would the Erewash and Yorkshire Stophs2 groups be so keen to support HSUK if they knew details like this? I think we all know the answer to that – there would be uproar from their members at the magnitude of demolitions and disruption – which is why HSUK (unlike Hs2 Ltd) don’t use OS maps!

Of course, publishing this level of detail would expose their claims that HSUK would be £20bn cheaper to build than Hs2 as the moonshine it is. None of these demolition/compensation or other costs are factored in.

Now, let’s have a look at the answer to David Briggs question about Long Eaton. Here’s the HSUK ‘map’.

long-eaton

Notice those tunnels to the South of Long Eaton? Where would be the construction site for them – or the entirely new line heading South. Let’s have a look at Google again.

long-eaton-google

Hang on a minute – where have those lakes come from? They’re not shown on the HSUK map. Only the river Trent is. I wonder why? Could that be because those lakes are actually Trent Windsurfing Club, who might not be too happy about this? Oh, and the other side of the Trent is Thrumpton, where Thrumpton Hall is set amongst 300 acres of parkland! Only it’s right in the way of HSUKs little scheme!

The more you compare HSUK’s featureless maps with what’s really on the ground, the more obvious it becomes why HSUK don’t use OS maps. It would kill support for their madcap scheme stone dead.

I do hope some Long Eaton residents see this and get to ask HSUK some rather frank and awkward questions on the 9th – as well as the stophs2 campaigners who’re in bed with HSUK. I may disagree fundamentally with the StopHs2 campaign, but I believe that people who live along the route have the right not to be misled or used as pawns by others with their own agenda.

More on the Yorkshire anti Hs2 campaign

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Yesterday I blogged about Hs2 getting Royal Assent and how the stophs2 campaign has collapsed. I also mentioned about how the focus has changed to Yorkshire, where there’s a confused and contradictory campaign that can’t make its mind up if it wants to Stop Hs2, or just change the route back to Meadowhall.

Well, more evidence has come to light over just how disjointed and unsuccessful that campaign is. First, let’s have a look at StopHs2 Erewash. This small group is trying to stop Hs2 around Long Eaton. They don’t have a working website so here’s a link to their Facebook page, which is rather instructive. Hs2 antis never did learn that social media is a double-edged sword. It can help you spread your message, but it can also show how weak and divided you are!

A sidebar on their page displays a post that contains a copy of a letter from their local MP, Maggie Throup to her constituents. The letter makes plain that she supports Hs2. Not only that, she also lays into groups like StopHs2 Erewash for deliberately spreading disinformation!

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That pretty much sounds the death knell for this group and their campaign. Without the support of their MP this is game over as it’s MPs who vote on Phase 2 of Hs2. StopHs2 Erewash have this event arranged for March 9th. I think its fair to say it’s not going to be graced by their MP!

erewash-event

Apropos of this event, I see some locals aren’t happy with who’s been invited to speak, namely High Speed UK (HSUK). Regular readers will know that HSUK is a back of a fag-packet scheme drawn up by Colin Elliff and Quentin McDonald. They’ve been touting it for years as an ‘alternative’ to Hs2 but no-one’s been daft enough to fall for a scheme that’s just lines drawn on a map, with no real detail about junctions, trains or services. The only thing HSUK have had any success at is persuading a few gullible souls to use them as ‘expert witnesses’ during the petitioning process. That hasn’t gone well either.

So, I was interested to see this comment on the Erewash FB page.

erewash

Of course, HSUK are also at the event the grandly (and inaccurately) titled ‘YorkshireAgainstHs2″are holding in Wakefield today.

alternatives

It doesn’t appear to be going well. I’m always suspicious of these events when there’s a noticeable absence of tweets or pictures from them. It’s normally a sign that few have turned up. So far there’s been a very tightly cropped //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js“>video of Green Party leader Natalie ‘brain fade’ Bennett saying a few words put out by the organisers, and a couple of tweets from her – none of which show the audience – and, that’s it, which is pathetic when you think about it. Contrast that with the amount of media (and social media) attention the conference about the Hs2 station design in Sheffield received yesterday.

Considering the this is meant to be Yorkshire (population 5.2 million) against Hs2 and it’s holding the event in Wakefield (pop 327,000) they’re not exactly rocking the Casbah! However, in fairness to them. If they DO show anything that illustrates the size of the crowd, I’ll be only too happy to share it!

The lack of any real political support to try and Stop Hs2 in Yorkshire and the amateurishness & contradictory nature of the groups means they’ve no chance of success. At best, they’ll provide more lessons in how not to run a campaign in the age of social media.

Oh, one more snippet. Even Joe Rukin of Stophs2 has admitted what I’ve been saying all along, that the Yorkshire Stophs2 campaign is divided and without a clear aim! This was posted about today’s Wakefield event;

rukin

Of course, in Rukin’s book, “a lot” means something very different to the real world. Hence the poor turn-out today.

UPDATE.

I’m posting this at 21:00 when it’s clear the events been a spectacular failure. Hopefully, you’ll be able to view this presentation for the Leader of Wakefield Council, Peter Box. It highlights why their campaign’s so hopeless. It trots out just about every fairy story about Hs2 we’ve ever heard – including the classic ‘Hs2 only saves 20 minutes’

Just like everything else about their campaign the quality of the videos coming out from the event are amateurish in the extreme. This really is Poundland PR…

Hs2 gets Royal Assent

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This major milestone was attained on the 23rd February whilst I was away in Asia, so I’ve not had chance to blog about it until today. Royal Assent means that years of talking and arguing about Hs2 are finally over. Royal Assent is essentially granting planning permission for construction to start. There are no more legal or political hoops to jump through. Politicians have now moved on to other things, even if a few anti Hs2 campaigners haven’t. What RA also does is release some pots of money that had been held back. Here’s what the DfT release says about them:

“Two funds, worth £40 million, are now open for bids: the Community and Environment Fund (CEF) and the Business and Local Economy Fund (BLEF). The CEF will help enhance community facilities, improve access to the countryside and conserve the natural environment, while the BLEF will support local economies in areas where businesses may experience disruption from the construction of HS2.

The CEF and BLEF together make up £40 million and will be allocated at a regional level: £15 million for the central area (Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Buckinghamshire Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Hertfordshire), £7.5 million for Greater London and £7.5 million for the West Midlands (Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry). The remaining £10 million will fund cross-border or route wide projects”.

But there’s more…

“A further £30 million road safety fund will go towards local road safety schemes in areas not currently accustomed to construction traffic. This will help provide a legacy of improvements for areas adversely affected by Phase One traffic.”

That’s a total of £70m for projects along the phase 1 route that have been released by Royal Assent.

Of course, RA has had other impacts. It’s screwed down the lid on the StopHs2 campaign’s coffin. Their campaign’s dead – although some of them refuse to admit it and continue to witter on Twitter, as if it matters any more as spades will start going into the ground in a few short weeks time.

So, what’s next for the anti Hs2 campaign. Well, on phase 1 – it’s oblivion. There’s only one active group left in 2017 as Hs2aa haven’t been heard of since November last year. In fact, if you look at Hs2aa’s website you wouldn’t even know Hs2 has got Royal Assent!

That leaves Kenilworth based StopHs2 which is just two people. Joe Rukin (who lives locally) and Penny Gaines, who’s decamped to the South-West! In order to keep his non-job going poor Joe is trying to sell his services and ‘expertise’ to Phase 2 campaigners. Quite what Yorkshire would do with a bloke whose CV reveals 7 years of failure and dishonesty is an interesting question. StopHs2 are skint. How long they will survive now is an interesting question. I’d be surprised if they last beyond the summer.

That brings us onto the next phase of Hs2 – 2a from the W Midlands to Crewe. The consultation closed on 7th November 2016. Shortly afterwards the Govt confirmed the route. 2017 will see the Environmental Impact Assessment completed and the Hybrid Bill launched. The Govt are expecting phase 2a to get Royal Assent in 2019. This may seem optimistic when you look at the time it took on Phase 1, but for one thing. The anti Hs2 campaign on Phase 2a is almost non-existent!

Apart from an active group around Stone (Staffs), supported by the local MP, Bill Cash, there’s no organised opposition to Hs2. There was in the past (of a sort, anyway) but it was always riven by in-fighting and egos. Much of it was UKIP inspired, but as they’ve got their own problems nowadays don’t expect many fireworks.

That leaves the two arms of phase 2. Crewe to Manchester and the W Midlands to Leeds.

Of the two, the Manchester arm has the least Stophs2 activity. There’s a small group based in Mid-Cheshire that’s noisy but ineffective (it doesn’t even have the backing of the local MP) and there’s the remnants of a group around Warrington. Take a look at their website. It hasn’t been updated since 2015!  Their Facebook page isn’t much better.  The only other group worth mentioning is CADRAG (Culcheth And District Rail Action Group) but they’re just as moribund as the others. This comment on their Facebook page says it all.

cadrag

That leaves the Leeds leg, where the story is more complicated.

There’s one tiny group in Leics (which essentially seems to be a one man and his dog operation) around the village of Measham. Here’s their website. When you look through you find there’s very little in the way of action. Much of their website is empty and they’ve still not announced who their Committee members are 3 months on! Their main reason to exist seems to be to help people turn out carbon copy consultation responses (which worked so well on Phase 1 , not). Their social media presence is one man tweeting stuff that has no links with Measham at all, just random StopHs2 propaganda, oh, and a strange obsession with how many views his Tweets have had (so much so that he then tweets about it)! A telling statistic is that only 1% of the local population turned up to their inaugural meeting.

What makes this group interesting is that they’re like a few on the Yorkshire arm. They only exist because the route was changed after consultations. That means there’s opposition to their position as the changes were so that Hs2 affects less people. We may yet find the rug is pulled from under groups like this if the new consultations show a majority of local support FOR the changes!

It’s the same with a few small groups North of Sheffield. There’s an added problem for anti Hs2 campaigners here as they command very little political support. Whilst Yorkshire political culture is renowned for factionalism and squabbling between the different Councils, local Authorities and metropolitan areas the overwhelming majority of Yorkshire politicians see Hs2 as a good thing even if they can’t agree on the final course of the route. But then, neither can the protesters! There’s no coherent voice or anti Hs2 campaign across Yorkshire. The anti campaign is also hamstrung by the fact that – unlike the Chiltern Nimbys, they can’t use the excuse that there’s no stations and they don’t directly benefit.

What Yorkshire does have is a cadre of academics and vested interests centred around Leeds/Harrogate who are anti Hs2. In the case of High Speed UK (HSUK) that’s because they have their own pet scheme they want to make some money out of.

In conjunction with Wakefield Council (one of the political awkward squad, through its leader, Cllr Peter Box) a group grandly styling themselves “Yorkshire Against HS2” have organised a conference tomorrow. Titled “Hs2 Alternatives”. It contained the usual rag-bag of long term opponents and political dogmatists, from lobbyists like the Taxpayers Alliance to the Green party’s Natalie “brain fade” Bennett. Add to the mix HSUK (still punting their back of a fag packet ‘alternative’) and the superbly bonkers Paul Withrington, (who styles himself ‘Transport Watch’), StopHs2’s Joe Rukin and local self publicist Cllr Gibbons and you’ve got a real treat! I doubt Yorkshire’s seen a box of frogs this mad since the UKIP conference was last in the county. Quite wisely, two local MPs (Ed Miliband and Jon Tricket) are keeping their distance and (allegedly) leaving messages via a video link!

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Somehow, I can’t imagine Sir David Higgins losing any sleep over this one. If it’s raining in Wakefield tomorrow you might get a few through the doors, but if this is the Premier league of the remaining opposition to Hs2…

And that it! The phase 2 Hybrid Bill won’t be along for a couple of years yet, so expect a lot of what’s left of the opposition to drop away – just as it did on phase 1. In the meantime, construction will have started on phase 1 and the phase 2a Hybrid Bill will be attracting all the attention.

Now I’m looking forward to a few years spent blogging about progress on the construction of Hs2!

The joys of airport layovers

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I’m taking an enforced break in Mumbai airport between flights. I have to say, this place has improved immeasurably over the years, it’s a world-class airport nowadays (and so charging ‘world class’ prices for food and drink!).  Still, it’s an opportunity to catch up with the world as they offer an hours worth of free wifi – and it’s fast. It’s allowed me to upload a few dozen more pictures of my travels onto my Zenfolio website, which you can find here.

Despite the cost of eating, the airports facilities are pretty good. Security was a breeze, there’s plenty of seating and lots of places to recharge phones, laptops etc. Even the mood muzak is enjoyable as it’s based on Indian classical. The lights are rather groovy too. They’re based on the lotus flower and depict them at various stages of opening. There’s even a loo with a view. One of the Gents toilets has windows above the urinals that look out over the aircaft bays so you can plane-spot whilst you pee!

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My temporary office for the next couple of hours. You can just see my camera bag by the row of screens!

Right, I’m off to get more pics like this while I have the chance…

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