With the last result declared, Johnson’s Government now has a clear majority of 80. He no longer needs the backing of parties like the DUP and it waters down the influence of special interest groups or rebels.
As I predicted, the StopHs2 campaign had a lousy election. Long on bluster, they’ve always been short of any serious political influence and this is obvious in the results. They were never a genuine threat to any MPs on the route. A good example is on the phase 2b route at Erewash where Maggie Throup, the local Tory MP has always made her support for HS2 plain. Despite the fact their was a vociferous anti Hs2 candidate standing against her for the Green Party (Brent Poland) and there’s a local Stophs2 ‘action’ group she increased her majority by 4.4%!
Meanwhile, over in Bolsover, the prominent anti-HS2 MP and Labour veteran, Dennis Skinner lost his seat! What’s been crystal clear is that the big issue has been Brexit, not Hs2.
Here’s a bit of number crunching. Of the 41 MPs who voted against Hs2 Phase 1 back In 2014, just 20 of them are still MPs. Plus, 7 of those 20 actually voted FOR Hs2 phase 2a! Whilst a few new MPs have stated their opposition it doesn’t affect the numbers. For example. Labour’s John Barron in Rother Valley who was opposed to HS2 has been replaced by a Tory MP with the same stance. Some of the new Tory MPs in the Chilterns are making noises about HS2, but it’s nothing more than posturing to keep some of the locals happy. Phase 1 is a done deal, there are no more votes in Parliament to be had.
Where does this leave HS2? Johnson’s Conservatives made big inroads into the Labour heartland of the North and Midlands. He now has to deliver on his promises to the people who’ve lent him their votes. He’s promised to ‘level the field’ between North and South and invest in infrastructure. Cancelling HS2 would send entirely the wrong message to people who have bought into his promises. He can’t ‘get Brexit done’ and he needs their votes again in five years time. With Hs2 (and NPR) he can at least offer them something tangible.
During the election campaign Johnson made it clear that he’d go along with the recommendations of the Oakervee review of HS2. As the leaked report shows Oakervee recommends building HS2 in its entirety. Does anyone seriously expect Johnson to cancel it? There might be some tweaks to the Phase 2b route, but it’s worth remembering that another scheme Johnson backs (Northern Powerhouse Rail) will share 50% of Hs2 Phase 2’s tracks. You won’t get one without the other.
Of course, Johnson’s government could cut the cost of HS2 by renegotiating some of the construction contracts which have loaded on costs due to the transfer of risk from Hs2 to the contractors, which would make a lot of sense and save billions, making him popular all round and pull the rug from under the remaining HS2 objectors.
My prediction is that we’ll see Hs2 phase 1 get the go-ahead very quickly to end the uncertainty and Phase 2a resume its course through the Lords. What’s left of the StopHs2 campaign has no serious political influence and Johnson has a lot on his plate. The last thing he needs now is to fight a needless battle with Northern and Midlands leaders by scrapping any of HS2.
Despite all their bluster it’s clear that one group are having a lousy election and that’s what’s left of the StopHs2 ‘campaign’. For years they’ve tried to pretend they have the support of the majority of the public and that HS2 is an election issue. Their problem is that every election since 2010 has proved that’s nothing but hot air. This election’s no different.
There’s been no daft #NoVotesForYouWithHS2 hashtag on Twitter this year, nor any StopHs2 adverts in newspapers or magazines as the ‘campaign’ is skint. What there has been has been reduced to some ludicrous bluster on Twitter. Here’s a couple of examples.
“Hundreds of thousands” eh? Well that should give the Greens and Brexit party a bounce in the polls, eh?
Meanwhile, there’s this rubbish from one Stephen Leary who lives in Measham, NW Leics and fancies himself as a political pundit!
Leary’s bored Twitter to death by telling people in constituencies miles away from the Hs2 route who they can vote for to oppose HS2 – as if they haven’t got more important things on their minds this election! I’m sure they’ve been talking about nothing else in Worcester, Woolwich or Wood Green! I mean, forget Brexit, or the NHS. Well, in Leary’s febrile imagination that’s what they’re doing anyway! Meanwhile, in the real world, the ‘Britain Elects’ website has been monitoring the standing of the parties in the many polls. Here’s their summary from yesterday.
So much for Deeley’s “hundreds of thousands” of HS2 antis and Leary’s desperate digging up of political no-hopers like the SDP (who? Ed). The two national parties who oppose HS2, the Greens and Brexit party are languishing at the bottom of the chart. How many seats are they projected to win? None at all. The Greens will hang on to their one existing South Coast seat whilst the Brexit party won’t win anything anywhere.
So much for all the bluster! Hs2 antis have supplied all the bounce of a dead cat to the parties that oppose HS2! Whichever party or parties form the next Government support building the new railway.
Something else HS2 anti have been reticent to mention is this interview Boris Johnson gave to the Metro newspaper. It says.
“BORIS JOHNSON has said he will back HS2 — as long as the Oakervee Review does so too.“
As the leaked draft of the Oakervee report does exactly that, I think we can see which way the wind’s blowing – the direction that’s going to take the wind out of Stophs2’s sails completely…
Yesterday the Green party and StopHs2 held a joint demonstration outside the Department of Transport in London. To say it was a bit of a flop is an understatement. The event was widely advertised on social media by anti Hs2 groups and the Green party – for all the good it did. Here’s an example.
Notice that 27 people claim to have attended? This is a piss-poor number when you consider the number of people who supposedly oppose HS2. As is my habit, let’s crunch some numbers to get a bit of perspective.
Over 6.5 million people live in the 63 Parliamentary constituencies HS2 will pass through.
The Green Party are estimated to have a membership of 48,500.
StopHs2 have 11,849 Facebook followers. Many of whom will have seen this leaflet.
Now, allowing for the fact there’s clearly crossover between these different groups, you’d expect a reasonable turn-out, wouldn’t you? Especially as the demonstration was taking place in Central London, thus within easy reach of many of those supposedly up in arms about HS2, No?
No. Here’s a few pictures from the event, which was timed to take place between 3-4pm. The first one is the sort of tightly-cropped pictures that you’ll see the media use, making it look like there’s actually something going on.
Here’s what the media won’t show you. This is a view of the full event, which shows you just how pathetically small is was! I count a total of 15 people, including 3 members of the media. Even the police didn’t bother showing up! The only security is a couple of DfT staff stood discretely in the background.
Here’s another shot, after the media had left but including one innocent passer-by on her phone. This is the best both the ‘combined might’ of the Green party and StopHs2 can do – in Central London! Quite where the others out of the 27 who claimed to have gone were is a mystery. But then it’s like the social media ‘keyboard warriors’ who spend all their time ranting about Hs2 on Twitter or Facebook – but never get out of their armchairs when it comes to doing anything else.
Here’s a short video, just in case stills aren’t convincing enough!
I’ve not seen any media coverage of this as I’m assuming it wasn’t considered newsworthy, which is hardly surprising. Bartley gave a speech to camera in which he trotted out the usual scaremongering nonsense about ‘ecocide’ and ‘concreting over’ the countryside. mark Keir also spoke to the camera. What he said was more interesting because of what he let slip. He appealed for more people to turn up to the Uxbridge protests because they’re desperately short of bodies on the ground. If you follow his and the other protesters farcical antics on Facebook it’s easy to see why!
The whole protest reveals something about the UK green party, which is that they’ve very little credibility as anything more than a protest group – which is clearly what they’re happiest being. They have several credibility issues, one of which is the calibre of their candidates and Mark Kier is a good example of this. I’ve no doubt of his commitment, but there are serious questions about his fitness to be a candidate. OK, it’s fair to say that the whole Brexitshambles has exposed the fact Parliament has more than it’s fair share of people with the intellect of an amoeba on both sides of the floor, but the Greens are meant to be offering something better. Here’s an earlier blog of Kier giving an interview. Does this sound like someone you’d like representing you in Parliament? remember, he stood in Uxbridge in 2017 and managed to reduce the size of the Green vote!
I’ve no idea how the Green Party chooses its candidates, but I have to say they really need to up their game if they expect to be taken seriously. That said, their ridiculous ‘co-leader’ policy doesn’t help either. It may play well to the membership, but out in the real world? Oh, please…
The tragedy of all this is the UK desperately needs a credible Green party, but this lot ain’t it. When I see the impact their German counterparts have on politics I do go green – but only with envy! The German party manages to grapple with national and international issues whilst the UK party is obsessed with localism and can’t actually see the woods for the trees, hence their mad opposition to HS2, because the hard truth is without HS2 we simply don’t have the rail capacity for the future to get people and freight off roads and cut transport Co2 emissions to tackle Climate Change. Stopping HS2 isn’t ‘green’, it’s exactly the opposite.
Well- known TV presenter and environmentalist Chris Packham has continually made the statement that HS2 is causing the biggest deforestation programme since World War 1. Here’s one of his tweets from today, making exactly that claim.
There’s only one problem with it, which is this…
I’ve been doing something Packham clearly hasn’t bothered to do and researched the evidence for his claim. I started off with this website from the Conservation Volunteers which contains a history of British woodland. They have a handy section on the 20th Century, which reveals this:
“The strategic danger of this situation became obvious in the First World War (1914-1918), when enemy action prevented imports getting through. Over the four years, about 180,000 hectares (450,000 acres) were felled to meet the demands“.
180,000 hectares eh? Any more offers? Well, actually – yes. This is from the Countryfile website.
“There were 182 government-run sawmills by the end of 1917, supplemented by a further 40 mills run by groups such as the Canadian Forestry Corps and Women’s Forestry Corps. By 1918, 182,000 hectares of woodland had been felled – an area larger than modern-day Greater London”. Let’s split the difference and say 181,000 hectares shall we? Oh, and that’s without The conservation volunteers pointing out that more woodland was felled in WW 2 than WW1.
“By the time of the Second World War (1939-1945), the Commission forests were still too young to provide much timber, and about 212,000 hectares (524,000 acres) of private woodland were felled to meet the demand“.
Then how much woodland is going to be felled (note, felled, not just affected) by HS2? Because, if Packham’s claim is right, it’s got to be way over 180,000 ha, or even 212,000ha. Now, 212,000 hectares is 210 square kilometres. What do HS2 say’s is affected in this document? Note, this is not just felled, but indirectly affected too. Oh…
Up to 3.8km in total will be affected by HS2. That’s just 380 hectares! Oh, and that’s without talking into account the fact HS2 will be planting MORE woodland than they affect, in fact, they’ll be planting more than double the amount, 136% more in fact. Some ‘deforestation’!
WW1 = 181,000 Ha felled
WW2 = 212,000 Ha felled
HS2 = 380 Ha (includes woodland affected but not felled).
Plus, if we take up Packham on his claim about ancient woodlands, we can see the numbers are even smaller, as this blog using the (Woodland Trusts own figures) exposed.
Someone pass Packham a fire extinguisher as his pants are clearly ablaze!
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?
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.
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….