To say the tiny bunch of self-appointed ‘eco-warriors’ have lost the plot in these troubled times is putting it mildly. Right now they’ve deployed weapons-grade hypocrisy and rank stupidity in equal measures. Just take a look at this video.
Literally nothing they claim in this video is true. The irony of all their claims about being assaulted? They’re being watched by half a dozen police officers (who really do have much better things to do with their time right now). Said officers just might know a bit more about the law than these protesters with their histrionics.
Their hypocritical claims that the HS2 security workers are ‘breaking the law’ by not keeping 2 metres apart? There is no such law (it’s advice that doesn’t apply in this situation).
Oh, and watch serially failed Green Party Candidate Mark Keir getting right into the faces of the security people as he more and more frequently loses his rag (a not uncommon sight nowadays, how long before he’s nicked for threatening behaviour I wonder)? This is the man I highlighted in my latest crazy anti Hs2 campaigner blog as the ultimate hypocrite. Social distancing my arse! This is the clown who was berating men for not keeping their distance yet here he can be seen pressed up against them, covering them in his spittle as he rants and rages!
The ultimate irony? Without these increasingly futile and idiotic protests none of the police or security guards would need to be there and several million pounds of taxpayers money could be spent elsewhere. On things like the NHS perhaps?
It’s time those who’re financially supporting these idiotic antics by ineffective barrack-room lawyers and faux ‘eco-warriors’ (have you seen the mess their ‘protest’ camps make in woodland?) take a good look at what they’re funding and the utter pointlessness of it. Because this isn’t saving woodland, or the planet. Exactly the opposite in fact.
Because, without Hs2, we simply don’t have the rail capacity for the future to get people & freight off roads and cut transport Co2 emissions to tackle Climate Change. Stopping HS2 isn’t ‘green’, it’s exactly the opposite. These people can’t see the woods for the trees.
Sometimes, you really have to wonder. I’ve been occupied scanning old slides again this evening as Dawn’s busy on a Reiki course, so whilst I’ve been waiting for the scanner to perform its (slow) miracles I’ve been keeping an eye on social media – which is when I spotted this gem..
Seriously? F**k me, who knew that for thousands of years people have used various (mostly humane) methods to deter birds? Have the RSPB never heard of Scarecrows, or the farmers that set off shotgun cartridges on a timer – or Network Rail patrolling some of its stations like this? “Ethically dubious”?
If this is the desperate intellectual level some of our environmental groups are reduced to, you do have to start asking – what’s the point of you? What problems are you really going to solve with rubbish like this – and why on earth should we take you seriously?
Needless to say, it wasn’t long before arch HS2 critic Chris Packham piled in in his own unthinking fashion with this tweet.
Holding nature in ‘contempt’ by using birds to scare off birds? Talk about mental gymnastics! The sad thing is that knee-jerk rubbish like this only makes it easier for people to dismiss environmental groups as cranks. It gives ammunition to the opposition, nothing more, but nothing that Packham comes out with surprises me anymore. Let’s face it, a man who flies people half-way around the world on expensive bird-watching tours of the Gambia (for which he earns a pretty penny) trying to stop people in the UK from being able to travel on a carbon-neutral railway is the height of hypocrisy.
I’ll look forward to the next chapter of this madness, the RSPCA starting a campaign against people buying cats to scare away mice perhaps? For God’s sake – no-one tell them about Felix, the Huddersfield station cat!
Finally, after weeks of waiting and all sorts of political shenanigans’ and uncertainties the announcement has finally been made. HS2 is going ahead.
To be honest, it wasn’t much of a secret, or a surprise. The final decision’s been slowly leaked to the media over a number of weeks – as have dissenting views (not that they mattered).
Today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the news. To be fair announced is hardly the right word. Those who thought the Government were ashamed of their decision were completely wrong-footed. This was no apologetic slipping out of unpopular news, this was a full-bore celebration with a fanfare and 21 gun salute. Johnson stood at the dispatch box and made a meal of it. This was bombastic, bellicose Boris in full flow. And, for once, he actually seemed to have some idea what he was talking about, because he wasn’t announcing vague plans for yet another bridge. This was the culmination of 10 years of planning, re-planning and co-operation between people on a huge scale. There was plenty of detail to be had – and Johnson made the most of it. Why wouldn’t he? He has an 80 seat majority and HS2 has huge cross-party support. It’s simply not a contentious issue and he desperately needs something like this to celebrate to take everyone’s mind off what comes next in the EU negotiations.
You could see that the penny was dropping with some of his back-benchers (old and new) as it became clear his Government were going full-tilt for HS2. Those ‘newbies’ who have ambitions but who represent constituencies on the route are starting to realise that opposition to HS2 could severely limit your career – especially when opposition is futile. Of course, for a few of the old hands like Chesham and Amersham MP Cheryl Gillan – whose career is already over – it’s not so much of a blow, but then she didn’t even bother turning up. The announcement also contained another gem. As I predicted in a blog back in August last year, Phase 2b of HS2 is to be re-aligned and merged with ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ (always an unwieldy name) to be rebranded “High Speed North”.
This is clever on a number of levels.
For a start, HS2 is now the project that’s already got the go-ahead and it’s a railway between London and Crewe (because phase 1 and 2a have been merged). It isolates the StopHs2 ‘campaign’ from the North. Why? Because the anti HS2 campaign was always based on phase 1, the railway from London – Birmingham. It’s where their grassroots and groups (like Hs2aa and StopHs2) were.
What do they have on the rebadged “High Speed North”? Nothing.
They have a tiny bunch of MPs who’re opposed – most of whom are newly elected and easily neutered as they have ambitions – and little else. In contrast, the North has massive political and business support for what was HS2 but is now clearly a Northern project that will deliver far more than HS2 could do in isolation. Don’t forget that 50% of the new ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ tracks would have been HS2 tracks. So, how many Northern MPs are now going to be brave (or foolhardy) enough to say “I oppose HSN” And why would Southern Tory MPs who’ve been outflanked on HS2 phase 1 put their own government at risk at the next election by opposing HSN when they no longer have a dog in the fight?
I could write more as I’ve not even touched on the Oakervee review yet, but I’m going to save that for another day. All I’ll say is that the review has made fools of much of the mainstream media. Why? Because they fell for the spin and briefings from Lord Berkeley that the cost of HS2 had risen to £106bn and they ran with it. In fact, the only refence to that figure in the Oakervee report is to dismiss it, not to endorse it.
StopHs2 is dead. Is anyone going to be stupid enough to try and rebrand it as “Stop High-Speed North”?
– but not today, despite the earlier claims of the BBC. Right now, she’s sucking throat lozenges, preparing for the final act which (if I’m right) will be next week.
The stage has been set by leaks to the media that the Chancellor and Midlands MP, Sajid Javid has thrown his weight behind building HS2 as the economics stack up for, not against the project. As Javid is a very Senior member of the Government and the man in charge of the money, this is hugely important. We’ve also seen a chorus of ‘get on with it’ from many of the new intake of Tory MPs in the North, much to the chagrin of Northern antis, who tried to pretend the ‘newbies’ were all against the project.
Whilst the announcement may not dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ in relation to Phase 2b of HS2, it will certainly mean there are no more questions over phase 1. Not only that, but from what I’ve been hearing, the phase 1 contractors are expected to hit the ground running. Whilst the project’s been delayed awaiting the political go-ahead, they’ve not been kicking their heels. They’ve refined their work plans and are keen to crack-on with them.
This will be the death knell of StopHs2 which has always been a phase 1 based campaign. It renders them completely irrelevant. Oh, there might be a few isolated protests due to local Nimbys and ‘Extinction Rebellion’ but they’ve already shown they’ve neither the numbers or the muscle to actually stop the work continuing. The idea they’re puffing that ‘Middle England’ will turn out to ‘protect’ the countryside and stop HS2 is pure bluster. They’ve fallen for their own social media spin and the numbers of voyeurs who watch their futile antics via Facebook – but who’ll never do anthing more than send ‘thoughts and prayers’.
Also, the law on these protests has tightened up since the heady days of “Swampy” and the road protests of the 1980s-90s. How many of these middle-class, middle-aged (and over) protesters are prepared to collect a criminal record other than ones by Max Bygraves or Des O’ Connor? They may protest while it’s felt the project hasn’t got a formal ‘green light’, but how many will still bother when it has and the full weight of the construction companies with thousands of men and hundreds of machines move in?
In the meantime, the froth will continue for a few more days, but I think even most antis have worked out how this is going to end. A few die-hards are still blustering on Twitter and Facebook from their armchairs, whilst the reprogrammed pro-brexit trolls spout absolute garbage, sometimes in incomprehensible ways like this.
“Beachams”? I think it was trying to refer to Beeching, but it got lost in translation!
I wonder how Joe Rukin’s job hunt is going? Not very well by the look of it. he’s reduced to recording this incoherent and rambling video from his bunker! The hilarious part is he’s asked his supporters to forward this car-crash to the PM! Bless…
The sorry saga around the HS2 go-ahead announcement continues, with the BBC now claiming the Government will make the call tomorrow (Thursday). This rather contradicts the majority view from various informed sources that the announcement won’t be made until AFTER the UK formally leaves the EU, which is 11pm this Friday. The latest informed source I’ve spoken to reckons that the announcement will either be made Tuesday or Thursday next week, or at the end of February, due to the Parliamentary timetable. Personally, I suspect the latter date will be sailing close to the wind as March is the month construction needs to start without penalty payments bumping up the construction price – as confirmed in the latest NAO report into HS2.
Whatever the truth of the matter it’s clear that the announcement is imminent. Not a single source I’ve talked to considers there’s any real chance the project will be cancelled. Politically and economically, cancellation is a non-starter. The sooner this decision is taken the better.
Meanwhile, the froth around HS2 continues in the media, with column inch after column inch of speculation, spin and outright fiction. It’s certainly keeping the pundits busy anyway!
But what of the StopHs2 campaign? It goes from farce to worse. Poor Joe Rukin has made a fool of himself yet again in this overwrought post on the Stop Hs2 Facebook page. A wildlife expert he clearly isn’t. Look at the reply to his Badger sett claim!
Meanwhile, the Harvil Rd protest appears to have collapsed. In contrast to the previous barrage of tedious Facebook posts and self-indulgent videos on the Colne Valley Facebook page there’s been nothing for days. No-one seems to be doing anything that even merits a boring video, much less actually stopping any work on the ground – and this is their oldest and biggest protest camp! Instead, we’ve been treated to more over-long and tedious ‘livestream’ videos from the latest ‘camp’ which is on Welsh Road just outside Offchurch, Warwickshire. Here’s a link.
What it shows is a handful of mostly middle-class protesters completely failing to stop the cutting down of trees and hedgerows alongside a road. It’s all a bit of an expensive pantomime as contractors erect Heras fencing to protect protesters from themselves as they stupidly (and pointlessly) try and place themselves in harms way and then film it – as if it’s HS2’s fault they’re daft enough to get where they are! The contractors and police display the patience of saints as the protesters wind themselves up, spouting more and more nonsense about the project, the law – and the countryside. And what have they stopped? Nothing.
The irony is the guy who’s filming this and who constantly boasts about all the ‘hearts’ being posted on his feed are worse than useless. It’s nothing more than voyeurism. Those armchair warriors won’t do anything other than massage a few protesters egos by telling them how they’re ‘with them in spirit’ and other suchlike tosh. It’s about as useful as sending “thoughts and prayers” but this is the nature of protest in the smartphone age it seems! The protesters video drags on interminably, with the same ridiculous statements including all the old favourites about “HS2 only saves 20 mins”, “no-one will use it”, “it’ll be obsolete in 10yrs” – wibble, froth wibble. After a while, the police beef up their presence at the site (adding yet more expense) whilst the protesters try to argue everything that’s being done is ‘illegal’. It’s like arguing about angels on heads of pins. Opinions don’t trump legality so the protesters are on to a loser from the very start. What’s actually depressing is just how ignorant and misinformed they are, but then the likes of StopHs2’s Joe Rukin has been filling people’s heads with nonsense for years…
Eventually, after 2 hours filming, the video ends and we’re saved from more middle-class angst, pointless arguments and misinformation.
Did it stop the tree felling and hedgerow clearance? Did it heck as like! The protesters own video admits they’ve failed to stop 3/4 mile of tree felling and hedgerow clearance! A tiny delay is not stopping anything. The irony, this pointless exercise will have cost a pretty penny in security and (probably) police overtime. Yet one of the things the protesters are complaining about is the cost of building HS2. The very costs they’re adding to with their futile protests. Here’s the later video which shows how the protesters wasted their time.
Away from pointless protests there’s been action on the political front which has ramifications for HS2. Today Transport Minister Grant Shapps announced that the Northern rail franchise is going to be taken back of Arriva and run by the DfT’s operator of last resort (OLR). Well, I say ‘action’ but this move had been widely trailed and has hardly come as a surprise. You can find a copy of Shapps Statement here.
The implications for HS2 comes in this, the admission that the issue is as much about infrastructure as anything else.
“The vast majority of Northern’s trains pass though Leeds or Manchester”? The two Northern cities that HS2 does so much to relieve rail capacity in! I’ve no doubt Northern leaders will be pointing this out to Shapps. With such an admission, does anyone seriously think the Minister is about to announce the cancellation of HS2 when doing so will just add to the problems?
I’ve had another busy day at home scanning yet more old slides, whilst also preparing to move on to other activities this week. Tomorrow will see me back on the rails as I head to a press event at Barrow Hill near Chesterfield. All will be revealed in tomorrow’s rolling blog. In the meantime, if you want to have a look at the latest batch of Brazilian travel pictures, visit this gallery. If you want to see more of the vintage railway pictures from 1980, click on this link.
In between scanning pictures I’ve been keeping abreast of the world news and antics of social media. The health scare in China’s certainly having an impact on the world’s financial markets. The UK FTSE Index lost 2.29% of its value today, which is wiping out most of January’s gains. Not much fun if you’re an investor…
Still, social media provided some unintentional light hearted moments thanks to the latest shenanigan’s by the tiny bunch of StopHs2 protesters. They’ve been very quiet recently since their main protest camp at Harvil Rd was broken up as most of it’s been evicted, leaving them with nothing to film to bore social media with. But today they staged a comeback – of sorts, only not at Harvil Rd. A new camp has been started to ‘protect’ some trees and hedgerows that are being removed from along a road on the route at Offchurch, Warwickshire, but it’s all been a bit of a farce. Their ‘camp’ is a handful of tents but most of the land is already occupied and fenced off by contractors, so the work is continuing unhindered. StopHs2 have tried to make a meal of it on their website as their grandly titled ‘campaign manager’ Joe Rukin turned up to film earlier today. You can find the videos here on the StopHs2 website, but I can assure you you’re not missing much if you don’t bother!
As you can see from this screengrab, the handful of protestors are kept away by fencing which is looked after by security and police officers. Try and get in and you’re nicked – which three protesters were! The worksite continues for quite some way, which means the protesters are totally overstretched as there’s so few of them. Quite how any of this is meant to stop Hs2 is a mystery. If they can’t even stop minor work like hedgerows being removed they’re really going to struggle when the heavy equipment arrives!
No doubt farces like this will continue for a while yet, but they’ll achieve nothing. The protesters problem is that they’ve relied on social media for so long they’ve forgotten one simple thing. Twitter trolls and their fake accounts don’t exist in real life. They won’t turn up to protests, and neither will the ‘keyboard warriors’ on Facebook! The hastily reprogrammed pro Brexit bots that are keeping the #hs2 hashtag busy on Twitter are worse then useless when it comes to the real world…
Right, it’s time to say goodnight. I’ve got to be on a train at 07:20 in the morning, so watch out for tomorrow’s rolling blog, which will feature a rail vehicle of a type never seen in the UK before…
Today’s been yet another mixed bag where I’ve been keeping a wary eye on the world whilst keeping occupied scanning a selection of old slides – both rail and travel. I was up early in order to get another selection of travel shots from Brazil under my belt. That particular album’s coming along quite nicely now as I’m 2/3 of the way through the first folio and I’ll soon be starting on the selection from the island of Fernando do Noronha. Meanwhile, here’s a sample of one of today’s images from Olinda in Pernambuco state. It’s an incredibly colourful old town with some fine old buildings. You can find the rest of the Brazilian pictures here.
In order to add variety I’m simultaneously scanning some old rail shots from 1990. The idea will be to swap between rail and travel so there’s always something of interest to someone. of course, the railways looked very different in 1990 as privatisation wasn’t even on the agenda at that time.
In those days Euston was still dominated by electric locomotives – as this picture shows.
I was passing through Euston to head on up to an open day at Bescot locomotive depot just outside Birmingham. The depot put on a good show with a large variety of locomotives on display, including some withdrawn examples like 47901 here in the foreground. The weather was ideal for such an event and I certainly chewed through some film that day!
I’m still scanning the Bescot shots which you’ll be able to find in this gallery when they’re all done.
Whilst I was busy scanning the media was full of the latest leak about HS2 and a supposed ‘draft’ of the Oakervee report. Initially reported in the Financial Times the story was soon picked up by other outlets including the BBC. The leak was an odd one as it seems to have come from within government. It was soon clear that it was more spin than fact, as Andrew Sentance (one of the Oakervee Committee members made clear to the BBC. here’s how it was covered on Twitter by the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones..
Sentence also had this to say (via the BBC).
Yet again HS2 gets caught up in political games in Downing St. Mind you, HS2 isn’t the only mixed message coming out of No 10. There’s also the whole farce around Brexit the economy and promises made by Johnson to car makers before the election that have already fallen by the wayside. Let’s face it, when you have a Prime Minister who’s been sacked twice for lying you can hardly trust them, can you? Johnson may have an 80 seat majority but it’s becoming clear that his government isn’t coherent or clear in purpose. Improving the UKs infrastructure post Brexit is meant to be one of their big ideas, but the message is already riven by briefings and counter briefings, such as on HS2, which suggests a Government that’s less than united. It would be very interesting to know who in Government is briefing against HS2. Cummings?
Northern and Midlands leaders and several MPs have reacted with fury to these games by Downing St, demanding the the Oakervee review’s published so that there can’t be any more spin about its contents. We will have to see if they get their wish anytime soon…
Away from the shenanigans in Downing St it’s clear that the Harvil Rd protest has fizzled out again. Despite a few dozen Extinction Rebellion supporters and StopHs2’s Joe Rukin pitching up to make a few self-congratulatory videos claiming they’d ‘retaken’ Harvil Rd (they hadn’t) most of them had already drifted off by Sunday. It’s now business as usual as a visit to the ‘Protect the Colne Valley’ Facebook page will show. The flow of Facebook videos has dried up and work to clear the site continues pretty much unhindered.
Today’s been yet another day that’s seen me ensconced in the office at home trying to sort out the archives and get together a complete picture library of a clients entire train fleet. To say it’s time consuming is rather an understatement as they’ve rather a large portfolio! Still, it’s given me chance to search through the archive and spot potential gaps that will need filling in the future.
I’ve not been missing much by being stuck indoors as the weather here in the Pennines has hardly been conducive to photography. We’ve been suffering from the tail end of the gales that have been a feature of Northern and Scottish weather these past few days, but at least they’ve kept the rain away – even if the clouds have been the colour of thunder! As I normally escape to sunnier climes this time of year I’m starting to miss the warmth and sunshine. I don’t mind the odd dull day, but this is getting monotonous.
I’m hoping to make a bid for freedom for at least a few hours tomorrow as I need to get some shots that will fill a hole in the library. The railways are changing at an accelerated rate at the moment. What was current just six months ago is rapidly becoming dated and that process is likely to quicken through the year. Who knows what the railways will look like by this time next year with so many franchises in financial difficulties, despite (or even because of) the introduction of new trains.
Whilst I’ve been slogging through the archives I’ve also been keeping one eye on the debacle of the anti HS2 protest camp at Harvil Rd. It’s all over bar the moaning now as despite the histrionics and squeals of outrage about ‘illegal evictions’ from the tiny band there, it’s obvious it’s all ended with a whimper, which has set me thinking.
I’m no stranger to these events myself, having attended various demonstrations and protests since the late 1970s right up to the present day and the rallies against the Brexitshambles. I’ve a large archive of pictures on social issues that have never seen the light of day, from miners demonstrations with the likes of Arthur Scargill, the infamous poll tax riot in London in 1990 to the Iraq war demonstrations of 2003. I’ve been ‘kettled’ with demonstrators in central London and dodged missiles in Trafalgar Sq, as well as experienced curfews and general strikes in Kathmandu and India and protests for reform in Indonesia. Oh, and that’s without mentioning the ‘free festival’ circuit in the UK back in the 70s-80s, all of which make Harvil Rd look so ridiculous and so pathetic.
Which brings me back to my point. What a shambles that protest camp was. Compared to the protests about road building in the 70s-90s it was nothing more than a joke. They had 2 years to dig in and prepare for an eviction and at least put up some sort of a struggle. Instead, they gave up meek as lambs as it was clear they were woefully unprepared. It was more playing at being ‘eco-warriors’ rather than being serious about it. They spent more time swanning off to poorly attended PR stunts than actually organise a credible camp. Their reliance on and belief in social media was also part of their undoing. During the eviction Keir was busy filming it all to stick on Facebook and constantly appealing for all those armchair activists who were watching (which in truth was sod all) to ride to their rescue like the cavalry. They never turned up. Why? Because much of social media is little more than voyeurism. I’ve documented many StopHs2 events over the years and there’s one common denominator, how few bodies there are at them! It’s something they’ve never understood. Keyboard warriors and Twitter trolls and bots never turn up – because most of them don’t exist in the real world.
When I’ve had chance to do some research and scan some old pictures I’ll write a blog devoted to examining the difference between environmental protests 40 year ago and today. There’s a rich irony. 40 years ago the internet didn’t exist. The best protestors had was Xeroxed newsletters and telephone trees, yet they managed to organise on a far more impressive scale and attract national attention at some real stand-offs with the authorities. At Harvil Rd they were too busy thinking their endless tedious videos on their cosy Facebook groups or on Twitter, Instagram and suchlike actually meant something. They played to an audience of imaginary friends and basked in the fact they had so many hits or likes, as if all those voyeurs were actually contributing anything worthwhile. If they’d spent half the time they had on social media onanism they might have actually achieved something, but that’s always been a weakness of the anti HS2 campaign. Some of them genuinely think that MPs are going to be swayed by a few anonymous Twitter trolls spouting inane rubbish.
I can imagine someone getting a really interesting thesis out of this…
Anyway, enough of this for now. Hopefully tomorrow will see me back on the rails for the first time in 2020. If it does, expect a rolling blog documenting my travels and travails…
Earlier this morning the Court Bailiffs and police moved in to evict the oldest and largest of the StopH2 protest camps at Harvil Rd near Uxbridge. You can view the farce via a video posted on the StopHs2 website here.
It’s interesting for several reasons. Firstly, it shows how few people are actually there. Whilst there’s a rag-bag of 20 odd tents very few of them seem to be occupied. It’s like they’ve been left there by ‘weekend warriors’ just to make the camp look bigger and busier than it really is. In fact, very few protestors can be seen on camera, just the same old faces such as Mark Keir, the serially failed Green Party candidate, plus Sarah Green, the ‘star’ of various PR stunts the antis have tried to pull. One of the things I found fascinating about these videos was just how poorly prepared these camps were for the arrival of the Bailiffs. They knew they would come one day, so what the hell have they been doing these past two years? Remember the old days when protesters dug tunnels to hide in and had aerial ropeways between treehouses so they could resist for as long as possible and make life as difficult as they could for the police and bailiffs? This camp was a shambles in comparison, a few scattered tents and pallets used as walkways across the mud. It looked more like the place where people went to hang out, drink beers and smoke dope whilst recording endless boring social media video’s where they’d bluster about how they were going to stop Hs2.
In the background to the videos you can hear what the protesters have utterly failed to stop – HS2 contractors continuing to build access roads for construction of HS2.
As usual, you have people like Green trying to argue black is white with the Court Bailiff, claiming that the eviction is ‘illegal’. Unsurprisingly, the Bailiff refuses to get drawn into a pointless argument. As it’s now almost afternoon and no more videos have appeared – much less a victorious one from the protesters) it’s probably safe to assume that they’re too busy packing their bags! I’ll update this blog when I have more news.
There’s an even more telling video which stophs2 haven’t put up on their website but you can view it on their Facebook page. It’s a 22 minute long cameraphone video filmed by Mark Keir. You can find it here. In it, you can hear him describing the police and bailiffs as ‘scum’, whilst (hypocritically) being nice as pie to people’s faces. In contrast, the Court Officers are unfailingly polite and helpful, offering the maximum co-operation and concern for the protesters whilst executing their duties and the court order. There’s an even more ridiculous video from Sarah Green here where Green rants on and on about the eviction being ‘illegal’ like a broken record as a protestor is restrained and removed with police observing. I can’t help but think of the old expression “Barrack-room Lawyer” every time I hear Green spout. Meanwhile the man being removed calls everyone “scum” and “criminals” in between his theatrical screams. What Green and the others completely failed to understand (despite the Bailiff explaining it to then very patiently) was that he was enforcing the eviction under the terms of a Compulsory Purchase Order warrant and this confers the legal right to evict them and no notice or ‘eviction order’ is necessary. A good clear explanation of the law regarding CPO evictions in exactly these circumstance is here.
In his video Keir constantly calls for assistance from imaginary Facebook/social media friends, bemoaning the fact that there are so few people at the camp as Twyford Down this ain’t! One of the great weaknesses of these protests is they’ve always been tiny in comparison to the efforts of the anti road building protests of the 1980s-90s. Partly because the protesters have fallen for their own social media hype. They’ve confused Twitter trolls and keyboard warriors with genuine support, then are incredulous when these ‘people’ fail to materialise in real life! There’s something else that’s telling. I’ve always said that social media is a double-edged sword. It can expose your weaknesses or highlight your strengths. As always with the anti HS2 campaign, it’s the former, not the latter. Look how few views or comments any of these videos posted to social media have!
Is this the end for the Harvil Rd protest? Probably. I doubt there’s anywhere else left for them to set up camp nearby without them rapidly being evicted. No doubt some of them may drift off to another of the handful of poorly supported camps on the route, but the end result will be the same. What have they stopped? Nothing.
Meanwhile, the Government has announced that infrastructure will be one of the main planks of its policies over the next Parliamentary term. Chancellor Savid Javid has promised an ‘infrastructure revolution’ in his March budget. Now, does that sound like a Government that’s about to cancel HS2 to you? Can you seriously imagine Javid standing up in a packed House of Commons to say “I would like to talk to you about my infrastructure revolution, but first I’d like to announce that I’m cancelling the biggest infrastructure project in Western Europe!”
The protesters friend in the media have now picked up on the story with The Guardian carrying it on their website. According to the Graun’, three protesters were arrested during the eviction. I’m assuming these will be for obstruction, so unless they’ve done something really stupid they’ll probably be released without charge as there’s little point in wasting the police and courts time prosecuting them – which is no bad thing. Misguided they may be, but they have a right to protest as long as they stay within the law and it’s important that right is upheld in a democracy.
Harvil Rd camp was the biggest and oldest of all five anti HS2 protest camps. It was set up in October 2017 but it’s achieved nothing. It’s never stopped work on the site, merely delayed it a few times. It certainly hasn’t stopped HS2. All it’s really achieved is keep a tiny corner of social media alive with pointless videos, polemics, conspiracy theories and fake news.
The irony of the Guardian covering this is that the newspaper has a very good gallery of the Twyford Down protests in 1992-93. These were against the building of the new M3 motorway and they really put today’s tiny StopHs2 ‘direct action’ protests into perspective. You can find the gallery here.
I suspect this setback is going to be quite an important one for the anti HS2 campaign. ‘Direct action’ was their last resort, but it’s clear that the number have never amount to anything more than a minor nuisance. With the forthcoming announcement on HS2 going ahead expected very soon this could well break the back of what’s left of their campaign. Whilst a few stragglers may remain around the camp it’s clear that their days are numbered as they’ve completely failed in their objectives. It seems some of the locals will be glad to see the back of them too, as this comment on the StopHs2 Facebook page to todays news shows!
Looks like StopHs2’s Joe Rukin better stop playing at being ‘Swampy’ and redouble his efforts to look for a real job!
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’…