Saturday 30 July 2011


It's a while since we had a full blown U-turn from the London lot, but after reading an article in the Daily Telegraph on the new English high speed train link from London to Birmingham, then on to Leeds and Manchester (what they call bridging the North-South divide!!), I think I can see that Mr Hammond will not be long in providing us with much merriment.

The scheme has been criticised by just about everyone and every organisation in England. Natural England, the Forestry Commission for England, English Heritage and the 13 councils running areas the length of the route from London to Birmingham (the first stage, due to cost £17 billion) have condemned it.

It is being described as deeply flawed, distorted and based on false premise and accused of ruining ancient forests, spoiling habitat and even endangering the water supply.

MPs of the constituencies along the route, including cabinet minister Cheryl Gillan, the deputy chief whip, a Foreign Office minister and a Cabinet Office minister have also criticised the plans, which, given its unpopularity in these constituencies, is not unexpected. The Presiding officer, John Bercow's constituency is also affected and the London Mayor has slated the project because of the bottle neck it will cause outside Euston Station, its London terminal.

A report for the "51M" group of local authorities along the London-Birmingham stretch, written by two leading transport economists, Chris Castles and David Parish, concludes that none of the government's claims on behalf of HS2 stack up.

Capacity on the existing West Coast Main Line, the main alternative to HS2, could easily be tripled, they argue, while building HS2 will lead to major disruption" and will overload the transport system all around Euston, the line's London terminus.

The report's authors scorn claims that the north-south divide will be bridged and say that this is not borne out by any evidence.

The report catalogues "a long list of errors and dubious assumptions in the government's analysis", according to Chris Castles, who also accused the 'pro' lobby or using "vague rhetoric, obfuscation and abuse." You have to wonder, at a time when the UK is so short of money, why the government is pressing ahead with a scheme so clearly unpopular, which is going to cost billions of pounds that the country doesn't have.

After all, when all this money has been spent, it will only take 15 minutes off the journey from London to Birmingham... Someone, somewhere must be getting something from this. It's certainly not the public.

Does anyone know if there is to be a Barnet consequential for this project?


  1. You didn't hear Any Questions on R4 today Tris. The audience were 'for' this. It'll be on iPlayer and it was interesting to hear the rubbish spoken. There was one woman (don't know who she was) who spoke sense.

    It had to be a woman. :)

  2. Of course it did SR... Where would we be without them... huh? lol :¬)

    The audience were for it? Crivens!

    I mean it will create jobs, no doubt, and I'm all for railways, but it does seem that the West Coast line could be used, with maybe some little offshoots.

    To my way of thinking the idea of spending £34 billion in total (and of course the actual figure will probably be 2x or 3x that) to shave 15 minutes off a journey from London to Birmingham, is just ludicrous.

  3. The Woman on QT who spoke against HS2 was upset because it will run past her parent's house.

    I'm pretty unconvinced about the WCML upgrade alternative. They just finished the last one, and it was a nightmare of delays, and use has already outgrown it. Is not a major point of HS2 to free up capacity on the WCML for additional frieght cspacity? So the cost involved is not just about saving time for London-bound Brummies, but a major increase in rail capcity. You could argue that it should be built from Scotland south, rather than from London north....

  4. There is an EU angle in all this as the line will be part of the TENS system (Trans European Networks). So the government is under direction as to what it must do but has some latitude as to how it does it.

    I haven't got the full information on this but I know a man who does . Unfortunately he is on holiday for another couple of weeks. I will try to get further and better particulars.

  5. Let’s hope that Hammond does not cancel the new dual fuel HSTs for the East Coast Main Line. But then you never can tell with this shower!


  7. If the EU are forcing the UK Government to provide a decent railway comparable to other EU countries, go EU, say I! Some attention to the ruinous fares could come next.

  8. Morning Mr Lucas. Nice to see you here.

    I'll be listening to the programme later tonight. It will be interesting to hear what people say.

    Of course it's easy to criticise NIMBYism and most of us do, but I doubt I'd like the line at the end of my garden, so I guess the woman has a point.

    I take your point too about the West Coast line, and I'm afraid I know too little about the its proposed use to comment, I was going on what I read in the Telegraph's report on the Rail Economists' report.

    There had to be more to it than shaving 15 minutes off the journey from London to Birmingham, I suppose, but I assumed that the report writers would have taken this into account.

    In general I'm all for trains, quite apart from the fact that I'm in awe of their power, I'm hugely impressed by the way that Europe is served so well by fast, cheap, comfortable trains. I love the fact that I can be in Paris at breakfast time and have an early lunch in Geneva, and all for a half of the price it would take for a similar journey in the UK, at far greater comfort, gliding over new and well maintained lines and with no signal failures!!

    I'm also a fan of local railways. I appreciate of course the dilemma faced by Dr Beeching, empty trains and expensive infrastructure for far too few passengers, but I can't help thinking that the dismantling of the railway network in the 1960s was a massive and hugely expensive mistake (albeit one that was more widespread than the UK).

    Anyway, I digress. Back to the subject. The point of the story (for all the enthusiasm for rail) was more about the propensity of the government to U-turn on every single policy it has ever had, and less about the economics of the line...important though it is.

    I'll get back to you again once I've read your link...

    ...I'm off to watch the demise of four ghastly tower blocks on Dundee's Hilltown. A landscape changing event!

  9. Morning Mr S.

    Whist I don't think it's a bad thing to have a situation where the European network of fast trains no longer ends at London, so that the South East of England benefits from it but the rest of us don't, I had no idea that the Tories were told to build this. I thought, indeed they said...not that that means anything...that it was a choice between a new airport in London and a fast railway linking the north of the country with the south.

    (The north of the country is evidently Manchester, which comes as a surprise to me as I thought that there were people even farther north than I am!)

    So I'd be interested if you could get hold of the info that makes Hammond out to be a bit of a fibber when he claims responsibility for it.

    I am, though, with Mr Lucas in his desire for someone somewhere, the EU, the Americans, the Congolese for all I care, to tell the UK that the idea of trains is that they should be fast, reasonably cheap and, whilst no one would expect that they be pleasant, at least not a nightmare of lateness, dirtiness, blocked toilets, stale sandwiches, weak (expensive) coffee and rude and uninformed staff. :¬)

  10. I expect, Munguin, that that will very much depend on the results of a certain referendum...

    ...which is also the answer to Mr Lucas's point. it would be such a waste (from their point of view) to build a railway starting at Edinburgh, if we are going to be independent in a few years' time.

  11. It's one of the more appealing aspects of the Coalition to date that they've been able to hold their hands up and admit when they've got something wrong. This is another opportunity to show that it really does listen to what people are saying. The case for HS2 has emphatically not been proved and the idea needs to be shelved for at least another 5 years.

  12. tris

    Cameron is stuck on that old Westminster roundabout going round and round and round eventually the voters will show him the slip road marked exit...

  13. Tris,

    The North is anything beyond Watford. It's there that we start painting ourselves with woad.

    It's a little while ago since I spoke to him about it but a German friend said that train connections have all gone haywire since they started privatisation there.

  14. Newton: Hello and welcome to Munguin's Republic.

    It is always a good idea for government to listen to what the public wants, and it's an excellent trait to admit that you got it wrong, when, in fact, you got it wrong.

    I welcome that in a government, indeed I vaguely remember the last time that Ken Clarke held a ministerial position, what impressed me about him was that he admitted live on radio that the government had made a mess of something.

    I don't remember hearing that kind of thing from a politician since

    However, one could have a little more confidence in them if they just occasionally got something right... and they should seeing as Cameron thinks that he "knows the British people".

    We are so broke that we have had to take money away from pensioners, the sick, the poor. Why is it that so many of the reforms this government is introducing will cost billions extra?

    It might well be a good idea to shelve this project until we have some money.

  15. Hello Niko,

    Where have you been...we missed you.

    You're right. They all get on the roundabout and to begin with them, to a greater or lesser degree, people love them. Then, regardless of who they are, the promises they made in opposition melt away like sna aff a dyke, and as you say, the exit road looms.

  16. LOL Mr S,

    Woad is lovely...are there really people who don't use it?

    I think splitting up trains into small companies, with fares and ticketing that are different, with different deals and regulations is plain stupid.

    If the Germans were followed the idiotic system introduced by John major, I'm not surprised that they find their services a mess. The would have done better to look to their neighbours in the south.

    Although some trains are part of a nationalised company, there are many small private railways there, and they seem to be able to run trains with remarkable efficiency often in challenging situations.