Watching the efforts of HS2 Ltd over the last four and a half years has been for many observers like witnessing a parade of cock-ups. Despite sometimes thinking that it would be impossible for the bloated quango to drop a bigger clanger than the last one, the gaffe-prone organisation has always strived to top previous achievements, and this week they did it again.
As part of the petitioning process, the MPs who form the HS2 Bill Committee are quite rightly conducting a series of site visits, so that before they hear petitions, they have already visited the locations being talked about. The committee has already conducted their first visit to from the Birmingham Curzon Street station to the interchange at Water Orton, including Coleshill, Kingsbury and Gilson in North Warwickshire.
However, because HS2 Ltd are meant to have some form of clue about the proposed route, it is up to them to draw up the itinerary for these visits, subject to approval by the committee. With that in mind, it is quite likely that the committee may well make a change to the schedule suggested by HS2 Ltd for the 16th of September to the visit entitled on the committee website as ‘Birmingham Interchange to Lichfield’. Now you might think that such a title would make where the committee want to go seem rather obvious, starting at the proposed Birmingham Interchange site and going north, obviously missing over the bits of North Warwickshire which have already been covered.
Well it might seem obvious to you what ‘Birmingham Interchange to Lichfield’ is meant to mean, but not HS2 Ltd, as despite it seeming clear that the committee want to start their visit at the ‘Birmingham Interchange’ site, HS2 Ltd have drawn up a schedule which doesn’t actually include a visit to the proposed Birmingham Interchange site. Guys, the clue is in the title!
Instead of visiting the proposed site of the new station, HS2 Ltd seem to think that asking the committee to get on the ‘monorail’ (inverted commas because despite ‘rail experts’ HS2 Ltd saying it’s a monorail, it isn’t) to go in the wrong direction and see Birmingham Airport, which for some reason they seem to think is important.
The other thing that has caused concern regarding the itinerary for the visit is that instead of starting off at, sorry, near the interchange site and going north, the plan is that they will go south to Berkswell station in Balsall Common before coming back north. The problem with their plan is that it very much looks like HS2 Ltd want a whistlestop tour that seems to miss out many of the areas which would suffer the greatest destruction.
There is also the issue that it seems pointless to visit Berkswell & Balsall Common (not that they are actually scheduled to visit Berkswell itself, just the railway station where HS2 crosses which when it was named 175 years ago was closer to Berkswell, but is now part of Balsall Common) without going to Burton Green and Kenilworth at the same time, as almost all the mitigation proposals for those areas cross the arbitrary line between contractors, which HS2 Ltd seem to want to rigidly stick to, ignoring as always any concerns about practicality and common sense.
The suggested itinerary has been strongly criticised by Parish Councils in the area as well as local MP Caroline Spelman and Stop HS2. Now of course it will be for the committee to decide where they go and when, but to squeeze in the time needed to assess the Birmingham Interchange site properly, either the length of the visit will have to be extended, or other parts dropped and rescheduled for another day.