The final HS2 fringe at Labour Party Conference was organised by the HS2 Industry leaders Group, or in other words the companies who want to get the contracts from building HS2, 2 of whom netted 4 of the 16 contracts given out last year, which at the last count were an average of 86% over-budget.
The fringe itself was a ‘Conversation with Mary Creagh’, effectively an interview by a journalist, with breaks for questions. Unlike previous fringes where Creagh had only really had to speak on HS2 for a couple of minutes with limited questions that could be answered by anyone on the panel, this time it was all up to her. This format exposed her lack of knowledge on the project, as while she knew enough to talk for a couple of minutes, this fringe showed that was about the limit of what she knew about HS2.
The compare had started off by saying that as a Wakefield MP, he could see why she was for HS2 as it would be good for Wakefield. When it was put to Creagh that at a recent meeting of the Wakefield CLP, she had been the only one to vote to support HS2, she claimed Stop HS2 had been ‘misinformed’ as she said “I don’t vote at local level any more, I vote in Parliament.” In this, she was absolutely correct. As it turns out, the correct report from the Wakefield CLP meeting would be that when it came to the vote on HS2, there was one person in the room who was for HS2, and that was Creagh and she didn’t vote, so actually no-one voted in favour of HS2 at the level of her constituency party.
The other city which was mentioned at the start was Coventry, as it is where Mary Creagh is originally from. In one of the most bizarre displays of getting it wrong you might hope for she said:
“If you take the current high speed services from London to Birmingham and put them on HS2, then for places like Coventry, that leaves more capacity for services to London and Birmingham.”
The problem with that statement of course is that all of the current high speed Virgin services from London to Birmingham actually stop at Coventry! So the proposal she was making was that we can cancel the existing trains and then replace them with more of the exact same trains that have been cancelled, all thanks to the HS2 magic wand!
In answering a question for a delegate from Huddersfield, Creagh left herself open by praising the Huddersfield MP, Barry Sheerman for being a great advocate of local campaigns. This of course left her open for the immediate comeback that Barry Sheerman has been a great advocate of the Stop HS2 campaign, publicly admitting that he had been for HS2 because he had told to be and had been ‘conned by the spin’, before he paid attention to the plans and realised that HS2 would suck more economic activity to London.
Finally, Creagh had praised the attention which had been paid to environmental issues by HS2 Ltd, specifically mentioning the physical size of the Phase 1 Environmental Statement. When it was put to her that only 40% of the route had been surveyed and that one of her hosts, Atkins, had come in 268% over budget despite not doing the job properly, she was shall we say, surprised!