Residents’ Commissioner kept away from the residents

Last week, the HS2 Residents’ Commissioner, Deborah Fazan, published her first quarterly report since starting her new role in January. It’s clear this is a box-ticking role designed to make HS2 Ltd look good, rather than to do any good for people affected by HS2.

While one might assume that the most important part of the job was to actually speak to residents affected by HS2, this is not part of the job description.

Instead, working from the Canary Wharf offices of HS2 Ltd and reporting directly to David Higgins, chair of HS2 Ltd, the Residents’ Commissioner seems to be mainly communicating with HS2 Ltd to find out what they think about what they are saying.

Although the report claims she will “also focus on how well communications from HS2 Ltd are received and understood more generally”, it is difficult to see how she can do this, with the barriers set up by HS2 Ltd. The Residents Charter claims that the contact details will be on the HS2 website, but when trying to contact her, people have been rebuffed by HS2 Ltd staff.

Fazan recommendations include

  • to reestablish community engagement. Community Forums were dropped by HS2 Ltd in 2013, claiming the need for them to concentrate on ‘petition management’ for individuals rather than the community as a whole.
  • to look out for existing community groups and engage with them
  • to find out about local demographics, so that HS2 Ltd can identify who individuals would prefer to communicate with them
  • to produce regionally focused newsletters

Fazan’s plans for the next few months are to spend longer looking at HS2’s property schemes in more detail, to monitor HS2 Ltd’s response to her report and to meet some MPs.  She also hopes to be able to find some other organisation to actually meet individuals and communities.

The report says that Higgins will make his response available ‘shortly’.

Regardless of what HS2 Ltd and Higgins says about her report, one thing is clear:

Deborah Fazan cannot give HS2 Ltd any meaningful advice about how well their communications are working if she never speaks to the people HS2 Ltd are communicating with.    Right now she’s looking like another consultant on the HS2 gravy train.

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8 comments on “Residents’ Commissioner kept away from the residents
  1. Rather like Blair & Iraq, you just believe what you’re told. The only evidence that ANY HS lines are required come from either vested interests or this “Govt.” who do not accept there are other possibilities,they remain wedded to their “vanity project”- none of the communities has been consulted contrary to comments made by Mr. Goodwill – The capacity argument remains “doubtful” but any doubts have not been addressed, it is indicated that 2033 will see the start of full HS2 operations, there are cheaper options now…

  2. Following earlier comments by Mr. Haville?, this Govt. does not do debates, e.g. recent attempts by Cameron to intimidate fellow cabinet members with different views on EU, desire to increase cost of and ability to use Judicial Reviews (all very convenient to Govt.) etc. etc. As Chancellor, Osborne has important financial responsibilities to consider before spending Taxpayers’ Money (on a train described as “ludicrous” by Frank Dobson). Cameron/Osborne should be aware that current journey times between UK cities compare more than favourably with similar journeys in Europe, but are they capable, being responsible to the whole nation, of taking an unblinkered/unbiased approach to HS2?
    Sadly, ALL their pronouncements indicate otherwise.

  3. The frustration of anti-HS2 campaigners needs to be refocussed, before it is too late. The Govt. believe they can continue to ignore or dismiss any opposition e.g. IEA, House of Lords Report etc. McLoughlin continues to suppress publication of inconvenient MPA reports, and the pre-election public survey re HS2 has yet to be released, one wonders why? McLoughlin ‘s absurd comment that Election was “massive vote of confidence in HS2” beggars belief, the Govt. think they know better how to spend north of £50 bn. of taxpayers’ i.e. OUR money, despite only 22% public support. These attitudes need to be challenged vigorously, perhaps using 38 Degrees? This “Govt.” is assuming apathy will prevail, it’s not too late to prove them wrong.

    • Not going to happen is it @John?

      The 38 degrees petition died an ingonminious death, the IEA is utterly discredited and the House of Lords committee is stuffed full of anti-HS2 brigade supporters (which the government wilfully ignores as a result)

      Face up to reality, HS2 is happening, so you can either deal with it pragmatically and constructively, by working to achieve the best mitigation possible (which won’t include a tunnel through the Chilterns) or stick your head in the sand and hope the problem goes away?

      Good luck with the latter strategy!

      • Dear Peter….Are you not just a little concerned that the HS2 that ‘is happening’ will not deliver on the original remit of integrating with a pan European HSR network……You often cite the combination of the seemingly unbreakable cross party interest and the FPTP UK election system that all but guarantee the unstoppable progress of the hybrid bill, but as an advocate of HSR (as per the continental model) I would expect you to be a critic of the current version of the scheme….

        Instead, it seems that you value, even relish the the upheaval that will be visited upon affected communities by what will ultimately be a national embarrassment (in terms of a lack of joined up transport infrastructure, by about 2040) more than something of unquestionable merit……I sincerely hope our continental cousins are looking the other way because if they can see the colossal expensive mistake we are allowing a few short term ill advised, vested interest minorities to advocate, they would gaze on with incredulity…

        Following five years of design, virtually every amendment has reduced the scope of the project….what limitations will result from the lack of through trains to the continent from Manchester or Leeds, let alone Scotland?…..What compromises will be dictated by the need to provide interoperability with the classic network now that there is no business case for future northern extensions?…..Are we really going to have something like pedestrian third rail traction current delivery on ‘classic compatible’ HS2 rolling stock going north of Leeds?…..(Just like what was forced upon Euro star!)………..The combination of the unstoppable political machine driving HS2 legislation and the deliberate attendant lack of transparency and public engagement are not virtues, they are symptomatic of flawed processes that will merely continue to deliver flawed infrastructure……

        I am surprised that you are not alarmed at the prospect of such a substandard outcome despite what will be the most expensive railway ever…….

  4. With every one reporting to David Cameron including D Higgins and being hs2 is in the manifesto If anyone speaking out against this project will be sacked by the PM for not supporting the party line just as the eu vote .So everyone hold on to your hats because it is going to happen as I can not see any one is going to give there new salary up and speak against his pet project

    • On an unbiased survey 22% of population only in favour. Name me one unbiased report in favour… the House of Lords Committee made sensible suggestions, based on years of experience. IEA, PAC etc. (unlike HS2 Ltd)have not been discredited. Some inconvenient facts for you, only 40% of the line to Birmingham has been surveyed, McLoughlin continues, illegally, to suppress unsupportive MPA reports, unless you have intelligent comments without insults, desist.

    • Many thanks for your considered response @Clive

      Let’s be very clear about my stance regarding HS2 and broader transport strategy by restating some basic principles / facts / realities
      1. I recognise and endorse the proven trend of growing rail patronage – I want to see rail take a much larger chunk of general travel demand
      2. I accept the principle of a looming capacity crunch on the existing rail network, manifesting itself first on the WCML (south of Rugby) but elsewhere at later stages
      3. I agree that the most effective way of addressing this capacity shortfall is the construction of new rail lines
      4. If new rail lines are required, it makes sense to build them as high speed dedicated inter city passenger routes, thus freeing up slots on the existing network for other mixed speed traffic
      5. I accept that you cannot build a new rail line without impacting someone, somewhere

      Having stated the above I also want HS2 to integrate into the wider pan-European High Speed Rail network but cancelling HS2 because it currently doesn’t do that is merely counter productive – much better to proceed with HS2 and work to improve its connection to HS1 and other new lines projected for future construction – HS3 etc.

      I do not relish the impact of HS2 on individual communities as you imply – I just accept that potentially negative impact is self evident and has to be managed in the best way possible – there is no zero impact route possible.

      The entire rationale and consequent strategies of the anti-HS2 community revolves around moving the line elsewhere, nowhere near them – anywhere will do – this is disingenuous at best, some might say deceitful?

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