HS2: A note for all the new people.

Finding out HS2 is coming near where you live, or even through it, is not a nice thing to happen. We know this all too well. It’s been almost six and a half years since Phase 1 was announced, and over three and a half years since the rest of Phase 2 was unveiled.

In that time, HS2 has been heavily criticised by pretty much every independent expert that has ever looked at it, and the cost has gone up from £32.6bn to £42.6bn to £50.1bn to the current estimate of £55.7bn, though looking at the detail of the National Audit Office report which came out last week, that total may be even higher.

At the same time HS2 has been downgraded. The link to Heathrow Airport has been shelved, and even though some reporters covering the route change story last week were saying HS2 will link to the continent, it won’t. The link to HS1 and the Channel tunnel was scrapped two years ago. In May it was revealed that the head of the Civil Service, Sir Jeremy Heywood had been called in to look at cutting more costs. Last weeks’ route change is something HS2 Ltd had identified themselves, whilst it has been reported Sir Jeremy is looking at scrapping the plans for Euston, so trains would only get as far as Wormwood Scrubs as the London Terminus, and even the link to Manchester from Crewe is under threat.

Basically, the whole thing has been an unmitigated disaster from start to finish, because there was never an assessment of what the UK rail network needs, it just seemed to be “We’re having HS2, now get on with it”. As a result, all the arguments to justify it were manufactured after the fact, and that’s why none of them actually hold any water.

The decision to move the route past Sheffield has not come as a surprise to us – how far and for how long it’s moved is a surprise – but not the fact it has moved. Whilst the cost saving of around a billion or so is a big reason, it isn’t the main reason. The main reason is that the old route would have been physically impossible to build, due to the ground conditions. Basically, what happened in 2013 (and in 2010 and now in 2016) is someone was sat in their office in London and drew a line on a map with no more knowledge of the area than what was on the published Ordinance Survey map. Even now, it’s only been due to Sheffield City Council continuously pointing out that the ground there is effectively ‘mush’, as part of their effort to get a city centre station that HS2 Ltd have admitted it.

At this point, you may well be thinking that there is somewhere along the new route that suffers from subsidence, so it must be unsuitable for HS2 to go over, so surely some mistake has been made. The simple fact is, they won’t have checked. The best example of this is the Cheshire Brine Fields, which even the engineers who built the M6 new to avoid. A recent Parliamentary answer shows that in April, three years after HS2 Ltd said they were planning to go through this area, well known for subsidence and sink holes, they still haven’t done any surveys of ground conditions.

You may be getting an idea at this point of the competence of HS2 Ltd, which former MP Dan Byles described as a ‘Terrible, terrible organisation’. Of course you might also be thinking as we are an organisation called ‘Stop HS2’ we were always going to say that. Unluckily, you don’t have to take our word for it, as like the independent economics and transport experts who have delivered damning verdicts on the case for HS2, the independent governance experts have come to similar conclusions about HS2 Ltd themselves.

First, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman looked into a series of complaints about HS2 Ltd and last year concluded they were guilty of maladministration, saying that they didn’t keep their promises or deadlines and didn’t share information, leaving everyone in limbo.

Then the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee found HS2 Ltd had a “Culture of Misinformation” and a “Complete Disregard” for the Public, before finally Ian Bynoe, a former Independent Police Complaints Commissioner who had been commissioned by HS2 Ltd themselves delivered his verdict. He said:

“Residents experienced administrative delay, prevarication, and a lack of candour about what the Company was willing or able to do and when. They encountered an unreasonable and unjustified defensiveness when they complained that the standard of response they were getting and its timeliness were unacceptable.”

We would strongly recommend people check out the links above as this will give you some sort of idea of what you are dealing with concerning HS2 Ltd.

One clue about their competence has already been spotted in that many people receiving letters from HS2 Ltd this week have found that they did not contain information about the roadshow events they are planning over the next month. These will be in Mexborough, Staveley, Bolsover, Bramley, Aston, Hemsworth, Crofton and Tibshelf, and are listed in full at the bottom of this page.

It’s important to remember that these will not be public meetings, but ‘roadshows’, basically consisting of some giant maps and lots of people in suits who, in our experience won’t be able to actually answer most of your questions. One thing we’ve found in the past is you might get different answers to the same questions from different people. Here’s a couple of examples of ones in the past at Hampton in Arden and Burton Green.

You’ll note from the Burton Green video, as happens almost all the time at these roadshows, is that the local residents had their own stall outside the venue. We strongly recommend communities start making plans to do this, as we’re sure someone among you will have a gazebo, a pasting table and some foldable camping chairs. The main point of this will be to get email addresses for people in your area in terms of communication going forward, and of course if you decide in the future you want to set up an action group.

Stop HS2, AGHAST and HS2AA, the three national groups are here to help as much as we can, as there is an established network of expertise.

The very, very first thing we recommend you should be looking at doing is setting up your own public meeting. We will be happy to send someone along to it, as whilst you might not have decided if you are against HS2 as a whole or not, we will at least be able to answer almost any question you have about HS2. You can try asking HS2 Ltd if you want, but don’t hold your breath.

In that respect, we strongly recommend that anyone, from any of the newly effected towns and villages comes along to the meeting this Wednesday 7pm, 13th July in Crofton, at the Crofton Community Centre, Middle Lane, New Crofton, Wakefield, WF4 1LD.

Crofton is located near where the new route joins up with the old one at the Northern end, so is a community which has been effected since 2013, but hasn’t necessarily ‘benefitted’ from the decision to move the route. As such, it’s no real surprise that they have been quick to organise a public meeting, because HS2 is not a new thing for them.

Obviously the meeting has the primary purpose of being about the impacts in Crofton, but it would also be a great opportunity for others along the route to come and learn from them and of to know that there is a wider support network out there. This is exactly what happened when Phase 1 was first announced in March 2010, and it’s been one of the main reasons why HS2 has been such a controversial issue, because information has been shared so well.

If you have any questions, please get in touch via info@stophs2.org and our social media links are in the top right hand corner of this page.

Good luck, and we are truly sorry that you have joined our club!

 

HS2 Roadshow Dates and Venues:

Tuesday 19 July, 12pm – 7pm, Mexborough Resource Centre, Dolcliffe Road, Mexborough, S64 9AZ.

Wednesday 20 July, 12:30 – 8pm, The Speedwell Rooms, Inkersall Road, Staveley, S43 3JL.

Thursday 21 July, 12:30 – 8pm, Bainbridge Hall, Chapel Road, Carrvale, Bolsover, S44 6JD.  

Friday 22 July, 12:30 – 8pm, Bramley Village Hall, Cross Street, Bramley, S66 2SA.

Tuesday 26 July 12:30 – 8pm, Parish Council Village Hall, Rosegarth Avenue, Aston, S26 2DD.

Thursday 28 July, 12:30 – 8pm, Community Centre, Bullenshaw Road, Hemsworth, WF9 4NE.

Friday 29 July, 12:30 – 8pm, Hilcote Miners Welfare and Community Centre, 544 New Street, Hilcote, DE55 5HU.

Tuesday 2 August, 12:30 – 8pm, Crofton Community Centre, Middle Lane, New Crofton, WF4 1LB.

Friday 5 August, 12:30 – 8pm, Tibshelf Village Hall, 110 High Street, Tibshelf, DE55 5NU.

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