In front of the cameras

Jerry Marshall, chair of Agahst, describes a day of interviews during the launch of the HS2 consultation.

Monday: the consultation launch.  I’d spent much of Sunday afternoon getting transport and a team together for the White Elephant. I’d given up, until I was told it was expected by the media. Then I spent the evening preparing for media interviews. I hardly slept. To be able to talk about the substantive issues to Today programme’s 6.6m viewers is a great opportunity and a weight of responsibility.

I didn’t need the two alarms. Got up at 5.30, realising I hadn’t printed a beacons list. When the BBC car arrived early at 6.20 I was ready for it.

The first interview was Radio London at 7.20 and I was elated at how it went. I’d worked on three leads ins and got them all in one interview: Thousands of jobs? You’re all NIMBYs? Costs £33 billion, benefits £44 billion?  My responses were ready.

Straight onto the Today programme. Stumbled a bit to start with but got into my stride. Afterwards I just let myself out of my lonely little studio. Three messages: My sister – ‘bloody brilliant’; my daughter ‘you owned her’ (teen talk I gather); a friend – ‘you won’. I was quite choked.

Walked down the canals to the ICC, called the elephant team, found a drop off point and a small but determined crowd of protestors. Amazingly there was parking there for a car and horse box. Walking an elephant across Broad St raised a few eyebrows.

I did three maybe four interviews, ITV, BBC, PA, I lost track. They only used snippets of course. But the shots of the elephant were used, so worth the effort to make a very clear point.

I joined the argument outside the hall but Department for Transport Events Manager Bridget Taylor was determined not to let us in even if there was space. I had hoped to walk in but there were two doors to get through, well covered by burly security guards.

Back at my office it was hard to get my head round normal work things. More media opportunities arose starting with 5 Live at lunch time.  Mental note: must remember to present things differently for different audiences

Next a BBC network news opportunity came up against Jim Steer of Greengauge; and the possibility of a C4 studio debate in London. But they couldn’t find a Minister to speak against me. Could that be a compliment? So back home to change, get the latest from other Hilary and Bruce and await another BBC car at 3.30pm.

This time I was in a TV studio all hooked up and looking at myself on a monitor with a Birmingham Skyline in the background. It was all a bit surreal, alone, responding to a voice in my ear, talking to a bright circle of lights. Then out again and on the train home. More encouraging messages. I feel privileged and even slightly awkward to be in the limelight when others are working so hard in the background.

Back just in time for the beacons, a welcome hot dog and hot spiced cider. A good day.

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9 comments to “In front of the cameras”
  1. Ian – you should read the following letter to Phil Hammond which demonstrates that the £17 billion could be a seriously misleading figure given real cash values…

    http://wendoverhs2.org/images/wendoverhs2pressrelease220910.pdf

    Not quite sure why you think 17billion between now and 2026 is “perfectly affordable”!

    Given the real state of the economy – it is “perfectly laughable” in my view. Especially where there is no solid economic justification..even the transport select commitee are saying it!

  2. Nick – have you taken a look lately at the inaccuracies being thrown about in your own camp ? or maybe we should just call it the government’s lack of proper thought and research instead.

    i.e.on a local level – Phil Hammond quoted as saying that the noise level of a High Speed Train won’t even be noticed by people living 1KM away from the route. And that now only 10 homes will be affected by significant noise. Erm so how does that figure when HS2 will run right on the edge of Wendover and 8000 people live within 1 KM of the line? Er I’d call that erm … inaccurate.

    And on a business case level – lets see, erm – that £44 billion benefits into the UK over 60 years – Ok where does that figure come from exactly? lets have a look at what some experts had to say about regenerative benefits at the transport select commitee hearing then …(obviously full of lots of experts..)

    ‘….Claims about the “transformational” nature of transport investments for particular areas
    should be generally discounted in assessing these benefits because they have no convincing
    evidence base to support them.” (Professor Henry Overman)
    ‘…I broadly agree with Henry on the point that the evidence that HS2 will have a positive
    impact on rebalancing the national economy, to use the current jargon, is not really there.’
    (Professor Tomaney)
    Miss Villiers herself admitted that “the HS2 business case does not include an assessment of the project’s regeneration impacts and so it is difficult to assess to what extent HS2 is likely deliver regeneration or rebalancing.”
    and it gets better – the transport select commitee concluded from her that … “Her answer did not convince us that there was an explicit government economic development strategy to accompany its proposals for the construction of HS2.

    Sorry do I still hear £44 billion ? er know actually thats probably guess what…inaccurate – or shall we say for the sake of arguement cannot be calulated because the government haven’t done the necessary ground work to integrate their economic development with Transport spending strategy!!

    And in conclusion, the Transport Select Commitee agreed that whilst it commended Phil Hammond by wanting to stimulate the economy through transport measures (don’t we all), that the government needed to :

    – publish a White Paper on transport and the economy, clarifying the nature of the
    economic solutions that it is seeking to deliver through transport spending and how the schemes that it is supporting will achieve these aims; (Thankgod!)
    – ensure that transport investment and economic development are properly integrated; (well i should hope so for building HS2 at 4 times the price of most European HSR)

    It is clear from other evidence that the governments claims about HSR in Europe delivering massive regenerative benefits is not always the case either and yet this is quoted time and again as a a key justification for HSR in the UK.
    For example, Professor Roger Vickerman again points out some of the difficulties in predicting and assessing
    the economic impacts of transport investment. “Beware of simple answers with transport because each case is different.” He gave examples of schemes from the European continent that had resulted in significant economic benefits and others which had not. The first high speed rail (TGV) line between Paris and Lyon, built principally for capacity reasons, had brought substantial economic benefits; however, the high speed rail (AVE) line between
    Madrid and Seville had failed to meet its economic regeneration objectives for Seville. Professor Tomaney said that Spanish cities had undertaken economic development planning in association with the development of the high speed rail network but this had not been successful in the case of Seville.”

    This is also true of Frankfurt and Dusseldorf where Dusseldorf has now lost out to Frankfurt. Also, we hear recently that the Dutch operator is facing potential bankruptcy/state bail out due to not being able to lure enough passengers. The article quotes that some HSR raiul run at only 15% capacity – no wonder the government hail HS1 at a success at 50% Now we know why!

    So its not as black and white as the government are making out. All the time we hear Phil Hammond and David Cameron’s spin that we cannot afford to be left behind if are to compete in a 21st century Europe, yet there still appears to be no real strategy whatsoever to justify this expenditure in this way and at this time.

    Oh – and don’t get me started on the economic impact assessment. Oh but never mind that – the government are going build 2 million trees! ha ha! because they’ll really cover up the gantries won’t they – maybe some canadian redwoods would do it hey?

  3. Good to hear from you, Nick. Don’t think I made any points about minutes saved, reduction in air flights, price of tickets etc etc.

    I expressed surprise that organisations who had a different view were not allowed to attend the launch of the consultation. I can only presume that DfT have a different idea about what consultation means to most of us. I also pointed out that ‘neutral’ comentators had argued cogently agaist it. I thought the FT, newspaper of business, would be largely in favour if it agreed with the economic case for HS2. Not a bit of it. Their editorial was very negative about HS2. Even the ‘Economist’ says there are few arguments in favour but reluctantly expect it to go ahead for political reasons. See below:

    “Admittedly, forecasting and cost-benefit analysis on big, long-term projects such as this amount to little more than complicated guesswork. But history counsels caution, too: Britain’s only existing high-speed line, from London to the Channel Tunnel, has never come close to achieving its projected passenger numbers. The assumptions behind high-speed lines in other countries, such as Taiwan and France, have often turned out to be over-optimistic too.

    Still, the economic arguments are sufficiently tangled that, in the end, they might prove irrelevant. Super-fast trains are politically appealing. They are gratifyingly high-tech; other rich countries have them; and they allow a government committed to drastic public-spending cuts to tell at least one happy tale of improvement and investment. High-speed rail is one of the few issues on which all three big political parties agree. For all those reasons, and regardless of whether it is a good idea or not, HS2 is beginning to look unstoppable.”

    Whole article here:

    http://www.economist.com/node/18284049?story_id=18284049

    Perhaps you could help me. Because of my views I tend to notice articles arguing against HS2. Could you let me have a couple in favour which are not from vested interests and are not “we must have HSR, the French have it, we need to be modern……” I promise to read them with care.

  4. Could I ask why you continue to quote the cost of building the current planned phase of HS2 as £30 billion? It has been made explicitly clear that the cost of the Birmingham section will be £17 billion.

    How can anyone trust you when you continue to put forward misleading information? Your case will be judged on your credibility and will fall at the first hurdle if you keep doing this.

    £17 billion between now and 2026 is perfectly affordable.

    • Philip Hammond, in his letter we reproduced here, said the costs of the first two phases will be £33 billion. The DfT website says that the benefits from the Y-shaped network would be 44 billion.

      The statement in the article is a perfectly reasonable summary of what Philip Hammond and the Dft have said.

  5. ha you think those rambling comments by heffer and jenkins were very powerful !! Powerfully inaccurate maybe because you know what they say in journalism, never let the truth get in the way of a good story. all they did was repeat all the myths and inaccuracies that have already been refuted a thousand times. I noticed a lot of you got in and added more flames to the fire !

    the thing is that the statements critics make over and over arent correct when it comes to many things but it doesnt stop them being repeated over and over. most critics obviously havent read the proposals at all otherwise why keep saying things that can be refuted by reading them ?

    one of the common ones is that hs2 will only save a few minutes to Birmingham or that people will have to change there to get connecting trains. the documents clearly state that the savings will be over 30 minutes to birmingham and that through trains will run over hs2 to many destinations from day one. or that the tickets will all be over $300 where does that come from ? There have also been suggestions that services on existing lines will be cut back when hs2 opens but who has said that ?

    or the denial that hsr has in many places reduced air journeys dramatically. or the recognition that through trains will run from the north to the continent. or the denial that rail must be taking journeys from road, as witnessed by the decrease in traffic corresponding with an increase in rail passengers. 8% of the domestic journeys taken on hs1 in 2010 were previously done by car.

    if you want to be a critic that is your right. but lets have some meat on the bones now please prove the things you and others like the heffer/jenkins double comedy act are saying !!!! the gauntlet has been thrown !!!!

  6. Are there any links to the broadcasts yet? I’d live to see them all.

    Well done Jerry. Its important for people to realise (and i’m sure many opponents do) that the people that have to stand up and represent the case against HS2 are not necessarily skilled politicians (although they may well be highly intelligent and articulate). So I really applaud Jerry, Lizzy and others who are now having to stand in front of the cameras in front of skilled journalists and take on board all the responsibility that goes with that. Even just to stand in front of a supportive audience must be hard enough!

    It doesn’t help either when you get insulting pro HS2 supporters like Jack Dronney or was that Droning Labour MP with his “Southern Comfort” quotes and Kelvin “Big Mac” enzie saying he doesn’t give a damn about Great Missenden. My goodness – if someone said that about Liverpool they’d be up in arms and forced to apologise. It looked like a bit of a boys club to me….

    Suffice to say – I’ll be putting in my complaint to the BBC on that one.

  7. Jerry, I only managed to catch up with your Monday on the Today programme. I was most impressed. Congratulations. I thought it was remarkable day in many ways. The DfT were crass in preventing people from opposing groups (even such dangerous organisations as local authorities!) from attending the consultation launch. Is consultation talking to your friends and supporters? The other big development was a lead editorial in the FT supporting the alternative of investing in the existing network. So much for the charge that only Nimbys question the rationale for HS2! And a very powerful article by Simon Jenkins in the left wing Guardian and one by Simon Heffer in the right wing Telegraph. Quite a coalition.

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