Looking at the HS2 Consultation Questions…

In his December statement to the House of Commons, Philip Hammond said the HS2 consultation would be “one of the biggest and most wide-ranging ever undertaken by Government”.

Having set such an ambitious goal for the consultation, one would hope that the Government was interested in finding out what people really wanted from their proposed high speed rail network. Indeed, the consultation summary document says

“the Government is interested in whether or not you agree with its proposals and why, as well as in any additional evidence that you feel it should consider in reaching its final decisions.”

However, the format of the questions the Department for Transport have chosen to use are an unusual choice if expanded answers are the Government’s goal.

Six of the seven questions start “Do you agree…”

This closed-question format is often used in situations where the questioner has decided the answer they want you to give. It’s frequently used by telephone sales reps, as if you answer ‘yes’ to the first few questions, you are more likely to agree to buy whatever it is they are selling.

If you are dealing with a telephone sales rep, it is often recommended that you answer ‘no’, ‘maybe’ or ‘don’t know’ to some of their questions.

Of course, nobody would suggest that the Government is made up of sales reps.

The consultation documents ask you to expand on your answers: starting tomorrow, and over the consultation period, we will be suggesting different things you may wish to consider when you answer the questions.

PS The Local Action Groups, Agahst and HS2 Action Alliance, as well as Stop HS2, are all looking closely at the consultation material. A number of FOI requests are being made, and these groups will have more advice later.

56 comments to “Looking at the HS2 Consultation Questions…”
  1. Richard Carter you and you alone are responsible for your own “chip”. As adults we take responsibility for our own feelings and choices we make. If people behave badly or have a different opinion to us then the feelings we have in felines to that are our own. We can then choose how to respond accordingly.

    So your comment or should I say ” blame” for having a ” northern chip” being the fault of others rather than an acknowledgement of your own emotional competence shows you up to be the immature one sided person that you rally are? The type that rather than accept that are 2 sides to the debate and takes a calm and reasoned look at both decides instead to blame and accuse and intimidate. Your arguments on this site are to all intents and purposes – completely irrelevant and add no real value. Which is a shame as you are also shooting yourself in the foot.

  2. Mr hammond stated that the noise would only affect 10 houses,gary that is ridiculous.He made it sound that half the people wanted hs2 when only just over 2,000 had been asked this is not many is it .You have made your mind up that you want your tax to be spent on it, but I believe some people will make a lot of money (why is it so much more expensive than those abroad).and i for one feel my taxes would be better spent.Already a lot has been spent on plans and those working for hs2 so it wont all be in the future.

    • Hi Elaine – as far as I can see from HS2 website, there is a lot more than 10 houses affected by noise, can you point me in the right direction of where Mr Hammond states that??? I dont mind writing to him and pointing out the inaccuracy of his statement….

        • Thats a link to a piece in the FT …..not an actual quote from Mr Hammond which is what I asked for……??

            • Not interested in spin , fingerprints, or anything simliar………what I m asking is hard proof that Elaines quote of ” Mr Hammond stating only 10 homes will be affected by noise “.

              If Elaine ( or anyone else ) can produce that, I will be more than happy to write a letter to him saying that is incorrect.

          • Try http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110228/wmstext/110228m0001.htm

            The exact words are “the number of properties where high noise levels would be expected to be experienced has fallen from 350 to around 10”

            Before you dive in and say ‘aha – so he did not say that only 10 houses will be affected, he said that 10 houses will have high noise’ this is exactly how ‘spin’ works – you are selective with the truth in order to present the message you want to give. Some people call this lying, but I can’t comment. What he said was true, by his definition of high noise. What the public and press take away is that only 10 houses are affected by noise. The reality is that many thousands of homes will experience excessive noise – and this would be noise as defined by the World Health Organisation rather than a politician.

            • Oh I know exactly how spin works……as I said further up !!! So in reality, Elaine just ” spun ” a fact for the opposite effect !! I know thousands of houses would be affected by varying levels of noise, it actually states that on HS2s own website in some detail.

              The issue occured where I live now a few year ago, only this was for a new 8 lane motorway. I got the compensation……and I ll be total honest with you guys, I can t actually hear the traffic. Reason being is that the m way is actually built in a cutting with a new type of surface to mitigate noise.

              Nowadays rail track is built using continuous welded rail – which means no ” clickety clack ” of trains going by. And lets not forget that the rolling stock will be electric.

            • In reply to Gary below – no, Elaine did not ‘spin a fact for the opposite effect’, she repeated the message that Mr Hammond released. Mr Hammond could have chosen to say that properties affected by noise had been reduced from 24,300 to 4,700 but he dd not.

    • In Wendover I had an interesting conversation with the delightful people looking after the StopHS2 shop . Nobody seemed to know of any one in favour of HS2 ,as it stands. Some seemed more ambivilent if there could be a station within a reasonable distance and if the speed were moderated. Access trumps speed! (no surprise there, really)

      In the newsagent just up the road , I spoke to a man who turned out to be a former Chiltern train driver. He felt quite sure that” the line would go ahead.”

      It all depends on who you ask.

    • How many readers regularly use the A 40 through Acton in west London?

      Some years ago it was planned to widen the desperately congested road, increasing it from two lanes to three.

      But the road was lined with houses, mostly “semi’s, built between the wars, doubtless with the promise of convenient access to the freedom of the open road.

      In order to enable the road widening to take place, dozens of these houses, possibly hundreds, were bought up at a probable price of £100 000 or more apiece.
      They then stood, empty and boarded up and derelict for ten years until the scheme was finally carried out.

      Would it have been better if this easing of this long standing pinch point had not taken place?

  3. And I might add, that the hundreds of people who crammed into our local hall (many more were turned away) to hear local and national politicians speak before the election, were under the distinct impression that the Tories would not proceed with the scheme.

    • No way did the Tories ever give the impression they would not push ahead with HS2 – it was Cameron and Osborne’s idea in the first place. Labour only jumped onto it when the realised they’d been left behind in the debate.

      The Tories have always been pro-HS2 and if any local politicians gave the impression otherwise, you need to seriously consider their reliability as MPs and councillors.

  4. Spot on,as usual,Peter.No-one has a mandate for this,and no government can bind a future administration…”cross-party consensus”or no.That consensus was no doubt conceived by some top people behind closed doors long ago.Very democratic!

  5. Richard Carter – you sound like a either a wind up merchant that has come on the site to stir things up or, excuse the stereotype (but as you refer to nimby’s I’l allow myself just this once) a northerner with a big chip on his shoulder.

    If you actually read the documentation you may start to see that the tory’s haven’t really got their act together regarding integrating their economic policy with their transport policy. See the recent transport select committee report posted on this site. Therefore all your so called ‘northern benefits’ might not actually exist If hs2 gets built.

    It ain’t gonna do what it says on the tin. Read the documents. Forget your chip!

    • You can stereotype me Nellp – no problems. I don’t mind. I am indeed a northerner with a chip on his shoulder. I’m not about to get all huffy about an admittedly acurate description, unlike you nimbys. It’s not my fault anyway – this enormous chip was placed squarely there by you lot with your jabbering about how you don’t want money spent on a much-needed transport infrastructure which will serve generations for 100+ years, not just in our lifetimes.

      I’m not hear to stir things up either. The thing is, this website is like that oil rig “Deepwater Horizon”, only instead of oil, it’s spewing out vast quantities of hysterical drivel, and if it’s not stopped it will pollute the whole internet, and I’m worried that there’ll be no internet left for our children to enjoy. Some traces of spin-ridden claptrap from this site have already started to wash up on the shores of the tabloid press, so action needs to be taken to stop this leak of utter tripe now.

  6. I haven’t been able to answer any of the questions, every time I do the website comes up with and error saying : “Task unsuccessful”, and yes the question are very leading.
    So much for the consultation.

  7. This website has been extreamly fair showing aticles for and against hs2.I live in the midlands,the train will not be in view from my home but it will destroy the best bit of countryside nearby.I decided to go to a meeting and
    since then I have read numerous articles for and against,not just on this site.I suggest mr Carter that you take a look at the petition you will find comments from all over the country who feel that the money would be better spent to help the country in ways other than HS2 at such a time of cuts and,that the distruction of the countryside is a dreadfull thing to do when the business case is extreamly flimsy.I wish I could could believe that the government would be honest, and transparent as they promised, but time and again mr hammond has stated things that have been shown not to be the true state of things.

    • …distruction of the countryside is a dreadfull thing to do..

      I’ve read pro and against articles as well, and it’s stuff like this that just drains the anti argument of any credibility. One railway line = the destruction of the countryside. Hysterical.

      As for the business case, I’ve no doubt that right now Stop HS2 (and some “experts” they’ve enlisted) are pouring over the consultation reports, ready to announce to us that the figures are all wrong and they know best. As far as Stop HS2 is concerned, there will never be a “business case”, because first and foremost it means a railway line that might affect their property prices/view from the back garden/fox-hunting chances/whatever, and secondly, as the govt have said, it’s about giving the north of the country a better chance of competing economically, for generations to come. This might mean a tax-hit for people, and for Stop HS2, it’s not worth spending money on something that isn’t designed to benefit themselves.

      • Pathetic! So everyone along the proposed line is a fox hunter. You clearly have no knowledge of the Aylesbury estates that this line will pass through. You just cannot comprehend that there are actually people in this country who care deeply about the countryside and fear an ever increasing urbanisation…but hey, that’s progress.

        Other AONBs beware, it counts for nothing.

        Oh…and yes I too voted for this govt. but their record to date is comically inept, so the charade that is the Public Consultation is no surprise to anyone.

        • D Owen – an ever increasing urbanisation?? Whats you view on the Thames Gateway Project? Also, the current Public Consultation is a charade…..why?

        • Well said!One could add the destruction of 340 council homes in Euston to make way for an extended terminus.Not only is this vastly overcrowded already at peak times,but estimates have been made of 10,000 extra passengers debouching from there to the already overstretched underground.Euston is an absurd choice.Paddington,where the North Main line begins would be far better,but,of course,we’re back to problem of the new trains requiring to run in a straight line.Wouldn’t it be simpler to change to trains(such as Pendolinos) that can cope with curves?Please don’t tell me they couldn’t travel fast enough.With improved signalling and other new technology,that must be feasible,and would avoid so much destruction of property,livelihood (oh yes,there is a rural as well as urban economy;farms and food production are at stake here ) and cherished countryside.

        • Pathetic! So everyone along the proposed line is a fox hunter.

          No. I didn’t say everyone. Your chairman has cited it as a genuine reason why people should oppose HS2 though, hence the reference.

          You clearly have no knowledge of the Aylesbury estates..

          On the contrary my good man, I have visited the aforementioned location on many an occasion, and what I can tell you without fear of contradiction, is that the entire place is just like the set of “Downton Abbey”.

          You just cannot comprehend that there are actually people in this country who care deeply about the countryside…

          Well they sort of do, don’t they? I mean the condition is that they care about it when it’s near them. For example, this website lists the UK’s proposed road building schemes, and a quick search for the midlands reveals 67 projects for either new roads, or schemes to get more cars on existing roads, and over 200 for the whole country:


          And where were the eco-warriors from Stop HS2 when these schemes were announced? Down the local Range Rover dealership probably.

          • You can’t have been to the housing estates on the edge of Aylesbury if you think an Edwardian custom drama is an apt comparison. It’s a town, they are modern terraced houses.

    • Elaine – could you give an example or two about where Mt Hammond has stated things that have been shown not to be true?.

      I havent been keeping an eye on what he is doing tbh…..

      • Here’s one example out of several.Hammond stated that at the Consultation,dft and HS2 engineers would be available to answer our questions.In point of fact,the company has been given till 2013 to complete its Environmental Impact Assessment,and,I suspect has done no detailed ground surveys.The dft maps are impenetrable to most eyes and don’t give any idea of new track widths,non-vegetation zones,possible access roads for construction and so on.We’ll see if they can tell us on the Roadshow.

      • Gary. Elaine has not yet had a chance to respond to your question about what has Philip Hammond said which is apparently not true. Let me offer you a couple of topics. I used the foreword to the HS2 Consultation Document as my source of information as Mr Hammond has his name and photo at the foot of it.

        “And by releasing capacity on existing lines, it would also create space for additional commuter and regional services to run”.
        However the peak time service for the Coventry – London route drops from 3/hour to 2/hour and non peak time drops from 3/hour to 1/hour. Similarly the morning peak time from Wolverhampton to London drops from 3/hour to 2/hour. My information is sourced from the HS2 Technical Appendix and The Trainline.

        “High speed rail would bring central London to within 49 minutes of central Birmingham, and within 80 minutes or less of Leeds and Manchester”.
        The existing consultation process is for Phase 1 of HS2 which takes the route as far as Birmingham; it does not include Phase 2. However the journey times listed above for Leeds and Manchester reflect the additional time savings provided by building Phase 2 to those two cities. With just Phase 1 built, the journey time from Euston to Manchester would be 100 minutes according to the HS2 Technical Appendix. This represent a saving of 27 minutes on a journey which currently takes just over 2 hours.

  8. @Finmere: let’s face it, HS2’s opponents have it easy. It’s pretty straightforward to describe any kind of forward-looking statement/forecast as ‘unproven’, and then to chuck in some huge numbers and emotive rhetoric about the environment, and you’re halfway to a media-friendly campaign.

    There is no comparison in the ‘spin’ applied between the two camps. Most, myself included, who support HS2 would accept that the business case is not flawless. We would also accept that there is always a degree of uncertainty about any project that looks 20+ years into the future — how could it be otherwise?

    But the tactics employed by Stop HS2 and its accolytes are subtler than that. Specifically, the media strategy focuses on a relentless refusal to recognise the flaws of recent history — specifically the £10bn West Coast upgrade, but also the exceptional circumstances of HS1 (the non-rail related reasons for limited use of its capacity to date — I have never seen that addressed on this site, but the premium fare structure of SE Hispeed services is brought up almost on a daily basis).

    The reasons for building HS2 are neither accessible nor especially ‘sexy’. They are never likely to garner acres of media coverage (freight capacity for example), but that must not detract from the fact that these are compelling issues which we as a nation need to address.

    As for ‘no objective scrutiny’…the TSC is quite rightly investigating HS2, and hopefully it will probe the issue thoroughly. But at the most recent election, high speed rail was the stated policy of the three main parties, and the electorate had every opportunity to scrutinise it.

    • A group of volunteers “have it easy” when they oppose a project which has the backing of the Prime Minister, a Secretary of State, an entire Government department with ready access to the media and, a number of large businesses? Especially when the project sounds intrinsically appealing before you look into the details.

      As to the style and balance of articles on the Stop HS2 website: if you don’t like it, you could develop your own website, with the articles you would like to see. (You could even allow comments on your articles.) But we let you comment on this website, and give you the opportunity to challenge the facts we reproduce. Or you can follow Philip Hammond’s example of calling us names, rather then actually answering the arguments we put forth.

      • @Penny: I’ve not called anyone a name, and I genuinely appreciate the opportunity to debate the issues raised by HS2 on this forum. I also appreciate that it must be quite an effort to maintain the constant flow of campaign material via this and other media.

        My argument was that it is easy to create a media-friendly campaign against HS2 because it is easy to selectively choose certain issues to be highlighted, and these are then ‘reproduced’ by sections of the media, most often those which are consistently hostile to public transport and regional development.

        One of the problems facing the pro-HS2 movement is that it will, by default, be ascribed as in the pocket of big business and/or government, and in my view that’s somewhat unfair. My principal aim via social media and on websites like this and Mr Wolmar’s is to highlight the interests of people (like me) whose travel and business plans were disruoted and inconvenienced by a decade and more of travel disruption on a huge scale. I don’t drive, I am from the northwest and I live near London; I use WCML all the time and I am not happy about the prospect of damage to the countryside. Nevertheless I support HS2.

        I am not claiming equivalence with anyone who stands to suffer from construction of HS2, but equally I won’t let assertions that it is a ‘vanity project’ or ‘white elephant’ go unchallenged.

        No names there, were there?

    • Your last paragraph says it all.Opponents of HS2 were virtually disenfranchised on this issue at the last election.Cross-party consensus was agreed long ago,without debate.How very democratic!

    • I take your point about the media and reporters – as the old saying goes “never let the truth get in the way of a good story”. But then, as Penny says this is a David and Goliath contest.

      Mr Hammonds tactics were recently criticised here

      And then there’s all the rhetoric about economic growth, reducing the north-south divide and making the nation more prosperous. This does not at all reflect the reality but gets a lot of media coverage and sets the nation’s mindset. Propaganda really.

      I agree that it is good news that the transport select committee is to look into HS2. But at the last election there was cross party agreement about high speed rail so no choice really. One of the problems with a party political system is that each party offers a basket of policies. You might agree with some from one lot and others from another lot, but you can’t pick n mix. Then after the election the winning party takes it as a mandate for all their policies, even the most extreme ones that only a few actually agreed with.

      Party politics aside, it is the primary duty of MPs and councillors to represent their constituents. The proposed railway slices through sixteen Conservative constituencies – four of which are cabinet ministers’ seats and six more junior ministers’.

      All 3 parties broadly agree on it at the moment. Geoffrey Robinson MP is suggesting that Labour should not support it. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-12518839

      And at the StopHS2 convention he said that there are rumblings amongst MPs in the corridors of Westminster that maybe it’s not such a good idea after all, and that Theresa Villiers may be thinking they’ve been ‘sold a pup’ taking on the previous government’s immature scheme.

  9. … we want to be sure that any money that is available is spent in the best way possible.

    I don’t believe you. Explain your choice of username.

    “Stop HS2” people don’t want HS2 because of Nimbyism, and all the other objections are coming from people in the south-east who have easy access to London salaries & HS1 and the continent, and don’t want any tax money spent on helping the rest of the country to develop. When they say “no business case”, what they mean is “it’s not worth spending money on midlanders/northerners/scottish riff-raff, because I’m alright Jack and what matters most is me”.

    • Ouch! Were you being serious, or just having a rant? Nevertheless, I will answer your question.

      I am one of those who will be directly affected by HS2. My house is about 200m from the line and I am concerned personally about noise and property blight. Others around here will have their homes demolished, their farms bisected, or lose their livelihood because their businesses are going to be destroyed.

      If people are to be expected to make sacrifices ‘in the national interest’ then there must be compelling reasons to do so and very strong arguments in favour. We live on an overcrowded island. The country is full of “Nimbys”. They’re not a different species or some sort of hobbits or something. Who wants trains thundering past their homes at 250mph every 2 or 3 minutes? It’s hardly surprising that those who are most affected along the line of the route are the first to raise questions and fight the proposal if they feel it’s not right.

      As Churchill might have said, ‘we will fight them on the economics, we will fight them on the environmental issues, and we will fight them on affordability and value for money. We will defend our green and tranquil land. And we will use any legitimate means to do so’.

      At the moment, it seems that the best the government can offer for the rest of the country outside London is to make it a bit quicker to get to and from London – but only from Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow with few intermediate stops. I’m sure that if you and the folk from the Midlands, the North and Scotland were to think about it, you could come up with much better ways of spending 30 billion quid.

      Ranting in the blogosphere and having a swipe at those who disagree with you is not going to affect anything. Mr Hammond has said that opposition to the route is well organised and well financed. He knows he has a fight on his hands.

      • My house is about 200m from the line and I am concerned personally about noise and property blight.

        Are you concerned that somebody you know is a nimby? Here are some tell-tales signs to spot a nimby:

        – Peering out of the window at neighbours new shed and muttering about “planning permission”.
        – Use of phrases such as “I’m not a nimby but…..”
        – Tendency to write angry letters to local paper protestng at proposed new Tescos/phone mast/bus stop/neighbour’s new garage/neighbours.
        – Tendency to congregate in village halls or on windswept fields around bonfires with like-minded people (ie people who aren’t happy unless there’s something to moan about).
        – Displays irrational, apocalyptic fear of railway lines.

        If you suspect someone of being a nimby, call our confidential hotline 1-800-ISPYNIMBYS. Once an outbreak of nimbyism is confirmed, our teams are on call 24-hours a day to clean up the infestation and replace their house with a large locomotive maintenance depot.

  10. “Six of the seven questions start “Do you agree…”

    This closed-question format is often used in situations where the questioner has decided the answer they want you to give.”

    Well I might be wrong about this Penny but you could always answer “NO” if you don’t agree – seems pretty simple to me?

    • From “About US” – Since the start of the campaign Penny has written over 250 articles on HS2.

      Penny is “Social Media Director”, which means it’s her job to pump out as much guff about the evils of HS2 on to the internet as possible. Along with plain scaremongering, that’s Stop HS2’s main tactic, so it means going to the Google news page every day, typing in “High Speed Rail” and then applying ludicrous amounts of spin to whatever stories come up. This article is a great example of how farcical it’s become.

      It’s a bit rich of them to complain about how the consultation is worded. I voted for the present govt who promised HSR and this bunch of un-elected people never consulted me or anyone else outside where they live when they decided that anyone who lives north of Watford Gap isn’t worthy of tax-payers money being spent to improve their lives.

      • No-one’s saying that anyone who lives north of Watford Gap isn’t worthy of tax-payers money being spent to improve their lives. On the contrary, we want to be sure that any money that is available is spent in the best way possible.

        This subject clearly arouses people’s emotions. Some are strongly in favor and some are strongly against. There are deep disagreements among transport professionals and expert commentators as to whether this scheme should be given priority, whether it is affordable, whether its economics add up, and whether its contribution to reducing carbon emissions by the transport sector is as claimed.

        To date there has been no independent objective scrutiny of the case for HS2. Ultimately, that will be decided in parliament. In the meantime we are all entitled to bring pressure to bear on our elected representatives to represent our views. It is unfortunate, but spin and misrepresentation have become a part of public communications in this day and age, and both sides are playing the same game.

        I am grateful to Penny for the time, effort and commitment she is putting into this campaign – please keep up the good work!

      • Dear Richard Carter

        Just a gentle reminder that no clear majority of people voted for this government

        Oh and most of what they are implimenting was not in any manifesto.

        And the Conservative position on HS2 – did not support the assumption that the preferred route was the right route

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