Lord Framlingham: Are they afraid of the truth about HS2?

Yesterday (26th June 2017), as part of the debate on the Queens Speech, Lord Framlingham made an impassioned plea for a rethink on HS2. Here is his speech in full:

My Lords, I make no apology for returning to the vexed question of HS2, as this ridiculous scheme is getting under way. Demolition is starting, burial grounds dug up, trees felled and communities disrupted. The utmost pressure must be kept on in the hope that government common sense will prevail and an urgent review will be ordered.

I begin with the title of a comprehensive article written by the journalist Simon Jenkins, which traces the history of HS2, entitled, “HS2: the zombie train that refuses to die”. He wrote:

“It is the most extravagant infrastructure project in British history—but nobody can say why we need it. How did HS2 ever get so far?”—

a question we must ask ourselves and, depending on the answer, take the necessary action. Even at this late stage, it can be halted. The London garden bridge, another vanity project, has been reviewed and is unlikely to go ahead, despite the considerable sums already spent on it.

Lord Framlingham

It is difficult to comprehend the enormity of the folly that is HS2. It is so monstrous that most people simply cannot believe it. On 31 January this year, I moved an amendment to the Third Reading of the HS2 Bill that would have put an end to it. Most of your Lordships voted against my amendment, while telling me privately that they agreed with it, but 26 Members of this House voted with me to stop HS2.

Were these 26 ill-informed, or were they perhaps the best informed Members of your Lordships’ House? Two of them were former Permanent Secretaries to the Treasury. Terry Burns, the noble Lord, Lord Burns, saw HS2 at first hand under Gordon Brown, and the noble Lord, Lord Macpherson, studied it under David Cameron and George Osborne. Both of them were so convinced of the case against continuing that they voted to stop it even at that stage.

Every dispassionate observer who is properly qualified and experienced in our railway system is opposed to it. A long list of railway experts who have no axe to grind have written to Ministers pleading for a meeting to put their case to help the Government to understand the dangers. They have been rebuffed.

Every supposed benefit of this project, including speed and capacity, has been comprehensively taken apart by those professionals, who really know what they are talking about. The noble Lord, Lord Darling, when he was Secretary of State for Transport, was so worried about the scheme that he commissioned a no-nonsense report from Sir Rod Eddington, the former boss of British Airways. Eddington’s report, which was published in 2006 was emphatic: this kind of scheme was wrong in principle and should not be undertaken. His report was enthusiastically welcomed by the Secretary of State and officials in Whitehall.

A critical report by Sir Jeremy Heywood in 2016 has not yet been made public. I wonder why. A consultant in this field, Michael Byng, was commissioned by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, to scrutinise the costings of HS2. His results showed that the scheme is likely to cost twice as much as the original estimate. We are talking about unbelievable amounts of money. The forecast cost was £56 billion, now thought to be nearer £70 billion, and some say eventually £100 billion.

I am reliably informed that for the price of HS2 we could rebuild and re-equip every hospital in England and Wales. Today we launched our new aircraft carrier HMS “Queen Elizabeth”, which cost £3 billion, described as an astronomic sum. In HS2 terms, it is peanuts. This scheme will last for years, a running sore constantly reminding whatever Government are in power of the massive mistake that was made through sheer obstinacy and an unwillingness to listen. It will be an ongoing financial and environmental nightmare.

Serious disruption will soon start in Camden despite the fact that there are still uncertainties surrounding how the scheme will work in the area. Homes are to be demolished, burial grounds dug up, businesses disrupted, and mature London plane trees felled. The Woodland Trust tells us that, further afield along its route, 63 ancient woodlands will be lost or damaged. This entire project is not worth the life of a single tree.

To defend the indefensible, HS2 is reported to be employing 17 PR firms to sell its case—gravy train upon gravy train. One firm is reported as being paid £280,000 to extol the virtues of HS2 to primary schools along the route. There is a constant stream of reports of hirings, firings and squabbling over contracts by those seeking a slice of the huge sums involved.

What we need, what we must have before things go any further, is an urgent, open, Treasury-led review of the situation with proper professional independent advice taken and listened to. What harm can that do? What are people afraid of? Perhaps it is the truth. Surely, when such huge amounts of public money are being spent and such immense damage is being done, both to our urban environment and our countryside, it is vital to get at the truth.

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12 comments on “Lord Framlingham: Are they afraid of the truth about HS2?
  1. I have just emailed Cheryl Gillan, my MP, copying her this speech. I am bewildered by the lack of guts of our MPs to stand up and oppose this financially doomed scheme. Do they feel they will lose favour with their party leaders and be passed over for promotion? Why did so many Lords support Lord Framlingham orally and then remain silent when asked to vote? The conclusion is obvious. It does not bode well for democracy when people’s views are silenced.

    • I have just been contacted on the telephone by a representative of Ipsos-Mori who told me they were conducting a survey into HS2. However, once they discovered that my postal code was within the Chiltern AONB affected by it they made an excuse and rang off, leaving me with distinct impression that, yet again, any views expressed against HS2 were of no interest to them! Brings back memories of Cameron and Osborne sticking their fingers into their ears and shouting at the tops of their voices to drown out any anti-HS2 reports or sentiments.

  2. I and many of my fellow Buckinghamshire friends and even friends from many other counties have been against HS2 right from the beginning apart from all the devastation and heart break it will cause no one from my area could board this train without having to travel to London so it would be quicker for us all to travel by car

  3. Is Hammond still in favour of spending north of £100bn. for a scheme which has only minority public support? He’s now looking down the back of the sofa for funds as colleagues demand an end to the 1% wage cap on 5m. public sector workers.
    A rhetorical question, will he answer Lord Framlington’s concerns or, like Grayling, just ignore them. The whole scheme remains risible and, if you believe the Govt., not affordable, apart from the money tree…..

  4. To many people been paid off to keep quite and nother complain
    They have all there holidays paid for +there cars paid for

  5. I agree with the Honorable Lord Framlington entirely and in view of the various crises facing this government including the cladding of tower blocks, police & hospitals,schools etc all could make better use of money spent on a railway that will be obsolete by the time it is finished.

  6. Other Government Departments are openly presenting credible, intelligent, and affordable alternatives. I’ve read documents relating to eCAV – Electric Connected Autonomous Vehicles that illustrates how, when, and why such progress will obviate the need for HS2. For sure we need to radically improved intercity connectivity – but with a 21st Century solution…not the current clumsy proposition. Happy to expand on all of the above…

  7. A loud Amen to the sentiments expressed. The project should be cancelled and to hell with cries of money wasted so far. My answer? Common sense has prevailed, money saved, and homes and communities saved.

  8. Brilliant case against this monstrous waste of public money, that could, indeed should, be spent on far more worthy and immediate matters – even reducing future debt. Please can the same case be made against the ridiculous Hinkley Point project. A totally unproven design that will be overtaken by other more viable energy developments long before it can possibly enter service. The vast amount of non renewable energy that will be required in it’s construction, maintenance and ultimate decommissioning ( which in itself is totally unquantifiable as the latest national estimate of nuclear waste management has shown) means that there is no prospect whatever of getting more ‘clean?’ Energy out than all the ‘dirty’ energy put in!
    Whilst on the subject of reckless waste of money, please get the government to reign in the rediculous extravagance on the Overseas Aid Budget, which helps very few of the intended poorer people on the planet nor the hapless taxpayers in this country.

  9. It is obvious that there is some dodgy dealing going on in the background. Who is being bribed to push this crazy project through? It just underlines the phrase used by Jeremy Corbyn who claims he is acting for the ‘Many’ and underlines the attitude of the Government, who in this case are acting for the ‘Few’ Who are these few that need HS2 ? certainly not the general public. Why, when the Internet can work over huge distances is there a need to get between A and B by train more quickly?

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