Listening to Justine Greening MP, Secretary of State for Transport, making her statement on HS2 to the House of Commons on Tuesday 10th January 2012 and answering questions by MPs was not good for my blood pressure. Time and time again, as I listened, I found myself thinking “that’s not right” or “that’s not fair” or “yes but, what about …”.
The Transport Secretary said:
“My decision had to consider not only the full environmental impact of HS2 but its benefits to our economy, jobs and our competitiveness not just today but decades into the future.”
She must, or at least should, be fully aware that the “full environmental impact of HS2” has not been assessed up to now. Only when the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been completed will she be able to make that claim and, as far as I understand, that task will not commence until some time later this year.
All that HS2 Ltd has produced to inform the critical decision making process is a vastly inferior EIA substitute, which is called the Appraisal of Sustainability (AoS). This latter document has been the subject of thousands of words of critical analysis by me in my blogs; I regard it as deeply flawed, not least by a marked tendency to underestimate the environmental impacts of HS2 and overestimate the few benefits and the effectiveness of mitigation.
I am not alone in my condemnation of the AoS. The analysis by Dialogue by Design of the responses to the public consultation (here) reveals that only 614 of the 36,918 respondents to the consultation question on the AoS expressed unqualified satisfaction with it. A further 158 expressed support, but with some caveats, but rather more (14,170) are of my opinion and “expressed concerns that the AoS is insufficient”.
PS: The Hansard transcript of the announcement and subsequent questions by MPs may be found here.