In only his second press statement since being awarded the £140,000 p.a. two day a week Chairmanship of HS2 Ltd, 71 year old Douglas Oakervee has shown his commitment to spinning the arguments supporting HS2, claiming that the recent report for the All Party Parliamentary Group for High Speed Rail was an ‘independent review’.
The report, which was headlined “Alternatives to HS2 do not solve the capacity problems on Britain’s railways, says Parliamentary Inquiry.” was sent out by the groups secretariat Westbourne Communications, whose website claims “Westbourne offers a full range of public relations, public affairs, political intelligence and issues management services. But our particular expertise is in changing opinion.” Lucy James, the Campaign Co-ordinator at Westbourne is also the Director of the Campaign for HSR
Despite the report claiming that proposed alternatives do not meet capacity needs, the Optimised Alternative enables a tripling in capacity from a 2008 base, comfortably accommodating the Government forecast of doubling in demand to 2037. The Transport Select Committee, Atkins for the Department for Transport and Network Rail have all accepted the Optimised Alternative is able to deliver this capacity and Network Rail have confirmed the illustrative timetable demonstrating its feasibility is sound.*
Stop HS2 Campaign Coordinator Joe Rukin said;
“What we have seen this week is absolutely shocking, and coupled with the revelations about some HS2 Ltd directors being shareholders in firms which are already getting contracts, questions really have to be asked about the role of lobbyists and those with vested interests in this project. How can the chairman of HS2 Ltd possibly think that a report produced for a group of MPs supporting high speed rail, drawn up by and with press management from paid lobbyists for the project is the slightest bit independent?”
“We have seen independent analysis from the Transport Select Committee who drew a shopping list of things they wanted to see before the project progressed which did not happen; we have seen independent analysis from the Major Projects Authority who said there were that many problems they weren’t sure if HS2 could be fixed; and we have seen independent analysis from the chair of the Public Accounts Committee who said the figures we ‘Bonkers, Biased, Socking and Potty’, adding they were ‘Gobsmacked’. Besides that independent parliamentary scrutiny, bodies like the Institute for Economic Affairs, the Taxpayers Alliance, the New Economics Foundation, the Adam Smith Institute and the Sustainable Development Commission have all expressed deep concerns over the project, but it is no surprise that HS2 Ltd didn’t feel like sending a press release for any of their findings. This quango is burning public money on a doomed project and is clearly out of control.”
“The APPG report claims to have shown an exhaustive process over four months, but I could have written what they were always going to say in four minutes. They have ignored the findings of the Transport Select Committee, Network Rail and the Department for Transport, simply because it suited them.”
* Sources- House of Commons Transport Committee Report, High Speed Rail, 10th Report of session 2010-12 pages 92/3; Network Rail’s Review of the Strategic Alternatives to HS2, November 2011, Section 2.3.3, page 17 and section 2.3.2 page 13; High Speed Rail Strategic Alternatives Study Update by Atkins, January 2012)