At a speed typical of the delays with the HS2 proposal, Justine Greening has taken over a week before speaking in support of the Department for Transport’s plans for HS2, in a very belated response to the lead story in The Spectator last week which claimed the Government were preparing for a u-turn. Today, Greening has been today doing the rounds in the media, saying that; “We are full steam ahead and there is no wavering in our determination to get on with High Speed 2.”
Whilst being careful not to mention the business case, which had crumbled from a benefit cost ratio of 2.4 to one of 1.2 before freedom of information requests revealed the DfT had purposely suppressed research which would halve that again, Greening was full of platitudes, saying that the scheme could be ‘beautiful’ and ‘iconic’, whilst harking back to the Victorian age.
Stop HS2 Campaign Coordinator Joe Rukin said;
“Justine Greening has now been reduced to saying HS2 will be iconic, because that is the only argument she has got left. Concorde was iconic, but it was a financial disaster and only ever used by the richest in society. It is clear that this is exactly what HS2 will be. She also talks of wanting to emulate the Victorians, but clearly hasn’t realised that almost everyone investing in railways back then went bust. For a modern day equivalent, it is clear that Spain wouldn’t be in as great a mess as it is if they hadn’t thrown so much money at their HSR network. What investing in HS2 means is more austerity for everyone now, with the promise of something better for the rich in 20-odd years time while the rest of the transport infrastructure crumbles.”
“Greening is very much picking and choosing her comparisons with the Victorians. Building HS2 will be very much like building the canals, outdated as soon as they were complete. My son started doing video conferencing at school at the age of six and the Government haven’t got a grip of how IT will change working practices in the future as the next generation comes through, there is no point devising a 19th Century solution to a 21st Century problem. If the Government want to take a leaf out of the Victorian transport manual, it should be by investing in trams and local transport infrastructure which will benefit the masses, just like the recent Labour policy review said.”
Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2, said
“It’s clear that the proponents of HS2 have run out of arguments, so the Department of Transport are left saying HS2 might look quite nice, if you like that sort of thing. This is an appalling excuse for spending £33 billion of taxpayers money. Given their performance to date, we very much doubt that HS2 Ltd would be capable of half-way decent design, even if they wanted to try and there is no question it will look worse than what it will destroy. In the last week or so, HS2 Ltd have managed to arrange community forums that clash, mistaken places in Warwickshire for being in London, and failed to understand that rights of way can’t just be shut on the whim of a transport planner.”
“We’ve seen over recent weeks that the business case has fallen apart, now that the Department for Transport acknowledge that people use time productively on trains. There is clearly very little, if any, support for HS2 beyond the metropolitan elite. If Justine Greening really wanted to copy the Victorian age in the twenty-first century, she would look at what is new and innovative now, not 150 years ago. The infrastructure we need now is for superfast broadband, so we can keep up with twenty-first century developments: when Justine Greening talks about “full steam ahead”, she can’t even think of modern metaphors.”