LibDem Conference – Nick Clegg wants to be Victorian

In a question and answer session at the LibDem conference, a party members asked Nick Clegg

Q: Only 2% of Britain’s ancient woodlands are left. Shouldn’t the government block High Speed Rail (HS2).

In an admission of ignorance, Clegg announced that he did not know about HS2 and ancient woodland, but he was a “passionate supporter of HS2″.

HS2 will cause direct damage to 21 ancient woodland and pass within 50m of another 27.  Ancient woodlands have been continually wooded since 1600: they are irreplaceable.

His answer included references to bold Victorians and then mentioned the need to “rewire the UK.

Maybe Clegg listened to former Conservative Secretary of State for Transport, Justine Greening, too much who talked a lot about Victorians whenever she mentioned HS2.  But the Victorians did not do what proponents of HS2 want to do and copy what their ancestors did: the Victorians looked for what was new and exciting and had not been done before.  Railways were new when the Victorians were building them but they are centuries old now.

What is new is the wiring that Clegg mentioned in answering the question: if he really wanted to be like the Victorians, Clegg would ditch HS2 and insist the Coalition spent some of the £33 billion HS2 cost on the 21st Century technology of digital infrastructure.

There is no question about the environmental costs of HS2: it’s bad for the 160 wildlife sites that Phase 1 cuts through and bad for ancient woodland.

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18 comments on “LibDem Conference – Nick Clegg wants to be Victorian
  1. And will you apply the same argument to all the other infrastructure projects that the idiot Johnson wants to lavish on London and the South East. Scrap Crossrail 2, scrap any new airports and halt all airport expansion (because air travel is an extremely ungreen form of travel of course), and scrap any future tube and tram schemes and use the cash for “21st Century digital infrastructure” instead?

    No of course you wont. Because those are all things that directly benefit London and the South East and some railway up to the impoverished north can’t possibly be of any use. Just imagine how the property prices might be affected too!

    You ought to get out a bit more. Its an absolute disgrace in the 21st centure, big cities like Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle don’t even have comprehensive underground/tram systems, let alone fast links to each other.

    • “You ought to get out a bit more. Its an absolute disgrace in the 21st centure, big cities like Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle don’t even have comprehensive underground/tram systems, let alone fast links to each other.”

      Hmm, I think that this is part of what STOPHS2 are suggesting? The money for HS2 could be better spent on other localised transport projects such as the missing systems that you list above.

      Just a thought.

    • Why do people assume anyone against HS2 is a well off southerner? Northern Star should get down to the Labour Party conference in Manchester and learn some facts – and see first hand the grassroots support to stop this fat cat train and spend the money on local transport, housing, health and education.

      • We are between a rock and a hard place on this one Prestwich Lad …. opponents are either rich southern fat cats wanting the train to whisk them to board meetings, or rich southern nimbys trying to preserve their verdant acres. For my part I’m not rich, don’t have verdant acres, (live in a two up two down), am not a director or business person. I just happen to believe that hs2 is a complete and utter waste of public money. Helpful hint to HMG: write a list of what this country NEEDS not what politicians WANT. HS2 will not appear anywhere near the top. Vanity, sheer vanity.

  2. He has no right to state he is backing something when he appears to have no idea what implications it has to the contryside.How can he and others be incharge of a country that they seem to know little about?

  3. I’ll give it a go. Cut ‘n paste of my usual questions:

    Video conferencing is not new – it’s been around for yonks, and unless you insist on seeing everyone in glorious 1080p HD, it works fine right now over a basic ADSL link, which everyone has. So what exactly do you think people will do with faster internet access that they can’ t do now, and how will it curtail rising passenger numbers?

    And, why does this tech argument apply to HS2 and *nothing* else such as new, roads, offices etc?

    I await (in vain, I know), your reply.

    • I’ll try and help you Rich.

      Videconferencing has been around for quite a while but data speeds are now much much faster than they were in the early days and the technology is now much more usable.

      Personally I would not argue that it will remove the need to travel but it is a perfectly plausible argument as to why historic increases in passenger numbers ( and don’t forget they have been higher on local services than long distance services anyway ) won’t necessarily continue at that rate going forward.

      If you take that away you remove the so-called “killer argument” regarding capacity. That’s the last one left , with the arguments about the environment , journey times and the north-south divide either having been already shot down or being totally unproven.

      • Well said Martin and in addition we have to imagine what it will be like in 20 years time
        One thing is for sure and that is those companies who don’t maximise the use of emerging technologies won’t exist

      • That’s a typically vague response I get to these questions Martin. Anyone with a mind to replace thier travel habits with video conferencing would have found it perfectly usable for the past decade. The only thing broadband will mean is that the picture looks a little better, and that’s clearly not going to arrest rising passenger numbers. The scenario of other arguments for HS2 being “shot down” exists only in the StopHS2 world I’m afraid.

        Perhaps the author of this article would care to explain? This is the umpteenth article she’s written about this – there *must* be some more substance to it than “the 21st Century technology of digital infrastructure”, surely? What exactly is this computer program that everyone can then start running which doesn’t work now? And why is it only applicable to HS2? Why are we not hearing this as an argument not to build a 3rd runway at Heathrow? If video conferencing is going to reduce any travel then it’s surely long-haul, expensive business flights? But it isn’t, is it? Maybe, because people need to meet clients that they’ve won business with on the internet?

        So tech means *more* business customers and *more* travel, as businesses can reach out more easily to a larger customer base. Which would explain rising business rail travel.

        The hard data is suggesting “tech” means the reverse of what you hope it will.

        • Rich

          Taking your argument to its logical conclusion must mean HS3,4,5 etc,more motorways and airports
          We have no choice but to reduce the need to travel and today’s and tomorrow’s tech advances means with real future thinking leadership we can do so

          • John – absolutely it should mean HS3,HS4 etc. The way to get people out of their cars, freight off the roads and thereby cut pollution and the hundreds of killed and injured on the roads every year is by offering a better domestic travel alternative. We have to start seriouis investment in public transport somewhere and it starts with HS2. With an ever increasing population you are not going to reduce travel. What you can do is make mass transit better and more appealing, which is better for everyone.

            Again – “tech advances” are coinciding with a well-documented increase in travel. I’m sorry if this is an “inconvenient truth” and doesn’t fit with your wishes, but that’s the way it is.

            • Rich

              Sounds appalling

              I would refer you to a statement on the Dft’s website

              ‘Ultra-low emission vehicles
              Meeting the UK’s longer-term climate goals will require road transport to be largely decarbonised by 2050′.

              The link to the full statement is here–http://www.dft.gov.uk/topics/sustainable/olev

        • Children today find technological means of communication irresitible and natural – they are our future business executives, who will be experts in video-conferencing and telecommunication. Most of those who find that they have to visit their clients and customers, laden with product samples and accompanied by business colleagues, will be taking their super-modern fuel-efficient cars and planes, directly to their appointment venues – more so than via some out-of-the-way high-speed railway stations.

          It is just a matter of time before our little technical experts have to decide the most economical way to run their businesses. About the time it will take to build the first phase of HS2!

          • Gloria – one does not have to be a juvenile to understand video conferencing over broadband. It works fine now, has done for years over basic ADSL links, and rail travel is *still* increasing. And how “super fuel-efficient planes” (which don’t exist) will be better at getting people directly to whichever domestic destination they happen to choose is beyond me. I believe that as of now, railway stations are more numerous than airports.

        • Rich – not sure what job you do but it is absolutely clear to me that better digital technology will save me (and above my employer) all the costs in time and money and exhaustion of traipsing around the country interviewing people. The technology isn’t good enough for our quality needs now, and skype ‘conferencing’ is still often really shaky especially if it is across several countries! Also, my employer is committed to carbon reductions – and is rather exercised about oil prices. So the message from my employer is absolutely clear – reduce travelling as quickly and as much as you can! I don’t think that is a ‘lone employer’ voice do you?

          • I work in IT and have done for 27 years. Whilst it’s great that you can use a video link-up to talk to someone, it is not going to add up to sufficient numbers to make a dent in regular rail passenger usage. It’s worked fine for 10 years and rail travel is still going up – through regular commuters, people visiting friends/places etc, combined with an overall population increase, which is projected to rise and rise. New offices are being constructed in London and other major cities, not because the employers there want all their staff working from home. We are not talking about building a 3rd runway at Heathrow or a complete new airport because we expect passenger numbers to go into reverse. More money is not being poured into roads because we think everyone is going to be at home gawping at a monitor.

            I’m still not clear on why this only applies to HS2?

  4. Mr Clegg also said the government would have to be “ruthless” to force through the planned £32bn high-speed rail (HS2) network and that he understood that some people are unhappy.

    He sounds like a Victorian and is totally unfit to spend our money

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