Q: When is a decision not a decision?
A: When a government lawyer says it isn’t.
It’s just over a year since Justine Greening made an announcement about continuing with HS2, so on Thursday, HS2 Ltd issued a self-congratulatory press release, entitled “Green light to develop UK’s high speed rail network – one year on”.
References to “decisions”, “green lights” and numerous statements that start “HS2 will…” imply a certainty that was missing in court in December during the Government’s defense of the Judicial Review about HS2. Then, a government lawyer, Tim Mould QC, argued that the Secretary of State had ‘not made a decision to proceed with the HS2 rail scheme’ as it was still ‘only a policy’.
Reading Thursday’s press release, it would be easy to assume that someone forgot to tell senior manager’s at HS2 Ltd that no the decision has been made.
For instance, Alison Munro, HS2 Ltd’s CEO, says
“Since the Government’s decision in January 2012 we have been busy producing more detailed route designs and…”
And there a number of certainties in the “notes to editors” such as
• HS2 will be built in two phases to ensure that the benefits of high speed rail are realised as early as possible. The line from London to the West Midlands and a connection to High Speed 1 are expected to open in 2026 (HS2 Phase 1), followed in 2032-33, by the onward legs to Manchester and Leeds and connection to Heathrow (HS2 Phase 2).
• Phase 1 of HS2 will cost around £16.3bn to construct (2011 prices).
• The full network, including the Y and links to Heathrow and the Channel Tunnel, will cost £32.7bn to construct (2011 prices).
Whether the Government and HS2 Ltd have decided or not, one thing is clear. Stop HS2 is firmly of the opinion that the current HS2 proposals are fundamentally flawed. HS2 should be cancelled as soon as possible.