A taskforce to grow the wrong thing

Earlier today, the Department for Transport issued details of a so-called “HS2 Growth Taskforce”. They try to make it sound impressive – but once more there is a lot of spin, trying to put gloss on a vanity project.

For instance, the press release says about the people selected to be on the task force “They know the huge benefits large scale infrastructure projects can bring if they are done in the right way.” However, the members of the taskforce, which includes Pete Waterman, are almost all people who will gain from HS2 even if it is done wrong.

Some large scale infrastructure projects can bring benefits: but the first step is to make sure you are building the right project. The wrong project will suck taxpayer’s money and talent from other better projects.

With HS2, right from the start the project was being done for the wrong reasons. As Lord Mandelson said speaking to the Financial Times earlier this month “We were on the eve of a general election and keen to paint an upbeat view of the future.” A project started as part of an election campaign, without looking at “the detailed facts and figures of an investment that did not present us with any immediate spending choices“, or comparing it to other ways of spending taxpayer money – that’s a project being done in the wrong way, no matter who is on any taskforce.

Patrick McLoughlin says “We have no choice but to address the increasing demands on our transport system that Britain will face in the next decade to be able to compete in the global economic race.”

Unfortunately for McLoughlin, HS2 won’t open in ten years time: the Phase 1 section will not open until 2027. But even with Phase 2 open, it will have limited effects on the transport system as a whole: as we reported earlier this week, even the Dft, don’t think it will noticeably reduce demand for road traffic. Meanwhile companies like HS2 Ltd themselves are making use of digital technology to hold meetings.

Again McLoughlin ignores what happened with the original Eurostar station: “Building on the success of HS1 and its role in the transformation of Kings Cross, HS2 will act as catalyst to city centre regeneration and major development schemes.”

Key figures like Frank Dobson, MP, and Sarah Haywood, leader of Camden Council wanted the Eurostar HS1 terminal at Kings Cross, but they can also see the damage that HS2 will cause to the area around Euston. Meanwhile, the former Eurostar platforms at Waterloo stand unused, five years after the terminus moved away.

However, in evidence to the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill from people in favour of HS2, the cost of regeneration around the stations will be an extra cost. Even the link to HS1 is not included in the £50 billion price tag for HS2.

However the chair of the new committee is concerned about whether the revised budget will be enough:

“But Lord Deighton admitted in an interview with the Financial Times that the project would have to be managed with “great rigour” to prove to people it could be delivered within its new budget. “That’s absolutely critical,” he said.”

Finally, at the end of the Financial Times report, it says that task force will be looking at the creation of a New Town – we warned of this in March last year.

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8 comments to “A taskforce to grow the wrong thing”
  1. I have quickly looked at the “Taskforce” press release and one name stuck out like a sore thumb!

    If the history of the “wonderful success” which is HS1 is recalled, was it not “London & Continental Railways” which was the original franchisee of HS1! The same company which went cap-in-hand to Mr.Cameron and Mr.Hammond with a bad debt of approximately £6.5billion and had its finances “restructured”, with the help of Mr.Hammond and UK tax-payers so that the company was not driven into formal liquidation with all accompanying adverse publicity for high speed travel and its potential effect on the first rumblings of High Speed 2.

    Of course there could be two “London & Continental Railways”, but don’t business names have to be registered so that there is not two? Coincidence maybe?

  2. Broxtowe Borough Council are opening up for development 80ha of green belt adjacent to the proposed HS2 station at Toton. This development seems to be fundamental to the station’s business case. (HS2 Ltd originally approached Rushcliffe BC to develop in the green belt around Parkway Station and Rushcliffe refused.) However, HS2 Ltd’s estimates of jobs and houses supported by the station are only a small fraction of what the site will supply. (There is no part-development of a green belt site. It’s all or nothing.) Broxtowe BC’s proposed Core Strategy has no need of any development at this site. (Broxtowe already has a surplus of employment sites and has allocated sufficient sites elsewhere to meet its housing targets.) There is no regeneration needed or deprivation at Toton. It’s a very quiet suburb, with a housing estate immediately adjacent to the proposed station and line. (The existing sidings are silent.)
    A tram is being built from Nottingham to the site, irrespective of HS2. There’ll also be train connections from the proposed station to Nottingham & Derby. So development could occur at a brownfield site away from Toton.
    HS2 Ltd have admitted that their estimates of jobs & housing supported by the station are invalid for green belt sites. (Their Crossrail methodology estimates need existing development plans. Further, they seem to assume pedestrian traffic through an urban area, which is not relevant to a site in the middle of nowhere.) In their response to Broxtowe’s Core Strategy consultation, HS2 Ltd refused to specify either the size of area needed for development or its proximity to the station. But the urban Crossrail methodology has focussed development adjacent to the proposed station.
    From Tomaney et al, with HS2, Nottingham will lose service sector jobs to London. Any gains will be through regional polarization. (Note that the HS2 jobs estimates ignore regional polarisation.) The County Council have paid £35k to consultants to provide a business case for the station.
    At the Core Strategy hearings, I hope to make Broxtowe BC justify the site’s development. Assistance welcome.

  3. It beggars believe all the talk about the hs2 line benefits from the PM and his loyal men ,and now even more of our money being spent on a task force to promote the project .surely if the train is what they keep telling us is the best thing that all the leaders of the coalition have come up with why do we need to spend on people like p w the sooner this project is cancelled the better and get on to a project which helps the most people not just the rich to save a few mins of there journey

  4. Another factor of concern is the way that matters are not presented openly or honestly and much use is made of divisive propaganda to split the
    electorate and prevent their unification of opinion based on evidence.
    The coalition treat the population as a marketing group to influence by spin rather than by reasoned argument. Underlying this approach is a huge arrogance and patronizing denigration.
    Such propaganda had its origins with Mussolini. . He also used infrastructure and grand projects to generate growth. He also used the same sort of propaganda surrounding his schemes.
    He was much admired here and in USA in his early days for his ruthless control of dissent through social stigmatization (and a bit of castor oil).

    The prejorative use of Nimbyism and its socio-political extensions is akin to this. One only has to read the blogs to see the divisive hatred that has entered the collective and the use of gradients of socio-political envy in an ends justifies the means campaign.

    Many significant legal changes in respect of greenbelt, planing etc have ‘suddenly’ appeared really without any warning in the pre-election manifesti.
    We were promised the Greenest Govt. Their green has turned out to be the green of the envious and invidious nature

    The coalition wish appear ‘liberal’ indeed they brought in the much fanfared gay marriage legislation, however, elsewhere in their policies there is less interest in promoting Human Rights and democratic process; most of the legislation seems aimed at increasing Governmental power and exertion of will whilst reducing real dialogue. Instead we have endless, meaningless uni-directional ‘consultations’ that feign democratic process.

    Some of the activity; tacitly supported, appears frankly dysfunctional and institutionally psychopathic.

    HS2 is “to heal the North South divide” and yet as part of its propaganda utilized the totally untruthful Nimby ” your lawns our jobs campaign”.
    We know this was a deliberately and calculated inflammatory process based on American political principles of ” sh+++ing up” the opposition.
    The Chilterns AONB had been analyzed as posing the greatest potential public concern.

    Now we have the reverse ‘Your lawns our gas’ (as it were) scenarios opening out. Tracts of the beautiful NorthEast described as
    ‘desolate and unpopulated’ hence only fit for fracking.

    Does anyone believe that our parliamentarians seem to act for the National Good or give a fig for what the population values or even their human suffering? What seems to be in play is a mad political robin hood;a partisan carving up with some places robbed (Bucks,Warwickshire Oxon) others rewarded (birmingham,leeds,manchester for example) and others forced into greater austerity through extravagant expenditure.

    What really seems to be in play is: your tax money (and national assets) our friends and lobbyists………..whatever the flavour of political allegiance.

    Now that seems closer to the truth.
    As with all controversies “follow the money” or as in criminological motive “who stands to gain”

  5. It appears ethically flawed and premature to set up a ‘task force’ to maximize the benefits of a project that has yet to be debated and approved by Parliament. a Project that currently remains legally only a plan that cannot be yet lawfully contested by those adversely effected or objecting to it.

    The coalition seem good at setting up such scenarios and skirting the socio-environmental protectives laws whilst advancing the project
    One must admire the guile, skill and the resources that must be being used to foister this scheme on an unwilling public

    Only a few days ago Mr Cable was saying that the “case had still to be made” yet it is progressing as though the case has been made.

    If ever there was an examplar ‘big politics’ and of the democratic unfairness of the same in Britain today it is HS2.
    The recent ‘legal’ opinions show that the law can no longer be deployed by the public to protect the population or the countryside from political will
    Even that law is due for revision to further restrict the populace so that we can no longer challenge our political masters.

    Serfs must know their place and do their masters bidding.
    Divided society……

    • Paul Harlow you state the situation well they want the Surfs to work for them and pay for their grand plans and for them to make them.I have seen this since they started 3years ago.As i am just a person living in middle England ,of average intelligence ,mother and grandmother.I am sure you like me cannot understand why everyone seems unable to see the flippin obvious and join the fight to stop this white elephant.

  6. The concern is consequential developments for housing and industrial facilities which have not been discussed in EIA ES or route documents for HS2 Route 3. For some locations there could be extensive additions of housing estates without the corresponding infrastructure. This is not the way to develop Central England on the intended consequences of reducing planning to the location of a long construction corridor. The exploitation of new Route 3 blighted areas should have been revealed earlier in the AOS. EIA and ES assessments and presented in the court cases. Identifying the large areas where housing may mushroom along with new bypass roads all as a consequence of a railway corridor project seems akin to wholesale land grabs and the end of local plans and strategic plans. Lord Sullivan may have foreseen this detrimental outcome.

    Identifying the land at risk of which there can be many square miles is important for the Supreme Court and European Court cases. It is important Local Authorities and County Councils establish red lines on this slide into anything goes any where.

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