The Prime Minister versus Stop HS2

Yesterday, David Cameron tweeted

David Cameron talks to anti-HS2 protestors in Wendover

David Cameron talks to anti-HS2 protestors in Wendover

It’s an old adage in politics that when the Prime Minister gives his full backing to one of his ministers, that minister is on the way out. And when the Prime Minister announces a “fightback” on a major Government scheme like the HS2 project, it shows he thinks its at risk.

With the number of different people and organisations that have come out against HS2 in the last couple of months, as well as the latest poll showing that 55% of the public think it should be scrapped, HS2 is a project on the ropes.

In McLouglin’s speech yesterday, he referred to

“The last few weeks have seen old criticisms return in new guises.”

The reason why we use the same criticisms again and again, is because the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd have never provided a valid answer for them. As we defeat each argument, the DfT drops them temporarily to pull out another variation on a justification for HS2. With four Secretaries of State for Transport since the March 2010 announcement, civil servants might be able to fool ministers, but we have seen it before.

And so onto the £200,000 KPMG report published yesterday.

Firstly, it might have been published only yesterday, but it is already out of date. The report says it is based on the year old August 2012 economic case: but this will soon be superceeded by the next economic case due out this autumn.

Using old information is not unusual for supporters of HS2. The Public Accounts Committee earlier this week said that HS2 decisions were based on “fragile numbers, out-of-date data and assumptions which do not reflect real life”.

KPMG’s report has already been criticised, including by the BBC’s Robert Peston – What KPMG ignored when arguing for HS2, the Taxpayer’s Alliance and the IEA – IEA responds to new government analysis of HS2.

The Financial Times reported that Dan Graham, a professor of statistical modelling at Imperial College London who also advises the government on transport, had told them that

“These numbers really need to be scrutinised, otherwise they could turn out to be fanciful” and KPMG’s £15bn figure “seems to be on the optimistic side”.

We haven’t quite managed to Stop HS2 yet. We still need your help to keep up the pressure. But we can win, with your support.

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One comment to “The Prime Minister versus Stop HS2”
  1. PM is wrong to refer to fight backs. This HS2 has not consensus support among the public or MPs as a priority. The Supreme Court case has to demonstrate that alternatives and wider factors should have preceded the decision by Justine Greening and by Philip Hammond. Relationship Management is not the Coalitions strength and talk of fight backs when a Court has to be asked to apply common sense to the House of Commons process is an indication of a failing by the Coalition to appreciate the people’s genuine concerns. The Coalition as with Labour know how to spend money, but not how to be prudent with less whilst still securing the nations requirements. Read Rt Hon Richard Bacon’s book Conundrum about Policy and Implementation. The Supreme Court has to determine if HS2 has become a plan, programme or framework without a Strategic Environmental Assessment having been undertaken. All such projects with options and withint the context of other needs should for best practice be scrutinised thoroughly. HS2 did not have the resources to do this at the outset and politicians project a poor approach of one track each way to the grand status of vital or essential and one HS2 Taskforce member gave the result a prediction of a smash hit. Time to come down to earth and realise this is an expensive side show when housing, schools, railway maintenance and modifications, power stations, motorways and water projects and other infrastructure is being curtailed and delayed.

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