There is no certainty over HS2, Jeremy

The Government likes to claim “the debate about whether to build HS2 is over” and its just now a case of building the tracks. Even Jeremy Corbyn seems to have been caught up in their spin.

Except this claim is not true. While HS2 supporters claim that HS2 Phase 1 will receive Royal Assent at the end of next year, this is not a given. The HS2 Hybrid Bill needs to finish the petitioning stage before going to a vote. But the second reading required the heavy hand of the Conserative Whips Office to get through: John McDonnell, now Shadow Chancellor, voted against, Corbyn and many other Labour MPs abstained. What’s more Jeremy Corbyn voted against the high speed rail paving bill, dubbed at the time the “blank cheque bill”.

High Speed 2 cartoon by Dave SimondsWith the third reading due at the end of 2016, there is plenty of time for HS2 to come off the rails. The current bill is just for the route to Birmingham, with stations further north to be included in the Phase 2 bill. But the Phase 2 consultation finished in January 2014, and was supposed to be announced in the autumn of 2014. This was pushed back to autumn 2015, and now the Government say they are planning to “make an announcement on how it will take Phase Two forward later this year.” A veteran MP like Corbyn will know that is Westminster code, for “we’ll let you know how we’ve re-written the timetable later”.

There are problems with the Phase 2 route, problems HS2 Ltd have been unable to solve for over a year. And originally, HS2 was going to include Liverpool but that was dropped long ago. With so much uncertainty, MPs of Northern seats will be wondering what’s happening.

What’s more, that there is a choice between conventional rail upgrades and HS2 is becoming more obvious. The Government used to be able to claim that it could do both, but the pausing of existing electrification programs and the Hendy review shows they were wrong.

This is before you look at the current plans at Euston. When you have a Government minister saying that they might not open the main London terminus for HS2 when the railway opens, as Robert Goodwill told the Telegraph recently, you know that delays are likely.

However much proponents of HS2 bluster, there are plenty of reasons for former supporters of HS2 to vote against at third reading.

HS2 has a long way to travel before it is a certainty.

12 comments to “There is no certainty over HS2, Jeremy”
  1. But the second reading required the heavy hand of the Conser[v]ative Whips Office to get through

    Your observation is delusional Penny!

    Divisions during the 2nd reading debate showed a ten to one ratio among MPs, in favour of proceeding with phase 1 – the notion that this outcome only resulted due to strong arm tactics by party whips demonstrates how much of the narrative emanating from STOPHS2 belongs in fantasy land!

    • It was heavy whipping combined with wilful ignorance that eventually led to the second reading getting through, reminiscent of Iraq when MPs foolishly believed what they were told. The mathematics remain that MPs representing maybe as much as 0.01%% of the population voted in favour, compared with 55% of the public against. Still waiting for evidence of an impartial pro-HS2 stance report, but that won’t happen. Still curious as to why you are so in favour, is the Manchester train service so bad that you are prepared to wait until 2033 for an improvement?!

      • Looks as though mathematics is not your strongest suit?

        Check the figures again – second reading of the Hybrid Bill passed 452 in favour, 41 against – not even remotely close?

        It seems to have escaped you but the UK is a Parliamentary democracy – we elect MPs to act on our behalf in matters of legislation. Yes, the voting system (Single Member Plurality, better known as FPTP) is flawed, giving grossly disproportionate results on a national scale but you obdurately refuse to acknowledge the established cross party support for HS2 – the 452 MPs in the YES lobby represented parties across the political spectrum.

        My support for HS2 is based on long term fundamental factors – the current service from Manchester to London is a relative side issue.

        • I respect your support for hs2 even if I totally disagree with you but I don’t understand why supporters accept such a pathetic compromise including no hs1/Heathrow links,parkway stations,poor station connectivity at Birmingham,no dedicated line to Scotland,no stops between London and Birmingham etc.etc.

          • @John
            I do have significant disagreement with current HS2 plans but (and this goes to the heart of the matter) cancelling HS2 will do absolutely nothing to remedy those flaws – in fact it would destroy any chance of future amendments / improvements to existing plans, which lest we forget, will take at least a decade or more to come to fruition?

            Yes, I want to see significant changes / amendments /additions to current strategy, such as;
            • HS3 – a trans-Pennine corridor new line, engineered to 250 km/h running speed, linking Hull, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool enabling seamless transition on to HS2 (perhaps in part utilising parts of HS2) and the existing conventional network at key nodes, such as the WCML & ECML (plus future upgrades to those lines listed below)
            • HS4 – a semi circular arc new line (akin to half of the M25), again engineered to minimum 250km/h running speed, seamlessly linking HS1, HS2 and the GWR, incorporating a Heathrow Station
            • HS5 – an upgraded/new line where necessary GWR, enabling 250 – 300km/h running speed and full GC gauge rolling stock, linking the entire South/South West of the UK into a burgeoning High Speed network, ie. HS1, 2, 3, 4, 6 & 7
            • HS6 – an upgraded/new line where necessary ECML based, 250 – 300km/h running speed & full GC gauge rolling stock, extension to HS2 from the currently planned link back into the ECML (at Church Fenton) all the way up to Edinburgh, via York and Newcastle.
            • HS7 – an upgraded/new line where necessary WCML based, 250 – 300km/h running speed & full GC gauge rolling stock, extension to HS2 from the currently planned link back into the WCML (at Ashton-in-Makerfield) all the way up to Glasgow, via Preston and Carlisle.

            The above vision/strategy to form the backbone of a rejuvenated comprehensive UK rail network for the 21st century, providing a High Speed network for a large majority of the UK, linking all parts of the UK to each other and also directly to mainland Europe (facilitating bypassing of London for all other parts of the UK)

            Just because current High Speed Rail strategy does not feature much of the above is ZERO reason for cancellation of HS2 – put simply you can’t eat the elephant all at once – however, once HS2 is under construction there is an opportunity for future UK government administrations to augment existing proposals – cancelling HS2, which is akin to a fit of pique simply because you’re not getting everything you want immediately, would prove counter productive – a profound strategic mistake the UK would collectively rue for decades to come?

            • Wow…..Now that little lot would take most of the 21st century to implement………So 22nd century railway then?……….

              Four words: Kinematic envelope and structure gauge….I note that you mention upgrades to existing lines to allow seamless interoperability running ‘full GC’ rolling stock…….That’s one he’ll of a lot of tunnel, bridge and platform upgrades is it not?….(you’ll correct me on that no doubt)………and therefore much disruption during the roll out……

              Yet we are told that the main imperative in favour of HS2 is to bypass the need to embark on a 14 year program of WCML upgrades and/or similar on other lines….

              So with your vision, disruption to the classic network would have to be viewed as an inevitable consequence of any useful future improvement to the rail network…

              Well right now, the MPA reports question the affordability of just basic upgrades along side HS2……I think your program might give them a heart attack!

            • @Clive
              I suggest you read again, carefully this time?

              HS3 & HS4 elements are new line projects so they’d be constructed to GC gauge standard.

              HS5, 6 & 7 elements all carry the caveat “new line where necessary” – large sections of these lines (particularly the ECML) are not constrained in the manner you describe so upgrades are possible – I’m not pretending it’s a five minute job but it’s all doable.

              Unsurprisingly I reject your overly pessimistic timescale – with sufficient political will behind it and cross party consensus (which HSR strategy enjoys, despite the conspiracy theories revolving around Corbyn & Co), there’s no reason why the kind of outline strategy envisaged could not come to fruition over a twenty five year timeframe.

        • Very conveniently you ignore the whipping aspect i.e. MPs concerned for their advancement prospects together with being misled by blinkered Govt, Labour MPs had to vote for as it was Labour Adonis peer who came up with this nonsense. 0.01% of the population in favour does not represent true democracy, perhaps Corbyn who is certainly scepticial of any benefits – earliest start date 2026 -may kill it off. There should be a reasoned national transport strategy of which HS2 MAY form a part, but that may not fall in with your idea of democracy.

          • @John
            How wrong can you be?

            I have not “conveniently ignored the whipping aspect” – quite the opposite in fact!

            Please don’t presume to lecture me about concepts of democracy – I’ve been actively involved in the democratic renewal arena for the best part of 20 years – I’d like to believe I have a deepr understanding of how UK democracy functions (or doesn’t) than most UK citizens – you certainly appear to be advocating a rather purist form of participatory democracy, a la Switzerland, which is certainly a distinctive model but not one with much of a track record here in the UK – we don’t do referendums lightly?

            You also seem to imply that I am endorsing the current Parliamentary status quo – but again you are absolutely wrong – in reality all I’ve done is report the current status quo, not how I might like it to be, so don’t shoot the messenger for bringing you what you perceive as bad news about the present [dys]functional nature of UK democracy!

            In practice a Corbyn led administration, should it ever come to fruition (I have severe doubts on that front but that’s another strand of the debate), would be highly unlikely to cancel HS2 because by the time it had a shot a government HS2 construction would be well underway, major contracts let, etc. etc. so outright cancellation would not be a viable option – clearly your heart is leading your head here – you just haven’t thought it through have you – just hoping for a very unlikely miracle to come along and solve your own highly individual problem perhaps?

            I could go on about this topic but to return to the original article and its implications. Cross party consensus means the party whipping system plays a relatively minor role in overall HS2 strategy. STOPHS2 and its hard core supporters might like to believe that somehow MPs let loose from the constraints of party discipline would immediately put a halt to HS2 – but such a notion is outlandish at best, utterly bogus in reality – in short HS2 and associated policy is small beer for a large majority of MPs – the topic comes up now and again as part of wider transport strategy and that’s about it – for you personally (for obvious reasons of immediate proximity) HS2 is front and centre o of every waking moment but for the vast majority of the UK population, it simply doesn’t remotely figure on their horizon of immediate concerns (wrongly or rightly). That arms length public sentiment is reflected in Parliamentary circles, whether you like it or not.

  2. Given Mr Corbyns commitment to community led policy and not top down,he must read the opinion polls on hs2 and then scrap it immediately
    I won’t be holding my breath!

  3. Corbyn has not the decisive skills to guide the UK out of the spend unwisely trend of successive Governments and Oppositions.

    The next leader of the UK is currently unknown and Osborne and Corbyn arre both more unlikely to lead in 2020 as they are both obsessed with HS2 in the face of considered judgments by people and organisations with the capabilities to analyse infrastructure investment more objectively.

    Corbyn was give 80 days to demonstrate capabilities and within 8 days he is exhibiting group think and timidity.

    The UK has not got the next leader in view. The Labour Conference performances were lack lustre and more of the same. So MPs have not the capability to lead the UK to more prosperous times. Cameron was on the sidelines at the UN. The UK is no longer boxing above its weight. Fly weight Corbyn and puny policies. Not a good start for this Labour opposition and they have an open goal. The problems are much more vivid for 65 million but not for 650 MPs. Corbyn has failed his first test to bring common sense and plain speaking to the folloy of HS2.

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