The lobby day was hosted by Andrea Leadsom and was well attended with about 150 people there and a number of MPs coming in and out of the session. Theresa Villiers was there to open it, but couldn’t stay long, and Philip Hammond came in towards the end. Unfortunately for a large part of the session, there was no minister present: they would have realised that the main focus of the session was on the underlying business case and wider environmental issues.
The chair was Sir Paul Hayter from Northants CPRE.
Theresa Villiers opened the meeting. She stressed that the government were aware of the impact of the line on the areas it went through, and was keen to mitigate the effects for local communities. She laid out the current timetable for consultation and subsequent preparation of the hybrid bill, and said HS2 was “not a done deal”.
The second speaker was Chris Stokes, former Director of the Strategic Rail Authority. His speech touched on growth forecasts in demand for travel, the way demand for travel no longer tracks GDP, the various risks of HS2 and a number of other topics.
Professor Mike Geddes told the session about the regeneration issues for the regions. He looked at the research which had been done for HS2. He said there was no robust evidence as to how high speed rail would generate benefits for the regions, as it was claimed it would, and HS2 Ltd had said this evidence would not be available until the end of the public consultation period. HS2 would likely redistribute the economic benefits towards London whereas whole regions like East Anglia would lose out.
Mark Sullivan compared the proposed HS2 with HS1 in Kent. He discussed CPRE’s five tests for high speed rail: HS1 passed all the tests, HS2 does not. He said HS2 is a Chinese or Japanese “separate railway” solution. This is unlike the high speed railways built in Finland, Germany, Belgium and other European countries.
The final speech was on the topic of “speed is not green”, given by Joe Rukin. He brought up a number of issues. For instance, most journeys are local. Because of the need to keep leaves and plants away from the train, the tracks and accompanying non-vegetation zone would be up to 72m wide.
There was a question and answer session at the end and Philip Hammond arrived in time to answer some of the questions. A number of these were about cost/benefit analysis of the project, and Mr Hammond said that the government had to consider projects using multi-criteria analysis. He also said it was not appropriate to have the Office of Budget Responsibility look at HS2.
To see the report on ITV Central, click here