Why HS2 will turn toxic for Labour

This is a guest article by Deanne DuKhan. Originally published at Liberal Conspiracy.

Looking for a symbol of just how out of touch the Tories are with the reality of daily life for most in Britain? How about a proposal to splash a minimum of £40 billion on an ultra luxury bullet train? Imagine it, the privileged few sitting comfortably and gliding past the creaking classic trains that millions suffer on every day, whilst sipping their tea, or worse, cocktail, and reading the FT on their iPads.

And who foots the bill for this luxurious mode of travel? The very same commuters with their limbs squashed against perfect strangers. Welcome to the inevitable transport strategy of a Tory-led government – first, privatisation, now, two-tier railways.

Except that Labour is all for it. What on earth is going on? Philip Hammond unwittingly confirmed that ticket prices will be astronomical, by sneeringly telling the Transport Select Committee, ‘well, of course a factory worker from Manchester won’t take HS2’. Why didn’t Maria Eagle take the hint? The rest of us thought, Mate, factory workers will be paying to build HS2, wouldn’t be so quick to laugh at them. Yet Labour carried on promoting the Rich Man’s Toy.

Then came news that the business interests driving the scheme were, first and foremost, airports. Whatever green credentials might have spurred an ulterior motive for legitimate support were annihilated. Chief Execs were drooling over the long haul flights they could now imagine coming to their regional facilities. The irony was immediately clear – HS2, the project once touted as the replacement for the third runway and short haul flights, was actually designed to increase the southeast’s long haul capacity. Carbon 1, reduction, 0.

It gets worse, much worse. HS2 carries a massive opportunity cost, and one that will be felt, again, in all the wrong places. Around the world, HSR lines have hoovered up every last bit of transport funding, meaning that critical commuter and regional upgrades become a pipe dream from the moment construction starts. So everyday commuters will pay for HS2, won’t use it, and will be condemned to further deteriorations in their services because of it.

Next up is the Phase 2 impact of the Y route, which will see hundreds of communities bulldozed through, not in Tory shires, but in mining areas and underprivileged estates. Cities in the Midlands and the North not having a station bestowed upon them will learn that they will struggle to attract business, as companies will opt to set up or even relocate to be nearer the line.

The campaign against HS2 has been warning that it will be a disaster for Britain. Labour must figure out, and soon, that it will be disastrous for the party. Otherwise, come the Y route announcement, and the exposure the issue will have on a national stage, it will have alot of explaining to do.

And don’t even ask what would happen to Liverpool.

4 comments to “Why HS2 will turn toxic for Labour”
  1. Peter Davidson,
    I can feel your religious fervour for HS2 and – like very many people who are utterly committed to the regeneration of Birmingham, West Midlands and The Black Country – I approached HS2 with a very open mind.
    I doubt you are in a position to consider you may be 180 degrees wrong and might not be able to concede most HS2 believers are on the payroll or expect to be in an economy facing a future decade of 30-50% unemployment.
    However, like the majority of West Midland people I have carefully researched, they now consider it an atrocious waste of money.
    It is The Dome with Bells on, it is M6 North Toll Road, and given we need the money for our police and any viable job creation inward investment (eg media infrastructure), if it ever had a time, then HS” was the 1990s scheme which missed its moment.
    Birmingham NEC is only at capacity now twice a year. It is usually under 50%. The NEC will wind down long before HS2 arrives because it has no media juice because the media infrastructure quit Birmingham.
    The rich posh boys’ train £35 billion set did not play in 2010 because people still gave Cameron, Clegg & Co the benefit of the doubt on motivation, compotence and grasp of detail. Now they do not.
    The jibe now is an axiom.
    It is no longer a maxim but an axiom.
    The Olympics hangover – when the true £50 billion bill comes in or 25 times initial Government estimate – will reinforce the lack of faith in the compotence and logistical nous of the three main Party frontbenches.
    By the way any Government which chooses to dispense with the business brains in even a PPS job let alone Cabinet seat of the few MPs it has which started on council estates and ended up on The Boards of real big private sector companies is suspect.
    The staff and advisors in many Government Departments from MoD to Business to CultureMediaOlympicsSport is so woeful that no trust is offered anymore in their knowing best. In football terms they would be stating as fact that Harry Rednapp owns Manchester United and John Terry manages Manchester City. They just get facts wrong persistently. This reflects the rise of quango and charity PR people uses contacts they make to get jobs way beyond their ability.
    HS2 is like December 21 2012. It has become a false idol to worship for those lacking a religion and who need to fill the vacuum with a big project which gives them meaning.
    It will not create jobs within two years in Birmingham.
    As a result, game over.
    Shops are over 25% empty and rising.
    Study the history of Detroit.
    Businesses which paid within 7 days in 2008 now ask for 90 days.
    The big crash is far far far nearer than people can cope with.
    HS2 is like the Olympics a distraction, a catchall answer to any breaking economic news (wait for HS2 to rescue us), a sinecure for PR and Diversity liason non-jobs.

    The UK can sell education, tourism, creative industries (attracted by state of the art film sound stages which are not being built in the UK but are almost everywhere else from Canada to Malaysia), medicine, very high end manufacture, high end science and R&D etc
    If you have these in Birmingham, present trains are fast enough. If you do not, then even a 15 minute train from London will not help.
    The coming drastic cuts in police, the growth in gangs waiting for police to scale down operations, mean Birmingham will be the next Detroit. People are fleeing and properties become derelict one street every few weeks.
    The only guarantee HS2 can give -just like M6 North Toll Road – is the homes, villages, communities, businesses, it will destroy.

    Businesses are leaving Birmingham for New Dehli, and prefer to fly in for vital Birmingham meetings than go to London and train it in. The train is for business trips to London and mainland EU. It is not to bring people into Birmingham. Paris to Birmingham was 45 minutes by plane in the 1970s ! Frankfurt 2 hours by plane !
    HS2 would be fine if no houses and lives were destroyed, if it would create real permanent jobs within 2 years, if the police stayed at 2010 levels, if Salford and its BBC led 33 000 acre business development was not getting everyone moving there long before HS2 pitches up in Birmingham.

  2. The nation needs jobs now.
    The reason the Midlands has declined is that all true private sector investment (ie not grant led) follows physical media infrastructure in a marketing era. This is why as the media all moved to West and North London, so did the jobs.
    Unlike the 1800s and really up to 1970s, all capital is centralised not decentralised across every region.
    All company HQs need to be near media centres for fast response.
    Birmingham has let go of its physical media infrastructure ITV, BBC, staff offices for every national newspaper, and must now pay the price.
    Even Swindon is far far better placed to get the business Birmingham used to think was its due. Swindon may be bigger than Birmingham by the time HS2 is built, It will certainly have many more quality jobs.
    Birmingham will not have any local papers by 2020 and maybe none by 2017.
    That is unless local churches group together and provide them as a community service.
    The jobs situation is far far more urgent than HS2 can ever deliver in time.
    It is sadly just a £35 billion train set for posh rich boys and those desperate to cling to any big idea as a substitute for having a genuine religion and/or credible jobs plan.
    Stopping the BBC playing kingmaker spending 2% of (compulsory) licence fee in a region which generates 19% of its income would be a start.

  3. Very interesting post on HS2.
    HS2 is not as nice as it looks !!
    It is a given it will destroy beautiful communities (heart, soul, mind, spirit, physical geography).
    But you are told it is a price worth paying for the greater good ?
    There will be 20% fewer police officers in the West Midlands (although not in Whitehall, Westminster, Royal Parks, Embassies) because we need an extra billion a year in the UK.
    Yet HS2 will squander double that every year.
    The business case to invest in Birmingham,/West Mids rests on crime levels of 100% of 2011 police numbers.
    But they will be reduced 20% by 2013.
    Ukraine and BBC Panorama programme has shown how the tourist, shopping, hotel industry can be hit hard by a few bad crime pics on 24 hour news worldwide. They have cheap flights but now a bad image for safety. HS2 is a fast trip to what type of Birmingham city in 2025 ? Detroit ? US gang, murder, debt, drugs capital ? Twenty years ago it was a city with its own HS2 schemes !

    Your best campaign move is to UNITE in public mind losing police men in every town in 2013 and getting HS2 in 12 years time.
    If we can not afford police, we can not afford HS2.


  4. Looking for a symbol of just how out of touch the Tories are with the reality of daily life for most in Britain? How about a proposal to splash a minimum of £40 billion on an ultra luxury bullet train? Imagine it, the privileged few sitting comfortably and gliding past the creaking classic trains that millions suffer on every day, whilst sipping their tea, or worse, cocktail, and reading the FT on their iPads.

    This paragraph of unadulterated bilious rhetoric sums up the “bubble of unreality” I’ve referred to previously.

    No doubt it is galling for Deanne DuKhan to pitch up at LibDem gatherings outside their cosy Buckinghamshire enclave only to find that they are heavily outnumbered by delegates/party members on the topic of High Speed Rail policy.

    If anyone is “out of touch” here it is Deanne DuKhan and their rambling, incoherent and unsubstantiated reasoning (essentially the short shrift received on feedback at Liberal Conspiracy).

    When will the anti-HS2 Brigade understand that the “Rich Man’s Toy” jibe isn’t working anymore. Patronage of UK rail services is increasing relentlessly. HS2 will add massively to the supply side of a basic demand/supply equation – yes, there will be a premium demanded for High Speed Rail services at peak hours – that argument functions right now on the WCML – but painting HS2 trainservices as the exclusive preserve of expense account fuelled Business Execs whizzing hither and thither is simply lazy stereoyping of the worst possible kind – it’s not only inaccurate; it’s downright offensive!

    If you want to find out just how busy HS2 will be in the future when it’s built, why not read someone who actually knows what they’re talking about because they work as a commentator in the industry?

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