An open letter to Alison Munro

On Sunday in the Guardian – “High speed rail routes bring benefits too, insists head of HS2” – an article stated

Alison Munro, chief executive of High Speed Two, admits it has struggled so far in “getting the message out about the benefits,” and that there is widespread misunderstanding of what the £33bn investment in the HS2 route is for.

The following was posted in the comments:

An open letter to Alison Munro: The reason why we object to HS2 is not because we have ‘lost sight of the project’s beneficiaries’ but because your organisation has systematically distorted the evidence about the benefits! We don’t believe you! You are ‘fiddling the figures’!

We don’t believe you that HS2 will ‘solve the north south divide’. Research evidence indicates most benefit will go to London. We don’t believe you that it will cost 17 billion for phase 1 partly because that figure only refers to the construction costs for laying the track and not all the other train and construction costs. It also does not include all the costs from destroying amenities and the environment, and you can’t yet know the costs of mitigation or of compensation. Nor does it include the costs to towns whose jobs move to areas with stations. Nor the costs caused by the downgrading of the existing classic services that is written in to the HS2 plan.

Just today we learn that you have downgraded the estimate of the damage that HS2 would cause the environment from 4.3 billion to 957 million, a drop of 78% apparently because of the mitigation that you have put in place. But we don’t believe you on mitigation either, especially when you count a track that is 0.2m below the surface as ‘in a cutting’!

We don’t believe you that you are concerned about the impact of HS2 on those along the line. For 2 years you have called us nimbies and Luddites, and you have done nothing to make the current compensation scheme fair or workable. We don’t believe you that the impact of sound will be minimal – you want to average sound levels over 18 hours ignoring both the real pass-by impact and the difference between day and night. Yes your roadshows did indicate how sound COULD be muffled but your rejection of local proposals that WOULD muffle sound tells us where you really stand on this and why we don’t believe you!

We don’t believe your ludicrously optimistic passenger forecasts and have told you why in detail. We don’t believe you that there is no alternative to HS2 – governments developing HS2 have never properly evaluated this and there is no national plan for infrastructure. We don’t believe you that HS2 is the top priority for infrastructure spending. This route is 34th on Network Rail’s list of priorities. We don’t believe your business case that still refuses to accept that people work on trains so not all of their time is ‘wasted’.

You will not support the release of cabinet documents that question your benefits. You are happy with challenge groups are no challenge at all with members who are prior supporters of HSR. Time and again it is only by forcing you to hand over information that we find out what you are doing. So we don’t believe you about community participation. And don’t try to blame this all on ‘government’. Even as a quango, you are a part of government. So there you have it. We simply don’t believe you on the benefits of HS2. Neither should anyone else.

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