A meeting of minds

Peter Delow looks back at the 2011 Stop HS2 convention, and forward to Saturday’s 2013 convention. Originally published on HS2 and the Environment: A meeting of minds.

Click here to buy tickets for the Stop HS2 2013 Convention or buy on the door

Click here to buy tickets for the Stop HS2 2013 Convention or buy on the door

I have very fond memories of the Stop HS2 National Convention that was held just up the road from where I live, at the Stoneleigh Park Exhibition and Conference Centre. It was February 2011, which seems an age ago now, and our action group was little more than half a year old. Despite our inexperience we knew that in a matter of a few days we could expect to be drawn into the five-month process of formulating and submitting a response to the key public consultation on the HS2 proposal, including the route for what we now call Phase 1.

The excellent facilities of the venue seemed to be pretty-well full with punters like myself, giving the place a real buzz; I have seen various estimates of the numbers, ranging from “more than five hundred” to “about seven hundred”. It felt good to be part of such a large gathering of like-minded souls, all wanting to see the demise of the “HS2 white elephant”.

I was amazed at the slick organisation – an indication of just what was possible with the combined talents of the action groups along the line – and even more so in the realisation that much of what happened on the day was down to the dynamism and organisational ability of one individual, Lizzie Williams, who was then the Chairman of Stop HS2.

My only complaint about the day was that there was far too much on offer, and I was called to make some really tough decisions. I really hate having to do that; I have a similar problem with restaurant menus, and always dither and wonder, when I do eventually make a choice, what unknown delights I might be missing. On the day, I opted for the events in the main hall at the start and end of the day, plus two environmental sessions from the seven streams that were on offer in the subsidiary rooms.

Whilst the environmental sessions were extremely useful to me – I started this blogsite up less than a month later – I can’t help but wonder, looking at the programme of events that I still have – whether I made the best choices.

So I am pleased that I am being given another chance, and will be able to pick up some different topics at the new Stop HS2 Convention that will be held on Saturday 29th June 2013. The reason for holding a national convention for the second time is, of course, that the community of those opposed to HS2 has been swollen recently by the announcement of the provisional route for the Phase 2 extensions to Manchester and Leeds. With the travel needs of the newcomers very much in mind, the event has been moved northwards from Warwickshire to the Staffordshire County Showground, which is on the A518 Weston Road about four miles east of Stafford. The hope is that the location will prove a convenient compromise for both Phase 1 and Phase 2 folks, and will be a nexus to unite both.

The Staffordshire County Showground looks to be every bit as well appointed as the Stoneleigh venue that served us so well in 2011. So I am really looking forward to another stimulating and rewarding day, and experiencing the feeling of camaraderie that we should all benefit from.

The organisers promise us “plenty of free parking” and refreshments will be on sale to fortify us. There will be over twenty-five events laid on for our delectation; these, we are promised, will tell us “everything you want to know about case against HS2 and how to oppose it”. If you don’t find that prospect exciting enough, the chance to “meet Ellie the blow-up white elephant” will surely convince you that this is an event that you cannot afford to miss.

A provisional list of the sessions that will be offer indicates that I will again struggle to choose a personal attendance list. One that I will not be able to avoid is “Noise impacts of HS2” because this session will be HS2 and the environment LIVE, given by yours truly. I hope that this will give me the chance to meet some of my readers and, possibly, recruit a few more.

We are all being asked to buy our tickets in advance, in order to avoid the inconvenience of having to queue at the door. Your local action group contacts may be able to provide tickets, but probably the most convenient way is to buy on line.

In order to judge the demand for the sessions that are on offer and to allocate rooms appropriately, the organisers would be obliged if you were to indicate the four workshops that you are most interested in attending using the simple on-line survey form.

I hope to see you there.

11 comments to “A meeting of minds”
  1. As the penny finally dropped in Whitehall that hs2 is going to be a money pit and cost billions more than the 42 billion budget .will it now be stopped or will they just keep on pushing it on and waste even more of our taxes ? With all of the high profile people now coming out against the project how can it continue it needs a strong govenment to put a stop to this project now

  2. I’m against HS2 as I think there are so many better ways Gov’t could spend the money. They should be spending on imaginative new ideas. This proposal is retro-grade and driven by bean-counters. They ask clients what they fancy, they reply a big road or rail project, so it is recommended to Gov’t who rely on such ‘consultants’.

    Knocking 20 mins of a journey to Brum is something even Brummies don’t want (see Estates Gazette 22 June).

    If I had the time I’d compare traffic on the MI from London to Brum with current trains journeys – hopefully the stats will show roads carry more, the M1 is miserable so that is the capacity that needs enlarging.

    I also think you need to be pro-active in grabbing headlines by showing what else could be done with the money.
    Just objecting leaves you as objectors, what is a positive alternative. Run a competition with a worthwhile but amusing first prize, catch headlines.

    Here is an idea – engineless cars that run on magnetic strips powered by solar panels They troll around towns but could hit 500mph in lightweight tunnels. Maybe that is sci-fi but to get press coverage you want fun ideas and to say what competition entrants said. i.e a costed Boris Island. Get public votes on the winner etc. You’ll probably have some very clever and sound ideas that improve quality of life and will shame the Gov’t and it total absence of imagination. Btw an obit in the Times recently had a famous economic historian – he showed the entire USA rail network added 2.07% to the USA national economic output (not trebled it as most people would imagine) – how would that translate to HS2? SFA benefit I imagine.

    Anyway best of luck and think about a competition and a headline winning prize.

    • in fact the growth rate over the last few years has been greater on the railway then on the roads so railway infrastructure is literally the way to go.Unless you prefer more cars more pollution and more accidents. And surely widening the M1 even more would cause far more blight then hs2 would. Supporting motorway widening from someone who is against hs2 partly on environmental grounds (such as yourself) is not only perverse but quite revealing as to the true anti motives.

      • I’m in favour of investment in the railways, even though passenger miles did actually drop last time.

        I just don’t think it is wise to bet the ranch on one big project in this way, especially when much of the claimed benefit is speculative. More incremental , affordable measures would be a more sensible way to go.

        Even if we did go for a big bang HS2 type project the sacrifice of common sense for speed is plain daft — not attempting to follow an existing transport corridor , too few stations , not even calling at Heathrow , a link with HS1 that has been called absurd ( by a supporter ).

      • I think that it is important to recognise “vtiman” that HS2 will do nothing to reduce the threat that road improvements pose to our environment, because HS2 will do little to reduce the growth in road traffic. In the original case that it put to the Government in 2009 HS2 Ltd says:
        “In 2033, around 11,000 long distance car trips per day would be likely to transfer to HS2. This would lead to a reduction in congestion but the net impact of this is relatively small. For example traffic flows on the southern section of the M1 would fall by around 2%.”
        (paragraph 4.2.10 at http://hs2andtheenvironment.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/hs2_report_chapter4.pdf)

        • Hang on a minute @Peter Delow

          The anti-HS2 community treats any forecast information issued by HS2 Ltd/ DfT with utter disdain – this is just a forecast because you’re referring to a potential scenario in 2033. I find it instructive that anti-HS2 campaigners are happy to accept “official” forecast estimates when they appear to back up their argument but rubbish them when they don’t fit into the anti-HS2 narrative?

          A far more influential factor will be the prevailing price of oil and consequent costs of private motoring?

          What we do know already is that ever larger numbers of young people, generally, aren’t even bothering to learn to drive, let alone consider buying a private car – so just how will the next generation of inter-city travellers get about – the evidence demonstrates that it will increasingly be by rail?

          • Peter,
            We already have high speed trains that are not running at capacity, the lines are not at capacity and the train lengths ( amount of rolling stock) can be increased with investment on existing infrastructure

            I would rather invest the 50 billion in the existing infrastructure, than build a white elephant that no one will be able to use except for people in the major cities at an extortionate ticket pricing system.

            Oh, one last thought! How are the people who cannot drive ( young people as you stated) going to get to a HS2 station?


          • Dear Peter in 30yrs time there will driverless cars and in the towns there should be far better short distant trains ,if the govenment saves the money on hs2 just remember only the few will be able to afford to travel on hs2 just like Concorde used to be just for the rich which I dear say our young are still paying for just to keep up with the French .the sooner they put a stop to this money pit of an idea the better .just think about how maney more hospitals and schools could be built for the final cost of hs2 to benefit a lot more people than hs2 ever could so let’s scrap hs2 so we can get on with looking after our people’s needs not just the very few rich people to save a few mins on there journey time

          • Well Peter, as HS2 Ltd’s Clinton Weeks said, in one of his more enlightening moments, “All forecasts are forecasts” and you just can’t argue with that, can you? I’m sorry that you object to me resorting to a HS2 Ltd forecast, but I thought that these were provided for everyone to use, not just those who are in favour of HS2. Anyway, I thought that quoting a reference, however flimsy it might be, was preferable to making an uniformed, and unsupported, assertion conflating any decision about whether to build HS2 and the road upgrade/building programme.
            I agree with you that forecasting the future is a tricky game, but the case/need for HS2 relies heavily on such forecasts. Also in saying “the evidence demonstrates that it will be increasingly by rail” are you not indulging in forecasting yourself – albeit forecasting without providing any citation(s) to back it up?
            The DfT’s passenger transport statistics are probably safer ground as they stick to past numbers and do not indulge in forecasting. Table TSGB0101 (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/34980/tsgb0101.xls) shows that, in terms of the percentage of passenger kilometres travelled, rail travel fell from 1952 onwards, as private car travel became available to the masses, and sunk to a nadir of 5% in 1993. Since then it has steadily risen to 9% in 2011. So although rail travel has done well in recent years, it has still a very long way to go before it makes much of a dent in road travel, currently at around 90%.
            I think that it very much the case that, for most journeys, people prefer the convenience and independence of the car (sorry no citation available). Rail is good for journeys into big cities, provided costs can be kept competitive, but keeping fares affordable is a big challenge.
            Whilst I accept that energy costs are currently a threat to the private car, we do not know what may come along in the way of new technologies and fuels to swing the balance back again. I really don’t think that HS2 will make any appreciable contribution to this greater rail versus road picture whether the HS2 Ltd 2% forecast is right or wrong.

          • You are blinkered and are only plotting on one axis.
            The country is bankrupt.
            HS2 is outrageous in its power consumption.
            It is outrageous in its flagrant destruction of a legally protected AONB and other SSI.
            Its benefits will not compensate it’s poor design and poor planning.Now the public are informed of its origins how can it be viewed with any gravitas?

            This was a clearly a Labour dark arts, pre-election punt, aimed at harming conservative heartlands (as the legend has it) and not intended to fly.
            That a stupid, inexperienced load of posh boys chose to champion it in the hope of advancing marginal seats over those that were ‘rock-fast’ is no reason to pursue such a destructive and incompetent project.
            If this one flies unchecked then any AONB and SS1 is at risk. It is a hypocrisy to create an AONB and then destroy it with wanton and foolhardy abandon…….how much has that cost?
            The route needs to be city to city (not suburb to suburb) otherwise all that high speed is just a waste of energy and ‘time’.
            It needs to be properly planned, linked in with other transport systems not least HS1 and airports.
            It does not need to be Ultra high speed in such a small country.
            Very few academics support your exuberant championing, most in fact consider it a failure in all its objectives.
            HS2 as the psycho-analysts term it, a m**********y fantasy is an ego driven vanity project and appeals and is sold as a fantasy to those the powers that be consider do not have powers of discrimination and can be manipulated by PR. It is currently as real as fantasy football but unlike fantasy football will damage regions and many lives

  3. I was at the Stoneleigh show which was most informative and have been writing letters and informing people and trying to get them to sign petitions ever since.I wish you well at Staffordshire show ground.Sadly the paving bill was not understood and few signed.There is a petition on 38 degrees ‘oppose high speed rail link HS2’ please broadcast it at the show and hopefully the names will roll in.Thankyou

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