Is anyone without a vested interest willing to stand up for HS2?

In the week since the IEA criticised vested interest groups as being the only ones supporting HS2, surprise surprise, a host of vested interest groups have crawled out of the woodwork to defend HS2.  Key findings from the IEA report The High-Speed Gravy Train: Special Interests, Transport Policy and Government Spending” included:

“A group of powerful special interests appears to have had a disproportionate influence on the government’s decision to build HS2. The high-speed-rail lobby includes engineering firms likely to receive contracts to build the infrastructure and trains for HS2, as well as senior officials of the local authorities and transport bureaucracies that expect to benefit from the new line. An effective lobbying campaign in favour of HS2 was initiated and funded by concentrated interests expecting to make economic gains from the project. This effort appears to have been effective at marshalling support for the scheme among policymakers”

First out of the blocks was Jerry Blackett of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group, who said there was “No account given to the disastrous results of not building HS2.” Blackett has become used to having to defend HS2 recently, most notably saying that “Business leaders in Birmingham reiterate their support for HS2”, following a survey which saw two thirds of businesses in the city were against HS2. Blackett is surely busy copying and pasting this statement, ready to rebut another bad news story which is due out tomorrow.

It seems that 83% is what counts as a 'vocal minority'

It seems that 83% is what counts as a ‘vocal minority’

The North West Rail Campaign, which is based at Manchester Airport were quite willing to ignore the facts in spectacular fashion, with their chair Susan Williams, a former leader of Trafford Council (Manchester Airport is in Trafford) claiming it was only a ‘vocal minority’ who opposed the scheme. Her problem was that the article in the Manchester Evening News came with a poll, which at the last count showed 83% of respondents were opposed to HS2.

Without realising the irony that they could be talking about their own documents, HS2 Ltd issued a statement which claimed: “The IEA report is extremely speculative and completely lacking in concrete facts.”

“The fact is HS2 is absolutely vital for this country. Without it the key rail routes connecting London, the Midlands and the North will be overwhelmed. This report does nothing to challenge these undeniable facts.”

Of course the facts of the matter are that rail use dropped over the last year and alternatives are on the table which deliver capacity increased more quickly and cheaply. But while those supporting HS2 found it easy to dismiss the IEA and their £80bn figure it became harder when Treasury officials were reported to be using £73bn. Then, former Chancellor Alistair Darling came out [again] against the project. When that happened, Lord Adonis who came up with the HS2 plans had to be wheeled out, along with Conservative MP Andrew Smith, who for some reason neglected to mention in his Conservative Home blog that the PR firm he is a consultant at has amongst its clients the Passenger Transport Executive Group.

Now we are at the stage where Pete Waterman, the train spotting record producer who has been put on the HS2 Growth Taskforce has been wheeled out.

Nothing says ‘desperate’ more than that.

19 comments to “Is anyone without a vested interest willing to stand up for HS2?”
  1. Yet another chance missed for the govenment to scrap hs2 that no one wants except them. Roll on to 2015 when we can get rid of this shower and hs2 to the bin and save the country billions of pounds of more debt

  2. Has anyone considered increasing the capacity of the existing interxity network by using double decker trains (like the TGV coach design). This could increase capacity by at least 50% iver more line and costt much less.

    • Why stop at double deckers, Peter- why not triple deckers- but keep your head down if you go through a tunnel or under any bridges!

      To be serious, some double deck Southern electric trains were built in the 1950s, but they were so cramped inside that station stops needed to be much longer so as to allow passengers to get in and out.

      A couple of coaches survive as curiousities – but to permit a practical double decker to run, hundreds of bridges throughout the whole network would have to be demolished and rebuilt- and that’s before you begin to re-bore all the tunnels built to the restrcted British structure gauge.

      The alternative would be to build an entirely new line to more generous dimensions- er, like that proposed for H…….

      • Good idea about the new line John, but, if you really want to tackle the “capacity problem” it is probably better to build one that stops at a few more stations on the way.

    • Yes @Peter Bishop, they have and that strategy is called HS2 (you could run double-decker trains on HS1 right now and they may well appear in due course). This leaflet explains a technical feature of HS2 called “interoperability”, which includes the capacity to operate double decker rolling stock.

      To understand the full impact of attempting a “patch and mend” approach, which I assume you are implying, see the following article which explains the disruption involved in changing just one single bridge (in this instance to facilitate the passage of Hi-Cube Containers). Multiply that by thousand and then don’t forget complete redesigns for every single station on the line (platforms aren’t compliant) and rewiring the entire overhead line infratstructure across the network.

      Finally the following article explains about the role of gauge in railways and the constraints it places on rolling stock. If you’ve ever travelled on a mainland continental train and wondered why there seemed to be much more room, now you know

      • Good to see you back Padav, I’ve missed your contributions. Mind you, you won’t win many over by putting forward the arguments of HS2 Ltd ( lobbying for its very existence ), Rail News ( who just want as much spending on the railways as possible, and HS2 would certainly give them that ) and HS2 North West ( nuff said, trying to carve out some local advantage at the expense of others ).

        Are you still claiming that opponents of HS2 are just well-heeled people who live within a narrow distance either side of the line ? Have you not heard from Alistair Darling, Peter Mandelson, Tom Harris, Archie Norman, the Treasury, the National Audit Office, Professor Tomaney, the CPRE, the Institute of Directors ?

        Given that you are an experienced “professional facilitator” I’m not surprised that you understand that your arguments have to change. People just don’t accept that 30 minutes or even 60 minutes off a UK inter-city rail journey warrant the financial or environmental costs proposed. Very few people really believe the Nick Clegg North-South argument. Hence your comment that HS2 is “precious little to do with journey times”. That does not sit with your many months of claims that we need faster journey times ( as well as a different gauge ) to allow integration with the “bourgeoning European High Speed Rail network”.

        So now we get back to capacity, and the subtle difference between seat capacity ( there is much more into Euston than there is into Paddington say ) and line capacity. If the real issue is we need a new freight line for London Gateway then look at that. If the real issue is commuters from Northampton then extend Thameslink. What you propose is in essence a sledgehammer. It is nonsense to say that a 225 mph HS2 routed through green belt is the only way to add meaningful capacity to the network.

        • “If the real issue is we need a new freight line…”
          Where do you suggest we put it?

          Would you try to squeeze it in alongside the West Coast tracks-presumably including land aquisition, demolition, new bridges and dislocation-yet again -to a route already near capacity …

          …or perhaps re-visit the Central Railway scheme to revive the GC main line- most of which between Calvert and Rugby could be put back with some diversions… the trouble is , public opinion for a purely freight line, as proposed twenty years ago- all the disruption and “nothing in it for us”- was then and probably still is, almost totally negative.

          That proposal, for anticipated cross channel traffic which never materialised was that freight would go via the Grendon-Ashenden link and onto what is now the Chiltern Mainline with its ever(green) increasing traffic , and to a large fright depot near Denham- also hotly opposed.

          Or you could suggest sticking to the original GC/Met. line , four tracking through Wendover, Amersham, Great and Little Missenden etc- though I rather doubt if ripping through and rebuilding all the stations,bridges and so on – “upgrading the existing lines”, as it could well be described, would be especially welcome there, either.

          One begins to sympathise with the engineers tasked with such a problem.

          Little wonder, then, that they and their masters opt for an entirely new route, and, while they are about it, go for “state of the art” to serve for the next hundred years!

          • “IF it is a freight line we really need …..”

            All interesting ideas from you JW, I’m sure there are plenty of others. Or maybe I’d link it with the M1, probably north of MK if it’s a freight line rather than a passenger line ( if it was a passenger line it should definitely link with MK ), and go up to DIRFT and then on to Nuneaton.

            Certainly wouldn’t cost anything like £ 50 Billion / £ 80 Billion and would have considerably less environmental impact that what is proposed.

            Of course this would be a bit harder for the government to pass off as a “National Economic Growth Plan”.

        • Have you not heard from Alistair Darling, Peter Mandelson, Tom Harris, Archie Norman, the Treasury, the National Audit Office, Professor Tomaney, the CPRE, the Institute of Directors ?

          Alistair Darling – you mean the same Alistair Darling who claims the 90s WCML upgrade represents an efficient use of taxpayer funding – do me a favour?
          Peter Mandelson – rent a mouth, a past it politician with a chequered past; No I don’t rate his judgement one little bit!
          Tom Harris – I assume you mean Tom Harris, Glasgow South MP – who was never receptive to the prospect of rail as a major component part in any UK Transport Strategy and was opposed to High Speed Rail before Andrew Adonis shook Labour’s ambivalence to the core – his hostility comes as no surprise
          Archie Norman – another exponent from off the deep end, laissez-faire, free market school of thought – no thanks, I don’t want a raft of private toll funded motorways to solve Britains transport problems
          The Treasury – I think you mean a very small number of Treasury insiders with their own agenda, such as Sir Nicholas Macpherson, who opposes any large scale infrastructure project
          The National Audit Office – another bunch of short termist bean counting civil servants
          Professor Tomaney – the only one from amongst your list I have any time for – and he was balanced in his remarks to the Select Committee, effectively saying the jury is out on HS2 as tool for delivering Regional regeneration.
          The CPRE, will oppose any scheme that results in any greenbelt land coming under threat – HS2 could never figure on its wish list but doing nothing isn’t an option – I’d rather have HS2 than a return to massive road building or aviation expansion
          The Institute of Directors – see remarks about Archie Norman – cut from the same block

          So in summary,I’d probably reject 99% of the reasons put forward by the above motley crew.

          Sorry you’ve missed my contributions to the debate – perhaps you can you have a word with Penny Gaines (site moderator)?

          • Peter – Sorry to be a pedant but I do take an interest in your ongoing education in the British Constitution & the geography of the UK. Having helped you understand that the NAO wasn’t staffed by MPs “with their political axe to grind” I do think I should point out to you that they aren’t Civil Servants either.
            I’m also still hoping that you’ll get sent an atlas for Christmas so that you won’t keep referring to Kenilworth as being in the “leafy suburbs of Bucks”.
            As for other MPs my localish one – Barry Sheerman – recognises the harm HS2 will do to Yorkshire as does Austin Mitchell but I’m sure you’ve got some snidey comment on them as well.
            You also keep refusing to answer how many freight paths you think will be freed up on the WCML if HS2 does get built. Any news on how many this will be?

            • Reading your comment about Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman prompted me to visit his website. Boy, has he got it sussed and shows good Yorkshire sense ( well he has been living there for about 35 years ).

              It’s only after the Phase 2 route was announced and folk in “the North” have started to understand what is proposed and get involved that the wheels have started to come off HS2’s case. Up to then it was all “Our Jobs vs Their Lawns”.

          • So I take it you no longer think that all opponents of HS2 are NIMBYs, or indeed living within a narrow band close to the line.

            The list I gave you has far more credibility than HS2 Ltd (desperately trying to save itself) , Manchester and Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, railway buffs from the unelected Adonis to Waterman, and a host of companies hoping to profit from a £ 50 Billion bonanza at the tax payers expense.

            Most of the press has seen through the scheme and the public opinion polls are only moving one way.

      • Typical pro-HS2 warped logic – point out an issue and claim it is going to be complicated and expensive whilst ignoring the fact that HS2 is going to be complicated and very expensive. Doing one bridge might be a problem but if there were a lot of bridges to be done there would probably be economies of scale and the process would become more efficient and practical. And do you really need to change “for every single station on the line”. You just need to change those where the new coaches would be stopping. Or why not design some double decker carriages that will be suitable for the existing platforms.

        Obviously what we have here is the problem that from HS2’s viewpoint anything that is required for HS2 is going to be easy to do and the cost is not going to be an issue. There will always be a way to work round the issue and always tax-payers money to bank roll the construction. Meanwhile anything that might provide an alternative to HS2 automatically becomes incredibly difficult and technically challenging, and of course immeasurably expensive.

        If it was found that the HS2 trains had to be coloured yellow, we would immediately find that yellow paint is particularly cheap, hard wearing, easy to apply and yellow paint production would be a key to the UK economy. If an alternative conventional rail soultion was required to have the train coloured yellow we would immediately find how hard it was to get hold of the right sort of yellow paint which made it very expensive, that it would be hard to put on and its poor quality would require regular repainting every year, and of course would be imported from far away (for example Syria or North Korea) and be highly toxic.

  3. Of course Pete Waterman has a vested interest in HS2 (at least up to a point). Once the whole thing falls through he will be the one wanting to buy the prototype train to go with his Advanced Passenger Train.

    Not that Mr Waterman would be a good advocate for HS2. In a Channel 4 news interview some time ago he admitted that you couldn’t justify HS2 even though he was in favour of it. Just a big softy for trains is Pete.

  4. This has gone on long enough
    Only 3% of trips are by rail and the people who can make things happen should be locked in a room with 10 billion
    and allowed out when they have sorted out rail capacity.
    I bet they would focus on reducing the need to travel then !!

  5. The UK does require more road capacity and in places such as the Piccadilly Underground Line more rail capacity. The extra capacities for some daily to work and back, to school and back, to the shops and back journeys are evident in many locations. The cost from using more fuel and power than necessary is evident to many people’s weekly bills.

    The inspiration that Mr Waterman refers to is stifled in other areas, for example people are inspired by some helicopters that come from the USA and are necessary for national defence. The inspiration for nuclear medical treatments and diagnostics with most isotopes coming from Europe. The iPAD coming from China through Apple. The tunnelling machines on Cross rail are from Germany.

    The UK has become largely dependent on imports including foreign investments and in the case of railways it has not been possible to make profit from the investments, for example Railtrack became Network Rail and inhereted the large corporate debts from upgrades and backlog change of rails post Hatfield.

    If HS2 had been a 4 track railway for Phase 1 to provide the services and solution for wider railway services and was following blighted corridors it may have been supportable. However a one track each way in tunnel railway is costly to maintain and has low reliablity and availablity. To know the answer as each SST and the HS2 Route 3 promoters have said before studying all the complex problem in depth and then to say it is the fastest point to point inter-city passenger service you must have before people including the specialists could comment and shape proposals was not wise.

    The Airport Commission has approached its problem wiser and is able to compare and contrast as a genuine search for acceptable solutions.

    DFT HS2 did not undertake the alternatives mission but as now said it will cost only the budget and it will be what you currently do not consider suitable to be inspired. Doubtful about inspiration as the fast train of the Pendolina with tilting does not inspire many although it does perform.

    With a price tag of £40B to £80B the level of inspiration vanishes as the concerns about shortages across the UK society impact many people daily.

    The UK is not in the frame of mind for inporation of this kind. If inspiration is the criteria start again and start to solve the motorway and other backlog issues and the wider infrastructure needs please.

    HS2 the very fast 4 city one track each way frequently used railway is far from the inpiration the UK wants currently, too many problem. The UK population is able to judge especially with over-exposure. The messages from the vested interest lobby are now too late in the public assessment to the point that HS2 is becoming a vote loser for the different parties outside the Route 3 corridor.

    The UK does not inspiration but not as the vested interest lobby knows it.

  6. A national railway capacity problem can’t be solved by adding 320 miles of track to feed London.
    We need to address the core problem at a national level: How do we can carry more passengers on our existing tracks?
    The solution will probably require abandoning our Victorian braking systems that rely on friction between the carriage wheels and a steel track.
    To start the debate rolling a suggestion is made at

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