Some inconvenient facts

The response that the 51m alliance has submitted to the public consultation on HS2 is a substantial text. The main document, which responds to each of the seven consultation questions, is over sixty pages long and it is supported by no less than eighteen appendices. The document and each of the appendices may be downloaded separately here.

The 51m response is fully researched and puts its case clearly and persuasively. It gives the case for HS2, as set out in the High Speed Rail: Investing in Britain’s Future consultation document (available here), a thorough medical and concludes that the patient is very sick indeed.

I hope that Dialogue by Design, the company that has been contracted to analyse the consultation responses for HS2 Ltd, will ensure that the 51m response document will be conveyed speedily to the Transport Secretary’s desk marked “urgent (contains some inconvenient facts)”. In my view it would be folly for Mr Hammond to ignore the contents of this document; it will probably be something of an eye-opener for him, telling him things that his departmental officials won’t.

It should be required reading for all politicians, from the Prime Minister down, who have been guilty of spouting unsubstantiated, and frankly in some cases misleading, claims of the benefits that HS2 will bring.

Virtually every time that a politician speaks in favour of the HS2 proposal, some of these extravagant claims are made. For example, the Transport Secretary was reported to have told Greater Manchester business leaders last month “I believe that we have the possibility through this high-speed rail investment to tackle, once and for all, the gap in economic growth performance between the south-east of England and the remainder of the country.” Now I am reluctant to undermine any man’s beliefs, but I think that Mr Hammond may need to revise his creed after he has read the response by 51m to Question 1 and the work done by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, summarised in Appendix 3 to the 51m response, and by the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies at Newcastle University, which is in Appendix 5. Unlike Mr Hammond’s “belief”, the 51m response is based upon research and leads to the conclusion that HS2 may well increase the economic differences between north and south.

Or another example from the mouth of Mr Hammond, speaking in Birmingham at the consultation launch in February “None of the alternatives that have been proposed will give us the capacity to meet that demand.” The 51m response to Question 2 and the “Optimised Alternative” set out in detail in Appendix 1 to the 51m response demonstrate that there is a viable alternative to HS2 using the existing infrastructure and that this will satisfy even the inflated demand forecasts of HS2 Ltd.

On the environmental front, I have found that the 51m document reinforces much of what I have said in my blogs, as well as providing further clarification and insight. It also identifies some new matters that are worth reviewing. Accordingly, I propose to devote the next handful of blogs to looking at what the 51m consultation response has to say on the environmental issues of the HS2 proposal.


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