People like us

“I don’t think they will be won over. I think the best we can hope for with people like them is for them to appreciate we’ve done as much as we can.”

This is, according to the Observer, the way that the Chief Executive of HS2 Ltd, Alison Munro, views the campaigners against the HS2 project. The quote comes from an interview that she gave to that newspaper that is reported in an article that appeared on Sunday 2nd September 2012.

As one of the people to which Ms Munro is referring, I can assure her that she is not dealing with an unreasonable pack of banner-waving geriatrics. Her opponents are, on the whole, intelligent people, many with careers (past and present) in the professions and capable of and willing to analyse, and criticise, the documentation that is constantly being published in support of the HS2 proposal. This approach is characterised by the thoughtful and well-researched critiques that are published by the HS2 Action Alliance.

As I have said, these are not unreasonable people and neither are most of them, in my experience, vehemently opposed to high speed rail as a concept; so why does Ms Munro despair that they can ever “be won over”?

Well dear lady, may I suggest that the answer to this lies within your own organisation?

In the first place, most of us think that if a new high-speed railway needs to be built between London and the West Midlands – and we by no means accept that you have made the case that it does – then the design that your engineers have come up with is not the way to do it; that design is an abomination that inflicts damage upon our fair land far in excess of what is really necessary. The elements of this design, such as the maximum operating speed, were “set in stone” behind closed doors long before the proposal was made public, and your organisation has been unwilling to consider or debate alternatives. You have also failed to apply the lessons that were learnt from HS1 about reducing the impacts of high-speed trains.

We are also appalled by the economy of truth that is manifest in the documentary evidence that Government and HS2 Ltd has published in support of HS2. Two glaring examples of such disingenuousness are the Consultation document, which combined out and out propaganda with deliberately skewed questions, and the recent update of the economic case, which conveniently neglects factors which considerably reduce the BCR. What you and your political masters need to do Ms Munro is replace the large degree of sophistry that we have seen to date with a modicum of honesty. Surely, if the case for HS2 is a good one, you don’t need to resort to dubious tactics?

You also need to learn to take us into your confidence more. I suppose that it is something to do with its roots in the civil service, but I have never come across an organisation as unnecessarily secretive as HS2 Ltd in all my working life. I thought that the purpose of the community forum exercise was to promote, in your own organisation’s words, a “way of working with local communities”. What we have found is that reasonable requests for information are declined, usually with a flimsy pretence of a reason why information cannot be released. We have also been given very little idea of the impact that the progress of your detailed design work may be having on the line of the route through our communities.

Then there is the Exceptional Hardship Scheme. Many of us who have had dealings with the scheme have seen your employees and appointees apparently working fervently and enthusiastically against the interests of applicants in genuine hardship circumstances. The applicant rejection rate, which has remained fairly consistently around 75%, is a tribute to just how successful these efforts by those administering the scheme have been.

So Ms Munro, I have to agree with you that HS2 Ltd has failed in “getting the message out about the benefits”. I suggest that this is due, in large part, to some of the factors that I have identified. However, just perhaps Ms Munro, it may be that these benefits are also largely illusionary.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by chriseaglen on September 23, 2012 at 9:26 am

    It is important in sensitivity analysis to include the option for 4 tracks not 2 and at the depots more tracks when sidings are required or branches into the conventional network are required.

    The phase now is the release of the big facility locations such as Harefield Power Feeded and repositioning highway bridges as with the A418. Soon the construction sites and camps will be known.

    Their are emerging issues not reviewed by HS2 which demostrated a failure to considered all factors.

    The M1 WCML MML corrider is possibly more plausible .

    Perhaps the policy should have started from a general national question about new roads/motorways and widenings and new rail routes and upgrades and new airports and runways. This would have removed the MPs and Councillors from a polarised number of opportunities until the nation had provided the sentiment and information for each regions on the many outstanding potenital infrastructure projects and their priorities and funding.

    Suggest the consideration of why HS2 can be considered to have not been pursued legally which is the next step for all.


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