An utter disgrace

“It is unfortunate but inevitable that opponents of HS2 will do what ever they can to delay the government’s plans, but the government remains committed to delivering HS2 as quickly as possible.”

According to an article on the BBC News website, these are the words of a Department for Transport spokesman in response to the news that the HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA) has raised the funds necessary to appeal one of the judgements delivered following the judicial review by the High Court in December last. This appeal is on the matter of whether the EU Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive (SEAD) applies to the HS2 project.

By convention quotes from such sources are not attributed to named individuals, so we don’t know the identity of the person responsible for this disgraceful statement, but he should be totally ashamed of himself.

In the first place, this individual demonstrates a misunderstanding of the nature of the campaign against HS2. Members of this campaign are united under one banner – Stop HS2. This is emphatically not “Slow HS2”. My fellow campaigners and I feel that HS2 is a deeply flawed proposal that, whilst it may benefit the select few and some vested interests, will be detrimental to the general good of the UK. Its late arrival is of no interest to us, what we want is a total derailment.

What the statement does illustrate most clearly is the Government’s obsession with the speed of implementation of the HS2 project. There appears to be little concern that it should be done properly, only that it be “done quickly”. Whilst this may have been a good approach for Macbeth contemplating the assassination of the rightful king, it is hardly the best way to build a railway.

What I find most objectionable about the quote however is that it trivialises the motives of those who have contributed to the HS2AA £100,000 legal fund appeal. These are people who care about the massive environmental damage that the HS2 project will cause and who feel that the proper protection of our environment has been ignored by those responsible for planning the project. This concern is strong enough with many to stimulate them to dig deeply into their own pockets to make sure that the HS2AA case will be heard in the Court of Appeal.

This is far from a trivial matter. In a press release announcing that the fund target had been achieved, HS2AA sets out, in one of the “notes to editors” what is at stake:

“An SEA requires alternatives to be examined and their environmental implications reviewed and consulted on.  These steps did not happen.  HS2AA believe a different solution would have emerged if the SEA Regulations and requirements had been followed.”

In my blog Confusion over traffic light causes dangerous driving (posted 25 Mar 2013), I quoted a summary of the purpose of the SEAD that the High Court Judge that conducted the judicial review hearing included in the Approved Judgment. The Judge interprets the objective of the SEAD as being “to provide for a high level of protection of the environment, integrating environmental considerations into the preparation and adoption of plans and programmes”. He also states, critically, that the SEAD applies “at an early stage”, which he qualifies as “before options for significant change were precluded”.

This clearly has not happened with HS2; there is no evidence that the environmental benefits of a number of alternative proposals and routes have ever been considered as a part of the decision-making process, let alone at an early enough stage to influence the outcome. My own experience with proposing a more environmentally-friendly route option, reported in my blog Up the garden path (posted 28 May 2013), is that it continues to be the case that HS2 Ltd is neglecting to consider the environmental impacts of design choices.

I said in my blog Confusion over traffic light causes dangerous driving that the Parliamentary process required to enable HS2 Ltd to build HS2 was serving to “frustrate the real purpose of the SEAD”. I am, therefore, pleased that the Judge was content to grant HS2AA leave to appeal his decision and that the funds have been raised to allow HS2AA to request the Court of Appeal to review this complex matter. The significance of this review surely goes beyond its implications for HS2, as it will determine the general effectiveness of a major component of environmental legislation.

I’m sorry if the DfT, in its determination to rush headlong into a major folly, doesn’t quite see it that way.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by chriseaglen on June 9, 2013 at 6:18 am

    The rail services are weak for the cost. The impacts on rural communities during construction and resulting damage and accidents were not calibrated relative to the nearness to prime roads. The lack of iteration of background and foreground has been noticeable. HS2 did not have the EXPERIENCED people for the route planning and development phases. The speed obsession was one approach but not the only approach to have CAPACITY. Instead of integrating to a rail network the avoidance was astonishing. The work on determining the posssible route sections was not sufficient. There is a design and planning approach for quality with hold points and reviews. These did not extend to the involvement of the communities but specific interests of those in the know with access. Politicians with even less experience were involved and the TSC failed to be a technical regulator but a aim here miss there endorser. Not the way for the UK to modernise the nation in the 21st Century. UK needs to review how this programme, plan, policy whatever was put under the control of people, politicians and civil servants without proper recognition of their limitations.

    Reply

  2. Posted by chriseaglen on June 9, 2013 at 9:54 am

    Stop this HS2 may be a more accurate expression as there is the requirement to ensure railways evolve and are responding to needs of population, business and daily needs. HS2 does not achieve this proportional to output and harm and costs.

    StopHS2 and Stop this HS2 may achieve the political shift not visible currently.

    Reply

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