Do you believe in fairies?

“It’s not been a good week for proponents of High Speed Two.”

Not my words, but those of Evan Davis presenting the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Saturday 6th June 2013. However, on the basis that a man should always listen to his auntie – the BBC that is, not Evan – I am quite prepared to go along with it.

The media really seems to have got the bit between its teeth on HS2, and the comment against far outnumbers the favourable reports. One day later we had Sir Simon Jenkins – yes I know that Sir Simon, being firmly in the environmental camp, is a long-standing opponent of HS2, but he was a member of the Board of British Rail for eleven years – claiming in the Mail on Sunday that:

“Nobody seems to love HS2, and with good reason. It is by far the largest, and possibly the craziest, infrastructure project in British history.”

Well “nobody” is probably a bit of an exaggeration – I think that at least Lord Adonis’ affair with HS2 will last forever – but it appears that the recent hefty price hike announced to the House of Commons, has spurred some surprising figures to pop their heads up above the parapet to declare doubts about the project. For the Labour trio of Lords Mandelson and Prescott and, the as yet unennobled, Alistair Darling MP to join this number must have been very uncomfortable for an Opposition frontbench that, for the moment, is still backing the Government on HS2 – well sort of.

Lord Mandelson’s comments in the Financial Times (only available to subscribers to FT.com) were particularly revealing. It appears that the Labour Party’s enthusiasm for HS2 in 2010 was “partly politically driven” – influenced by “focusing” on the approaching general election and that the project “did not present us with any immediate spending choices”. He admits in his FT article that the Labour Government did not undertake a full analysis of HS2 before committing to the project and that “alternatives … were not actively considered”. Most amusingly, Lord Mandelson confides that “we did not imagine that the taxpayer would meet all the costs” and that, at the time “HS2 looked a sure candidate to attract private funds”. Oh really!

These comments are sure confirmation of what many of us in the anti lobby have always thought; that HS2 was an invention designed to be, in Lord Mandelson’s words, “an upbeat view of the future” and that it was little more than a hurriedly-conceived, poorly thought out, “sweetie” for the 2010 Labour Party Election Manifesto. After all Lord Mandelson was there in the thick of it – he should know.

Unfortunately, Lord Mandelson did not share his insight with the incoming administration, which fell for the ploy and picked HS2 up without any sort of review of the worth of the project being carried out, as far as can be seen.

But it is not just the politicans who are jumping ship. In a real “Et tu, Brute?” act, Adam Mills, former Chief Executive of London and Continental Railways – operator of Eurostar until 2010 – has declared, in a letter published in The Times, that “in economic terms HS2 is unjustifiable”. He wryly comments that he inherited forecasts for HS1 that were based on a similar approach to those being used to justify HS2, and that it rapidly became apparent to him that “such forecasts were away with the fairies”.

Sorry Mr McLoughlin, but I don’t believe in fairies.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by chriseaglen on July 11, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    There are a number of not sure and also clarify to reverse the next day ‘leaders’.

    What is the next stage please.

    How does the cumulative thinking of many communities and people become incorporated into a body of knowledge from the thoughtful who consider others please.

    Reply

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