I’m not talking about Crossrail, part 3

(… continued from I’m not talking about Crossrail, part 2, posted on 18 Dec 2013).

About three-quarters of the way through her interview with the Transport Secretary, broadcast on the BBC TV Newsnight programme on 29th October 2013, Emily Maitlis hit him right between the eyes (see footnote):

“The problem that people have with this – when they’re listening, when they’re reading the figures, when they’re crawling over the pages – is that they feel that a lot of these figures are being massaged. They are being made to fit the picture that your government wants to portray.”

Well you might very well think that Emily, I couldn’t possibly comment.

She then harked back to a Newsnight programme that had been aired eleven days previously (on 18th October) in which David Grossman had revealed that there would be “big losers right across the UK” from HS2. This revelation was the result of a Freedom of Information request made by the BBC to obtain data that had been omitted from a report by consultants KPMG that had been published by the Government in the previous month. Mr Grossman gave us some examples:

“Cardiff could lose out £70m every year, for Peterborough £66m a year, for Bristol over £100m a year, Norfolk could lose nearly £200m a year, and Cambridgeshire is set to lose £235m; even Aberdeen’s oil-fuelled economy is susceptible apparently, and could lose £220m every year, that’s 1.3% of its GDP.”

This section of the interview went as follows:

Emily Maitlis: If you take the KPMG report, in the summer, that talked about a £15bn benefit to Britain; it didn’t give the raw figures. It didn’t tell us the places that wouldn’t benefit, that would have adverse effects …

Patrick McLoughlin: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. Hold on [yes he really did say it four times]. Crossrail is being built, at the moment, through London …

Emily Maitlis: No, I want to talk about the KPMG figures, which you put out, which said there would be a £15bn benefit to Britain. It took Newsnight and a FOI to find out the truth of those figures. Why didn’t you just come forward with them?

Patrick McLoughlin: Hold on. Hold on [that makes six]. Crossrail is being built; I don’t think that you would say that the people in Manchester are getting much benefit from Crossrail.

Emily Maitlis: I’m not talking about Crossrail. I’m talking about the fact that you said that there was a £15bn benefit to Britain – that was what that report was about – yet you didn’t give the raw details, you didn’t even come forward, and it had to be a Freedom of Information request to find out what the adverse effects of that were.

Patrick McLoughlin: There are many bits of infrastructure that are taking place at the moment which don’t affect different parts of the country. It doesn’t mean to say …

Emily Maitlis: It’s not that they “don’t affect”; Aberdeen will be worse off, Norfolk will be worse off. Do you concede that now?

Steady on Emily. Personally, I have trouble believing any of the figures that are in the KPMG report, but I do subscribe to the view that HS2 is likely to create winners and losers. Strangely though the Transport Secretary did not appear to be prepared to accept this point:

“No I don’t. No I don’t, because I believe that the United Kingdom will be better off to the tune of £15bn overall, and other areas will benefit as well. The simple fact that Aberdeen doesn’t benefit, as you say – Aberdeen doesn’t benefit from Crossrail, it doesn’t benefit from Thameslink, but it benefits from other bits of infrastructure that we are putting in.”

That is, as far as it goes, true. What Mr McLoughlin is side-stepping is that Crossrail and Thameslink will have a neutral effect on the economy of Aberdeen, whereas KPMG is concluding that HS2 will have a negative effect. This is not hard to accept; if you are of the opinion that HS2 will boost GDP, then it surely follows that there is a risk that it will concentrate the benefits on the cities that it serves. KPMG has identified that this effect is likely to lead to a suppression of GDP growth in areas that are not served by HS2. If Mr McLoughlin accepts KPMG’s £15bn, then surely he should also accept, and face up to, this conclusion?

It appeared at this stage of the interview that the Transport Secretary was well and truly on the ropes. Ms Maitlis obviously sensed this and delivered another left jab:

“Why not just give the raw details, the raw figures, then and let people work it out for themselves, rather than trying to push that message?”

Mr McLoughlin was clearly irritated and punch-drunk by this stage, and he signalled that he wanted the interview to conclude:

“I have published today all the background documents that relate to the strategic case.”

And that was that.

This was a truly abysmal performance by the Transport Secretary; it has been acknowledged by the Government that ministers and the DfT have not presented the case for HS2 very well, but they really don’t appear to be improving their act. Worse than a simple failure of presentation, what we witnessed on Newsnight was a minister who was failing his duty to the citizens of this country. On the same day that the Government had published a vital piece of evidence relating to the discussion about whether HS2 would benefit this country or not – and only a few months before MPs will be asked to vote on whether Phase 1 should go ahead – he was unable, or unwilling, to answer questions about the detail supporting that evidence.

Footnote: The section of Emily Maitlis’ interview with the Transport Secretary that is covered by this blog begins at 13min 24secs into the video.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by chriseaglen on December 23, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    More like: Off tune by plus £50B through Route 3 because of topology and no people ready to commute for circa £6K per year from salary, mainly from reimbursements where alternative methods will challenge the mode of transport.
    Bits of infrastructure would not describe another lane each way on the A34 or the M4 to relieve daily expensive congestion waste fuel costs.
    GDP increases for inward invested funding is very questionable as GDP because there is a net outflow over time to write down of asset value as with HS1.

    Time to move on to the ES work to shape the petitioning and reflect on what is in the Map Books that was not in the Community Forums.

    Given a proposition here is £50Billion to spend on enhancing the railway routes with some new rolling stock it is being asserted that the Railway sector and DFT would require a number of years to determine where to invest the money within delivery packages in excess of the current electrificatiion which is not adding much to routes. Lord Adonis and Sir David Rowlands took too little time to determine what problems could have been addressed that people would have supported readily.

    It is what the Chancellor believes which is possibly more important than what the SST has to deliver. The interviewing should have been with the two Treasury people to be effective to bring about a change of the current Route 3 Phase 1 plan.

    Merry Christmas and a Happier New Year if the people can change the DFT plan to more worthwhile scopes for more people to benefit their daily needs.


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