Same time next year?

I have posted this blog one day after the fourth anniversary of the day in 2010 that the plans for the HS2 project were first announced to Parliament, and three years and two days since my first blog appeared on this site – so it’s commemoration time. The good news is that although I meet a lot of tired looking campaigners these days and four years of opposition is a long time – just ask Ed Miliband – everybody seems as determined as ever to beat the HS2 menace.

When I posted the now traditional commemorative blog at this time last year (And now we are two, posted 10 Mar 2013), I wrote “Heaven forefend though that I might be still posting on my third birthday”. Well, you may have noticed that I am still here and am, unfortunately, still finding things to write about; if nothing else, HS2 appears to be a good catalyst for connecting me with my Muse. Whilst, in all honesty, I am fairly sure in my own mind that I wouldn’t have picked up this burden had I known the length of time that I would have to carry it, having got it this far I’m not about to drop it by the roadside, although to continue unencumbered by it would be a considerable relief. So I intend to carry on writing, and I hope that you will find sufficient interest in what I still have to say to keep on reading.

As has become the custom, I will start with some numbers. Including last year’s birthday blog but excluding today’s posting, I have published 95 blogs during the year. These bring the total posted in the three years before today to 292. The 91,000 words that the year’s blogs contain have brought my total one-quarter of the way to one million words.

I am disappointed to find that the average number of words per blog continues to rise. Over this year’s blogs I have crashed the 900-word average barrier, and over the three years I am only just below this threshold. However, having to slog through my lengthy diatribes does not appear to have put too many of you off; the total of page views for this year shows an increase of almost a quarter on the previous year, and I just managed to set a new record for the number of page views in a single day on 18th March 2013.

As has also become my custom on these occasions, I have compared the number of page views achieved by each blog up to the end of this past year 2013-14 and identified the five most popular blogs on this basis. These five are listed in the table below, with the comparative positions of each at the end of 2012-13 also identified.

End 2013-14

End 2012-13

Pass me the map

1

1

Grabbed by the throat

2

(-)

We don’t believe you”

3

2

Getting the measure of things

4

4

Keeping things quiet

4

(-)

I’m pleased to see that the top five are no longer all blogs that were posted during my first year (2011-12): Grabbed by the throat hails from 2012-13, and Keeping things quiet was posted during 2013-14.

So much for looking back over the past year. As far as the year 2014-15 is concerned, I already have some topics on the stocks. For example, there have been a number of matters raised in past blogs where I have said that I will revisit the issues at some future time, and I need to go back and pick all of these up. There is also, I am sure, a wealth of blogworthy stuff in the Environmental Statement for Phase 1 and the responses that have been made to the consultation thereon by the many organisations with an interest, which include many that can draw on considerable expertise. The news is that in excess of twenty thousand responses have been received to this consultation (see footnote); apparently this massive hoard of comments will be distilled, in the twinkling of an eye, into a report that MPs will be able to absorb in a couple of weeks so that they will be fully briefed to debate the Second Reading of the HS2 Phase 1 hybrid Bill. I can’t help feeling that this report, when we see it, might be worthy of the odd comment.

Then, of course, there was all that stuff about how wonderful HS2 is that was pushed out last autumn when the project was “relaunched” (twice).

And, speaking of relaunches, we are promised yet another one in a few days time, focussed on the publishing of a report by Sir David Higgins that, we have been told, will outline how the project can be delivered more quickly and for less money – good luck with that one Sir David! That might stimulate a blog or two.

I also have hopes that the recently-announced House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee inquiry on environmental protection in Phase 1 of HS2 will provide a productive seam that I will be able to mine. And surely we haven’t heard the last word on HS2 from the Public Accounts Committee and its redoubtable lady chairman.

We will, of course, be treated to something of a set-piece debate in the House of Commons when the Second Reading of the Phase 1 hybrid Bill is considered, to be followed by months and months of Select Committee proceedings, hearing petitions and then subsequently considering the clauses of the Bill, line by line; I’m sure that I will want to write a word or two about that.

Then there is Phase 2. The consultation closed a few weeks ago and, at some stage, the Government will publish a report on the outcome and confirm the route. This is expected to be no later than the end of 2014, but could be sooner. I recognise that, up to now, I have largely avoided Phase 2 in my blogs. This has not been due to any lack of interest on my part, but more to the sheer level of activity on Phase 1. I need to, and shall, do better this year, and expect that the Government’s announcement, when it comes, will be sufficient stimulus to get me blogging on Phase 2 issues.

Then there is the Phase 1 compensation package. The Government appears to be in no hurry on this – I guess that is payback for the defeat that we inflicted on the Secretary of State in the High Court. We may have to wait until the summer to learn if an improved package has resulted from the consultation process; whatever the outcome, I’m sure that I will feel obliged to comment.

It also appears unlikely that we have heard the last of HS2 legal saga. There is a distinct possibility that someone – possibly even the Information Commissioner – will want to ask the courts to examine the recent use by the Transport Secretary of powers under section 53 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to prevent the disclosure of the 2011 Major Projects Agency’s report on the HS2 project. It also seems, as I reported in my blog The environment was the real loser, part 2 (posted 27 Jan 2014), that we will probably see the environmental issues that were examined by the UK Supreme Court at the end of last year moved into the arena of international jurisprudence and even, possibly, another judicial review in the UK courts.  I am salivating at the thought of all that even now.

Finally, stories about HS2 are continually surfacing in the media and should remain a virtually inexhaustible source of fodder for my postings. We had a new revelation only the other day concerning the disruption that the construction of HS2 is likely to cause. I feel sure that I can rely on members of the campaign and the media to keep digging, armed with the power of freedom of information legislation, to unearth the truth about HS2 rather than the spin that they would have us believe.

So it looks like, if I remain able, I will be posting a similar blog to this one at the same time next year, plus another ninety or so between now and then.

Oh dear! I’ve just noticed the word count for this blog. It’s not a promising start to a new year, I fear.

Footnote: The count of responses received at 1st March 2014 was advised as 21,700 in a recent written Commons answer (UIN 189737) with the proviso that “this figure is likely to increase” when all responses are in.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by chriseaglen on March 12, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    Perhaps two guidance notes to house owners and tenants and Parish Councils on how to petition on noise and also how to support the petition with a technical note for HS2 to explain why you are petitioning and some evidence to support the noise petition to the Hybrid Bill Select Committe will help thousands of people on phase 1 and later phase 2.

    There is one month for petitioning and people and Parishes will rejoice to receive your guidance on noise petitioning and mitigations.

    Reply

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