A small contribution

Today, Wednesday 11th March 2015, marks a significant millstone – sorry, that should be milestone. It is five whole years, to the day, since Parliament, and the rest of us, first learnt about the plans to build a high speed railway between London and the West Midlands, and possibly further north in a future phase. Of far less significance to the realm, but of considerable import to yours truly, yesterday marked the fourth anniversary of the first posting that I put up on this site, a fairly tentative, unassuming and short piece to which I gave the title Why am I doing this? It is a question that I have often asked myself since, but I am fairly stubborn by nature, and tend to stick to whatever course I have set for myself no matter how the prevailing winds may change. So every four days, sometimes more often, I have presented a new essay on the trials and tribulations of a campaigner against HS2 who happens to have, in particular but not solely, concerns about the environmental impacts of HS2. In that respect not much has changed over the four years that I have been a blogger. I have however learnt a great deal about HS2, and some associated subjects, from the research that has been necessary, and the length of my blogs has, I’m afraid, tended to increase with my growing confidence in my knowledge.

And there has been such a lot to learn! I sometimes blush at my naivety, and even some misunderstandings, when I look back at some of the earlier blogs. However, I don’t feel that this was entirely all my fault. Learning about HS2 has been like peeling the layers off an onion, and I feel that HS2 Ltd has hardly contributed to making the process easier. Hopefully, though, I have reached the stage where, whilst there are still many things to learn, I don’t get too much wrong these days.

So what is the answer to the question that I posed in blog number one? Why have I kept going to the point where I am a Premier League player’s spitting distance from posting 400 blogs – well, it’s 385 to be precise – comprising over 350,000 words? I suppose that, in essence, I feel that the HS2 proposal is badly conceived, too expensive, and too environmentally and socially damaging, and I have to do something, however inadequate, to register my protest. There are three specific motivations that keep me typing away at the keyboard.

The first is the knowledge that in the five years since the project was announced HS2 Ltd has frittered away approaching £1billion of our money at a time when some of our essential community services have suffered damaging cuts in the name of austerity. As petitioner Anthony Sutton remarked to the HS2 Select Committee during his very thoughtful presentation of his petition (see footnote 1), HS2 Ltd is a “quango that’s running out of control”. He cited the recruitment of “staggeringly highly paid people” – and we have all seen the job adverts and announcements of appointments to testify to this – and feedback that he had received from consultants that he knows who have been approached to do work for HS2 Ltd that they hadn’t seen rates as good in years. He also told the Committee that he resented his taxes being spent on “a PR exercise to try and convince people that [HS2] is a good idea”.

My second motivating factor is the callous disregard being shown to the plight of many whose financial plans, and in many case their lives, have been ruined, and even possibly shortened, by HS2. The Promoter’s Lead Counsel, Tim Mould QC, told the Committee that, “You can’t make an omelette of this size without breaking some eggs, frankly” (see footnote 2). He was talking about the impacts of the construction activities, but the evidence in front of the Committee has been that the eggs that are being shattered currently are nest eggs – stories are being told by petitioner after petitioner of how they have made provision for retirement by investing in property, only to find that HS2 has scythed the value of that investment and even made cashing it in impossible.

But should I find that these two factors are not motivation enough as I sit staring at the keyboard, all I have to do is get up, get out and walk the, usually, muddy track up to South Cubbington Wood. A few minutes taking in the beauty and tranquillity there are enough to strengthen both my resolve that nobody should be allowed to despoil it and my sense of outrage that anyone should be proposing such a thing.

So I hope that answers the “why”; as far as the “what” I have done goes, including last year’s birthday blog but excluding today’s posting, I have published 91 blogs during the year, comprising a little over 93,000 words. The numerically literate amongst you will be able to deduce that the average blog length has crept over the 1,000 words mark – not good, I feel. The total of page views for this year is down about twenty percent on the previous year; I feel that a discernible lowering of the level of interest is inevitable so far into the evolution of a project that is rumbling on, and do not take this decline personally

I am sure that you have a burning desire to learn how the table of the top five blogs, measured by the number of page views achieved by each blog up to the end of this past year 2014-15, now stands – no, well I am going to tell you anyway, as I have done on each previous birthday. The five are listed in the table below, with the comparative positions of each at the end of 2013-14 also identified.

End 2014-15

End 2013-14

Pass me the map

1

1

Grabbed by the throat

2

2

Another walk in the woods

3

(-)

“We don’t believe you”

4

3

Keeping things quiet

5

4

Apart from the promotion of Another walk in the woods, the positions in this year’s table are unchanged from March 2014. None of the top five are blogs that have been posted this last year, although a number of this year’s blogs have proved to be quite popular and Westminster comes to Cubbington, part 1 almost made it into the top 5. I must admit that I don’t really understand the popularity of some blogs compared with others, and the differences are considerable with factors of several hundred between the most and least viewed.

You may have noticed that I am tending to provide more links to my source documents these days. This is because I like my readers to be able to check things for themselves and to be able to delve deeper to satisfy any inclination to find out more. I have found that this can be making a rod for my own back, as locations of documents on the web do change and so links that I provide become broken. This is particularly the case when websites get revised, as has been the case with HS2 Ltd and, most recently, Parliament TV; the latter change is particularly annoying as it has scuppered all of my links to video of the HS2 Select Committee. I will do what I can to put things right, but constantly checking all of the links in approaching four hundred blogs is a task that is just too big for me to take on. However, if you find any broken links please let me know and I will do my best to put things right.

Thanks to all of my readers for sticking with me, and for the compliments that I have received, both on line and when I have met readers face-to-face. For the time being, at least, I intend to carry on making this small contribution to the fight against HS2; who knows if enough of us keep chip, chip, chipping away at the HS2 edifice, we may make a difference.

Footnotes:

  1. See paragraphs 289 and 290 in the transcript of the HS2 Select Committee for the morning of Wednesday 4th March 2015. Mr Sutton’s petition is 1108.
  2. See paragraph 75 in the transcript of the HS2 Select Committee for the afternoon of Wednesday 11th February 2015.

Important Note: The documents from which the quotes and extracts reproduced in this blog are taken include uncorrected transcripts of evidence, which are not yet an approved formal record of the proceedings of the HS2 Select Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record in such instances, and it may therefore be subject to changes being made in the light of any such corrections being requested.

PS: I’m pleased to note that the good people who run the Parliament TV website appear now to have got their act together. Whilst it seems that they have located all of the video archive at new web addresses, it looks like they have incorporated a translator for requests that use the old URL so that they still work. So all of my links – at least a random selection that I have tried – have been restored to functionality. Thanks guys (and girls).

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by LesF on March 11, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    Keep up the good work Peter. You never know, we may yet win.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Roger Waller on March 11, 2015 at 1:19 pm

    Peter thank you for your thoughtful blog. Please keep going a touch of sanity in this insane HS2 world in which we live!

    Reply

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