For an example of the Conservative Government’s blatant lies, confusion and incompetence HS2 would take some beating.
HS2 was originally heralded as a means of travelling from the north, and potentially from Scotland, straight through to the continent, via HS1 and the Chunnel with a projected return of £2 for every £1 spent.
Its claimed reduced journey times were shouted from the roof tops and adding a further 7 minutes was the reason connections to Heathrow and HS1 were dropped following ex-Conservative Transport Secretary of State Lord Mawhinney‘s review. When both the claimed 49 minutes London to Birmingham journey time, and time savings (incredulously calculated by comparing the slow 84 minutes service rather than the non-stop 70 minutes time) were found to be bogus, suddenly HS2 was all about meeting a capacity need.
In October 2016, Andrew Jones MP, a transport minister, suggested renaming HS2 as the ‘Grand Union Railway’, because, in seeming contradiction to the conclusions of the Lord Mawhinney review, he considered HS2 is not about speed but more about connectivity.
In April 2017, it was suggested passenger seats should be widened – which in the context of outline train, station platforms and tunnel dimensions already having been decided could reduce capacity by between 10 and 20% further worsening the so-called Business case which prior to this idea projected a Benefit Cost Ratio of a mere 50p per taxpayer’s £1 – way below the 1.0 level usually required for rail schemes; and thus on the Department for Transport’s own criteria is “poor value for money”. Indeed current Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, when Secretary of State for Transport, said to the Transport Select Committee oral hearing on 13 September 2011 “If it were to fall much below 1.5, I would certainly be putting it under some very close scrutiny.” So much for his scrutiny when in May his estimated cost of HS2 was £20 Billion lower than even the Government’s own optimistic figure, never mind the Taxpayers’ Alliance more realistic £100+ Billion estimate.
Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative Party won the 2015 General Election with a 12 seat majority. So, had just 6 of the 16 most HS2-blighted constituencies voted UKIP, or 6 of these constituencies’ MPs had had the courage to hold the government to ransom by refusing to support other legislation, HS2 might have been already scrapped by now. But alas, shamefully, they have not been prepared to put even their constituents’ concerns, never mind the best interest of the nation ahead of their own personal political careers.
Since 2015, HS2-enabling legislation was been passed by a cross party majority of 90%, and HS2 has now reached the stage of inviting tenders for contracts which will lead to successful bidders being given a year to produce detailed designs of their sections with construction of the actual railway line set to commence in July 2018.
Although compounds, such as at the mouth of the Chilterns Tunnel in Denham have already commenced, historical precedent shows that it is still not too late for people to vote to stop HS2, as happened with the Chunnel in January 1975.
Following joint working since the 1960’s, the UK and France formally agreed to build a tunnel in 1973. Construction work of this government-funded project to create two tunnels designed to accommodate car shuttle wagons on either side of a service tunnel started on both sides of the Channel in 1974. On 20 January 1975, to the dismay of their French partners, the now-governing Labour Party in Britain cancelled the project due to uncertainty about EU (then EEC) membership, doubling cost estimates and the general economic crisis at the time. The Ministry of Transport had already done a successful experimental drive of the first 300m (nearly 1/5th of a mile) of the tunnel with the British tunnel boring machine. This short tunnel was reused as the starting and access point for tunnelling operations from the British side.
So, if HS2 were to be cancelled now, all of the currently committed to HS2 engineering expertise could be transferred to improving the existing rail and highways infrastructure.
Any loss of best value from having to transfer existing contractual expenditure commitments to other infrastructure projects of similar worth without the usual tendering processes would nonetheless be far less than the disruption and total waste of £100+ Billion by carrying on with HS2.
So, it is not too late to stop HS2.