The HS2 affair

JUST as Camden’s Labour Party begin to play a bit of toughball over High Speed 2, the plan for a London to Birmingham thunderbolt rail link which promises to blow a hole in Euston and potentially disrupt life in Primrose Hill, its leader Nash Ali has been advised that its better to keep his public comments on this simmering issue to a minimum. Legal bods at the Town Hall are concerned that because he has relatives in one of the council estate blocks affected (read: demolished) just up from Euston, he should tread carefully about what he says.

That’s punctured the hopes of some Camden Labour members hoping for a far stiffer response to the plans from the group’s senior faces. In fact, HS2 has, the flies on the wall at some group meetings have it, become an increasingly divisive issue.

Angela Mason and Sarah Hayward are said to have been cautious about an all out rejection of the idea, while in contrast the likes of Abdul Hai and Julian Fulbrook have wanted the group to take the strong arm response that MP Frank Dobson has taken, appearing on the TV and in newspapers condemning the likely affects on Camden. Last week’s ‘opposition’ statement was as such carefully worded.

Civil servants minding the response at Camden HQ, I’m told, are pretty resistant to the idea of the council being at the centre of some sort of rebellion to a Teflon government project seemingly capable of avoiding all government cuts. There has apparently been some doomsaying about where it might all end up from advisers. Sources who tell me this won’t name names, grrrr. If I ever have that sit down interview with chief executive Moira Gibb, like the one Jo Johnson’s journalist wife Amelia Gentleman from The Guardian got, I’d love to ask her what she thinks of the whole HS2 affair.

As Labour has discussed tactics to all of this since the start of the year, perhaps caught by surprise the level of public interest and worry at open meetings in recent weeks, it has been easy for opponents to cast them as ditherers. One man’s careful consideration, is another’s panicking uncertainty. The response to this post will, if past form is to go by, a claim that it’s all a bit mischief bit but there is certainly a clutch of backbenchers (and maybe a couple of cabinet members) who wanted more visible leadership on HS2. Maybe Sue Vincent, who was left standing there telling audiences that she herself was against the scheme but couldn’t speak for the cabinet collectively, might have welcomed the same thing.

Yet, in the back of more than a few minds is the idea that whatever Camden says and does, it might not be able to stop the project. If the government is determined enough, it will get its way in the end (even if Primrose Hill hates them for it – it’s not as if there is a parliamentary election to win there). In that case, officers and councillors want to be in a position to negotiate the best deal for the borough. The umming and ahing is about how that’s best approached.

I’m not saying there’s a bloody battle inside the Labour party which will rip the group apart, far from it. No swearing on this one. But there is a bit of irritation here, a bit of frustration there. With internal debates over the wisdom of a new ‘free’ school south of the Euston Road still, dare I use the word, raging and lingering snapping about whether the move to new council headquarters might yet blow up in the group’s face (there’s a private meeting on the buildings that will be sold to make that happen tonight), there’s suddenly a bit of sorting out to do out front.

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19 Comments on The HS2 affair

  1. Well we Lib Dems came out against HS2 first – despite the Coalition:

    Here’s the Lib Dem motion, published last Friday, for next weeks full Council meeting:

    Proposed by Paul Braithwaite, seconded by Keith Moffitt:

    This council believes the Government’s proposal for High Speed 2 from
    Euston to Curzon Street, Birmingham is deeply flawed.

    As constituted, the plans are based on an extremely weak business
    case and environmental benefits are minimal, if any. They would do
    little to cause modal shift from planes to trains and represent
    a huge amount of money to provide a duplicate service –
    money which could be better spent elsewhere on front line services and upgrading the existing rail infrastructure.

    Further, the consequence for Camden of proceeding would be the
    wasteful destruction of more than 300 homes in Regents Park ward, the
    loss of tranquil St James Gardens and the blight of the entire proposed route through
    Camden for the next 15 years.

    The Council therefore resolves to oppose the current plans and make
    representations to government on this issue.

    Like

    • Full of misinformation and scare tactics. Thousands more informed would totaly disagree with you. Try doing a little more detailed research on ‘all’ aspects of High Speed Rail before jumping to and ‘absorbing’ some media and anti HS2 ‘fodder’.

      Like

    • Richard Osley // April 4, 2011 at 1:27 pm // Reply

      Thanks Paul, but I don’t think it’s quite accurate to say the Lib Dems ‘came out first’. Statements were released by both groups last week, pretty much at a similar time. There were similar debates in both groups.

      Like

    • lessdeceived // April 6, 2011 at 1:03 pm // Reply

      I’ll bet that Moira Gibb doesn’t vote for that one !

      Oh, I forgot she isn’t elected, so she can’t vote.

      Like

  2. lessdeceived // April 4, 2011 at 12:50 pm // Reply

    Everyone knows that Camden Council have made their position quite clear.

    Here is the statement:

    Camden Cabinet’s position on HS2

    As it stands the HS2 proposals are unacceptable to Camden. We oppose them.
    The loss of our housing, the threat to our communities and blight created by a decade of both uncertainty and building works are not mitigated by any significant gain to Camden’s communities that would come close to offsetting this harm.
    We will fight the proposals for our communities. If the Government does decide to go ahead, we will fight to get significantly more council housing and other additional improvements to replace the community amenities that are under threat.

    Couldn’t be clearer!

    If the resolution is not put froward at the next full council meeting on
    11th April they are going to look like a cowed bunch of chumps.

    If the Tory Councils can stand up to the government why can’t the Labour group.

    As for the Civil Servants, “Servant” doesn’t come into it. Service with a smile as they
    scare the Councillors with stories of what might happen if they aren’t good little boys and girls.

    Let’s see some guts. Uxbridge isn’t Puddyfooting around.

    Like

  3. councilofdispair // April 4, 2011 at 1:29 pm // Reply

    Nash Ali,

    He can declare his interest and say what he likes. What are ‘consultation periods for’ ?

    HS2 didn’t even know the correct figure for how many homes were to be lost when they met with the Council last Tuesday – hadn’t got a clue. Judging by how they answer questions put
    to them at the roadshow they haven’t got a clue about most things. Q. How much land will be
    taken along the route including urban sections. A. under FOI – we don’t know.

    Like

  4. councilofdispair // April 4, 2011 at 1:48 pm // Reply

    Julie

    Let’s open the debate on HS2. First of all you begin by simply making assertions and then

    an appeal to authority “Thousands more informed” (sic) would totally disagree with you”

    Give me your well researched reasons for wanting to build HS2. One at a time will do.

    Like

    • councilofdispair
      You miss the point totally, as I suspected some would.
      I have spent many hours mounting to days into weeks and months, studying High Speed Rail all over the world, from an original ‘neutral’ point of view. To include ‘all’ sources, anti HS2, pro HS2, government and my own very detailed ‘independent’ research. I am asking ‘everyone’ else to do the same ‘before’ claiming to be ‘local judge’ on something of ‘national interest’.
      As a result of my independent research, I find the anti HS2 groups and some media to be the worst source of scare tactics, misinformation, distortions and pure lies I have ever seen in my life. I don’t fully agree with all pro HS2 viewpoints either.
      What I do find however, is the ‘anti’ wrongly and on purpose in many cases, misrepresents HS2. Many people who rely on the media for their HS2 information also misunderstand the project.
      You must always remember, the media could not care less about ‘truth’ or ‘fact’; they see HS2 as a golden chance to ‘sell’ both sides what they ‘want to hear’. Gaining readers or followers is all they care about.
      On ‘balance’, I find HS2 does indeed ‘help’ this country in many ways and our ‘increasingly’ over crowded railways. Far more than any other transport measure so far put forward. Very sad that some will be affected by those plans but inevitable from any large-scale transport project, but substantial mitigation measures planned, should help most affected.
      There is no point at all in me posting my point-to-point reasons for now supporting HS2 as a ‘least impact’ way forward.
      Many of you will have already judged a ‘national’ issue to be ‘nothing in it for me locally, so must oppose it’. Half the trouble with this country, we all want change but not near me please.
      I simply ask you all to research all aspects of High Speed Rail ‘in detail’ first.
      HS2 is not quite the Golden Egg some may portray but neither do I believe the Goose that may well lay more eggs in the future should be roasted now instead. You may well still be hungry later on with deep regret.

      Like

      • councilofdispair // April 4, 2011 at 5:35 pm // Reply

        Julie,

        I have made an in-depth study of HS2 and High Speed Rail in general. I have come to the conclusion that it should not be pursued. It is not a golden goose it is a turkey. I call on any supporter of HS2 to debate the points objectively and without resort to value judgement and assertion.

        First point – most of the power that is generated in the UK comes from non-renewable resources such as fossil fuel . Currently 93% of uk power is
        generated in this way. How can a form of transport that uses 3 times the amount of power @220 mph compared to 124 mph (EEC definition of High Speed) be sensible or sustainable.

        There are no sufficiently robust plans to increase the amount of sustainable power available and if by some miracle it came about in the next 10 years it would not be free so you will still be using up more of a precious resource.

        Some Environmentalists say that we only have 10 years to drastically reduce carbon emissions. HS2 will not do that. As I have pointed even if you don’t believe in climate change the economics to not stack up and it is a terrible waste of public money to use all that power. If you do believe in Climate Change or if you simply want to relieve congestion and increase capacity on our transport systems now rather than in 2026 you should spend
        money starting from now, on improving the infrastructure incrementally.
        Rail Package2 does this for less cost than HS2 and gives more capacity.

        You say don’t pronounce without study – unfortunately that is what the pro-lobby is doing. We should be doing better than that. And if you know something that I don’t and it is a killer argument for HS2 – please let me know.
        I don’t want to be right so much that I will deny empirical truth. It’s just that I haven’t heard it. I am willing to listen. Phillip Hammond isn’t.

        Like

  5. councilofdispair.
    Your comments about the ‘green’ aspects of HSR and RP2 ‘more capacity’ are myths, sown on purpose by those ‘hoping’ to sway public opinion against HS2. Don’t feed on their ‘fodder’, other ‘food’ not so bitter, is available for those that search.
    Please conduct your ‘own’ independent research from a wide range of internet information available on both subjects you mention. You will find a rather different set of facts emerge.
    And yes, I do believe in climate change, unlike Nigel Lawson who does not support HS2 and joins forces with ‘truck and lorry’ manufacture business leaders to oppose the plans.
    Here are a few links towards that balanced research I am asking you to take account of.

    http://www.alstom.com/assetmanagement/DownloadAsset.aspx?ID=4c2955a3-585e-4227-93fd-c2dbf3a0fb7a&version=ca2549b3abf04700aebb1f35f7bd8d793.pdf

    Please note the important and very relevent ‘green’ information on page 9 in the above link. Also please note, about to enter service now. This is a new electric HSR train ‘faster’ than those currently in service, but ‘more’ energy efficiant. Those built and evolving under R/D for HS2 will be even greener by 2026 ‘and’ benefit from more energy produced from greener sources.

    http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2011/03/tpa-and-hs2-seat-numbers-game.html

    RP2 capacity claims and the TPA ‘exposed’ in the last link.

    Like

  6. councilofdespair // April 5, 2011 at 8:00 am // Reply

    Julie,

    Sorry, you can’t buck the laws of physics.

    You can’t make 2026, 2011.

    Unless you are advocating the UK going Nuclear, renewable energy is a long way off. Even if we do take the nuclear option it will take many years to build the reactors, and the power will not be free.

    If a very high speed train can be built to be more energy efficient the same technology will still make a train traveling at 120 mph at least 3 times as efficient.

    Where is your argument?

    Like

    • councilofdespair
      You had my argument on the two issues you raised, above your reply to them. An argument you clearly lost on both counts, but still try to defend by assuming renewable energy is a long way off.
      The current large increase in renewable energy being built or planned and our countries commitment to meet future lower carbon targets as soon as possible does not exist then? The nuclear contribution to energy demand is a ‘separate’ issue ‘you’ have raised.
      Far more evolving energy efficient electric trains ‘including’ HSR is a winning solution all round then, as long as we can provide the badly needed ‘long term’ extra rail capacity required which can not be achieved with RP2. Or are you going to tell me 1000 people travelling by electric HSR, powered by a ‘contribution’ from renewable energy, is not as green compared to driving or flying. Look at the graph on page 9 of the AGV link I posted.
      No one is bucking the laws of physics, but HS2 protest does not take into account evolving electric energy efficient traction motor gains on HSR trains, that also provide huge travel time advantage for travellers.
      With the news today concerning long distance travel market share by rail now 44% and increasing, this debate is certainly topical and yet more proof that the public like investment in rail and certainly want to use rail more as a result.
      All evidence now arriving, pointing towards HS2 connected to HS1 and Europe will be considered a great investment for the long distance traveller abandoning their cars and flights for (less hassle) rail.

      Like

    • Paul Braithwaite
      Sorry, but that ‘weak’ argument that all those supporting HS2 are working for government or HS2 is pathetic.
      Try debate with argument instead of accusation.

      Like

      • councilofdespair // April 5, 2011 at 5:47 pm // Reply

        Julie,

        Outside the playground assertion is not argument. I’m afraid that I missed the two arguments that you claim to have won.

        To simplify

        Faster = more energy used. More energy=more cost=more CO2. Future energy sources will not be free, will not be carbon neutral, unless we go for nuclear.

        Domestic air-flights are reducing anyway and there are no flights at all between London and Birmingham.

        Time saved as an economic value indicator of HSR is non-sense people are very productive on trains. The current overcrowding is due to inadequate investment in the past. Investment now in the West Coast Mainline will produce benefits immediately and incrementally.

        Several important arguments to bring in at this point:

        1) Without an increase in journeys, there is no economic case for the HS2 project.

        2) Alternative methods of communication such as video conferencing will reduce the need for business travel. This will save even more time which is not given an economic value in the HS2 analysis.

        3) Having been launched as an environmentally sustainable project, HS2 has claimed in its own prospectus, that its existence will create new additional journeys. It factors these journeys into its business case and capitalises
        them into profit to further justify its business case. Travel of any kind is currently carbon negative. – do you get it?

        4) The HS2 Prospectus equates economic growth with travel and seems to glorify travel for its own sake. If there is one thing that world economies must do to combat climate change it is to de-couple travel and economic growth.

        5) One last point. If we encourage travel, if HS2 takes people out of planes it is a clear phenomenon that the slots at the airport will go over to international flights which are hugely damaging to the environment.

        So what we need is standard High Speed travel – say 125mph on a totally electrified national and improved rail infrastructure, a policy of discouraging travel (cf Oliver Letwin ) but not only from Sheffield. We need an increase in renewable energy, the appliance of technology to making all forms of transport more energy efficient not just HSR, and an end to the thinking that national economic virility only comes by having huge infrastructure projects. Why not spend the £19billion on encouraging these aims. Starting tomorrow. Or do you prefer your pie to be in the sky until 2026.

        Like

  7. councilofdespair
    ‘Faster = more energy used. More energy=more cost=more CO2.’

    You did not understand the AGV link then.

    ‘Future energy sources will not be free, will not be carbon neutral, unless we go for nuclear.’

    Nuclear is free is it. Tip, don’t ever travel to Japan and tell them.

    ‘Domestic air-flights are reducing anyway and there are no flights at all between London and Birmingham.’

    I never said there were, but there are between the far north and London that HS2 phase two will cover and possibly reduce to nothing, and flights to Europe that HSR will do better with less hassle. Watch the news.

    ‘Time saved as an economic value indicator of HSR is non-sense people are very productive on trains. The current overcrowding is due to inadequate investment in the past. Investment now in the West Coast Mainline will produce benefits immediately and incrementally.’

    Further investment in the WCML (and the rest of Britain’s rail network) is still going ahead anyway. Please see the last budget.
    You can’t be productive ‘standing’ on an over crowded train. The WCML has just had a 9 billion pound upgrade (that caused major disruption to existing transport services for months and months on end, hence billions more extra cost), did not work for long though, more ‘long term’ capacity required again.
    Lets spend 9 billion pounds again then, then again, then again, then again?
    Damm, that’s just cost 81 billion pounds and trains are now nose to tail and not moving.
    Blast, we should of built HS2 instead (with much less disruption to existing services).

    ‘1) Without an increase in journeys, there is no economic case for the HS2 project.’

    Watch the news.

    ‘2) Alternative methods of communication such as video conferencing will reduce the need for business travel. This will save even more time which is not given an economic value in the HS2 analysis.’

    You mean like we don’t use paper anymore, thanks to computers? So numbers using rail have been falling since the introduction of alternative methods of communication, err, no. Watch the news.

    ‘3) Having been launched as an environmentally sustainable project, HS2 has claimed in its own prospectus, that its existence will create new additional journeys. It factors these journeys into its business case and capitalises them into profit to further justify its business case. Travel of any kind is currently carbon negative. – do you get it?’

    Yes thanks, people always want to travel and increasing numbers always will. Move longer distance travellers onto much greener HSR.

    ‘4) The HS2 Prospectus equates economic growth with travel and seems to glorify travel for its own sake. If there is one thing that world economies must do to combat climate change it is to de-couple travel and economic growth.’

    Has not happened so far, little chance in the future. People like travelling (including politicians) and always will, we just have to try and make their travel greener. Are you saying the original building of railways in Britain had no effect on our rapid growth as a nation? Dr Beeching has a lot to answer for. Hindsight is wonderfully easy. Foresight is rather harder. HSR will ‘help’ spread economic growth in exactly the same way as our original ‘uncut’ railways did.

    ‘5) One last point. If we encourage travel, if HS2 takes people out of planes it is a clear phenomenon that the slots at the airport will go over to international flights which are hugely damaging to the environment.’

    Pure speculation, needing to be coupled with the major cost of new long haul planes that would be required. Even if they did, would be offset by the collapse of short haul flights carbon savings in increasingly HSR covered areas of Europe and other parts of the world, already happening.

    ‘So what we need is standard High Speed travel – say 125mph on a totally electrified national and improved rail infrastructure, a policy of discouraging travel (cf Oliver Letwin ) but not only from Sheffield. We need an increase in renewable energy, the appliance of technology to making all forms of transport more energy efficient not just HSR, and an end to the thinking that national economic virility only comes by having huge infrastructure projects. Why not spend the £19billion on encouraging these aims. Starting tomorrow. Or do you prefer your pie to be in the sky until 2026.’

    See my earlier replies. No pies in the sky, just a realisation the ‘real world’ does not work in quite the same way you or I would like it to. The developing worlds increasing population will always want to travel. Move many of those longer distant travellers onto comparatively much greener HSR wherever possible.

    Like

    • John Webber // April 16, 2011 at 1:45 am // Reply

      THE MISSING LINE (S).

      In the 1960s it was decided to electrify the routes out of Euston and to concentrate allthe main rail services to the West Midlands and North West England an Scotland on that part of the network, the West Coast Main Line,( much of which had originally been laid out in the early days of the railways, in the 1830 s.)

      While that modernisation work was in progress, West Midlands traffic made increased use of the High Wycombe route , to Birmingham, Wolverhampton and beyond. This line had been built by the Great Western and in part with the Great Central and the Paddington-Wycombe -Banbury section was only completed in the early 20th Century.

      With the completion of the electrification of the WCML, the Wycombe route was progressively down graded, to a bare commuter service at the London end and a very sparse service only as far as Banbury. In the Birmingham area, Snow Hill Station and much of the GW route closed, with everything concentrated on New Street.

      The Midland route from London St Pancras was also cut short north of Derby; the Manchester main line through the Peak was reduced to a branch terminating at Matlock.

      Not only that, but the former trunk route from Maryle bone to Rugby, Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester, the Great Central’s ” London Extension” opened in 1899 and compatable with with continental vehicle sizes,was mostly abandoned in 1966, leaving only a reduced stub of local trains between Aylesbury and London.
      It was a redundant “duplicate main line” and having been sytematically run down at a time when railways were in decline ,was selected for closure.

      Now we are in a very different world.

      Demand for rail travel is fast increasing; Virgin’s “optimistic” passenger forecast of some ten years ago has now seen actual passenger numbers reach double that figure.
      £9 billion spent and 9 years of disruption of the WCML for upgrading, and the “Pendalino”, tilting trains, to overcome the serpentine curves of a route laid out nearly two centuries ago, are barely keeping up with peak demands.

      With all the “economies” and closures in the last fifty years have meant that we no longer have the alternative “diversionary routes needed when a line is blocked for repair or improvement. Who wants to buy an expensive rail ticket, only to then suffer a slow substitute “bustitution”

      The High Wycombe line very nearly went the same way as the Aylesbury line.
      It was proposed that it should be shut from Princes Risborough northwards.

      Luckily the Chiltern team were able to turn it round in time and with ever increasing use it is expanding as Chiltern Main Line.

      But it seems that even more capacity will be needed.

      IS HIGH SPEED TWO the PRICE WE MUST PAY NOW, FOR THE SHORT SIGHTED “ECONOMIES” OF FORMER YEARS>

      IF THE G.C. LEICESTER LINE HAD BEEN KEPT-even though non operational, but with the potential for reopening and modernisation,WOULD WE HAVE NEEDED A NEW LINE FOR HIGH SPEED TWO?

      Like

      • lessdeceived // May 7, 2011 at 11:01 am // Reply

        If you can look into the seeds of time,
        And say which grain will grow and which will not,
        Speak then to me

        Like

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