Complete and utter ahmadness (part three)
In the HS2 Bill House of Lords second reading debate on 14 April, Lord Ahmad said that “The full HS2 network will connect eight of the UK’s 10 most populous cities with direct links“.
However, in the same debate, Andrew Adonis said that ‘HS2 links the four largest cities and city regions of the UK, centred on London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, while also providing direct services to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Newcastle and key destinations in south Yorkshire and the east Midlands‘.
Would HS2 “connect eight of the UK’s 10 most populous cities with direct links”?
According to ‘Liverpudlian’ and ‘strong HS2 supporter’ Lord Birt, apparently not.
[John Birt:] ‘When HS2 is built, Manchester will be 1 hour and 7 minutes from London while Liverpool will be 1 hour and 32 minutes from it — in round figures, an hour to Manchester but an hour and a half to Liverpool. This is a huge psychological difference for investors and business travellers, and a nail in the coffin of the Liverpool economy… Can the Minister say in his concluding remarks whether Liverpool and Heathrow will, in his view, ever be connected to HS2?‘
As well as bemoaning no HS2 into Liverpool or Heathrow Airport, Lord Birt regretted ‘there appears to be no prospect at all of our investing in what we most need as a country: a strategic road network designed for long-distance strategic travel, linking our cities, ports and airports.‘
Lord Birt’s support for environmentally-damaging megaprojects is not restricted to HS2.
[Birt toll road plan lacks PM’s support, Paul Waugh, The Independent, 19 May 2002]
Plans by Lord Birt to create a network of toll “supermotorways” looked doomed last night after it emerged Tony Blair had already dismissed the idea as too expensive.
Motoring organisations and environmentalists joined yesterday to attack the proposals, drawn up by the peer in his role as the Prime Minister’s adviser on transport.
Lord Birt wants to create “premium” pay roads between England’s major cities with few exits, to repeat the success of the French peage system.
The former BBC director-general, brought in by Downing Street to engage in “blue skies thinking”, ran into immediate opposition, not least within Stephen Byers’ Department of Transport, when the plan was leaked at the weekend.
On 25 September 2015, Lord Ahmad wrote to Lord Hollick in response to questions about transport investment and the recommendations of the Economic Affairs Committee report on the HS2 scheme.
As the Beleben blog reported last year, Lord Ahmad’s response didn’t answer the Committee’s questions. In the debate on 14 March, Lord Rowe-Beddoe made the same point.
[Lord Rowe-Beddoe, speaking in the debate on 14 April 2016]
My Lords, I rise to express my concern and great disappointment that the unanimous conclusions of the Economic Affairs Committee of this House, published just over a year ago, largely remain ignored by this Bill.
[…] In my opinion, nothing in this Bill takes on board or responds to the concerns we raised at that time — or indeed in the subsequent letter from our chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Hollick—-with the Government following their response. The noble Lord raised 10 issues, which received no response at all.
This suggests to me that, on HS2, the minds of officials and government Ministers have been firmly made up for some time and that they are determined to proceed with this enormous investment in the form this Bill proposes. Sadly, I must repeat what I said in last September’s debate. The attitude is:
“Here is your answer; what is your question?”.—[Official Report, 16/9/15; col. 1876.]
I know from some of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, that he has experience of such obfuscation.