Archive for July 2016
HS2 would evict families from their homes, disrupt people’s lives, and have a significant impact on parts of Britain’s beautiful countryside, but that seems to have never been a problem for Doncaster MP Ed “EdStone” Miliband, until the preferred route was amended to run through his constituency.
[Former Labour Leader Ed Miliband calls for HS2 route through Doncaster housing estate to be axed, Doncaster Free Press, 21 July 2016]
Ed Miliband has spoken out in opposition to the plans, which if given the go-ahead could involve the demolition of more than 200 homes on the Shimmer Estate in Mexborough, at the heart of Mr Miliband’s Doncaster North constituency.
The former Labour leader, who wants an alternative route, said: “It’s important to try and stop these proposals by making the case for an alternative route.
“The more I hear about this proposed HS2 route, the worse it sounds.
“It will evict families from their homes, disrupt people’s lives, and have a significant impact on parts of our beautiful countryside.
“I will work with concerned residents, councillors, the Mayor of Doncaster, and other MPs, to do all we can to persuade the government of the case for it, based on the economics as well as the effects on my constituents.
The proposed new route through parts of Doncaster and the Dearne Valley was announced with the publication of a report written by Sir David Higgins on July 7.
The new proposal is set to go before the Government for approval this autumn.
Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn continually undermined Lilian Greenwood in the job she loved, apparently.
[Extracts from speech by Lilian Greenwood MP, published by the New Statesman, 18 July 2016]
HS2 has always been controversial, including in our Party, but it is something that I believe is vital for the future of our country. It has the support of all the rail unions. It has the support of Labour leaders in the great cities like Birmingham and Manchester and Leeds and Nottingham. It is important for jobs and skills in Derby and Doncaster and across the country and it is our official policy to support it, as agreed by the Shadow Cabinet and our National Policy Forum. I’ve been one of HS2’s strongest supporters, so I when I took up the job in Jeremy [Corbyn]’s Shadow Cabinet I wanted to be absolutely sure we were on the same page.
I met his Director of Policy to talk it through. We talked about the most difficult parts of the project, the impact at Euston in London. I’d been working with Councillor Sarah Hayward and her colleagues at Camden for more than two years to try and help them get what they wanted for their local residents. It had been very difficult. I’d been to visit several times, meeting residents and businesses and dealing with some hostile media. But we secured real concessions – changes that will make a difference to local residents. It didn’t matter that it was in a nominally safe seat. It was the right thing to do.
Despite our agreed policy, despite Jeremy’s Director of Policy and I agreeing our position, without saying anything to me, Jeremy gave a press interview in which he suggested he could drop Labour’s support for HS2 altogether. He told a journalist on a local Camden newspaper that perhaps the HS2 line shouldn’t go to Euston at all but stop at Old Oak Common in West London – but he never discussed any of this with the Shadow Cabinet, or me, beforehand. I felt totally undermined on a really difficult issue. And when two frontbenchers voted against the three-line whip at 3rd Reading in March he did nothing, telling one of them: “well I’ve done it enough times myself.” Breaking the principles of collective responsibility and discipline without which effective Parliamentary opposition is not possible.
When I raised my concerns it was simply shrugged off. It undermined me in front of colleagues and made me look weak. It made me feel like I was wasting my time. That my opinion didn’t matter. And it made me miserable.
The EU 4th Rail Package is a bit complex to explain here and now, but it had the potential to make it difficult to implement our new rail policy. I’d been working with MEPs to ensure it was amended or blocked for the last 3 years. We felt we could live with the final draft issued in April but it was a very sensitive issue. ASLEF and the RMT were on the Leave side in the referendum because of their concerns. So when Jeremy talked about it in a speech, in very Euro-sceptic terms, without giving me any warning let alone discussing it with me, I was concerned and asked to meet him. Our frontbenchers were being challenged on the issue in the media, but there was no common position.
I asked and asked. After my staff chasing virtually every day for a month, we got a meeting. We put together a briefing paper in advance. We drafted some lines to take in any press interviews for us to give to all Labour MPs. We discussed the lines with his Policy staff and made some changes in response to comments. We agreed a final version. We sat down together and discussed what was in the 4th Rail Package, how we were ensuring it didn’t stop our policy, how we’d been working with our MEPs and the Socialist Group and we agreed the lines to take.
The lines were circulated to all frontbenchers, to all MPs, to ensure they knew what our policy was and how to deal with difficult questions. But Jeremy went on SkyNews and took a completely different, eurosceptic line. Not what we’d agreed. With the potential to make us look divided. It undermined me, my staff and his staff. I wondered why I was bothering to put in the hard work.
You’ve all heard stories about pro-European speeches being downgraded, events, being cancelled, and Jeremy and his staff privately subscribing to Eurosceptic views. And I felt that I was watching my leader deliberately sabotage the campaign on an issue on which he and I had a personal agreement.
When I saw that [David] Cameron had resigned, I felt like I was looking into the abyss. Towards a General Election in which dozens of my colleagues would lose their seats. And I already know what that is like and I was in despair.
But at that moment I knew that I didn’t have to put up with it. I could leave the Shadow Cabinet and return to the backbenches and focus on Nottingham South.
I was tired and emotional, so I wasn’t going to do anything hasty. So I talked to some of my closest colleagues. I discussed it with my staff. And I told Ravi. And decided to raise my concerns at Shadow Cabinet on the Monday. I arranged to meet my agent and several CLP officers on the Sunday afternoon to explain what I had decided to do.
But was Ms Greenwood also tired and emotional when she decided HS2 was a good idea?
As Professor John Tomaney has pointed out, there is ‘not a shred of evidence’ for claims such as ‘HS2 would rebalance the economy’.
HS2 Ltd’s diagram of 2013 / 2014 rail demand to and from London does not give figures for the actual numbers travelling, but the Sheffield volume is around the 800,000 mark.
Suppose all of that demand transferred to a Euston – Sheffield Midland HS2 service, operating 12 times per day in each direction, 360 days per year.
A HS2 ‘classic compatible’ train is supposed to carry ‘up to’ 550 passengers, but the arithmetic gives an average Sheffield train load of (800,000)/360/24 = ~93 passengers.
Stopping the HS2 train at Chesterfield would add a few more passengers, but would not fix the underlying non-viability.
Building the eastern leg would create the need for a new perpetual subsidy stream to cover the losses from HS2 operation. It would also create the need for an increased perpetual subsidy stream for the East Coast and Midland Main Lines.
In its ‘Sheffield and South Yorkshire Report 2016’ (published on 7 July 2016), HS2 Ltd proposed a partial realignment of the eastern leg of the Y network, taking it further east of the South Yorkshire built-up area. Instead of the county being served by captive trains calling at Meadowhall, ‘classic compatible’ trains would run from London Euston to Sheffield Midland, leaving the HS2 track on a spur south of Chesterfield. The revised package is called “M18 / Eastern Route incl. c-c spur via Chesterfield”, because its alignment would partly follow the M18 motorway.
In an interview with The Sheffield Star, the executive chairman of HS2 Ltd, David Higgins, said he “was persuaded to ‘reflect and re-look’ at the proposed line due to the passion of the debate” (about how South Yorkshire should be served). The newspaper has been running a campaign for a HS2 station to be ‘built in Sheffield city centre’, but HS2’s revised plan seems to entail only minor modifications to Midland station, not a rebuild.
With the revised package, saving money is clearly more important than Northern regional connectivity, – which seems to be someone else’s problem. According to the “Options Report v6“, M18 + c/c spur would be just £1 billion cheaper (in 2015 prices) than the Base (Consultation) Route, but would not “provide Sheffield to Leeds HS2 service”. The costs of a ‘northern junction to meet Northern Powerhouse Rail aspirations, providing approximately 30 minute Sheffield to Leeds journeys’, and electrification of the classic line north of Midland station, are not really discussed.
The report is very short on detail, and it is not clear what the overall Phase Two service pattern, or train fleet, would look like if the proposals were adopted. It does at least say that with the c/c spur, journey time from London Euston to Sheffield Midland would be 83 minutes, including a stop at Chesterfield. “Up to” two trains per hour could use the spur south of Chesterfield. And a journey from Leeds to Euston on the M18 alignment would take 80 minutes, compared to 81 minutes with the Consultation Route.
Obviously a £1 billion saving is not very much in the context of the overall cost of HS2, and the whole project makes less sense by the day. To improve HS2’s survival prospects, one might have expected the promoters to present a less daft proposal with bigger savings, such as truncating the high speed line at Toton. Demand for travel from York is not much different to demand at Leeds, so why exactly would there be a need for a 400-metre platform dead-end ‘captive’ station at Leeds?
As can be seen from the diagram below, the demand for rail travel to London from Yorkshire cities is extremely low, and there is no way of justifying spending tens of billions of pounds on trophy infrastructure.
Having had difficulties in finding independent evidence to back up their claim that 18 HS2 trains-per-hour could run, HS2 Ltd commissioned their own. One of the documents created to support the 18-trains-per-hour claim, written in 2011 by Professor Roderick Smith, was mentioned in the 2012 ‘Review of the Technical Specification for High Speed Rail in the UK‘, but appears to be no longer online.
Perhaps that is just as well.
[High speed rail service HS2 will suffer the railways’ usual delays, expert warns, Henry Bodkin, Daily Telegraph, 30 June 2016]
Professor Rod Smith, the former Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Transport, said linking the new high speed lines to the existing network would be a “disaster” that would “ruin reliability and punctuality”.
If HS2 does go ahead, a lot of experts’ claims are going to be ‘found out’. One might ask, is there a ‘refund policy’, and if so, what is it?