CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Why the silence on HS2

07 November, 2019

‘HS2 is a prime example of the great divide between them and us’

• IS it any wonder that the electorate is thoroughly disillusioned with government and politicians? HS2 is a prime example of the great divide between them and us.

For several years regional and national polls have revealed that the overwhelming majority of the electorate is opposed to wasting £80billion-plus on HS2 and would rather see the money spent on the NHS, local rail infrastructure for conurbations and the electrification of the Midland Mainline and GWR etc.

But, other than the Greens, there’s continuing deadly silence from all the major parties on HS2, despite not only its eye-watering, out-of-control, budget but also its dire carbon cost consequences arising just from its construction for two decades to come.

In typical fashion, the government side-stepped a decision on cancelling HS2 by calling for a so-called “independent” report and promptly put an ex-HS2 chairman, Douglas Oakervee, in charge. The report could have been ready and published well before the end of October.

But last week the new secretary of state for transport, Grant Shapps, in a classic fudge, delayed the publication by conspiring with Oakervee to say it isn’t ready and wouldn’t be made public until after the general election.

Cue the deputy chair, Lord Berkeley (who knows a lot about railways), to cry “stinking fish” and confirm that his role has been ended and that the report will now be finalised and conclusions written, without any recourse to him or the report’s advisory committee, by Oakervee and Department for Transport’s civil servants.

But what of Labour? While I can’t fault Sir Keir Starmer’s consistent representations on our behalf, he seemingly has no influence whatsoever, at least on his party’s disposition to HS2.

Presumably Labour are in thrall to the unions who, of course, wholly support John McDonnell’s pledge to hugely increase spending on infrastructure projects (except Heathrow’s third runway). As Private Eye would say, “triples all round!”.

PAUL BRAITHWAITE
Bartholomew Villas, NW5

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