Sunday, 4 December 2011

More HS2 Shenanighans

From PoliticsHome we learn that the Department for Transport have announced they have found an extra £500m which will be used to build a tunnel under the Chiltern Hills for the controversial HS2 train line. The extra funding means that a decision on HS2 will be delayed from this month to mid-January 2012, but is likely to assauge some of the opposition to the plans. The story is covered elsewhere here, here and here.

From the Guardian article we are informed that this extra £500m is to provide a further tunnel of 1.5 miles taken on the basis it would reduce aesthetic damage to the Chilterns, an area of outstanding natural beauty. From the Daily Telegraph we learn:
"The first six mile section to Old Oak Common Lane in northwest London is tunnelled before running over-ground to the M25, and then passing through another tunnel. This tunnel surfaces after Amersham for a mile, before entering a shorter tunnel, which ends at South Heath. The new cash will be used to join up the Amersham tunnel with the shorter tunnel."
And whose constitutuency is Chesham and Amersham? And who, besides David Lidington, has threatened to resign if HS2 crosses their constituency? Forgive me, but this decision 'stinks'! It reeks of public money being spent to save the government of the day very high profile resignation(s); and all the fall-out that that would entail.

We learn that Justine Greening is to delay any decision until January next year, although it is noted that she is due to appear before the Transport Select Committee on Wednesday 14th December at 17:05 hours. From the BBC suggestions have been made by the Campaign to Protect Rural England that the extra money has been found by possibly 'ungreening' (pun intended!) other sections of the line; and it is to be wondered whether Justine Greening will be forthcoming about such matters when she does appear before the Select Committee, assuming of course the question is asked, or whether she will make such details clear in her statement to the HoC.

In the recommendations of the last Transport Select Committee report it was noted that claims HS2 would deliver substantial carbon-reduction benefits did not stand up to scrutiny, although in the same paragraph the committee did note that HS2 will produce less carbon than an expanded motorway network or greater domestic aviation in the event of increased demand for inter-urban travel - so on the basis that all this 'carbon scam' is accepted, it presumably shows 'justification' for HS2. One other statement is worthy of mention and that is the Government needs to make clear how HS2 fits into its wider aviation strategy. Once again our politicians are being disingenious with the actualité because the government doesn't have a transport policy, aviation or otherwise; as the EU, by means of Article 4(g) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) can dictate any aspect of transport policy any time they so choose - and all our pretend government can do is, in effect, then implement any subsequent decision.

Whilst much is made by those against the scheme who have local concerns, it should also be noted that funding proposals have yet to be announced. Philip Hammond, when Transport Secretary, may well contend the project is affordable, yet at the end of the day we do not yet know how much liability there is for the taxpayer. In the letters column of today's Sunday Telegraph it is suggested that taxpayers will be liable for £10billion. (the Castles & Parish report referred to can be read here.) The 17 councils referred to are part of the 51m group, an alliance of councils opposed to HS2, so called because HS2 will costs every Parliamentary constituency £51m. Another matter worth ascertaining is, in discussing revenue that HS2 will produce, I do not see any inclusion to cater for the intention of the EU and their proposal that the 'user pays' concept.

It is also worth noting, if discussing disingeniousness, that in the Transport Committee report and the Castles & Parish paper, the 'EU element' of the Trans-European Network-Transport (TEN-T) appears most noticeable by its absence - but hey, the appearance of 'parliamentary sovereignty' understandably has to be 'maintained at all costs'. (again, pun intended)

As with just about any government 'project', what our political elite are doing with HS2 is spending money that is not theirs in the first place. Now, with 'Referism' and 'Direct Democracy' they would bloody well have to ask first!


Martin Cole said...

The EU has sovereignty over our Air, Land and Seas and is merely demonstrating that fact with the plans for HS2 which the government of Britain (any government) is powerless to halt, amend or change in any way. Britain's taxpayers will merely pay the lions share of the unwanted costs. See here:

A similar scheme is already underway near where I live in France, where billions is today actually being spent, to shave mere minutes off the rail journey time between Tours and Bordeaux by line straightening. I am covering this on Ironies Too, see the following link:

WitteringsfromWitney said...

MC: Thanks for the Eu/europa link - I shall add it to my 'library'.

I have been banging on about HS2 being EU driven for ages - nice to see someone else doing so.......