Now stop wasting money on HS2
STRANGE things are afoot with the £33billion white elephant HS2, which has come under yet more scrutiny from government organisations and committees as the business case for the project sinks slowly in the north west.
In the course of investigations of the catastrophic financial and operating forecast on HS1 line in Kent, by the all-party Public Accounts Committee (PAC), it has emerged that much of the processes used for HS1 have been applied to HS2.
In questioning from the committee chairman, Margaret Hodge, Department of Transport managers were unable to explain this. When she also pointed out that the government’s Major Projects Authority (MPA) had graded HS2 to be red-amber (unlikely to succeed) those officials had no reassuring response either.
The projected return on tax payers’ money – our money – has now plummeted from the £2.40 for every £1 invested over the (very) long term, to only £1.20 for every £1, with independent analysis suggesting between 60p and 90p.
This takes it well below the level that the former transport secretary, Phillip Hammond, identified in a response to the Transport Select Committee, when he said that any level below 1.6 should put the project under ‘severe scrutiny’.
In his new position as defence secretary, Mr Hammond said last week, when defending his £100million U-turn on fighter plane procurement: “When the facts change, the responsible thing to do is to examine the decision made and be willing to change your mind no matter how inconvenient that may be”.
That moment has certainly now arrived for HS2.
But are his words of wisdom heeded by the current transport secretary, Justine Greening? Not in the slightest.
David Cameron said in 2010: “We want to be the most open and transparent government in the world”.
Oh David, where did it all go wrong?
Get a grip, look at the facts, and cancel this unwanted and unwarranted waste of our money.
Sooner project is dropped the better
NOW that even the Department for Transport shows with its latest data that HS2 will cost more than it delivers in benefits, that the Major Projects Authority has real concerns, that the Public Accounts Committee thinks HS2 is ‘bonkers’, and even the Treasury (presumably that means George Osborne) are chary about wasting money on more planning, when can we expect to hear that HS2 will be confined to oblivion?
Perhaps David Cameron thinks that there is no more fitting memorial to his premiership than £33billion being spent on clawing an irreparable scar through unspoilt countryside to create a liability that generations to come must fund? Unlikely.
Perhaps he is waiting for the Office of Budget Responsibility or the National Audit Office to assess its value for money? The latter will be investigating it, and that the former should be is an excellent suggestion made by Lord Gus O’Donnell, until recently his Cabinet Secretary. But surely he does not need confirmation of the obvious?
There again, he may feel that with a stage dominated by the euro crisis, health service reforms and irreconcilable tensions within the coalition, that HS2 is too small a matter to reconsider however much the evidence changes. Clutching on to a policy simply because that before the facts were known the coalition partners thought it was a good idea is a desperate basis for policy, now the facts are known.
Any reasonable person now looking afresh at the evidence could only conclude HS2 makes no sense. The sooner HS2 is dropped the sooner we stop throwing good money after bad. Surely David Cameron does not feel this is a time for conspicuous waste?
HS2 Action Alliance
You still need to make views known
IF YOU are affected by HS2, the time to act is now.
Back in January, Christine Greening announced her decision, HS2 was to proceed and the patronising sub message was ‘all right, you’ve had your say… Now let’s go through the motions of consulting you on mitigation’.
After the decision was announced, there was a celebration conference of HS2 supporters in London and, I understand, one of the key messages was that they had totally failed to convince the country (let alone those of us objecting to the scheme) that HS2 had any merit at all.
What do you think the response of the Department for Transport was to this startling revelation? Do you think they asked themselves whether it was a good idea, whether HS2 was needed, whether it represented good value for money? None of it. What they decided to do was to ‘weather it out’ and employ an army of spin doctors to ‘educate us’.
All of us opposed to HS2 agree that plan A is still to stop this lunacy and, since January, here in Amersham alone, we have raised well over £20,000 to help fund the judicial reviews that are now being served on the government as well a range of other activities, including lobbying our political elite both in parliament and at the party political conferences.
The general opinion among the action groups is that we are winning the argument. However, we have still yet to win the battle and there is a long way to go before the ‘fat lady sings’.
So while we are making tremendous progress in having the scheme stopped, we also have to accept that the government may be able to bulldoze this project through parliament. It is therefore important that we recognise the need for a plan B, ie talk to the government to minimise the damage this appalling scheme will wreak.
There will, of course, be a number of individual instances where individual properties and groups will be impacted and, if you think you will be affected, it is vital that you make your situation and views known.
This can be done by writing to this paper, contacting your local action group, or town, parish, district, county councillors. We are all working to stop this line happening, but if it does finally go ahead, now is the time to act.
HS2 Amersham Action Group
I’m seeing red over train colour coding
SERIOUSLY? Chiltern Railways is spending time and money on ‘joke announcements’ to cheer up its passengers? I’ll tell you what would really make me smile, if I could actually get a seat on my journey.
The company has continually compressed the timetable during prime commuting hours and failed to deliver sufficient rolling stock to accommodate the number of customers wanting to use those lower number, of too short, trains.
Frequently, the trains during the peak morning time are already overflowing with standing passengers on arrival at Gerrards Cross. In fact, I’m not sure why they both stop at Gerrards Cross at all, given no one gets off there at that time and it’s almost impossible to squeeze any more people on.
I am sick of paying above-inflation fare rises and still having to stand all the way. When I write to Chiltern Railways and complain, it just tells me it has classified the trains by colour and that commuter trains are ‘red’, so I should wait for a later ‘amber’ one where I would stand a better chance of getting a seat. Great!
So buying a ticket these days just gets you a coloured raffle ticket and we are supposed to travel at their timed convenience, not our own. I’m not laughing – is anyone else?
Police cuts here, generosity abroad
I REFER to last week’s news that police stations in South Bucks may be closing or having their hours cut.
This will not come as good news for those concerned about local services and the fight against crime.
Our police are reportedly facing budget cuts of 20 per cent. I do agree that public services can be run more efficiently, and that the government does need to make savings in spending.
Our economy is struggling to get going again. However, when it comes to fighting dubious wars abroad, giving money to the European Union, foreign aid or bailing out the disastrous euro, this government seems to have plenty of funds. It seems to have a strange sense of priorities about how to spend our money – and let us never forget it is our money, not theirs.
We have a soft-on-crime system, sentences being cut and now votes for prisoners. Many people fear to go out, or answer their door, after dark. So called ‘minor crime and anti-social behaviour’ is anything but minor for those on the receiving end.
We need a police force not a police service, and we need our local police properly funded.
UK Independence Party
I welcome film studios project
WITH regard to the article Film studio plans worry neighbours in the Buckinghamshire Advertiser last week, I think it is fantastic that we have a thriving film studio in Buckinghamshire.
I was disappointed that the previous plans for Pinewood were rejected, as I thought they would be so good for the area.
I would not have objected if it the Pinewood Project had been going to be built near my home – even on Green Belt land.
We have been lucky that there is a history of film making in the area, and I hope we continue to have the studios here in Bucks.
I really cannot understand what people are objecting to with the latest housing proposals.
NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED
Thanks for raising cancer awareness
world Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) would like to thank the thousands of supporters who helped during last week’s Cancer Prevention Week, from the people who took part in Beat the Banana! runs around the country, to the schools, businesses and communities who simply dressed in yellow on Fruity Friday,
And thanks to everyone who played their part in raising awareness of the link between cancer and diet, physical activity and weight.
World Cancer Research Fund