VoxOpp http://www.voxopp.org.uk Villages of Oxfordshire Opposing HS2 Thu, 30 Jan 2014 15:25:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.11 McCoughlin Invokes Emergency Veto to Keep HS2 Report Secret http://www.voxopp.org.uk/867/mccoughlin-invokes-emergency-veto-to-keep-hs2-report-secret/ Thu, 30 Jan 2014 15:25:33 +0000 http://www.voxopp.org.uk/?p=867

The Secretary for Transport, Patrick McCoughlin, is so desperate to ensure that a 2011 report to government on HS2, the planned high speed railway from London to Birmingham and beyond, should be kept under wraps that he has invoked an emergency veto. This type of veto has only previously been used in matters of extreme importance where it is paramount that certain information should not become public, such as in the war with Iraq where national security was at stake. In the case of HS2 it has been used to overrule a Decision Notice issued by the Information Commissioner that the report should be released in response to a request made under the Freedom of Information Act.

The government had previously denied that there was anything of importance in the report but tacitly admitted that some information in the report could be damaging. It now looks near certain that the report does indeed contain some damning information regarding the case for HS2. Bearing in mind that the decision to use such a veto has been made in respect of nothing more secret that a proposed infrastructure development, the veto action itself raises very strong doubts that there is any real case at all for the proposed high speed railway. So much for freedom of information, so much for democracy.

Government ministers sat on critical DfT report http://www.voxopp.org.uk/844/government-ministers-sat-on-critical-dft-report/ Tue, 07 Jan 2014 09:30:22 +0000 http://www.voxopp.org.uk/?p=844

Just a few weeks ago we had the farcical situation of a report produced by KPMG for the government being flaunted by the Secretary of State for Transport as justification for HS2 despite the report’s containing bold as brass admissions by the writers that there was no factual basis for the conclusions in their report. In Sunday’s Telegraph, Andrew Gilligan has now revealed that the DfT deliberately sat on another report on the economic case for HS2 by Tom Worsley, the man who developed the DfT’s own transport modelling. This report criticised KPMG and its method directly and by name, saying it produced “implausibly high” estimates of the effect of high-speed rail projects on the economy. However, even though the Worsley report reached McCoughlin before the KPMG report it obviously did not say what the Secretary of State for Transport wanted to read and was not published until some seven weeks after he had spent much of his time lauding the content of the valueless KPMG report.

Andrew Gilligan’s article additionally covers a long list of so many of the false and easily demolished arguments which the government has put forward in its efforts to justify the incredibly costly but clearly unsupportable case for HS2. Read the shocking article in full here.

Eurostar hits 10m passenger target 15 years late http://www.voxopp.org.uk/841/eurostar-hits-10m-passenger-target-15-years-late/ Mon, 06 Jan 2014 10:03:40 +0000 http://www.voxopp.org.uk/?p=841

On December 30th the Telegraph reported that Eurostar had at last hit its target of carrying 10m passenger a year – just 15 years later than planned. The accuracy of this forecast may well give some indication of the accuracy of the performance figures released for the proposed HS2 line.

Read the full article by Nathalie Thomas in the December 30th Telegraph – and note the penultimate paragraph. Yes, when Eurostar is at last able to claim success in hitting a key performace forecast, just a decade and a half late, the government wants to sell it off and allow others to reap the financial benefits of its success. That is what they would most likely do with HS2 as well – whether or not it meets any of its targets.

HS2 benefits ‘essentially made up’ http://www.voxopp.org.uk/830/hs2-benefits-essentially-made-up/ Tue, 31 Dec 2013 13:35:36 +0000 http://www.voxopp.org.uk/?p=830

An article in today’s Telegraph confirms, yet again, that the financial justification for the HS2 scheme has no real basis. In the article Henry Overman, professor of economic geography at the London School of Economics and a former member of Whitehall’s high speed rail advisory panel, is quoted as saying that he had quit the panel after he felt its role had changed from providing independent advice to promoting the project.

The full article by David Millward, Transport Editor of the Telegraph, can be read here.

Further, the Telegraph reported yesterday that Eurostar had at last hit its target of carrying 10m passenger a year – just 15 years later than planned. The accuracy of this forecast may well give some indication of the accuracy of the performance figures forecast for the proposed HS2 line.

Read this full article by Nathalie Thomas in yesterday’s Telegraph – and note the penultimate paragraph. Yes, when Eurostar is at last able to claim success in hitting a key performace forecast, just a decade and a half late, the government intends to sell it off and allow others to reap the financial benefits of its success.

So much for Democracy – Coalition Suppresses Information on HS2 http://www.voxopp.org.uk/823/so-much-for-democracy-coalition-suppresses-information-on-hs2/ Tue, 17 Dec 2013 09:28:48 +0000 http://www.voxopp.org.uk/?p=823

It is hard not to conclude that the coalition is suppressing information in order to preserve its grand design, says the Sunday Telegraph. Read why in the full story.

What is the coalition trying to suppress? Again, read more details in the Sunday Telegraph.

The “convinced MPs” now persistently claim that HS2 is “essential for the UK” but like all their previous arguments they never support this woolly mantra with any fact-based evidence. They support a project of this scale apparently regardless of the fact that the plans did not even include that most fundamental requirement, a critical path. They buy into unsubstantiated claims that because rail use has been increasing for some years past it will continue to increase at the same rate for the next few decades. Figures released for last year now demonstrate that this is certainly not the case. And when have they ever published any information supporting their claim for the economic benefits of HS2? They say this is not possible and point to equally woolly reports, for which they have paid through the nose, as support. The reality is that if they genuinely believe all this they are decades behind the times. The requirement for fact-based evidence is now a given in real world planning.

Mirror Exposes Misuse of Emergency Powers http://www.voxopp.org.uk/816/mirror-exposes-misuse-of-emergency-powers/ Wed, 11 Dec 2013 18:43:09 +0000 http://www.voxopp.org.uk/?p=816

Yesterday’s Daily Mirror was one of several newspapers which exposed the incredible news that Patrick McLoughlin, the Secretary of State for Transport, is determined to block the release of a report requested under the Freedom of Information Act by using emergency powers. The report is from 2011 and the government appears to be trying to distract attention from their reluctance to release the report by saying it is out of date. But if that is the whole truth why does the report’s secrecy matter so much? What are they really trying to hide?

To make the matter worse, the Mirror reported that a Department for Transport spokesman added: “There has been a huge amount of  consultation on HS2 and we have been completely transparent about the project  throughout.” Now that is a quite astonishing claim – as a glance at the enormous number of FOI requests which have been needed to get information out of the DFT in respect of the HS2 project attests. It does rather pose the question  of how exactly the Department for Transport would define the words “transparent” and “truth”.

Read the full article from the Daily Mirror for yourself.

What the British Think of HS2 http://www.voxopp.org.uk/808/what-the-british-think-of-hs2/ Tue, 03 Dec 2013 10:25:15 +0000 http://www.voxopp.org.uk/?p=808

Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary who only a month ago claimed that the proposed HS2 £50 billion high speed railway which will run from London to the North was, “one of the most potentially beneficial infrastructure projects on the planet” has failed to convince the public that the project will be anything but a failure.

A Telegraph/ICM survey has found that only 3 per cent of voters believe that what must be the world’s most expensive expensive high-speed train will be delivered on time and on budget. Further, while more people agreed that links between London and the north needed improvement than disagreed, only 12% thought that HS2 was the best way to provide it.

The building of the proposed railway through rural regions will also wreak a terrible price as it carves through the countryside, and this is just in phase 1. If you have not already done so read about Britain’s views and the environmental price the British will pay for the government’s flagship vanity project in an Andrew Gilligan and Tim Ross article in the Sunday Telegraph.

Anything makes more sense than HS2 http://www.voxopp.org.uk/802/anything-makes-more-sense-than-hs2/ Wed, 30 Oct 2013 17:54:11 +0000 http://www.voxopp.org.uk/?p=802

So says Simon Jenkins in The Guardian today. His pithily amusing piece on HS2 will bring tears of joy and mirth to all those who oppose HS2 and, I suspect, tears of rage to any dyed-in-the-wool supporter of HS2. I confess I certainly enjoyed it!

And every point he raises to lampoon HS2 is absolutely true. You can read through the various tracts of published information he refers to and see that for yourself. The sad point is, of course, that it all shows up the lack of regard for sound and logical thinking and the reliance on misleading spin shown by those responsible for continuing to push forward this madcap scheme.

Go on, read it.

Tricks of the Trade http://www.voxopp.org.uk/792/tricks-of-the-trade/ Thu, 17 Oct 2013 09:31:05 +0000 http://www.voxopp.org.uk/?p=792

In September the Government announced its new compensation proposals for those affected by HS2 and described them as “generous and comprehensive”. But we cut our teeth on the previous proposals which were “the most generous ever” and are not taken in by this street trader language. The ‘lucky’ few who fall within the 120m boundary will indeed be taken care of but the vast majority of households affected will be left out in the cold. How are the Government managing to do this while appearing to be so generous and understanding?  Here are a few of the tricks of the trade.

  1. Sleight of hand The stated criteria for the new proposals are: fairness for those affected, value for money for the taxpayer, community cohesion, feasibility, efficiency and comprehensibility and the functioning of the housing market. But on the other hand, the Government “does not expect the scheme it eventually adopts to necessarily be highly regarded under all criteria”. No doubt “fairness for those affected” and “the functioning of the housing market” are the criteria that will slide out of sight, much to the Government’s regret.
  2. Double-think Consider these two sentences:
    Values can be expected to recover when the scheme is operational and its full effects are known. The Government considers that it is unreasonable to expect taxpayers to compensate for temporary reductions in property values that subsequently recover”.
    The Government considers HS2 to be an exceptional project for a number of reasons. The period of time needed for design and construction is very long. The linear nature and overall length of the development is also unusual, as is its largely rural setting.”
    OK if they accept that it is unusual, why are they basing their assumptions on past history? The “largely rural setting” will mean that values will not be inclined to recover. In an urban or suburban setting, there are many reasons for choosing to live in a particular area – good schools, great leisure facilities, a high street with excellent shops, and just the right tube or bus stop. So if a new infrastructure project comes along it may put prospective house buyers off for a while but in the end the area still has things going for it and prices do recover. Conversely, in the countryside we have to drive to most amenities anyway, so if a noisy railway goes right past one village, then we’ll choose to buy a house in another village a couple of miles further away which has access to all the same amenities but also has peace and quiet which country dwellers seek. There is no reason why anyone should ever want to buy a house in the country near to a noisy railway line, unless they can get it at a substantially reduced price.
  3. Not my problem, mate The “exceptional” hardship scheme has been transmuted into the “long term” hardship scheme.  It is not clear whether it is “long term” simply because the scheme is to cover a long period, or whether the “hardship”, while no longer needing to be “exceptional”, has to have the potential for ruining a good chunk of your stay on this earth. The big problem with the Long Term Hardship Scheme is the “Hardship” qualification.  Why should you have to suffer actual hardship in order to qualify for the compensation that enables you to move and get on with your life? What’s wrong with just wanting to move? They don’t even define hardship – but a rule of thumb judging on past experience is that if your story is heart-wrenching enough to get into the Daily Mail, you may stand a chance.
  4. Two Card Trick Another astonishing feature of this scheme is the15% clause. Under it, if you have had an offer on your house within 15% of the asking price and have rejected it, your application will fail. This is because, they say, there is “historical evidence” that 12% is the average drop that people are likely to accept when selling a house. It should be obvious to everyone, although apparently not the government, that this very high figure must be an average that includes over-optimistic asking prices. But here comes the punch line. A further  qualification for the LTHS is that your house has to be on the market at a “realistic asking price”. In other words, you start at a low price and take a further great big hit. There is no explanation, by the way, for the 3% they have added to this already high figure of 12%.
    To get an idea of the effect of this, a look at one village which will be adversely affected by HS2 shows that if people were to sell their houses at a price 15% below Zoopla’s current estimated price, then everyone who had bought their house since mid 2004 would get less than they paid for it. In over half the cases they would get less than 90% of what they paid for it. Compared with Nationwide’s calculator which indicates that house prices have risen by an average of 11.36% since 2004, this is disastrous. The government’s rules would ensure that these people would simply not be able to move. This is not “normal functioning of the property market”.
    Because of the shortcomings of the scheme, some householders may run out of options – their lives will be put on hold for over a decade, all their plans for the future dashed. The Government presumably washes its hands of this problem. 
  5. Smoke and Mirrors Consider this sentence: “As of 1 October 2013, 121 applications to the EHS had been accepted. Of these, purchases had been completed in 96 cases”. Nearly 80% success rate – sounds promising doesn’t it? Except that that word “accepted” is important here.  The number of applications received is not mentioned. It is actually much higher at 503, but most applications are rejected at the first stage.  The true success rate is no more than 24% with only 19% of those received resulting in purchases being completed.
  6. Sabotage One of the reasons this consultation had to be done again is that the DfT did not give proper consideration to HS2AA’s bond proposal. Forced now to give it attention, what have the DfT done? Sabotaged it completely by rejecting all but a geographically limited version of it, so that it ends up as a slightly worse alternative to their own proposal.  Sir Humphrey Appleby would be proud of them!
  7. Quick, let’s hide behind this law The 1973 Land Compensation Act is beginning to show its age – it refers throughout to highways and “aerodromes” and, incidentally, doesn’t seem to know that railways exist at all (perhaps in those days the government regarded railways as a thing of the past). You cannot make a claim until one year after the line comes into use, if you live that long (wait a minute though – death qualifies as long term hardship, so it’s not all bad news). A claim can be made for loss in value of a property because of physical factors (noise, vibration, smell, fumes, smoke and artificial lighting).  So if you paid a premium because your house had “stunning countryside views” and now it hasn’t – tough! Also, don’t think it is going to be easy proving there is any noise – HS2’s publicity film of the train showed it making less noise than the local bus and they have an Orwellian capacity for rewriting the truth and believing it. The fact that you probably have a bus three times a day, whereas the train is going to pass 36 times an hour is irrelevant to them. Incidentally, watch out for future skulduggery regarding the number of trains per hour because, under this law, you cannot make a later claim for “intensification of an existing use”.

HS2 Ltd are holding a compensation roadshow at Brackley Football Club, St James Park, Churshill Way, NN13 7EJ on Monday 21st October from 12 noon till 8 pm. Go along and ask some awkward questions and then be sure to make your views known by responding to the consultation by 4th December 2013. Details can be found here.

Bank of England Boss on Investment in Infrastructure http://www.voxopp.org.uk/773/bank-of-england-boss-on-investment-in-infrastructure/ Fri, 04 Oct 2013 17:22:24 +0000 http://www.voxopp.org.uk/?p=773

A short article in the Telegraph on 2 October reports an address by Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, in which he makes very clear that Britain’s economic recovery will depend on what happens in the country’s broader economy and that, important as London is, the recovery will be built on growth outside the capital. He cites East Anglia as an example of what he means by “outside the capital”.

The article is principally about that subject but in its final paragraphs Mr Carney covers the need for Britain to spend a great deal more on infrastructure. “There’s an infrastructure deficit in transport and beyond,” he says adding, most importantly, that “What is clear in the UK is that there is a lot of money available for well-thought through infrastructure projects.”

So, we ask, why are there no private investors for HS2? Why is the government going to fund the project to the tune of at least £50 billion – using your money and mine? Could it possibly be that this project is generally considered not to be “well-thought through”? And perhaps both the Bank of England and private investment companies are all well aware of this?

Read the full article here.