Coffee House

The end of High Speed 2?

7 March 2014

4:05 PM

7 March 2014

4:05 PM

Haters of HS2 rejoice: the project has an even better chance of failing now. Following James’ revelation that the Transport Secretary doesn’t believe the Hybrid Bill will pass through Parliament before the next election, there are several scenarios on how the parties may change their stance on the project. If a cross-party consensus falls apart, HS2 will run into severe difficulties. Nearly all of the possibilities pose a threat to the line actually being built:

1. David Cameron remains Prime Minister

James played out this scenario in his blog yesterday, explaining why it matters that HS2 will be a big issue at the next general election. HS2 has always been a difficult sell to Tory MPs and the wider party, not withstanding the pressure following months of campaigning from Stop HS2, Ukip, the Countryside Alliance and anyone else who is against the line.

MPs from constituencies affected by the line will pile pressure onto Cameron to review the project if the Conservatives only return as the largest party rather than a majority government, as they will read the election result as a sign that HS2 is damaging the Tories.

2. Labour wins the next election

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Ed Balls has committed (£) to carrying out an audit of the project if Labour wins the next election. He has made it clear that he’s sceptical of the project, as is Andy Burnham, so this would an ideal time for Labour to kill HS2. Ed Miliband has so far stood behind the project, but with £10 billion to play with, a new Labour Prime Minster and Chancellor might be swayed by more popular ways of spending the money.

Labour councils in big cities would be very unhappy if Labour withdrew its support for HS2, as planning decision are already being made with HS2 in mind — for example, the new Curzon station in Birmingham involving 350 acres of redeveloped land.

3. David Cameron is kicked out as Tory leader

This ties in with Labour winning. If Cameron resigns as leader after losing the election, it’s fair to say George Osborne is unlikely to succeed him. In this instance, another Conservative leader, whoever that may be, could well be tempted to U-turn on HS2. Boris has been rather coy about the project while none of the other potential leaders have expressed much of an opinion. But it could be a way of them confronting their parties once in power. Particularly if Labour turn against the project — can you imagine the Tories in opposition standing behind it?

4. Another Tory-Lib Dem coalition

Assuming David Cameron manages to convince his party to support another coalition, this is most likely scenario involving the line becoming shovel-ready. Although a survey of Liberal Democrat activists suggests two thirds are in favour of HS2, the last ConservativeHome survey suggested over half of the Tory grassroots are against. I’d be surprised if that number isn’t bigger now. Cameron and Osborne have staked a significant amount of political capital on HS2, so it’s unlikely they would be able U-turn if they’re in power.

Although it’s the first time the government has admitted the Hybrid Bill wont be through by 2015, it’s not particularly surprising. The Bill is huge and will involve a significant amount of committee time and scrutiny. Supporters of the project are concerned at the lack of progress on the Bill — as David Higgins has pointed out, the longer it takes, the more the costs increase.

The Department for Transport is keen to insist that progress will be made soon, and the Bill will have a second reading by the summer. Unless there is significant progress in the next twelve months, the project will enter into rocky territory. It’s much easier to kill off HS2 when the main piece of legislation underpinning it hasn’t passed.

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Show comments
  • Rossspeak

    Bugger HS2 – can we have some simple- and much needed- infrastructure spending – like resurfacing our roads to PROPERLY solve the pothole problems – dredging rivers to help the poor residents of the Somerset levels save their houses – etc.- easy projects which are desperately required – and would provide thousands of jobs.

  • justejudexultionis

    If Westminster was serious about regenerating ‘the north’ (whatever that is) then they would be building high-speed rail between places like Glasgow and Edinburgh, Hull and Liverpool via Leeds/Manchester etc. HS2 as it now stands is clearly just a means of extending the London commuter zone and cementing the centralised economic power of London. In other words, HS2 is just another way of undermining local democracy and negating the principle of subsidiarity (the notion that decisions in a democracy should be localised and exercised at the lowest possible level) .

  • Jambo25

    The problem isn’t Dave and chums. They are merely a symptom of the problem. The real problem is that the Tory Party hasn’t been able to achieve an overall majority for well over 20 years and I don’t think it will again in the foreseeable future.
    The Tory Party began to commit electoral suicide back in the late 60s when, under the foul Heath, the Tories decided, knowingly or otherwise, to ditch ‘One nation Toryism’ and become the party of suburban southern England. The Thatcher years hid the consequences of this but what people forget is that Thatcher wasn’t just a charismatic, skilful politician but a very very lucky one as well. North Sea Oil, the property boom and the general world wide economic recovery of the 80s helped as did the very low level of her political opponents such as Foot, Kinnock and Scargill. Fling in the Falklands War and the Labour/SDP split and you had the great Tory/Thatcher years. The problem was that they intensified the southern English suburbanisation of the party and created a situation where it is roundly loathed in much of Wales, the inner cities, the North of England and virtually the whole of Scotland. If a political party alienates that many people and constituencies it can never win a majority in parliament.
    Nowadays the Tory government looks like a cross between an Eton FPs social event and a meeting of a particularly gruesome Sussex Rotary Club branch. My son was working in ‘call me Dave’ country last week. Chipping Norton to be exact. Now, my son has lived in a fairly affluent area of southern England for about a decade; is happy and reasonably well off himself. However, even in comparison to where he lives, Chipping Norton seemed absolutely alien. Unless and until the Tory Party get back in touch with all of the UK they are not going to form majority governments.

    • justejudexultionis

      The problem is much deeper than that. Labour has done nothing for anywhere outside the south-east for decades. Millions of ordinary voters are effectively disenfranchised as there is no political party that represents their interests over and above the London Casino.

      • Jambo25

        Entirely agree. All 3 parties seem to be simply employment agencies for aspiring Oxford PPEs and similar.

  • Radford_NG

    For the story on the above photo:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montparnasse_derailment

  • derekemery

    The ROI from HS2 is likely to be tiny. HS2 which can only help minute percentages elsewhere get jobs in London and will leave Northern and Midland unemployment figures virtually untouched and they are already much higher than for London.

    Government should accept that the only part of the UK economy that is really successful is London. Instead of HS2 double the diameter of London which will allow around 30+ million or half the UK populations to be part of London and benefit from London jobs and London unemployment levles. This will massively boost the UK economy in the long term

    • Jambo25

      HS2 is there to act as a long distance commuter line for Londoners. What happens when the merely wealthy of London can no longer afford the nice places they used to live in because of the flood of global super wealthy pricing them out of the market? If you are in a £100K a year job but can no longer afford Kensington, St John’s Wood or those nice terraces round Highbury Fields (Where I lived back in the 1960s and early 70s.) where do you live?
      Well, hop on HS2 and just over an hour later you could be in Birmingham and eventually Manchester (It will never go further north. In fact I have doubts that it will ever get to Leeds.). Lots of nice Victorian and Edwardian houses in the near suburbs. Lots of loft type flats in the city centres. Culture, decent restaurants and good private schools, such as MGS, for little Hugo and Naomi to attend. Jobs will not commute northwards: people will move, force up property prices in certain hot spots and commute south each day. Northern jobs will move south not the other way round.
      Incidentally, the Scottish economy is doing OK just now. The UK picture is of a wealthy/relatively wealthy London and the South and a Scotland that is doing well. Most of the inbetween is ropey.

      • justejudexultionis

        Well said. Given the total lack of interest in the north of England by any major political party, the north of England (population equal to that of the Netherlands) must begin to find ways of asserting its autonomy against the speculative/rentier/parasite London economy.

        • Jambo25

          I cannot understand why Northerners put up with the obvious lack of care for and interest in them by the UK political class. They are simply seen as occasional electoral fodder by all 3 major parties.

  • an ex-tory voter

    “Shovel ready” a political epitaph for David Cameron, surely?

  • Daniel Maris

    It’ll be little gain for a huge amount of money – £80billion would be a conservative estimate.

    The £80 billion could be better invested in longer rail platforms, improved conventional trains, turning some lines into double-decker compatible, widening some motorway junctions, building road by passes etc.

    • nick

      try £28 billion plus £14 billion contingency plus trains if these are publically funded. your alternatives would be more expensive and hugely disruptive and more road space is not needed.

      • Alexsandr

        but you can spend the money across the whole network, not just in one place serving a few cities. And you could get the benefits in a few years, not decades away.

        Places like chesterfield, coventry, wolverhampton,stoke etc will have a far worse rail service with HS2. And nottingham. who wants to ride a tram for half an hour, then a walk across a car park to catch a train to London when there is a direct service from the city centre? a train service EMT are speeding up..

        for improvements to the current network, look at the new flying junction currently going in at Norton bridge,
        that will make one more path per hour. and will be delivering in 2015.
        Same as the Reading flyover also in build. A new flyover at Hanslope/Roade is also needed, though..

    • justejudexultionis

      It should be used to create a high-speed link between Glasgow and Edinburgh, and between major northern English cities. London receives far in excess of its due proportion of infrastructure funding, even allowing for its outsized importance to the UK economy.

  • swatnan

    I like the conceppt of a train whizzing through the countryside at 120 mph, rather than the usual chugging along at 50mph. It means I can get to my destination quicker. And that is the whole point of HS2. S what is a few Tory seats have to be sacrificed in the name of progress.

    • ScaryBiscuits

      So your idea of progress is taxing poor people so rich people and civil servants can travel in shiny new trains and get to Birmingham a whole 15 minutes sooner?
      My idea of progress is people spending more of their own money. They tend to make much better judgements than governments ever have, no matter how ‘progressive’, that is, socialist the good intentions.

      • nick

        it is about capacity. also birmingham is not the only destination for hs2 and the time savings are 35 minutes to birmingham and one hour will be saved from manchester. hs2 trains will run up to 18 times per hour and carry around 1100 passengers and clearly this is far more then the number of fat cats and civil servants who would use it so i am afraid that all of your points are factually inaccurate.

        • arnoldo87

          Birmingham is the only destination in the Midlands. How does that help Coventry and other locations that HS2 runs through but does not stop at?

          • Alexsandr

            and the through trains to wolverhampton will probably be downgraded to semifasts too, cos curzon street is a dead end, so you cant run through to the west. and its a long walk from curzon street to new street.

          • nick

            releases capacity for improved service

            • Michael

              The capacity squeeze is that of commuters at peak hours between Milton Keynes to Euston. Yet the peak hour squeezes at London Bridge and Liverpool Street are much worse than those between MK and Euston.

        • ScaryBiscuits

          Correction: it’s about capacity *now*. Apparently. Originally it was about speed. If it is about capacity, then high speed is not the answer because low speed tracks carry far more people per hour, because capacity increases proportionately to speed but train separation also increases proportional to the square of speed, leading to a net reduction in capacity the faster you go. Also the London to Manchester route is – by far – not the most crowded on the network, so why are we building a high speed train to Manchester rather than, say, Plymouth, which has more need of a new line and greater capacity problems? (Hint: answer to do with marginal seats.)
          You mention the somewhat heroic passenger forecasts, which are several times the existing rail and air market combined and yet several times more expensive. I’m not sure where you think these people will come from.

          • nick

            the number of passengers is increasing at 5% and not the 2.5% hs2 forecasted. any check of any of the original statements and indeed reports regarding hs2 will reveal that capacity was and remains the number one reason for hs2.

            • ScaryBiscuits

              Even if it was true that it’s always been about capacity (which it isn’t because the Transport Secretary admitted this argument was a change of tack) that still doesn’t make sense either for the speed v capacity reason above or for the priority given to this line over more congested ones.
              That all three party leaders support it shows why so few people vote for these identikit politicians. My original comment is still true: get rid of Dave and you get rid of hs2.

        • Michael

          Really? Look at the map. Is that line from Euston plunging straight for Birmingham really ‘about capacity’ or was HS2 Ltd instructed by Whitehall to put speed first?

    • Alexsandr

      virgin are looking to run their trains at 135mph. No need for new route, thats on existing track.

      http://www.globalrailnews.com/2013/08/01/virgin-calls-for-135-mph-running-on-west-coast-main-line/

      • nick

        what tracks do all the other trains ie freights and 75 mph local services use ?

        • Alexsandr

          freights could use the chiltern line or the midland line. or even via oxford and leamington. Who runs freights down busy main lines in the rush hour anyway.
          they could cut congestion at euston by putting the tring stoppers down crossrail.
          75mph? i think you will find all the LM services out of euston are 100mph capable, many 110mph.
          anyway euston is not he most congested line out of london so HS2 is a solution to a problem that doesnt exist.

    • justejudexultionis

      Some of us would suggest that *all* Tory seats should be sacrificed in the name of progress…

  • swatnan

    Why do they kee[p getting a nannies? wouldn’t a governess be better; or a Swedish au pair? Smacks of ‘classism’.

  • BarkingAtTreehuggers

    Gidiot a candidate? That’s almost as good as Liam (can I bring a friend) Fox going for SG of NATO.

  • http://www.CaerphillyPreserves.co.uk/ No Good Boyo

    “If Cameron resigns as leader after losing the election, it’s fair to say George Osborne is unlikely to succeed him. ”

    For heavens’ sake, don’t publicise it too loudly. This is an excellent reason to vote Labour!!!!!!

    • nick

      actually whoever is tory party leader there would be an excellent reason to vote labour and indeed ukip. the end result will be a labour govt.

      • http://www.CaerphillyPreserves.co.uk/ No Good Boyo

        My God, you’re boring.

        • nick

          facts are boring but they are still facts regardless. voting ukip will likely split the tory vote thus denying both parties any share or say in government. same way that voting libdem gave us a tory govt as it aplit the labour vote.

  • Mark McIntyre

    NO2 HS2 – whoever its ‘leader’ be !

    • BarkingAtTreehuggers

      Scouse, go dig some more tunnels.

      • Mark McIntyre

        The Williamson Tunnels – proof if proof be needed – of the folly of hard work !

  • Pitkapoika

    Someone a little bored there today.? Stop publishing wild speculation under the guise of fact, and conjecture as actuality.

    • HookesLaw

      Carerful – whatever you do don’t criticise the Spectator.

      • Pitkapoika

        To the casual observer some of these scribblers give the impression that they are party to all the minutiae of massive projects like HS2, when in point of fact they are no better informed than many of the readers.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          …and not nearly as intelligent or educated as many of them, in this kid’s case.

          • Pitkapoika

            Think the majority of , so called, journalists ,have genetic links to Enid Blyton.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              …they didn’t pick up her talent though .

    • nick

      you would have to close all the media and govt depts if you didnt allow any of that !

      • Pitkapoika

        When a young lass in Blackpool thinks that Britain has a President called Baracco Barner, closure of some sections of the Media has it’s attractions.

  • Rockin Ron

    Marco Polo: ‘All men go to sea in despair’.

  • RoadrunnerNick

    Has anyone read this piece through before publishing?

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …I think the Speccie kid cobbled together all the latest twitterings, so it should be cool.

  • ScaryBiscuits

    HS2 is the personal pet project of Cameron. Get rid of him and you get rid of HS2.

    • http://www.CaerphillyPreserves.co.uk/ No Good Boyo

      I don’t know if the project is a lame duck or not. But uncertainly is clearly no barrier to the government blowing millions of our money on it.

    • nick

      the project was instigated by labour

      • ScaryBiscuits

        Indeed it was, Nick, as Peter Mandelsson admitted, it was an eve-of-election wheeze that Dave swallowed whole, showing the latter’s genius for adopting Labour policies that attract almost no Labour voters whilst losing many more Conservative ones.

        • nick

          yet the project has three party support. also mr m is against it as it will disturb his regents park mansion so we have to take his version of events with caution.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            …yes, you socialist nutters want it. The People don’t, but then what do you socialist nutters care about the People?

  • Normandee

    The concept of the destruction of the party continuing under Osborne will not help its future, if the party is to win back lost voters like me it needs to go back to it’s roots, and get back to right of centre instead of hovering wherever it thinks they can do best and that generally leaves them somewhere left of centre.
    A promise of Osborne will help UKIP enormously so bring it on.

    • HookesLaw

      All you are displaying is dim witted ignorance.

      • Two Bob

        When you run out of ammo – simply hurl insults….

      • Normandee

        And you your usual good humour and witty repartee, you must be such fun to live with.

      • Andy

        Bit like you then you prat.

        • HS2 Madness

          come on children, let’s play nicely shall we?

    • http://www.CaerphillyPreserves.co.uk/ No Good Boyo

      So … Miliband for the next prime minister then?

    • Noa

      Do you really want to vote for a party that has Hooky shilling and voting for it?

    • BarkingAtTreehuggers

      I like it, let Gidiot stand. There — that’s all the ‘polls’ you need. When you bust a flush you might as well bust it properly.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …it’d be even more proper if we flushed you busted socialist nutters, lad.

        • nick

          we only have to look at most tory and ukip policies to see that socialists, if there are even any left haha , are far from being nutters

          • the viceroy’s gin

            …oh, there are plenty of you socialist nutters left, lad .

            • nick

              what makes anyone from the far left any more blinkered then those from the far right ? extremists of both spectrums have somewhat shall we say extreme or even just insane ideas. not sure why you think “socialist” is an insult as it means caring for all of society instead of just the few as do tories and ukip ie even more right wing tories.

              • the viceroy’s gin

                …and you’d be one of those plenty, lad.

                • nick

                  ……who cares more about ordinary people than the Tories (tories) and UKIP (tories) . Agreed .

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  …agreed that you’re a socialist nutter.

                • nick

                  i am not too worried about comments about my sanity from someone who calls everyone who disagrees with his opinions “lad” and “nutter” or that you think calling someone a socialist is somehow some kind of insult. stick with the gin we

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  …to the contrary, you do appear agitated about being exposed as a socialist nutter. Most of you socialist nutters don’t like being exposed.

    • global city

      Look. The truth is that it is not Cameron who has betrayed your party, rather, you have had the wool pulled over your eyes by the patrician elitists for donkey’s years. The ‘Party of Margaret Thatcher’ never existed. She was a short lived anomaly in an otherwise centrist, patrician, role along and let the elite run everything type of scam.

      They have squatted on loads of right wing, libertarian and entrepreneurial fields that they do not believe in for decades.

      Their EU scepticism is just to keep people like you fooled.

      Now that you have broken the cultish spell, why would you want to go back just because they got a new leader?

      • Normandee

        Now you look. You are right, I suppose saying that I might return to the conservatives is probably based on misplaced nostalgia. Please don’t assume I am fooled by anything, before UKIP my choice was socialism or the conservatives, so either completely rotten meat or just stale meat, As I detest socialism more than rotten meat, the stale meat was the only alternative.

        • global city

          Fair enough, my post reads a lot more sneering than I actually intended.

          It is important that the Conservatives are not seen as a traditional party of ‘Thatcher’ type giants, when it has been an elitist party all along. That is the main reason why it drifted with the post war socialist consensus for so long, as they actually believe themselves that an elite should run society ‘on the peoples’ behalf’ themselves.

    • nick

      I do not see how this or an tory majority or coalition can ever be described as even centre never mind left of centre which is hard to comprehend. the last labour govt that was left and socialist was in the 1970’s, new Labour were clearly centre and not meaningfully left under any description. the extremists now are to the far right and they are UKIP. And HS2 should be built as tge capacity and regeneration are needed. the last time UKIP actually had their policies in a manifesto they wanted to build 4 uk hsr 200mph lines.

      • Normandee

        To say UKIP are “extremists” and “far right” is rather pointless when they so obviously are not, or is it yourself that you are trying to convince to justify your desperation to cling to the false policies of the other parties, one of which you foolishly cling to

        • nick

          you can try to deny that the views of many right wing tories and tories by any other name are in fact right wing and you can try to deny that the far right is extreme but that does not make it any less true.

          • Normandee

            You see this is the work of the far left, the assumption that anything right wing is immediately bad. Right wing is merely those that do not want the UK ruled by a marxist elite that is in its own way far worse then the non marxists. Its anything that says people can be responsible for their own futures and their own decisions, and are free from the state control that goes with the left. It’s the left that has killed 100 million in the last century and continues to do so in this century, consider the USSR under all its leaders up to Gorbachev, Cuba, N.Korea, China, and there are more.
            The right is not perfect there are extreme right wings, UKIP is not even close to that, but not being “left” does not immediately mean bad, unless you have been brainwashed by the Scargills, McCluskeys, and Crows of this world. All of whom have and are slowly destroying the balance in the workplace, AT NO COST TO THEMSELVES.

      • terence patrick hewett

        golly.

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