There are a lot of negatives surrounding the debate over High Speed Rail right now: the latest has come today from the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), where chief non-job holder Matthew Sinclair has resorted to calling Transport Secretary Philip Hammond’s statement on the matter a “non-response”.
Sinclair keeps parroting his “£1,000 for every family” mantra – which may, in time, tire even more readily than “pieces of eight” – and signposts the array of “names” who are lined up against the HS2 project. In this he indulges in straightforward dishonesty at the outset by calling his rail expert, Chris Stokes, a “senior rail executive”, although Stokes is not: he is a consultant and not employed directly by the rail industry. I know this because the TPA says so.
So who has lined up with the TPA against HS2? Sadly for Sinclair and his fellow non-job holders, the rogues’ gallery does not bring much in the way of credibility. Hacks Simon Jenkins and Simon “Enoch was right” Heffer are typical: Jenkins has railed against the Crossrail project, although his objections have fortunately been ignored as the much needed work has gone ahead.
Heffer has also shown a credibility gap on the subject of rail travel: he recently told how HS2 was not needed, as existing lines could be upgraded easily and with little in the way of disruption. He was, no doubt, deaf to the chorus of hollow laughter coming from the West Midlands and North West, where folks know all about disruption, following years of it while the West Coast Main Line (WCML) was, well, upgraded.
But Sinclair clearly believes he has a rail expert on board, in the shape of Rail magazine pundit Christian Wolmar. I have a soft spot for Wolmar, despite his support for QPR (Flav and Bernie’s latest plaything), and his now legendary water jet toilet (don’t ask). But I have to tell the TPA’s finest that the rail industry doesn’t do a lot of listening to him.
So I am no more impressed by the TPA’s assault on HS2 than I was earlier. Moreover, Sinclair and his pals are yet to put forward their alternative proposals, together with realistic and suitably detailed costs. There are clear problems with what the TPA have put forward thus far (I’ve covered them HERE, HERE, HERE and most recently HERE).
Let’s see what the TPA is putting forward as the alternative to HS2. And then let those proposals be subjected to the same scrutiny as is being awarded to the new High Speed Rail project. After all, one would assume for the TPA to get this far, that they do have a serious and effective counter proposal.Bring it on.