There was no hesitation on the HS2 project: the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) was on the case from the start, branding it “a white elephant”, “a rich man’s railway”, asserting that the £30 billion overall cost of the “Y network” could be better spent elsewhere, that existing rail links could be upgraded instead, and inventing a range of figures that supposedly undermined the business case.
So one might think that grandiose projects costing tens of billions of pounds would automatically attract the TPA’s critical eye from the outset, but such a thought would be misplaced when considering a scheme far less well thought out and potentially twice as expensive as HS2, that being the idea of building a new London airport somewhere out in the Thames estuary.
That the cheerleader for the scheme is occasional London mayor and regular collector of “chicken feed” from the Maily Telegraph Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, a figure much loved by the right leaning part of the media and blogosphere, may not be unconnected to the TPA’s silence, and further throws into question the assertion that the group is “non-partisan”.
Moreover, the TPA has been absent throughout Bozza’s outpouring of vanity projects: as the price tag of the “New Bus For London” rose – now it’s going to be over £11 million for the first five vehicles versus £350k each for off-the-shelf hybrid double deckers that would have a better residual value – the Comfortable of Tufton Street said not a word.
Then when Bozza suggested blowing tens of millions on an unnecessary cable car ride across the river, another project with a rising price tag, and it became clear that TfL was going to have to foot the bill, there was further silence from the TPA. So there were no claims of “white elephant” or “rich man’s” project. It has been the same with the proposed airport.
This is despite the projected cost rising from £40 billion to the present estimate of between £50 and £60 billion, the potential of airspace conflict with Schiphol, and of course the need to address the disposal of the SS Richard Montgomery. Instead, the TPA’s latest “research note” continues their demonisation of public service by going after the trade unions – over a figure 0.2% the size of the bill for the airport.
No-one should be surprised: as with their claim to be a “grassroots” organisation, the TPA’s boast of being “non-partisan” is a sham. They are Conservatives, Bozza is a Conservative, their backers are Conservatives, and the silence over the mayor’s vanity projects further underscores this. Thus another nail in the coffin of TPA credibility.