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Tuesday 12 February 2019

Anti-HS2 Exposé BUSTED

Channel 4 aired a Dispatches programme last night which consisted, of knocking copy directed at the HS2 project. Presenter Liam Halligan made a number of highly creative accusations about the project - Paul Bigland has taken them apart in a post which you can read HERE - and in the meantime, Zelo Street has considered the amount of even-handedness one might expect from Halligan - or the lack of it.
High speed rail 10 years ago. So not in the UK, then

To do this, one need look no further than Halligan’s Twitter feed, and what he has decided is worthy of a Retweet. Let’s take, Oh I dunno, how about “independent economist “ John Jessop, who says “Excellent work from @LiamHalligan this evening on the madness of #HS2... economic case is flimsy, at best; invest in local transport instead”. But investing in local transport does not solve the problem that HS2 addresses.
Deanne DuKhan offered “Well done Channel 4 and @LiamHalligan for asking the question the govt doesn't get. What about the rail services people use every day? What about the growth lost due to such poor commuter services?”. In HS2 knocking copy land, people will not use HS2 every day. Also it is not an either/or problem that is being addressed by HS2.
The assumption it was an either/or thing also taxed Nick Murray-Leslie: “Great job -the context of the pain facing commuters against the profligacy and opportunity cost of HS2”. Commuter services in the North of England are in fact in the midst of a series of infrastructure and rolling stock upgrades. Also, Murray-Leslie throws in terms such as “profligacy” with nothing to back it up. Still, onwards and, er, onwards, eh?
A tweeter called The G-Man made a similar mistake to Ms DuKhan: “Great #dispatches show by @LiamHalligan. Cancel HS2 and invest in Northern transport. Politicians seem determined to create a two-tier transport system in this country and want everything to revolve around the capital.” But Northern transport is already being invested in. Otherwise, how would all those Pacer trains be slated for withdrawal by the end of next year?
Robert Endeacott offered “Genuinely not heard one agreeable reason for having HS2.  I don't agree with business having priority over the good of the people, or having commercial propaganda thrust in my face that it's 'essential' and what we need.  The money already spent is a nauseating waste”. And what money has already been spent on the project? Because if you don’t know, you can’t call it “a nauseating waste”.
Also, it might inform those believing there is no reason, agreeable or otherwise, for having HS2 if the problem that it addresses - network capacity, and especially that available for freight traffic which would be freed up after HS2 opens as far as Crewe - was described. So once again I include the Rail Freight Group’s forecast excess of freight demand over capacity - which is set to be worst on the West Coast Main Line axis.
Moreover, to title the Dispatches programme “The Great Train Robbery” is prejudicial in the extreme. Halligan has already demanded right of reply to someone else’s comments about him; perhaps Channel 4 would now give right of reply to the allegations - and, indeed, omissions - that he has presented about HS2.

Then, perhaps, we can have an informed debate. I’ll just leave that one there.
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The Toffee said...

What happens at Crewe? Oh that's right...

Why is there nowt within the article that you've made clear that your home town will do a lot better out of HS2 than most CITIES North of Brum?

Meanwhile us in Liverpool, Hull, Newcastle etc etc will still have to put up with the same miserable cattle-class journeys, but at least they'll be on Londinium's cast-off rolling stock; so the rest of us best be grateful for that, eh?

Double standards here Tim. Gotta say, I'm disappointed.

Tim Fenton said...


Liverpool would see journey time reductions of London trains of around 40 minutes. It would be served by HS2 services.

Likewise Newcastle, after the Y network is completed.

ITYF Manchester will do better than Crewe out of HS2, too.

Anonymous said...

I didn't see the programme and am ambivalent at best about HS2, though completely in favour of a modernised rail system.

I have yet to see any substantial evidence or convincing arguments that HS2 will in any meaningful way even begin to reverse economic devastation outside the M25 Ghetto Of Greed. Apart from reducing travel time to and from said Ghetto, which holds little or no advantage for the rest of the nation.

So far, the "arguments" in favour seem little more than wishful thinking.

Anonymous said...

Tim, apart from travel time, what do you mean by "do better"?

Tim Fenton said...


AFAIK Manchester will get more HS2 services than Crewe.

Anonymous said...

Tim - So what difference will that make to communities devastated during the last four decades?

Genuine question.

The Toffee said...

Who wants to get to londinium 40 minutes quicker? And who benefits from those 40 minutes? Your ordinary working Joe?

No mate, it's a vanity project for the toffs. They said more business meetings will be done quicker because the journey time will be shorter...Have they never heard of video conferencing? Are there no such things as digital contracts that can be signed from halfway across the planet?

It's all me arse, Tim. And as I said - Crewe (town) will benefit more than MOST northern cities from HS2.

And WHY should manchester be the 'capital of the north'? Leeds & Liverpool are bigger in terms of populace. Leeds is the (Northern) financial centre, Liverpool handles much larger freight volumes from the new deepwater terminal (And perhaps more post-brexit) yet the road network is crumbling and there are no plans to reopen the disused line to get this freight moving by rail - Not even a proposed link to this HS2 freight line.

That's gon' be fun, innit? Marvellous foresight, I'm sure.

It's ALL bollocks.

I could fly quicker, cheaper and in more comfort to far flung European destinations, than I could get from Liverpool - Hull on the 'scum-shovel'

It's the biggest white elephant of our times. You've got tunnel vision on this one, I'm afraid.

Tim Fenton said...


HS2 provides more freight capacity, by freeing up paths on the existing rail network. There is no "HS2 freight line", and what disused route you refer to I don't know.

Please refer back to the RFG forecast on freight path demand - which would affect traffic to and from Liverpool.

Rob Smith said...

£4.1 billion already spent before work began according to the FT. I'd call that a nauseating waste

Anonymous said...

Tim - So it will make freight transport easier - or passenger transport easier. Fine. That might clear current blockages of both. It's long overdue after all the money poured into that corrupt shit hole inside the M25.

But you still haven't answered the question: What difference will that make to communities devastated during the last four decades?

I am willing to be convinced otherwise, but all I see so far doesn't show one scrap of evidence that it moves one iota toward restoring geographic balance in the economy.

Which is more important....restoring economic fairness or cutting time off the journey to a capital increasingly loathed by the rest of the country? Who wants to get faster to THE major world centre of corruption and greed? Non-London sell-out spivs?

By all means build the damn thing. God knows improvement has been needed for over thirty years. But let's not kid ourselves it's anything more than continuance of the same gangsterism and thievery at a faster pace.

Manchester might well benefit in a regional office kind of way, mainly because that's all it has become, a bloated property scam at the expense of the rest of the North West. Leeds is the Yorkshire equivalent in the North East. Scotland, Wales and the South West are of course completely ignored.

My suspicion is that it is just as much bullshit as - no laughing at the back there - the so called "Northern Powerhouse", otherwise known as the Osborne Mirage. Even that was mooted years before Osborne by architect Will Alsop who promoted the notion of Northern cross country development from Liverpool to Hull and Newcastle.

Actually, HS2 is a symptom (like Brexit) of deeply serious political consequences caused by far right governments from all political parties. It might mean you can get a seat on the train. It might mean freight moves quicker. But that's all.

Convince me otherwise.

Sam Best said...

I think you are being a tad unfair Toffee. I've been annoyed at Mr Fenton's views sometimes, mainly about his support for Tom Watson who admittedly did sterling work about the hacking scandal but then blew it with his badly informed foray into alleged Tory child abuse but I very much doubt he's pushing a multi-billion pound train project just because he may benefit. That's a very long leap to make and unless you have proof it's very unfair.
And yes I'd like to get to London (and in the opposite direction) 40 minutes quicker and I reckon your ordinary working Joe would like to as well. You make it sound like London is full of Tory Toffs and not 8 million working Brits & average Joes and with approx 35 million tourists visiting the UK each year high speed rail is the way to go seeing it's been such a huge success elsewhere.

Andy Foster said...

Why on earth does Zelo Street support this Andrew Adonis vanity project? Unless it's pure parish politics and I didn't think you did that. There is a real rail capacity problem, but HS2 is a very expensive way of dealing with one part of it. For half its cost, at the most, we could restore the Great Central route from London to the North, which was closed by Beeching, and do just as much for rail capacity. (That's probably the 'disused route' one commenter referred to.) Then the rest would be available for real capacity improvements elsewhere, particularly on lines not going to London: Trans-Pennine; North-East to South-West. And for some of that electrification that Grayling scuppered. Instead we've going to get the longest and most costly London commuter route there ever has been.

Zelo Street uses a nice quote from the rail expert and Labour activist Christian Wolmar. He's firmly opposed to HS2. Why aren't you?

Anonymous said...

Sam Best 03:15.

I can't speak for The Toffee.

Tim doesn't annoy me in the least. He has his views. I have mine. Sometimes I disagree, but that's inevitable. Still, I respect him because I believe he always tries to seek a reasonable balance. He's one of the best in the blogosphere and frequently puts to shame corporate media and political shysters who pollute our culture. If I thought otherwise I wouldn't bother reading his opinions.

London may not be full of "tory toffs", but you just don't get it do you? The place is despised - tourists or no tourists - because of what it has come to represent: Greed and media lies at the expense of the rest of the country, everything alien to the best in human nature and a unified society. "Ordinary working Joes" apart, the place is replete with manufactured illusions and wilful ignorance. Typically, the ludicrous near-to-retirement clown Jon Snow of Channel 4 News once even referred to it as "A blessed place", an incredible statement considering the amount of crime, air pollution and outright corruption in politics and media - of which latter, his employer is one of the worst offenders. With that level of bullshit flying around why be surprised when many people outside the M25 say Enough Is Enough.

The problem of course runs far deeper than just "London" or the symptomatic HS2. It goes right to the heart of what kind of society and country we want. At the present rate we are headed even further down the shitter than the last four decades. Another example: The British Union was in peril long before Brexit and the HS2.

The real tragedy is that it was all so easily avoidable. All it required was some common sense, decency and fairness. We got the opposite instead. In some respects HS2 will make matters even worse because it will concentrate our economic culture yet further. I leave you to consider what that will mean for the future of this country.

Tim Fenton said...


Andy, no politician could secure a "Vanity project" of this scale, and HS2 is not one. Please don't bandy about soundbites and insults which cannot be backed up.

The Great Central was closed more than 50 years ago. Much of the route has had its infrastructure removed (Brackley viaduct comes to mind) and driving it back through the centre of Nottingham would be a non-starter. Also, where does the freight traffic go at the southern end of the route? The Great Central led either to the Metropolitan via Rickmansworth - another non-starter - or via what is now the Chiltern line, which is at capacity already. These considerations scuppered the Central Railway proposals some years back.

Also, where would that freight traffic go at the Manchester end without more significant expense? No room through Piccadilly, which was the terminus for the Woodhead Route passenger service. The Great Central has already been considered at length and the scheme was rejected.

The Toffee said...

@Sam Best & Tim

An anaology.

Imagine some spiv getting out of his range rover & rolling up to your door, demanding the money you need to put food on the table and he wants it so he can have a pair of the latest top-of-the-price-bracket Nike trainers; and in return he will offer you his worn out pair of primark plimsolls with the laughable spiel that they wont be as tight a squeeze and you might be able to go a bit faster in them than the ones you've got now.

You'd tell him to get bent, and rightfully so.

Nobody even considered a maglev line, which would've cost half the (ever increasing) estimate to build. That MIGHT have been a bit more palatable. This current overblown white elephant is most definitely not.

Then there this...


'China and Peru agreed in 2015 to study a 3,000-mile-long railway through the Andes, but Peru balked (sic) when China estimated its cost at $60 billion.'

That's right - $60bn for THREE THOUSAND MILES.

What are we getting? Well at the moment it's something like £60bn for about ONE TWENTIETH of that distance; and over far less challenging terrain.

So kindly don't give me the utter tripe that HS2 is worth it. It plainly isn't worth a carrot.

Anonymous said...

I agree this is not a "vanity project". It is merely a long overdue upgrade.

However, there was once an opportunity to create a rail "land bridge" from West coast ports to connect them to Europe, thus promoting trade to the rest of the world while helping local regeneration and saving expensive one day sailing time to Western Europe. That chance is now gone. It never happened because it wasn't in the interests of far right London-based politicians and their employers in "financial services". So much for "entrepreneurs" and "creators of wealth".

Once we are out of Europe it will scarecly matter anyway. Under current proposals HS2 will simply ensure the South East is even more polluted by faster-accumulating freight in a relatively tiny area. Thus leading to even greater demands for roads and other land takes. It will become a choked terminus. Worse inflation will be inevitable.

These are the logical consequences of the politics of far right greed, profiteering and class hatred, of an economic system incapable of anything else.

Andy Foster said...

Tim, nice to see you're a secret railway enthusiast. The rough figure I quoted for the Great Central included not only the Brackley viaduct and geeting through Nottingham, but even the avoiding tunnel at High Wycombe so as not to upset the Tories of Buckinghamshire. Nottingham may be a little more expensive now the tram has gone across at Weekday Cross. But still much cheaper than HS2.

HS2 is as far as I know not intended to carry freight, so your worries about the north and south ends aren't immediately relevant. The idea is that it will free up freight capacity elsewhere. That means that cities like Coventry and Wolverhampton will lose some of their passenger services to provide that capacity.

Christian Wolmar's latest piece on HS2 is here:


All of it is spot on. I'd particularly mention the points about connections. HS2 is already cutting a swathe through the still partly Victorian cityscape east of Birmingham city centre to a new terminus at Moor Street (not the existing Moor Street). If you come from London and want to change to a local train to, for example, Sutton Coldfield or Stourbridge, you'll have to walk across town. It just isn't part of a transport network.

If you know of a different early history of it, do say. Like academy schools it seemed to suddenly sprang from the mind of Lord Adonis. In the late Blair and even Brown period he seemed to have influence over policy like no-one I've seen before and since. And all of it dreadful. As you have so well put it about Chris Leslie, in the name of God...