Welcome To Zelo Street!

This is a blog of liberal stance and independent mind

Wednesday 21 August 2019

HS2 “Review” = Pre-Election Stunt

[Update at end of post]

As if anyone was still unaware that the Tories are readying themselves for a General Election, along has come Grant “Spiv” Shapps, inexplicably given charge of Transport by alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, and declared that there is to be a “review” into the HS2 project. Moreover, the options available in the wake of this alleged “review” will include cancelling the project completely.
As the BBC has reported, “The government is launching a review of high-speed rail link HS2 - with a 'go or no-go’ decision to be made by the end of the year, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said. The review will consider whether and how the project to connect London, the Midlands and northern England should proceed, looking at costs and benefits. Mr Shapps refused to rule out scrapping it entirely”. Yeah, right.

But do go on. “When asked about the billions already spent on the project, Mr Shapps said: ‘Just because you've spent a lot of money on something does not mean you should plough more and more money into it.’ He said ministers were asking the reviewers ‘just give us the facts … Go and find out all the information that's out there… genuinely what it would cost to complete this project, and then we'll be in a much better position to make that decision - go or no-go by the end of the year.’” He could find out the costs tomorrow.

By the end of the year - in other words, after the General Election, which Shapps and his pals hope to win, will be after the Press and Pundit Establishment has forgotten about it. There will, no doubt, be claims that savings have been identified here and there that would not otherwise have been identified, and then the idea of scrapping the project will be quietly binned. And there are good reasons for that.
One, the extra capacity which HS2 provides is already badly needed. The problem which HS2 addresses - getting more freight off the already overcrowded motorway network, while giving more capacity for passenger trains on the West Coast Main Line, Midland Main Line and East Coast Main Line - will not go away merely because its existence is inconvenient to Tory politicians and their lobby group pals.

Two, the project is already at an advanced stage, with significant amounts of demolition already undertaken around London’s Euston station, and site clearance well under way around the site of the Old Oak Common hub in West London.

Three, regeneration of the Old Oak Common area is dependent on HS2 going ahead: developers have been brought on board on that premise. If Shapps, or anyone else, cans the project, the Government will face more than cancellation charges.

Four, the West Coast Partnership - the franchise to replace Virgin Trains - was let on the basis of HS2 going ahead to at least Phase 1 of the project. Bidders have already been invited to tender for the first trains for the high speed route. So that’s going to be more bills to pay in the case of cancellation. And we’re not done yet.

Five, how would Shapps explain cancellation to the Mayors, and indeed the people, of Birmingham, Greater Manchester and Merseyside? But he won’t have to.

This is a pre-election stunt. It’s more Tory dishonesty. And it will convince no-one.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at


[UPDATE 1330 hours: Paul Bigland has looked over the panel chosen by Shapps for his "review", and it is clear from his analysis that this exercise is not about cancellation of the project.

There is, for instance, no-one from the screamingly anti-HS2 fringe, so no ASI, CPS, IEA or TPA, for instance. No Patrick Minford. No Ruth Lea.

Tony Berkeley, the deputy chair, has been a trenchant critic of the project in the past, but (a) he would have to persuade the rest of the panel as to the merits of his alternatives to it, and (b) he is at heart a rail freight man, and would rather like the increased capacity which HS2 Phases 1 and 2a (at least) will yield for that purpose.

Whenever a "review" is called, always look at the panel to see what result is expected]


Anonymous said...

It'll get binned. There's votes in the Chilterns and the land released by the demolition work already undertaken will be sold off for housing/investment opportunities.

Anonymous said...

The present Bozo cabinet is full of scoundrels, liars, hypocrites, opportunists and conmen/women.

But, despite severe competition, that rictus-grinning hideous meff Shapps is arguably the worst East End barrow boy of them all.

Steve Woods said...

Has Shapps asked Michael Green and Sebastian Fox about whether review HS2?

Jonathan said...

No doubt Fox and Green will be selling dodgy property opportunities to the unaware..
He really is the spiv's spiv.

Anonymous said...

@ 14:01.

Debatable whether it's Damian or Michael Green. The former is the grubby spiv destroyed by John McDonnell on the tory Marr Show.

Not that it matters much. They're both tories who'd steal the pennies off their dead mother's eyes.

Anonymous said...

Remember Tim, in the mind of a Tory railways are a waste of money, and only poor people use 'loser transport' anyway. Roads however, are 'infrastructure investment'.

The Tories have never exorcised the ghost of Ernest Marples.

Andy Foster said...

Tim, you may be right that the review is a sop and if Johnson is re-elected he will let HS2 go ahead. But you didn't mention that Johnson has appointed Andrew Gilligan as his transport policy adviser. We all know what Baldy is like, but he's a firm opponent to HS2.

And I hope he has his way on this one. HS2 is an enormous and destructive vanity project, dreamed up, you'll remember, by Andrew Adonis, he of academy schools and lots of other Blairite schemes. Despite your recent post, reinstating the GC would solve capacity problems between London and the north just as well. And it's estimated at about half the price, even if you include rebuilding the Brackley viaduct, getting through Nottingham, and lots of tunnelling to satisfy the Chiltern Hundreds. The problem then would be getting the anti-rail Tories to spend the rest on the kind of the smaller project which pays big dividends. It would be good to see significant electrification on that list.

Old-fashioned theologians had an idea that with God's will, the wicked sometimes do good deeds despite themselves. I don't expect many from a Johnson government. But this might be one.

The Toffee (597) said...

They've spunked hundreds of millions - and if it's not billions yet, it WILL be in future - on UC.

No hope they're gonna scrub this white elephant.

john b said...

reinstating the GC would solve capacity problems between London and the north just as well. And it's estimated at about half the price, even if you include rebuilding the Brackley viaduct, getting through Nottingham

Do you want to link to a credible study to demonstrate that, or is it completely made up? Reasonable estimates suggest a maximum 15% saving from building HS2 to 200km/h instead of 400km/h specifications - I can't see any plausible way in which a rebuilt GC would be cheaper.