Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

HS2: Fiscal Irresponsibility? Political Avoidance

Questions tonight (23 August 2013) from Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News to the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin: If the cost [of HS2] continues to go up, do you pull the plug? (I think she asks 4 times.)

Now this is a Conservative Minister, from a party that believes in “living within your means” and sound money, so the answer has to be obvious:

Er, No. “We have set the budget” (or words to that effect – 4 times)

This is stupid. We all know that there has to be a cost beyond which the project would be cancelled. We won’t give Welfare a blank cheque, even the NHS is constrained, so do we really believe that HS2 will get a blank cheque?

“We have set a budget” means “I have learnt my lines. I have been told that I must hold the line – there is not a scintilla of doubt that this project will happen”.

Why can’t he say something along the lines of, “We remain committed to this project, obviously it does not get a blank cheque and the project team knows that there will be a limit beyond which the project will collapse. We have set a budget with sizeable contingencies – when these are no longer sufficient, it is obvious that the project will have to be re-evaluated.” I would be seriously worried if this was not the “real line”.

Sticking to a political line – which does not answer the question – just makes this politician look stupid and brings politics into disrepute. Actually I take that back; it leaves politics in disrepute because an opportunity to elevate the reputation of politics has been squandered. The comment about the politician can stand.

Related Posts

HS2: Labour surprise

HS2: This service is running late or cancelled

HS2 – throwing away the benefits?

HS2 Northern Section – TBA

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4 thoughts on “HS2: Fiscal Irresponsibility? Political Avoidance

  1. The arrogance from the government to just blindly continue with the project despite damning evidence it should be scrapped is appalling. The route is badly thought out and a link between northern cities would serve us better. Or, alongside smaller transport investments we should be investing in schools and affordable housing.

  2. Glad someone else is also thinking along these lines. The case fo HS2 as proposed was always a bit iffy (see HS2 – throwing away the benefits?). I would like to see a case for at least a Leeds – Liverpool high speed javelin type service made (see HS2: This service is running late or cancelled). This government seems to have successfully killed of the Northern Way Initiative with the Regional Development Agencies. So much for encouraging local solutions!

    • I love the alternative of the Liverpool-Leeds development. What a boost to the North that would be. I lived in Nottingham and worked in Derby at the time of the Toton announcement and even people there were asking where Toton is. I think that is a pretty good example of the ineptitude in planing for this scheme.

      • I used to live in Derby and worked there and in Nottingham (and even Toton for a short while). I suspect the “national planners” split the difference when it came to the HS2 route and deciding on the location of an “East Midlands Station”. (see map) It’s as if they either felt that they could not send a line through either Nottingham or Derby (possible) or they did not dare risk the wrath of the burgers of Dery or Nottingham and have probably incurred the wrath of both. (see earlier post)

        I have yet to see any proposals for high speed links from Toton to the centres of Nottingham and Derby. A priority bus service may mean that Toton to either city may take 15 minutes (including waiting time) – but is a bus service adequate?

        People travelling from the East Midlands may be prepared to drive to Toton (given suitable parking), but will people travelling to the East Midlands be prepared to recognise Toton as a suitable destination? HS2 must bring activity into the regions rather than bleed it out of the regions.

        I suspect something a lot better than a priority bus service is required. A fast mag-lev type service that could get you from the station platforms to city centres terminals in around five minutes. If we could keep it clean safe and efficient a station called Derby/Nottingham might be attractive to incomers.

        But if you are instistent on the existing general route (i.e. not take the High Speed line into either Derby of Nottingham) and can envisage some form of rapid link, why Toton and not either:

        • a very slight slight diversion to a redevelopment of the existing East Midlands Parkway at Radcliffe on Soar (and hence offer the possibility of a rail inter-change for Loughborough and even Leicester)
        • a station at East Midlands Airport (Castle Donnington) – the line already runs under the airport?

        Rapid links from Derby and Nottingham to East Midlands Airport would be a boost for the airport and a station there may mean people in Sheffield could see it as a viable airport. We need to break the idea that to escape this country you must go via Heathrow!

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