It was confirmed yesterday that a report anti-HS2 campaigners have been trying to get released for two years has been blocked firmly by the government. This is after the Information Commissioner’s Office last year backed a Freedom of Information request to release the information. Patrick McLoughlin has now invoked a rare piece of parliamentary procedure to block it, essentially sticking two fingers up at everybody who has genuine concerns about the spiralling costs of the proposed rail route.
This excellent piece from the Local Government Executive covers the block in more detailing, also explaining that the project was labelled as ‘amber-red’ in 2011 when the expected cost was only £33 billion. Since that has risen to over £50 billion the article points out that it must be now at even greater risk of failure.
The plain fact is, there must be something pretty damning in this report that the pro-HS2 government don’t want us to know. Perhaps it points out that costs are set to spiral further or that the cost-benefit analysis results are weak or that other countries are ditching their high speed projects and we should do the same. Who knows? Patrick McLoughlin doesn’t want us to know and don’t expect any opposition from Labour, whose Shadow Transport Secretary’s presses ahead with her support even after her own area council has voted against the proposals.
Is this going to be the most expensive white elephant ever? Successive governments will palm it off as ‘a mistake made by the previous administration’ but if there is one moment that might define the calamity of HS2, it may well be refusal to release a report that would bring this madness to an end.
I think my local MP might be in a bit of trouble.
Today, Wakefield Council voted to oppose the plans for the second stage of the HS2 project which will go from Birmingham to Leeds and cut through our city in a manner that is nothing short of destructive. It’s not the council being petty-minded and contrary for the sake of it – they have consulted widely and barely a week passes where a letter in the local paper isn’t drawing attention to how little Wakefield will benefit from HS2 and how much damage it’s potentially going to cause. The current proposals cut through some extremely valuable countryside, threatening local ecosystems for a railway that won’t even stop here. I know every affected area along the route has trotted out these arguments but it doesn’t make them any less important on a local level. I think that’s why the council have voted against the proposals – even though the people in charge are unlikely to listen, at least they’ve tried to represent the interests of their constituents.
Which brings me to that ‘trouble’ I mentioned.
The Labour MP for Wakefield is Mary Creagh – you might know her better as the Shadow Transport Secretary.
Creagh is in the hilarious situation of her own area council, of the same political colour, opposing something she apparently adores. When she was moved to the shadow transport brief, I hoped that it might signal a retreat from Labour on a project that is doomed to failure. Why else would Ed Miliband risk putting somebody in a constituency so adversely affected by the proposals into the position? I honestly didn’t think he was that stupid but he’s miscalculated this one. And, frankly, so has Creagh herself.
I admire my MP, mainly due to her work with the shadow environment brief. I like her but she’s far too close to the core of the Labour machinery, dancing to their tune and very rarely opposing. I’ve often lamented the fact that my MP is a member of the shadow cabinet and therefore I know exactly what she’ll respond to any given issue so why bother asking?
The trouble is, her majority is only 1600 votes. I wonder if she realises that HS2 is potentially the issue that’s going to ruin her career. Blithely supporting an issue her local Labour council thinks will be detrimental to her constituency won’t end well. HS2 is likely to be a local bone of contention in 2015 and it looks like Labour- led Wakefield Council just (rather justifiably) shot and maimed their own candidate.