HS2 antis – at it again

Anti-HS2 campaigners spin opinion poll result

THE anti-HS2 brigade is at it again  — asking a selective question and then interpreting the answers to promote its own ends.

The HS2 Action Alliance got Ipsos MORI to ask 1,442 people in an omnibus survey (that is one in which many questions are asked about a wide range of subjects): “The Government is trying to boost the economy and is considering major infrastructure investment. Which one of these, if any, do you think is the best way of boosting the economy?”

The options given to respondents were (in alphabetical order, with the responses in brackets) — build a new high speed rail line (4%); build more homes (40%); improve airport capacity (5%); improve and extend high speed broadband (8%); improve existing rail infrastructure (14%); improve existing road infrastructure (20%); none of these (5%); don’t know (3%).

Based on these results, the HS2AA has now taken whole page advertisements in Total Politics and New Statesman magazines to highlight the results, which HS2AA claims are “pretty clear cut” — “Sandwiched between ‘Don’t know’ and ‘None of these’ the building of a high-speed rail line polled a paltry 4%. Considering its cost to the taxpayer of £33bn, not to mention the £1bn being spent in this parliament alone – it’s a massive public investment with minimal returns and little public backing.”

Indeed, HS2AA’s press release went even further, and carried the heading “Public Rejects [sic] a New High Speed Rail Line as Best Method of Boosting the Economy.”

This really is ‘spinning’ how people responded, since they were not asked what options they rejected, but to say which ONE SINGLE OPTION (and only one of those offered) would be the best way of boosting the economy.

Yet I am unaware that anyone has ever suggested that building HS2 alone (to provide more rail network capacity) to be THE ONLY way of boosting the economy — rather, it is one of a range of projects that many people consider are together necessary to help boost the economy.

It is also necessary to ask why — after the preamble “The government is trying to boost the economy and is considering major infrastructure investment” — one of the options offered to respondents (and which proved to be the most popular) was “Build more homes” when housing (also schools and hospitals) are not counted as infrastructure.

Certainly, had I been asked the question posed by HS2AA, I would have replied that none of the options on offer included my greatest concern— namely, that the single most urgent infrastructure issue at present is providing sufficient new electricity generating capacity to keep the lights on after 2015 (not to mention to generate sufficient power for additional parts of the existing rail network which are to be electrified) as many of our old coal-fired power stations close down to achieve reduced carbon emissions.

Indeed, providing new generating capacity is very much a part of the Government’s National Infrastructure Plan. The trouble at present seems to be that the Conservatives and the LibDems can’t agree which forms of generating capacity should be provided, with Chancellor George Osborne reportedly wanting to put the main focus on gas because he fears ‘greener’ alternatives would impose extra costs on business and industry and deter economic growth.

That aside, our overall infrastructure in Britain compares badly with many other developed countries and the National Infrastructure Plan anticipates investing HALF A TRILLION pounds (£500 billion) between 2010 and 2020 — and that does not include any investment in housing (which, according to Ipsos MORI’s survey for HS2AA, is the public’s preferred option!).

Of that £500 billion, the most that is likely to be spent by 2020 on HS2 — on the initial design work and legislative process, on acquiring the necessary land, paying compensation and on starting some of the early construction — might be about £10 billion . . . or just TWO per cent of the total expected taxpayers’ investment in renewing or improving the nation’s infrastructure.

It has always amazed me that HS2’s opponents have tried to focus on the full ‘Y’ network’s estimated cost over 16 years — an average of about £2 billion a year, the same as that being invested now each year in major rail enhancement schemes such as Thameslink and Crossrail, but without any major complaint or opposition.  Perhaps it is because most of HS2’s principal objectors come from along, or close to, the proposed line of route.  Maybe a plan for a wind turbine farm on top of the Chilterns, or a new nuclear power station in Buckinghamshire or Warwickshire, would be more significant projects in their back yards to divert their attention.

Incidentally, little of the National Infrastructure Plan’s investment is likely to be spent on roads, even though 20 per cent of those interviewed for HS2AA by Ipsos MORI said improving existing road infrastructure is the best way of boosting the economy.  Road building hardly features in the Government’s future plans — not least because of our obligations under international treaties to massively reduce greenhouse gas emissions, for which road transport is the largest single source.

And, anyway, as I have written before, people are increasingly driving less, young people are not taking up driving and they, like many older people, too, are traveling ever more by train, while more of the population is moving back into cities, which are ideally served by rail.

And if any new roads are built, they are likely to become subject to some form of tolling or road pricing, which may well be extended more widely since the decline in road use  — together with the improving efficiency of internal combustion engines that results in reduced fuel consumption — will see the Government’s revenue from vehicle excise duty and fuel taxes steadily decline, and will have to be somehow replaced.

Finally, it is very interesting to observe that — while HS2’s opponents have long argued there is no need for the project because modern technology means people don’t need to travel and can work at home — only eight per cent of respondents to the Ipsos MORI survey thought that improving and extending high speed broadband was the best way to boost the economy.

26 thoughts on “HS2 antis – at it again

  1. And you’re not biased toward new Rail infrastructure in any way? hmm

    the fact is that the facts on HS2 aren’t out yet and until they are out, and properly debated, the ‘no camp’ will have plenty to chew on.

    Its widely known that the existing network is where investment is needed and not just in the short term. Has the rail industry looked at what plans will benefit them before blindly backing this rather odd scheme? I’d like to see a report by Rail experts into HS2 and the alternatives to see if it tallies.

    I remain, so far, unconvinced….

    • “Its widely known that the existing network is where investment is needed and not just in the short term.”

      I agree, which is why it’s excellent news that record sums (umpteen billions!) are now being invested into the classic line network over the next ten years.

      When will the penny drop; HS2 is NOT about NOW – it’s years away; 2016-2033 to be precise! HS2 is a long-term strategy to deliver the first elements in a (hopefully) comprehensive UK wide, world class rail network fit for the 21st century.

      My main criticisms of current UK High Speed Rail strategy are two-fold;
      1. It’s too little and takes too long to bring to fruition
      2. Why does is cost so much compared with equivalent projects on the other side of La Manche – we need full transparency in the tendering / procurement process in order that the UK taxpayer can have full confidence in process and understand what they are getting for their money!

      We should ignore the siren voices and focus attention on the real issues surrounding future High Speed Rail projects – not on the principle itself, which remains sound.

      • I would totally agree with Peters 2 points relating to time and cost, its the ” fly in the ointment ” of the whole HS2 package.

        I ve been following the whole story for about 3 years now, and the one thing that has constantly amazed me is the lengths these so called stopHS2 campaigners go to in twisting facts and figures.

  2. “Based on these results, the HS2AA has now taken whole page advertisements in Total Politics and New Statesman magazines to highlight the results”

    I’m prompted to ask just where the money comes from to take out full page Magazine ads – isn’t the anti-HS2 campaign supposed to a grass roots affair, operated on a shoe string budget and populated by ordinary people?

    What these survey results tell us is something we knew already – that HS2 DOES NOT figure on the radarscope as THE pressing issue of the day for average UK citizens – perhaps that might be because HS2 isn’t about NOW anyway – it’s quite literally years away and in that respect, an increased emphasis on building homes and/ or investing in the classic line network DOES make more sense as short to medium terms measures designed to stimulate economic growth – or have I missed something here?

    PS. This article is linked by the STOPHS2 website so you can expect a few brickbats to follow?

    • Well Peter I’m sure fund raising from the most affluent part of the UK (after Chelsea & Kensington) where you live wouldn’t be a problem. Down here I have lost count of the number of raffle tickets, quiz nights, race nights, beatle drives, sponsorships, murder mystery evenings that I’ve had to attend. I know it doesn’t fit with your “dark forces” conspiracy theories of shady characters – led by Lord Lucan no doubt – subverting the democratic process – but sadly it is a grass roots movement. If you know different – and we’ve all been duped – then do spill the beans and tell us who these dangerous characters are.

      • @John
        I’m still trying to decipher your coded message of thinly veiled personal abuse.

        In the meantime, perhaps you might like to stick to the question. At least @Finmere (below) attempts to provide a more reasoned response but I have my doubts about its veracity. Maybe we should demand full transparency of anti-HS2 campaign funding – after all anti-campaigners are always accusing those planning to construct HS2 of hiding vital information so they should have no problem with relasing such material?

        Whilst your at it, maybe you could explain the role of Quiller Consultants, hired at no small expense by anti-HS2 campaign groups (or their friends?)

        • Peter
          Personal abuse? You’re so thin skinned particularly given the usual tone of your missives. You do live in the most affluent part of the UK after Kensington & Chelsea cocooned by national trust land and SSSIs. You’re not in the Loweryesque poverty you would have us all believe. The biggest danger you face is being knocked down by a Ferrari or have your house burnt down by a premiership footballer setting fire to his curtains. Down here in the less affluent part of the World we are working hard to raise funds. If only there were these secretive backers our lives would be so much easier. And Peter do try and keep up! You attach a link to an article over 2 years old! Please! Are Quiller still involved? No – as you full well know. You’re also a regular contributor to the Stop HS2 website so you see all the news and the appeals for funds. Sure if you asked all 80 action groups up and down the line they would be delighted to provide you with the amounts that they send through to AGAHST. In the meantime – you’re making these “dark forces” allegations – you’re clearly in the know so tell everyone who they are. Don’t keep it to yourself!
          In the meantime I’ll still keep on selling the raffle tickets. Attached is a link showing lots of ultra rich people with an elephant.

          • So Ellie the Elephant has many holes and needs plenty of hot air to fill her – how apt for the anti ANTI HS2 brigade!

            Wig hose case is just as full of holes!o

    • “I’m prompted to ask just where the money comes from to take out full page Magazine ads – isn’t the anti-HS2 campaign supposed to a grass roots affair, operated on a shoe string budget and populated by ordinary people?”

      Well let me explain.

      Our local action group has 22 supporters who donate between £5 and £8 each month. Multiply that by 80+ anti-HS2 groups and you get a monthly campaign income of about £12k per month or £145k p.a.

      If an magazine advertisment needs funding – normally about £7k), an email goes out to local groups and hundreds (if not thousands) of people asking for a small donation. The target is met quite quickly.

      Of course, once the full Y Route is announced, the no. of action groups will probably increase hugely as will the anti-HS2 fund budget.

  3. Goodness – I’m going to have to agree with you. Generation of electricty is number 1 priority for this Country and time is running out. (Yes I’m a great fan of Nuclear) But you do expect the NIMBYs to fight to the last with whatever they can don’t you ? But its the Court Action that will bog things down, both in this Country and in Europe. If they can afford it that is. But Government action or inaction over the years needs to be studied. Take London’s 3rd runway. What a great idea said the Government. They bought up an entire village (Sipson) and then cancelled the whole scheme. Or is it all back on again ? HS2 – first its going to Heathrow – then its not. Government spending on infrastructure projects in recession is usually a good idea especially if you have a large pool of unemployed. Is that the case in the UK or will we have to rely on Poles and Hungarians to build the new line ?

  4. Sorry to sound like a pedant, but why have you written “sic” after “public rejects”?
    Public is a singular noun (like government or Manchester United) and therefore “rejects” is grammatically correct.
    I therefore question the rest of your criticisms in this article.

  5. The ANTIs and IPSOS MORI manipulated questions so as to split rail vote and combine broadband vote.
    Rail became vote for Exist Rail14% or Superfast Rail(HS2) 4%
    Superfast Broadband was combined with Exist Broadband got 8% vote
    Poll was therefore LOADED
    Exist Rail plus Superfast Rail = 18% Twice the vote Broadband obtained.

    Comparing Broadband with Rail and excluding all other votes give rail(inc Superfast Rail) THREE times the vote for Broadband

    Moral of story is Do Not Trust Polsters

  6. So you have a problem with a “selective question”? I’d have called it a straight question. Not like the leading questions included in the consultation to HS2. Though I’m sure you had no problem with those.

    That was quite an entertaining read as it goes, got the feeling you started to cry and stamp your feet towards the end! Getting worried at all?

    • Dear Mr Lynch, if stooping to childish and immature remarks is the sign of someone getting worried then it is you that’s fearing for the future.

  7. Fantastic news! The anti-HS2 lot have come out in favour of new homes to boost the economy! In that case, let’s build lots of new housing estates on the edge of all their towns and villages. They clearly think that, unlike railways, a new housing estate on your doorstep is no big deal, so everyone’s a winner. Of course, you’ll need to build new roads to serve these new housing estates, but no problem, they’re in favour of that too. In fact, as no-one complained when the M40 and A41 ripped up large swathes of the Chilterns I’m sure they won’t mind now.

    Or did StopHS2 actually want all ugly housing and infrastructure built next to other people? Surely not. They emphhatically insisted they’re not nimbys and we should take their every word. Come on, let’s get out the cement mixers and we’ll be welcomed with open arms.

    • CNS
      You should perhaps check out the reality of the situation first. Under the regional spatial strategy for the south east (yes such things do exist) the plan for housing 2006 – 2026 has allocated over 10% of new housing in the SE to the Chilterns, Aylesbury Vale & Milton Keynes.
      So we are doing our bit already for plans that make sense. When a plan makes no economic sense then you can’t be surprised when it gets opposed.

      • Okay, I get it. Building the vast majority of houses somewhere else does make economic sense but a piece of national infrastructure that comes nearby doesn’t make economic sense – but that’s clearly just a coincidence.

        (Oh, and in case you’re wondering – my hot bet of where a north-east HS line would go is about 1km away from where I live, and they are more than welcome to build it there.)

        • Oh Dear! As I’m sure you’re aware on a population base the Bucks area is taking a disproportionate amount of housing. But people have to live somewhere and there is a strong economic case for doing that. And yes we do use the roads, like the M25 (that passes through Bucks), the M4 (that passes through Bucks) the M1 (that passes through Bucks) the M40 (that passes through Bucks ) and of course the WCML. When you have a strong BCR then you have to put up with it. When you have a project that has a weak BCR and the proponents cannot answer what the benefits are and simply resort to shouting that it will bring economic benefits, its no surprise that the case gets challenged. Do lay out what the economic benefits because apart from you saying that there are loads you never back up what these are.

          • Well, the figure you proudly produce includes Milton Keynes, which open up the possibility that all of these anti groups can claim they’re taking their fair share of housing when it’s actually mostly being built somewhere else, but maybe that’s just me being cyncical – because I have a lot to be cynical about.

            One of the things I am cynical about is this dogged insistent that the grounds for opposition is entirely down to BCR (and definitely not anything to do with trains passing nearby). I’ll bet that the vast majority of both pros and antis had never even heard of a BCR, let alone had opinions on one, prior to the HS2 proposal. Bearing in mind that StopHS2 et al claimed the latest upward revisions were rigged, I really have trouble believing that is the case. If an ultra-reliable indepedent report was released tomorrow showing the BCR has been revised upwards to 5, would the antis drop their opposition? I think not.

            FWIW, as I’ve touched upon in the other thread, I think the whole debate over BCR is a red herring. BCR is a reasonable way of assessing the value of small schemes, but for long-term schemes of this nature there’s a vast number of unknowns. On top of this, the way that benefits is calculated seems quite arbitrary. There’s a lot of focus on journey times savings, but much less on crowding, which I’d have thought is the far more pressing issue.

            No, I’m far more concerned with the directly quantifiable issue of capacity. I’ve looked at the current loading figures in the WCML rail utiliation strategy report, and it’s not a pretty sight, especially not for the poor sods on the London Midland services regularly running at 140%+ loading. Neither are the notices for which LM trains out of London in the afternoon peak have spare seats. And before you say 51M or pinchpoints, the entire southern section of the WCML is a pinchpoint, and the trains suffering the worst crowding are already 12 carriages long.

            All the tricks in the book to increase capacity have already been done. Four tracks simply isn’t enough any more – we need six. The only question is where you put them and whether it’s worth making it a high speed line. The antis could have made a good case for routing the extra tracks elsewhere. They didn’t – simply a proposal to sdo the WCML upgrade all over again, which no sane rail passenger is going to support. If you want that as an economic case, it’s that if rail use keeps growing anywhere near the rate it’s currently doing and haven’t got the means to transport people, we’re all daffy ducked.

            But then, you probably knew that argument already, because the issue of capacity, capacity, capacity has been raised repeatedly. You are welcome to disagree with it, but to claim the case has not been made is plain wrong.

            I have some sympathy with the argument that HS2 offers little benefit to the communities actually along the route (the increased IC/regional services will benefit intermediate stations along with WCML, when most communities near HS2 are closer to the Chiltern Line), but when you’ve got people like The Sam on your side, I’m not entirely sure all those people complaining about the lack of intermediate stops have any intention of using them.

  8. Why shouldn’t anti-HS2’s be at anything again?

    Simple fact is antis will never want it and those like yourself always will.

    Generally, the case against has always looked far stronger than the case for it and nothing compelling has ever been laid down in black and white to prove the case for it.

    Some people like choo-choo trains- it’s their childhood fantasy all the way through to adulthood. That’s fine, boys can like their toys but I grew out of that years ago.

    Give England a tsunami or give it the HS2, the overall destructive effect will be no different. Oh wait, actually people will have to put up with the aftermath of the HS2 for years longer not to mention the potential stress of knowing it’s coming in the first place. Is it any wonder why the quality of life for the UK is rated as low compared to other European countries? You make it what it is.

    • “Some people like choo-choo trains- it’s their childhood fantasy all the way through to adulthood. ”

      It’s infantile comments like that the reinforce my suspicion that the vast majority of the anti-HS2 campaign is anti-rail. Not anti-high speed rail, anti-all kinds of rail.

      That argument against HS2 is about a credible as opposing a new road because little boys have fantasy of brum-brum cars. grow up.

      “Is it any wonder why the quality of life for the UK is rated as low compared to other European countries?”

      Well, consider the majority of other European countries have adopted high-speed rail and you seem convinced that high speed rail brings misery and despair, it’s say it is quite a wonder.

  9. At no point has it every been explained just why HS2 is necessary and cannot be achieved by any other less expensive or destructive means. I very much doubt whether the BCR is above 1.5.

    Let’s bite the bullet, cancel this fiasco and use the remaining funds to expand our existing network.

    • @John Edwards: “Let’s bite the bullet, cancel this fiasco and use the remaining funds to expand our existing network.”

      What remaining funds?

      It seems you too (along with large numbers amongst the anti-HS2 community?) are labouring under a false assumption, ie. that there is some kind of magic pot of money (all £32.7bn of it!) currently in existence, capable of instant reallocation to more pressing (in your opinion) projects?

      I have sad news for you @John Edwards – these funds don’t exist – I’ll say it again (and again and again and again apparently because the message isn’t sinking in!). LESS THAN 3% OF THE HS2 HEADLINE BUDGET ALLOCATED TO THE CURRENT PARLIAMENTARY PERIOD!

      A recent Parliamentary question, seeking information on this specific topic, elicited an answer that the costs during 2012 so far were approx £13m per month. This funding – averaging £156 million per year – is being expended on preparations; designs, environmental impacts, limited compensation awards etc. required to inform the enabling Hybrid Bill for phase 1.

      Now £156million might sound like a lot of money but it represents less than 0.5% of HS2’s total forecast budget – hardly a sum capable of solving the current fiscal deficit?

      So if it’s bullets you are seeking to bite, I suggest you approach Boris in City Hall and ask him about CrossRail, currently costing approx £2bn per annum (as in right NOW) – I wish you the best of luck with that strategy?

    • “At no point has it every been explained just why HS2 is necessary and cannot be achieved by any other less expensive or destructive means.”

      It has. Repeatedly. Would you like me to go over them again?

      You are welcome to argue why you don’t agree with the reasons. Claiming no reason have ever been given merely proves you weren’t listening.

  10. It must be in the British psyche to be against anything new; think back to anything which has been developed in this country and usually we are against it. There is usually a committee headed by Lt.Col.A.Pompous Ass (retd.) organises it quite irrespective of any benefit to the country as a whole. When the French high-speed line was under construction from Paris to tjhe Channel Tunnel in the mid 90s – it was opened concurrently with the tunnel, ten years before our line did!!! – the good folk of Amiens protested violently….at the fact that the line was going to MISS THEM OUT. Here it would have been the other way about. Britain I despair of you and your small-mindedness; it must be the weather!

  11. There is really no limit to the essential Ludditeness of the British!!! We have little drive, no initiative and no vision – except rearwards!

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