Today, the House of Commons will be voting on the HS2 Paving Bill.
A fortnight ago, I wrote here about Conservative Andrew Bridgen’s (MP for North West Leicestershire) warning about HS2 and a possible Labour U-turn.
On October 28, he had more to say for Conservative Home (emphases mine):
… although Maria Eagle (the then Shadow Transport Secretary) was wholly committed to the HS2 project, she was only one reshuffle away from Labour being in a position to cancel HS2. Four months down the line, Maria Eagle has indeed gone and Mary Creagh, the new shadow Transport Secretary, has said she will launch a review of the party’s railway policy within a year. That’s enough time to let our party become committed beyond the point of no return – and for Ed Balls to spring £50 billion of spending pledges from the saving of cancelling HS2. After all, Lord Mandelson has stated that Labour’s backing for HS2 was only to upstage the Conservatives, prior to the next election.
Meanwhile, Bridgen has been talking to Tories:
I am presently canvassing opinion within the Conservative Parliamentary Party, and have found dozens of colleagues against the scheme, plus many who are at best agnostic. The arguments that have been put forward in favour of the scheme have been evasive – for example, the recent KPMG report commissioned by the Government was widely criticised as being one-sided and unconvincing and not using ‘mainstream’ methodology, as well as ‘making a host of other questionable assumptions.’
As for the Paving Bill, he says:
We are standing on the track and the train is approaching. We can see it, but will we move out of the way. This Thursday, the remaining stages of the HS2 Paving Bill will be debated and voted on. Labour will not vote against it, as they want to keep us on the leash and know enough Conservatives are against the project to vote it down if they fail to support the Government. Even considering this, though, Labour’s lack of commitment has been demonstrated by the fact that they are on a one line whip. The fight will then move onto the Hybrid Bill.
With the blinkered obsession that HS2 is the answer to our country’s infrastructure issues, there is the feeling that alternative schemes on how best to spend £50 billion of taxpayers’ money have not been considered. The scheme should therefore be put on hold while this reappraisal takes place.
Several commenters wrote in to offer less expensive and more beneficial alternatives to the trainwreck known as HS2, among them:
richie40: The WCML isn’t full – it’s simply run inefficiently. HS2 proposes to run 18 trains per hour on 2 tracks from Euston by using a modern signalling system. In theory, the same system could be installed on the 4 track WCML to run 36 trains per hour. Currently, Virgin run 9 trains per hour and London-Midland run 6 (off-peak) – 9 (peak) per hour.
One of the main reasons for the inefficiency is the number of freight trains using the line. If these were diverted onto other lines, twice the number of passenger trains could, in theory, use the line.
Andrew Gilligan reported in the Telegraph yesterday that Kelvin Hopkins (Labour MP for Luton North) is proposing that the Great Central is re-opened for a small fraction of the HS2 cost. This is not a new Labour idea, but a 25yr old Tory one proposed in Andrew Gritten’s 1988 paper for the CPS (see link below). However, this was for a PRIVATE SECTOR railway – an even better deal for the taxpayer !
In addition to the Great Central, many other lines could be re-opened (e.g. Warrington – Atlrincham, Buxton – Matlock, Northampton – Bedford, Bedford – Hitchin) to create a UK rail freight network that avoids all fast trains on the WCML, MML and ECML.
chrislf: They should scrap HS2 and replace it with the much cheaper version using new track on the old Marylebone /Nottingham /Manchester line [axed by Beeching]. This would provide the needed extra capacity, eg for freight and according to reports in the press would cost around £6bn.
David Belchamber: Running from London to Manchester (or from Manchester to London, whichever way you look at it), the first third of the line virtually coincides with the proposed HS2 line and it served several of HS2’s proposed destinations.
As the route has already been blazed, this solution would be much more palatable to the majority of people and cost a fraction of HS2.
Why has this alternative not been publicised and discussed? If we do not do so, Labour certainly will.
I’d put money on it. They will also call HS2 ‘Cameron’s vanity project’ and say the £50bn could be better spent on those in need — ‘think of the children’.
The saddest thing is that these Conservative Home readers are trying to help their party, but to no avail. They appear to be ignored. Here’s hoping Andrew Bridgen will read through the comments and put these suggestions forward.