When is a high speed train not a high speed train?


Answer: When it’s a ‘cock-up’!

MP and HS2 minister Robert Goodwill has admitted, according to The Telegraph’s Andrew Gilligan, that if and when the High Speed Railway is built, it might just have to terminate in Harlesden.

It’s a bird, it’s a train, it’s a dodo!

That’s stuffed any idea that HS2 had anything to do with speed hasn’t it Bob? No doubt it has also made a few people wonder if it will be a railway either.

Straight from Parliament’s Select Committee hearings, I rather felt that something of a banana skin was in the offing. I know these hearings are all rather tedious, but if you have followed them on Parliament Live you will have seen that some HS2’s bank of experts were having a job staying awake.

Did they already know that the government had finally realised that HS2 was a bonkers idea and were on the brink of ‘calling the whole thing off’? Me neither.

Supposing they do build it, where passengers get on and off, surely should be a consideration… No?

Yet HS2 won’t stop in city centres in Sheffield, Nottingham or Derby and now it looks like it is going to terminate near Harlesden. Where… is that still in London?

You dunno where it is? Never mind, you can catch a bus the other six miles to anywhere else, or take a Boris bike! Just pick up a map at the ticket office.

Described as the “West Bronx of London”, it sounds like you might be better off taking a taxi than hanging around Harlesden for long. I found this interesting little piece about the area on the CaribVoice website (Harlesden: London’s Yardies’ Backyard) it’s from 2002, but I am assured that little has changed. Frankly I can’t say I know the place, but I am in no hurry to do so either if this is an accurate portrayal.

But seriously Bob, if you want to give the North a ‘powerhouse’, just tell Dave and George to give them Northerners the money. It will save a fortune in the long run and might even win some of your traditional voters back from UKIP.

Be honest… nobody could do a worse job at blowing a fortune than your government has so far over HS2, could they Bob?

One Cheer for Select Committee

A new Chilterns tunnel extension for the HS2 rail project has been confirmed by the government (See: Government confirms tunnel for South Heath).

As a result of both engineering and environmental assessments, the Government has been persuaded that it propose an amendment to the HS2 hybrid Bill. Namely to extend the deep-bored Chilterns tunnel, beginning at Amersham, a further distance of 2.6km.

This therefore negates the need for the formerly proposed ‘green tunnel’ and will save the countryside around South Heath, much of the environmental damage that would have resulted from the high speed rail project.

I am just one resident of South Heath, I speak for myself and my family. To the Select Committee, I would like to offer my thanks for their help, in what I believe is a small victory for common sense. I really am grateful for both their time and effort and the time and effort of everyone that has made this possible.

One might think that since South Heath has largely been spared by this act of mercy, that I would put away my keyboard and ‘do the decent thing’. Were it not for the fact that I have never been NIMBY about HS2, I would probably have rejoiced in my personal good fortune and done exactly that.

However, this countryside has been my friend and neighbour for most of my life. I have walked it’s quiet footpaths, delighted in it’s solitude, appreciated it’s rare beauty and met countless fellow travellers as I did so. They have come from all over the world, exploring the Ridgeway, completing part of a Duke of Edinburgh award, renting a holiday cottage, or just getting away from the city for a day.

I know we need better infrastructure, that’s why initially I didn’t protest about HS2. I want to reduce the amount of cars on our roads as much as any passionate green activist.

I wish to make it very clear that it wasn’t because HS2 passed by my back door, that prompted me and inspired my opposition to HS2. It was that it was, I have always believed, an ill thought out project, that seemed to be ‘made up as it went along’.

A hugely disruptive and damaging project that needn’t have cut yet another new route through relatively undamaged countryside. Especially since the government wasn’t even sure why we needed it so badly. “We need speed!” or then again was it “we need capacity?”

So thanks guys for the tunnel, but despite the good news for South Heath, I am still here and I will continue to do what I can for our area of outstanding natural beauty… all of it!

Never Saw A Thing

Network Rail“Don’t underestimate how difficult it is working on live railway,” Dave ‘Digger’ Higgins was being interviewed by the BBC. From 2011 to 2014 he was paid ‘how much’ to run Network Rail?

Digger told the BBC there was “no indication of a crisis emerging” on his watch… C’mon Dave you never saw any figures? None… really? In the whole 3 years there were no nasty signs. Frankly I find that unbelievable.

Seemingly “never saw a thing” and “it’s hard running a railway”, are acceptable excuses for failure, in the alternate reality of the rail industry. At least that’s what he appears to be hoping.

But you’re paid to know mate! That’s the job, otherwise they might just as well have appointed me to run Network Rail. As ‘Head Honcho’ you get all the plaudits when things go right and provide an arse to kick when they don’t. Meaning yours, not some lackey on half your salary.

If Network Rail’s budget was a ‘right horlicks’, what about the budget for HS2? Not looking too rosy from the taxpayer’s perspective is it Dave?

He told the BBC, “The massive cost overruns at Network Rail won’t affect the budget of HS2. They are separate companies but both funded by the government”. Then adding, HS2 “has a defined budget controlled by the Treasury,there is no reason to confuse them.”

Confuse who? HS2? The Treasury?

Just don’t confuse yourself Dave, £80 billion is a lot of money and it’s our money. Actually, it’s probably my children’s money and their children’s. This whole business certainly has me confused, it has all gone ‘boobs up’ for Network Rail, yet nobody is responsible.

Most of the electorate have still to be convinced that HS2 is not a disaster in the making, you will have to try much harder to convince us that you are the man for the job. This isn’t the Olympics, there isn’t a Danny Boyle to pull a rabbit out of the hat.

You might also consider going to Specsavers!

Read More:
What went wrong with Network Rail and what were the key mistakes – BBC Website

Higgins criticesed over Network Rail – HS2 Buzz article

HS2 Parliamentary Committee Programme

The Parliamentary Committee hearing dates for the Chilterns and Vale of Aylesbury areas are now downloadable on PDF from the Parliament.UK website.

Looking at the response from the village of South Heath alone, no doubt petitioners will not have long to deliver their objections.

A sample of the September programme is shown below (and that’s just Group Q of several groups from South Heath).

South Heath is only a small hamlet, yet it’s petitions alone have to be staggered over 3 days. These will be heard from Tuesday 15th to Thursday 17th September, such was the response from it’s residents.

Wednesday 16th September (part only)

30 Commandment Property Services
35 Judith Jane Whymark and Mrs Beverly Ann Oleksiuk
41 Medical Investment and Financial Management Ltd
55 Anthony Harper
57 George Rivas South Heath
196 Fiona Baker of Nutty Birds
197 Frances Cutler Soft Furnishings
199 John Fausset-Baker
209 Anita Hiscock
453 Malcolm Griffiths
543 Michael Barden
559 Mary Spence
564 Garden Centre & Nursery Ltd
565 Sowdown Limited
566 Paul Burke All Clear
649 Brian True-May
664 Susan Barden
674 Gregory Cheasman
679 Peter John Watts
1047 William Crane
1053 Rachel Crane
1067 Paul Rodwell
1076 Carol Rainsford
1077 Timothy Stuart
1091 Gregory Porter
1092 Jack Fuller
1216 Robert Kemp
1222 Wendy Gray
1228 Nilesh Shah
1247 Stephen Green
1548 Vivien Salisbury

To download a programme click the appropriate link below:

September (Amersham – Chesham – Great & Little Missenden – Great & Little Kingshill – Hyde Heath – South Heath – The Lee – Lee Common – Lee Clump – Ballinger- Dunsmore – Wendover )

October (Aylesbury – Stoke Mandeville – Waddesdon – Quanton – Newton Purcell – Calvert –  Steeple Clayton – Twyford – Chetwode – Brackley)

Please note that some petitions may not appear when others of their area are heard, so if you cannot find your name, check to see whether it appears on the other list.

AONB – What’s in a name?

HS2 Sibleys Select CommitteeSeemingly not much when it comes to the designation AONB!

Because of their fragile natural beauty the primary purpose of AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) designation WAS:

  1. To conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the landscape
  2. To meet the need for quiet enjoyment of the countryside
  3. To have regard for the interests of those who live and work there.

This week we experienced the HS2 Select committee ‘being seen’ in these green and pleasant hills. They listened to the people who had come out in droves, despite the sudden change in date, that no doubt left many unable to reschedule at the last minute.

Since all the children were at school and most of the working population, were no doubt grafting away somewhere else, the assembled throng was hugely unrepresentative of the variety of people affected by the project. There was a photographer present, so any pictures would show this distortion.

One lady remarked that she had moved into the area seven years ago and had enjoyed every moment of it. “I was told that since it was an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it would never be built upon”. “Then I should sue”, replied the Member of Parliament for Poole, Robert Syms, chairman of the committee.

Such environmental protection, we might well construe, is therefore not worth the paper it’s printed on. I felt prompted to ask therefore for an assurance that HS2 wasn’t “the thin end of a very thick wedge” and likely to become a “developer’s charter”.

“HS2 doesn’t have any impact upon development” replied MP Robert Syms. I suggested that anything ancillary to HS2 would pass “on the nod”. Mr Syms agreed with me saying that “Anything to do with HS2 was covered by an act of Parliament and was covered by the Hybrid Bill” and that “it did not cover housing development or anything else”.

At this point the Member of Parliament for Gateshead, Ian Mearns added that such development would require “another Act of Parliament”. I wanted to add how much easier this would be after HS2 had driven a coach and horses through the AONB, but time was pressing.

I will therefore have to save that one until we meet again.

Russell Brand’s New Clothes

changeRussell Brand is Marmite, it is probably a generational thing, he may look like a modern Messiah, but then he speaks and the illusion quickly fades.

To those of us that can remember “Not Only But Also” and “That Was The Week That Was” comedy has changed beyond our recognition and I feel bound to admit that I have failed to keep pace with most of it.

The Emperor’s New Clothes however has nothing to do with comedy and on this subject Brand is absolutely right. Today’s Britain is no place for the weak, the sick or the low paid and is rapidly becoming no place for the middle classes either.

Next month, George Osborne will announce that the nation is £1.5 Trillion Pounds in debt and will be under pressure to severely cut government borrowing. Despite this and despite the fact that as recently as March, severe questions were being asked over the case for HS2, it will be business as usual. Cut the welfare bill, cut local government, even cut NHS spending, but God forbid we try to stop the runaway train!

In the alternative reality of Dave’s Britain, bankers waltz of to the Caymans with fortunes that make professional footballers look skint. Despite having committed offences so severe that they doubled the National Debt. One cheer for Modern Capitalism, it can even make you invisible to the SFO and the Revenue!

Meanwhile, cerebral palsy sufferer Angela Smith (appearing in Brand’s video), proudly announces that she has finally found a job “all on my own…after three and a half years of being a benefit scrounger”.

A benefit scrounger? Bless her heart, she has to be dressed every morning and spoon fed her dinner. What the hell is going on with our country?

Thank you Russell for highlighting what is happening here.