Jan 13 2012 By Keri Brennan
HI, AND thanks to everyone who has helped campaign over the past year year against High Speed Two (HS2). All of your help and support has been fantastic and greatly appreciated.
So the government ignored the popular majority, ignored the consultation responses, ignored the hard academic and economic evidence, and stuck to the plan, with just a few tweaks here and there.
The greedy, fat cat, selfish elite will be delighted. Meanwhile the 90 per cent plus of the population who'll never use the railway will pay for it - and in fact already are.
Every penny saved by tuition fees, slashed pensions, higher fares, public sector pay freezes and so on, will all help adjust the public finances to pay for it. And for London residents, remember, the proposals could include higher council taxes to help pay for it too.
As usual, the national corporate media will focus on the effect on the Chilterns, without a moment's pause for thought about the effects on hard working families in affected parts of London, particularly Hillingdon. Let's not forget that 200 homes in Camden could be lost, many in Hillingdon, and many more badly affected be construction and noise.
In the next few days we can also expect some prominent historians recruited by the government PR machine to prostitute their talents and wax lyrical about the return of a mythical Victorian golden age of railways. Of course they won't mention anything about Victorian child labour, rampant imperialism, the disgraceful handling of the Irish and Indian famines, and so on. Or the inconvenient truth that most Victorian railways went bankrupt.
The only thing HS2 has got in common with Victorians is that it sounds like Thicktorians, the current motley crew who have proposed and will benefit from this unnecessary railway. Thick skins, thick heads and thick wallets.
Hillingdon residents will of course be familiar with the great Victorian engineer Brunel, with the local university named in his honour. For poor comparison, we now have the genius of Professor McNumpty McNaughton. This is the clown overseeing a 155 mile per hour train route five metres from children's play areas and 20 metres from bedrooms; heading 10 miles west before realising Birmingham is north-west, and eventually joining a derelict west London industrial estate to the edge of Birmingham.
So what did we learn this past year? The government's economic case was a fantasy; their environmental case was derided by every environmental group as being sustainabull; and the claimed benefit of saving a few minutes journey time was trashed by their own commissioned market research (which confirmed common sense, that people would just get up and set off later if they could get to home and work quicker). But none of it really mattered to the government. Their arguments subtly shifted to being about jobs and future capacity.
We can't really argue with the extra capacity point - there certainly will be spare capacity because there won't be enough passengers when the working age population levels off or falls, particularly if the government's migration targets are met! And the current lack of capacity in schools, prisons and regional transport doesn't seem to have filtered through to the brainless bureaucrats.
Jobs? Of course some jobs will be created and no opponent has said otherwise. But the current claim is now a preposterous exaggeration of one million jobs! No surprise that this figure comes from an economist who, just coincidentally, happens to be on the board of Network Rail. Let's remember that HS2 Ltd's own documents said that few people living around the areas to be "regenerated" would benefit from new jobs because they are underqualified and unskilled. Er, hello, doesn't that mean more money should be targeted at education and training then????
Perhaps there'll be tunnels through Hillingdon and we'll be expected to go away and shut up. Nope - we've lifted the stone and don't like what we've found crawling underneath.
We will not go away now, because HS2 must be stopped in the national interest.