HS2 And Heathrow: “Not In The Public Interest” – Disasters In Waiting
By Graham Vanbergen – Over half of all Britons oppose the development of the controversial HS2 rail line, according to the results of a new survey. The ComRes poll, commissioned by the HS2 Action Alliance protest group, found that 52% oppose the current plans to build HS2 while around 30% support it.
The HS2 activist website HS2facts.co.uk says: “the government still refuses to release the results of its own polls – regularly carried out since 2013 – because the Department for Transport has deemed them “not in the public’s interest”. In this FOI access request, Meera Nayyar from the DfT says:“The remaining information is being withheld as we have engaged the exemption section 35(1)(a) – formulation or development of government policy; and 40(2)&(3) – third party personal information. Section 35(1)(a) is a qualified exemption, which means we are required to balance the public interest in disclosing the information against the public interest in withholding it.”
It can be assumed then that their own poll results correlate with those of YouGov’s poll.
A spokesperson for 51m (an alliance of councils also opposed to the project) commented:”For three years public opinion polls have consistently shown a clear majority against the project. The case for HS2 only exists in a vested interest lobby more concerned with vision than reality. This is not a dream for the future but a nightmare for the taxpayer.”
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Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the Treasury select committee, has stated that HS2 has the weakest economic case of all the UK’s major infrastructure projects. He also says that “HS2 may also be taken away from the Department for Transport after officials there were deemed to have lost control of the scheme.”
51M, have stated that the scheme was announced and forecast to cost £33bn in 2012 by the government. In June 2013, the Secretary of State for Transport revealed a revised figure for the project of £42.6bn, excluding £7.5bn for rolling stock. In November, 2015 the estimate was further revised to £55.7bn.
The HS2 project will also trigger Barnett formula payments to Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland amounting to £7.4bn, taking the overall figure to £63.1bn.
Its ever expanding budget dwarves that of Hinkley C and Heathrow combined, which are both £18bn projects. HS2 has already cost over £1billion in fees and nothing at all has started. Lord Berkeley, chairman of the Rail Freight Group, which represents goods users on the railway network, said HS2 Ltd “hasn’t got a clue” what its costs are.
Other taxpayer failures by government are demonstrated no better than the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) used by successive governments to pay for new schools and hospitals which has ended up being an economic calamity. Treasury data analysis last year unearthed the ‘enormous financial disaster‘ of Private Finance Initiatives that will cost the taxpayer £222billion over three decades. This doesn’t include inflation that another report says will increase the cost to £300billion – all owed to banks of course. Needless to say there are countless examples of such failures, none of which, were given approval by an ever overburdened and strained taxpayer.
In fact, The National Audit Office said, in its progress report of early 2016 on major government projects, that 37 out of the 106 projects due to finish by 2021 are destined to failure. There are currently 149 projects in the Government Major Project Portfolio, with a combined lifetime cost of £511bn – and it’s expected that the government will end up wasting nearly £170 billion of it.
Heathrow is another example of waste in waiting. Last week Theresa May signalled favouring Heathrow expansion after a debate that took almost 50 years. Whilst there are plenty of cabinet critics of Heathrow’s expansion, there are few for Gatwick. This is largely reflected by the opinion of the population.
In the meantime, May has abandoned her constituency who put her into parliament in the first place. The PM – whose Maidenhead seat is in Heathrow Airport’s flight path – made an outrageous bid to wipe her long-lived bias from the internet where archive material reveals the extent of her opposition to a 3rd Runway at Heathrow just a few years ago, when it suited her to oppose it.
In response to the decision by the Labour Government to give the go-ahead to a third runway in 2009, Theresa May was clear in what she said: “I know from all the letters and emails I get that many local people will be devastated by the Government’s decision. A third runway will result in thousands of additional flights, increased noise and more pollution for thousands of people. The Government’s promises on the environmental impact of this are not worth the paper they are written on – there are no planes currently on the market that would allow them to meet their noise and carbon dioxide targets. As I suspected all along, the Government paid no attention to the opinions expressed by members of the public and have decided to push ahead with expansion despite all the environmental warnings. We need a better Heathrow, not a bigger Heathrow.”
You can’t get much clearer than that …. until you get into power and have dozens of lobbyists and bankers sitting in your office waving party donations and who are all of a sudden deemed more important that citizens.
ALL of the data, without exception has clearly showed that air pollution as a result of this new runway will deepen London’s air pollution crisis, treble air pollution related deaths in the region and breach admissible air quality laws by most ‘normal’ western countries, the EU included.
Just 15 per cent of UK residents account for 70 per cent of all flights taken at Heathrow.
“Change has got to come because of the quiet revolution that took place” said Theresa May at the Tory part conference a few weeks back – about a general public who were fed up being ignored. May went further and scorned corporate bosses “I’m putting you on warning, this can’t go on any more” for failing to engage in the “spirit of citizenship”. Mrs May said she believed that there is “more to life than individualism and self-interest”- “We have a responsibility to one another,” she said. All of this rhetoric, shallow in meaning, flies in the face of long suffering people dealing with the threat of HS2 ripping up their communities and ruining their homes along with those living in the shadow of Heathrow. It also takes no account of all who care about the incessant increase of pollution and a taxpayer who will, largely not benefit from such ill-conceived vanity schemes as neither are in the public interest.
Aviation and transport lobbyists, the business class set and wealthy bankers are the only people to benefit from these doomed projects, whilst the quiet revolution, a spirit of citizenship and less self-interest has been trampled on from on high.
This is not democracy in action, this is rampant neoliberalism out of control. If ‘quiet revolution’ doesn’t work – what will?