Chiltern Society HS2 news round-up – March 2012
The key events of the month were:
- The development of the debate over runways in the South East
- The Judicial Reviews take a step forward
- The first consultation forums were held
- The National Audit Office slams HS1 over failure to meet cost and forecast passenger levels
- Some reports related to noise and health.
The Runways Debate
George Osborne has re-ignited the discussion on whether Heathrow should have a third runway. Read more here
Richard Branson can take some of the credit for lighting the fuse, warning that the Government risked losing out on economic growth unless Heathrow was connected to more of the fastest growing cities in the Far East with a third runway. He believes this is needed even if we build a new airport in the Thames Estuary. Link to interview here.
Boris Johnson is not too keen on this, and wonders never cease with a mayoral election in May, the Consultation on Aviation has been deferred (see airportwatchreport above).
Click to show article (click again to hide).
Focus on estuary airport in PM’s plans
By Rose Jacobs, Kiran Stacey and George Parker
David Cameron has given the strongest signal yet that he backs a new airport in the Thames estuary, vowing to take “controversial” decisions and tackle “vested interests” in a speech on renewing Britain’s infrastructure.
Mr Cameron said London needed to remain a global hub for air travel, that it needed more capacity and that he would not be content to see it become a feeder for bigger airports elsewhere in Frankfurt, Amsterdam or Dubai.
“We will need to take decisions for the long term and we will be bringing forward options in our aviation strategy which will include an examination of the pros and cons of a new airport in the Thames estuary,” he said in his speech in London on Monday.
The prime minister’s allies confirm he is drawn to the idea and that there was a “fairly high” chance the option could emerge as the best means of increasing the south-east’s airport capacity at the end of a study of all the options.
Mr Cameron’s wide-ranging speech on an upgrade of Britain’s infrastructure, in which he invoked the spirit of the Victorians in planning for the future, echoed the language of one of the most prominent proponents of a new hub airport, Lord Foster.
The prominent architect has put forward a proposal for a four-runway airport on the Isle of Grain that, together with high-speed train lines that would connect it to London, and a new Thames Barrier would cost an estimated £50bn.
The prime minister and chancellor are understood to have urged the Department for Transport to think big when drawing up the new aviation policy. Although Mr Cameron said better use could be made of existing capacity at Gatwick, the options for a long-term solution are limited.
Mr Cameron stoked speculation that the government might change course on a new runway at Heathrow airport when he said he retained “an open mind” on all possibilities for enlarging capacity in the south-east.
He mentioned Gatwick specifically, saying it was “emerging as a business airport for London, under a new owner competing with Heathrow”. That angered environmental campaigners, who pointed to the coalition agreement not to build new runways at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted.
But Number 10 quickly rowed back from this hint, insisting that the coalition agreement remained intact. A spokesman for the prime minister said Mr Cameron meant that a range of options would be included in the forthcoming aviation white paper, and pointed out that Gatwick and Stansted could be expanded without additional runways.
Aside from a plan to transfer Britain’s trunk roads and motorways to private sector operators, Mr Cameron promised investment in housing, a £2bn injection of pension fund cash into infrastructure, and new spending on superfast broadband and 4G technology.
Other solutions include linking Northolt to Heathrow to provide a third runway and upgrading Manston Airport in Kent.
What it all boils down to is that we need a National Transportation Infrastructure Policy, starting with the airports and integrating rail and road. In particular it needs to address freight. Moving much of this to rail would free up the roads, and reduce the wear and tear caused by HGVs.
Judicial Reviews (JR) etc
The two JRs commenced last month and are moving forward to hearings in the High Court (see JR process below) to determine whether the JRs will go ahead. This will probably be in the autumn.
Bucks County Council for the 51m Group of Councils has taken the next step in the JR Process by going to the high court. Read more here.
The JR on environmental grounds initiated by HS2 Action Alliance, supported by the Chiltern Society, Action Groups and Environmental Charities has also been taken to the High Court.
A third JR process has been started on Compensation, also led by HS2AA. The Society is not involved in this.
Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trusts (BBOWT) have written to the EU Commission on the failure of the Government to carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), asserting that the Assessment of Sustainability (AoS) did not meet the standard. Read more here.
- Issue a letter to the party considered to be in breach, in this case, Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for Transport, asking her to rescind her decision and giving the grounds for the request
- She has 14 days in which to respond
- If she refuses, the claimant goes to the High Court asking for leave to seek a Judicial Review
- The High Court assesses the possibility of a breach, and if satisfied, issues approval for a JR
- If more than one party requests a JR, the judge can combine the into one JR
- The JR takes place and a decision is handed down
- Either Party has the option to seek to go to appeal.
Funding the Environmental Judicial Review
The Chiltern Society is committed to raising funds towards the cost of the Environmental Judicial Review, estimated at £120,000 initially. If there is an appeal, this will increase further. Our initial target is £20,000. We have already raised over 60% of this, but we need your help NOW to reach the immediate target of £15,000.
Donations can be made by:
- Telephone – call 01494 771250
- Post to: The Chiltern Society, Freepost (HH601), Chesham, Bucks, HP5 1ZA (please make cheques payable to 'Chiltern Society – HS2' & write ‘legal fund’ on the reverse)
- On the Society’s website here.
Giftaid it! – If you are a UK tax payer, we can claim an additional 25% – please let us know if we may claim Giftaid on your donation.
Last month we covered the 3 types of forums being organized by HS2 Limited:
- The Environment
Community Forums (CFs)
The invitees to these are mainly local organizations, including Action Groups, parish, district and county councils, Village and Town Associations.
CFs have been held along the length of the line from Euston to Warwickshire. In general they have been a bit chaotic, with in most cases HS2 Limited having to bring a chairman.
The Society attended 2 CFs, one covering The Chalfonts, Amersham and Little Missenden. The other covered Wendover, Gt Missenden, Hyde Heath (part of Little Missenden Parish) and the hilltop villages from both sides of the valley.
At the Chalfont forum, we were greeted by a bouncer, which caused more than some comment. The independent chair was a lady from Kent, who was even handed. A lot of the time was taken up with procedural matters, who would take minutes, when they would be issued, etc. HS2 Limited only planned to keep an issues list and a notes list. HS2 Limited provided 5 staff for the meeting, but only three of these would be at the next meeting.
At Wendover, a lot of the time was taken up with procedural matters. Again only 3 of the HS2 Limited team present would attend the next meeting. HS2 Limited explained that the Environmental Impact Assessment, the detailed route design and the Community Forums were part of a re-iterative process. As environmental issues were identified these would be shared with the route designers who would propose mitigations. These would be discussed with the Community Forum. HS2 Limited confirmed that it understood that the CFs’ Plan A was to stop the route, however that Plan B should be mitigation which was the purpose of the CFs. It was agreed that a tunnel under the AONB could be part of the discussion.
At both forums it was agreed that:
- The forums would meet every two months
- HS2 Limited would provide copies of their notes within two weeks
- Bouncers would not be needed on the door
- In future HS2 Limited would provide a professional minute taker
- That the HS2 Limited staff would be the same at each forum
- HS2 Limited agreed to provide details of HS2 management organization and background information on the HS2 attendees at Forums
- A chairman would be proposed and elected at the next forum
- To consider which CF Little Missenden belonged to
- To consider a CF for the Chalfonts through to Wendover
Meetings are being held to discuss mitigation, so that groups along the line can coordinate their demands, without offering the opportunity to set one group against another.
National Audit Office (NAO) Report on HS1
This report is on the completion and sale of HS1. The conclusions are:
- The costs at £6.163 bn were 18% higher than the target costs
- The line has performed well with only 4.3% of services delayed in 2010/2011 due to infrastructure problems
- Passengers were between 2007 and 2011 only 2/3rds of the forecast levels in 1998, with the taxpayer exposed to the risk of lower passenger income needed to repay the debt
- The business case in 1998 was based on benefits to transport users from faster journey times and increased rail capacity and regeneration benefits
- According to today's report, the total value of these benefits is not known as the Department has started to identify the methods it will use to evaluate the project's costs and benefits
- The Department for Transport (DaFT) has not reassessed these costs and benefits since 2001, despite assurances to the Public Accounts Committee that it would do so
- The Department handled the sale well and, at £2,048 million, the winning bid was higher than expected.
The Head of NAO said:
- The High Speed 1 project has brought a number of significant benefits including quicker journey for passengers.
- However, the project went forward on the basis of hugely optimistic assumptions about international passenger numbers.
- These were not realised and the Department is only now developing its plan to evaluate whether the project was value for money.
Note the ‘hugely optimistic’ forecasts. What does this say about HS2. On top of that DaFT has not yet identified a method to value the benefits.
I leave you to draw your own conclusions about the level of incompetence at DaFT. More here.
HS1 passenger forecast were hugely optimistic.
The National Audit Office slams HS1 forecasts. What does this say about the HS2 forecasts. More here.
HS2 Limited are getting on with the job
HS2 Limited has appointed a new chairman. Septuagenarian, Douglas Oakervee will draw £120,000 for a 2 day week.
He is a veteran of Crossrail, having steered that hybrid bill through Parliament. Not surprisingly, he is also a Construction man, with his last job having been chairman of Laing O’Rourke in Hong Kong. Read article here.
They have also agreed a £200,000 pay packet for new chief executive, whoever that may be. Read article here.
Contracts worth £24.5m have been awarded to three firms of consultants to carry out the Environmental Impact Assessments, including Arup with one for £5.5m. Read article here.
Arup, a firm of consulting engineers have picked up another juicy contract to redevelop Euston See HS2 Ltd press release here.
This report in Camden New Journal – 29 March 2012 may go some way to explain Arup’s success. Read more here.
In Rail News – 16 March 2012, Prof Andrew McNaughton, chief engineer for HS2 sets out plan to run more trains (up to 30 per hour). He talks about 4 tracks at intermediate stations for acceleration and deceleration. With regard to the Ribblehead viaduct on the Settle Carlisle line, he stated that it would never have been built today as it is in a National Park, and that the viaduct over the Colne Valley would be a challenge. Read more here.
National Transport and Infrastructure Plan
The Government keeps making the Society’s arguments that we need a National Transport Infrastructure Plan. See the Debate on Runways above.
Logically one would develop one’s plans for runways, so that other transport can be linked into them, creating transport hubs. This is certainly the case with High Speed Rail, which would provide greater interconnectivity.
Justine Greening, answering a Freedom of Information Request concludes that the single track link to HS1 will provide sufficient demand to meet the likely demand for the foreseeable future. She is obviously not using the same forecasting tool as used by the DfT for the WCML. Read more here.
20th Annual Rail Freight Group Conference
Amazing they are going to cover HS2. One would have thought that the transfer of freight from road to rail was a key plank in a National Transportation Infrastructure Plan. Read more here.
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Stop the stumbling and start taking transport seriously
Published at 12:01AM, March 27 2012
The coalition seems to be on a kamikaze course when it comes to transport. Actually, that’s a tad unfair to those suicidal Japanese pilots, who at least knew where they were going. Like so many of its predecessors, this Government has failed to recognise that transport affects everyone, almost every day. It is not a secondary issue, of interest only to nerds and trainspotters.
Big mistake – as the current mess over aviation policy shows.
Building a third runway at Heathrow was ruled out in the last Conservative manifesto for the narrow political reason of appeasing local voters. In its place came a plan for a high-speed rail link between London, Birmingham and, ultimately, Manchester, as if the schemes and the problems they were trying to resolve were interchangeable. They are not. HS2 will free up precious little runway capacity at Heathrow, where domestic flights have been declining for more than a decade.
Meanwhile, the case for expanding Heathrow has been made ever more loudly and clearly by business people frustrated by the lack of flights to Asia. Then, just as a growth-hungry Government appeared to be warming to the need for more tarmac in the South East David Cameron went and appointed Justine Greening as Transport Secretary. He could scarcely have chosen someone with more baggage than the MP for the flightpath constituency of Putney, who is a fervent opponent of the third runway.
And then in bounced Boris Johnson with his idea for an airport in the Thames estuary, adding further to the muddle. Boris has declared himself firmly against Heathrow expansion and grandly claimed that it will not happen while he is Mayor. But he has no power in the matter. Such a decision would be taken by the Government after a public inquiry.
We had been promised a consultation paper on aviation policy this month, but once again politics has intervened. With the mayoral election looming it has been postponed until the summer.
Long-term transport policy is being created on the hoof. Irrespective of whether the third runway or HS2 should go ahead, ministers are stumbling from one half-baked idea (Heathwick anyone?) to another.
They totally fail to understand the importance of transport in people’s lives. Yes, health and education are vital, but these are services used intermittently. Transport, on the other hand, is used by almost everyone daily and yet it features as a political afterthought. The coalition has proved no exception to the rule that transport is the great neglected area of politics.
Bow Group – Conservative Think Tank
Tony Lodge of the Bow Group writes on their proposal for HS2 to go via Heathrow rather than Old Oak Common. He claims that with through trains, it would be quicker to Birmingham than the current proposal.
See Technology Magazine – Jan 2012 on Heathrow Hub here.
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Road network could be sold on long leases
By Mark Odell
Britain’s trunk road and motorway network could be sold to the private sector on long leases, under plans announced on Monday.
David Cameron hopes the move will unlock investment from sovereign wealth and pension funds. He ruled out tolls on existing roads but left open the option of charging on new capacity.
The prime minister chose his words carefully when he flagged the latest attempt by the government to attract private capital into Britain’s congested and underfunded road network
“Let me be clear,” he said. “This is not about mass tolling and as I’ve said, we’re not tolling existing roads.”
The prime minister is acutely aware of the public outcry when Tony Blair flirted with the idea in 2007 of introducing so-called road user charging. He knows he is walking a tightrope as he steps up efforts to get sovereign wealth funds, pension funds and other investors to finance the nation’s trunk roads and motorways.
He posed a question in his speech on Monday, asking why other sectors, such as water, could secure private sector funding, while the roads still depended on the taxpayer to fund them. In fact, he answered his own question by going on to rule out tolling on existing roads, which reduces the incentive for outside investment.
This was spelt out by the government’s own National Infrastructure Plan (NIP) last November, which said: “In the case of the strategic road network, the government has ruled out the introduction of road pricing on existing road capacity” making implementation of the water industry model “difficult”.
David Lee co-head of infrastructure at Allen & Overy, said: “Making the road network attractive to overseas investors isn’t a slam dunk. They won’t do it just because they invest in the water industry.”
Andrew McNaughton, chief operating officer at Balfour Beatty, the UK’s largest infrastructure and construction company, believes there is a way of bringing private sector expertise to bear on the roads. Balfour Beatty has built and still operates a number of UK roads, including the A50 and A35, under public private partnerships let since the mid-1990s.
Mr McNaughton points to the sale in 2010 of a 30-year concession to run High Speed 1 between London and the Channel tunnel to two Canadian pension funds for £2.1bn, a process that did not involve the transfer of the asset.
He believes this management contract could be applied to the roads with the government paying the private sector to run and maintain them, much like Balfour Beatty already does through contracts with the Highways’ Agency for about a fifth of the strategic road network.
If the Treasury is prepared to forego its opposition to hypothecation and divert part of the vehicle excise duty to provide a guaranteed revenue stream, Mr McNaughton said a solution could be found. “It won’t be easy to resolve all the issues but it is not impossible either.”
The Treasury and transport department have until the autumn to come up with an answer.
Drawing parallels with rail privatisation in the 1990s, Labour said motorists were “in the line of fire for the next phase of the Tories’ ideologically driven rip off culture”.
“Ministers seem to be intent on repeating the mistakes of rail privatisation, which was supposed to lead to cheaper fares and lower costs but has instead given powerful vested interests the chance to rip off passengers while increasing the cost to the taxpayer.
Attempts by the last Conservative government to outsource parts of the country’s transport network have largely backfired. Airport privatisation began in the late 1980s but more recently regulators have demanded the break-up of the London airports.
The railway privatisation of the early 1990s, which led to the creation of Raitrack, ran into problems much more quickly. Similar plans were mooted for the trunk road and motorway network with the creation of the Highways Agency in 1994 but were never pushed through. When Labour came to power it continued the use of another controversial Tory instrument – public private partnerships – to deliver road building schemes.
The Impact of Noise on Health
DEFRA have recently published some research of the impact of noise on health issues related to hypertension. Read report here.
DEFRA have also published their final report on ‘The Economic Value of Quiet Areas’ The report is listed on their website as being issued in Feb 2012, but the report is dated March 2011. See report here.
Contact your MP
The following link makes writing to your MP easy, you provide your details, the website proposes an e-mail, which you can modify.
Please send the link to your friends away from the line. How about sending them a link to the Parliamentary Library briefing paper? This will keep the issue on the boil. The link can be viewed here.
Link to Parliamentary Library Paper, showing UK has 1,700km of HSR, the second longest HSR network on Europe can be viewed here.
Daily Mail – 19 March 2012
Countryside is voted as the thing that makes us proudest to be British.
It’s a shame that Dave & Co don’t take notice of this when proposing new infrastructure. Read the article here.
Nottingham Post – 20 March 2012
Why Nottingham must have HS2
In 2000 Blair and Prescott were proposing an Integrated Transport Strategy. David Begg was advisor on it. What a surprise we never got one. The story is more about how Nottingham is not ideally placed to benefit from HS2 Read more here.
Total Politics – 19 March 2012
Cameron on investing in infrastructure. Read the article here.
Liverpool Post – 29 March 2012
HSR plans will be changed to benefit Liverpool, vows Greening
As reported earlier Liverpool was hard hit with the changes made in Jan. Looks like Greening is feeling the heat. Read the article here.
Marching on Regardless by John Beagley.
HS2 Blues by Nightcall.
Unite & Fight by IZA Moon – A canal boater’s song.
Your Legacy by habiTat.
Oak Tree Lament by Dirty Mavis.
Chiltern Society DVD
We have DVDs in stock. Cost £5.00 + p&p. Please contact the Chiltern Society Office if you would like to buy one or in our online shop here.
All profits go to our HS2 fighting fund.
If there are other areas you would like us to cover please
HS2 Campaign Action Team