Facts ignored by lobby groups

That well known phrase from John Sturgess’s film ‘Bad Day at Bad Rock’ and uttered by Spencer Tracy “Not only are you wrong, you are wrong at the top of your voice” was tailor made as a description of the rabble rousing elements that have undermined any genuine and understandable opposition to HS2 from its early days.

Not content to oppose the scheme on simple local grounds that many could have understood and sympathised with, a nucleus of folk largely took charge and were seduced by growing media attention that in turn led to the need to fuel it by continuously ‘producing’ new lines.

These ‘lines’ ranged from no business case (despite the fact that a positive benefit cost ratio exists and at any level above nil provides the basis of such a case) through to ‘put some extra coaches on, spend money on the existing network and broadband will stop people leaving their homes’. All of these were comprehensively shown to be shallow and short term expedients that failed to address how the UK meets the continuing unprecedented growth in rail travel. As further similar material appeared its questionable provenance grew with it.

Land, property and hardship issues were demoted with exaggeration, deceit or alarmism being preferred so as to secure the headlines. Sums suggesting HS2 would cost up to £80bn were peddled as late as last summer only for it to be confirmed that the cost to construct HS2 is £28.2bn plus a sum for contingency (which any large scale civil engineering project puts in place as experience shows some unforeseen issues may arise).

Our local MP advised in the early days that if and once a point was reached whereby it was clear HS2 was likely to go ahead, it would be best to keep to facts and concentrate on ensuring the best possible deal for those genuinely affected. Wise counsel ignored by a noisy minority of empty barrels.

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So a blunderbus got underway, licensed by no more than a 2.3% of council taxpayers in Warwickshire being those that objected through the original consultation,widely publicised by both HS2 and STOPHS2 to encourage people to lodge their views. On board those with the loudest voices generating lots of heat and very little light about the subject but undoubtedly heard the most.

Duped into literally believing the fatuous banners such as ‘Kenilworth says NO to HS2’ our elected representatives quickly got to a request stop and hailed the blunderbuss to stop and allow them to board. Their tickets paid for by all of us as our district and county council’s stumped up council taxpayers’ money to assist what is effectively a single issue group. Where can we find examples of our local authorities financially supporting other single issue groups such as the air ambulance, The Samaritans, Cancer Reasearch, Mencap, NSPCC, RSPCA, etc etc?

Then we learn that our money, raised through mandatory local taxation, has been handed to a consortium based in Buckinghamshire known as 51M. Our elected representatives blindly boarded a mystery tour. However, not the only mystery. I doubt many council taxpayers in Warwickshire will know that out of the 19 member local authorities in that consortium to date some six such members have not put any money in, apparently happy for Warwickshire council taxpayers and others who have contributed to subsidise the six areas not prepared to put their hands in their pockets.

Combined, those opposed to HS2 have made some 19 referrals to law, the latest of which failed in the Supreme Court this week, bringing the total of failures to 18 out of 19. Now we are told more money is to be spent on taking their ‘case’ to the EU courts. No sir, no more council tax should be spent on this futile exercise to placate a noisy few who effectively do little to help those really and materially affected.

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Little attention is apparently paid to what those learned souls at law stated as the reasons when giving judgement, if due attention had been given pursuit of such a hopeless and weak case would cease. No, it seems it remains more about headlines based on deceit, exaggeration and alarm and little about facts.

Perhaps the greatest accolade for summarising why basing opposition on exaggeration and alarm is always doomed to failure goes to the county council, for it was they who pronounced that “no one will benefit from HS2 in Warwickshire”. For such a statement to be sustainable in truth that means not one person will ever catch or use HS2, receive visitors who use HS2 or work in the West Midlands or Birmingham and at businesses who will not use or receive clients who use HS2. Whatever happened to ‘act on fact’?

Fraser Pithie, via email