High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents


Further written evidence from the AGAHST Federation (HSR 115B)

Now that the HS2 Consultation deadline has passed we would like to submit the following comments.

THE HS2 CONSULTATION PROCESS

The Public Consultation was conducted in a way more suited to a marketing campaign than a public, transparent and open consultation, falling short on the Consultation Code of Practice.

1.  CONSULTATION QUESTIONS WERE "LEADING"

"Do you agree that there is a strong case for enhancing the capacity and performance of Britain's inter-city rail network to support economic growth over the coming decades?"

This first question set the tone of the consultation.

—  It presents a number of positives (enhancing capacity and performance) without any reference to the cost of doing this, both direct and opportunity cost.

—  There is a hidden but questionable assumption that enhancements in capacity and performance would automatically support economic growth.

—  The limitation to inter-city rail might be missed or misunderstood, so respondents might well have had overcrowded commuter lines in mind as they answered this question.

—  There is no reference to the context statement making answering confusing and compromising.

Other questions are open to similar criticism.

2.  BACKGROUND INFORMATION WAS ONE-SIDED AND IMPLIED A CERTAINTY ABOUT DISPUTED CONCLUSIONS

—  The consultation documents and Roadshows were strongly one sided, with headings including "The fast track to prosperity" and "Standing room only".

—  There was nothing to say that the link with economic growth, business productivity and rebalancing the economy was strongly disputed or that there were viable alternatives for increasing capacity on existing lines.

—  Information on the international experience was partial: for example information on Lille did not mention the increase in unemployment in Greater Lille relative to the rest of France since the arrival of the TGV.

3.  INTERNET PROBLEMS

—  Too much reliance on the Internet: information in the summary booklet was limited; it was hard for those without Internet access to get detailed information. Some files were too big for most to download, eg AoS volume 2 was over 100mb.

—  It was difficult to see how to add information on the on-line form.

—  When the on-line form was completed it was not obvious that the information had been sent.

—  The site was unavailable at some points at the closing stages of the consultation.

4.  RESIDENTS ON THE "Y" AND ELSEWHERE WERE EFFECTIVELY EXCLUDED

The "Y" route is known by HS2/DfT as detailed calculations were made to compare the "Reverse S" and "Y" options. However the route was not published. When the route is published, those on the "Y" will inevitably take an interest in the details of cost, benefits and options but will not have the option to comment on the principle of HS2. Furthermore, the Roadshows were largely limited to the HS2 Phase 1 route, limiting response from those who will have to pay for it but will not benefit.

5.  LACK OF OR MISLEADING INFORMATION

—  Many FOI requests were still outstanding at the end of the consultation.

—  For several issues - environmental impact, business case, engineering studies - Roadshow staff said that no detailed analysis had been undertaken and would not be undertaken until after the Secretary of State had made his decision.

—  There were no noise contour maps or a full environmental impact assessment.

—  There was inaccurate information (eg on spoil) and contradictory responses. For example, when questioned on whether the required sensitivity tests had been done, the Roadshow response was yes and the FOI response was that they did not hold the information.

6.  MINISTERS HAVE NOT BEEN IMPARTIAL

Ministers have not been impartial during the consultation period. For example, Philip Hammond exhorted to rail workers to support a positive response to the consultation with a thinly veiled threat to their jobs if they did not ensure the "yes" lobby prevailed.

7.  CONCERN OVER ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION

Philip Hammond has said that the approximately 40,000 responses showed a low level of interest in HS2. This ignores that many responses were compiled on behalf of groups and communities and most were individual responses. There was no national anti-HS2 postcard campaign.

8.  FOREGONE CONCLUSION

Comments by David Cameron and Philip Hammond suggested that the consultation would not change the government determination to proceed with HS2, which goes against the consultation code of practice. The comments implied that the Consultation was a box ticking exercise and they may have discouraged participation.

12 August 2011



 
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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 8 November 2011