Thursday, 7 June 2018

How HS2 Fails Sheffield

Our Response to this article today in the Sheffield Star

The current HS2 plans are damaging for Sheffield, firstly in the behaviour of Sheffield City Council spending hundreds of thousands of pounds including a £6,000 breakfast briefing to lobby HS2 Limited to move the Station to Sheffield Victoria and see the high speed line serve it. But instead all Julie Dore got was Sheffield Midland Station with fewer possibilities for redevelopment and fewer trains on slow speed classic compatible lines on a spur from Chesterfield and an unfunded promise of a slower loop connection to Leeds. 

Sheffield is now a backwater with South Yorkshire unity in tatters as a result. The Sheffield City Region Devolution Deal is over as a result. Doncaster and Rotherham no longer trust Julie Dore. The public consultation in 2017 saw just 6% of people support the new M18 Eastern Route compared to 94% who opposed. 

A 2017 Mott McDonald Report tor Rotherham and Doncaster Council saw less GVA and nearly 1,000 fewer jobs created than the previous Meadowhall plan which had the support of every South Yorkshire Council. Sheffield Chamber and Sheffield Council has led down the city and the region. The M18 Eastern Route was previously rejected by HS2 Ltd in 2011 when it was called East of Rotherham. 

Politicians in Yorkshire who have backed HS2 are now facing the possibility that the mega project will run out of money, especially when communities succeed in gaining the £4 billion of tunnel mitigation which has been withheld from Yorkshire which has been given to London and Buckinghamshire who lobbied for an extra 20 miles of tunnel to protect countryside, villages and City. HS2 Community groups last week handed the Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood a letter alleging that Chris Grayling Transport Secretary had been misled by HS2 over the number of residential properties in South and West Yorkshire within 100 metres of the route. While HS2 used a out of date and inaccurate postcode estimating system using 2014 data, residents used HS2's own maps to measure and count every individual property. Instead of the claimed 40% fewer properties on the new route, accurate and verified property counts from HS2 own maps showed a 53% increase in the residential properties affected by HS2 within 100 metres.

 Add the new build properties at Mexborough, Crofton and Newton, and the property count is nearly double. Campaigners also point to dirty tricks by HS2 where they pretended that only 16 properties on the Mexborough Shimmer Estate would be demolished while compulsory purchasing every property and falsely claiming fewer demolitions on the new route. Worse still the route so far to the East makes impossible the Northern Powerhouse Rail target of 30 minute journey time between Sheffield and Manchester, and un-guaranteed any HS2 link between Sheffield and Leeds. 
The only Jobs that come to South Yorkshire are those to development areas such as the Advanced Manufacturing Centre which were unblighted when the Meadowhall route was scrapped. Already the rows in South Yorkshire over Devolution, high-handed policy making and HS2 have seen Sheffield out of the running for Channel Four. Richard Wright is wrong that HS2 won't damage Sheffield, it already has

Monday, 4 June 2018

Why HS2 is responsible for 2018's Rail Chaos & Cancellations

2018 has become an Annus Horribilis for the Rail Industry, in a Year which was supposed to be Year HS2 took off.
The chaos which has followed the implementation of the RailPlan2020 timetable, along with the Failure of the East Coast Mainline Franchise and the problems of Southern Rail all have a common link. It would be easy to lay the blame at the foot of one man Transport Secretary Chris Grayling who since 2016 has presided over these disasters while ignoring pleas from Transport Academics who have decried his Rail Strategy. 
He also has gone back on political promises to electrify the Transpennine Route and Midland Mainline.
Yet the route cause of his troubles are not just his obvious incompetence and his inability to meet with and listen to stakeholders and experts with important messages to say but his dogged resistance to cancel the £56 billion HS2 Rail project, which has been predicted by Rail costing experts to top £100 billion.

The mega project has taken resources, people and money from the Conventional Rail system, causing rail fare rises, staff shortages and cancellations of vital upgrades. Rail operators have tried to cut costs by cutting staff on trains, leading to strike action and disruption. This leads to fewer passengers, as does higher fares.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

HS2 Limited's Prime Directive - Neutralise the Opposition

High Speed Two Ltd has one prime directive which is the entire focus of the organisation from day one of it's establishment by the Labour Government in 2009. That Prime Directive was to neutralise public opposition to a High Speed Rail Mega-project in the UK, which so far had prevented earlier attempts at High Speed Rail. It remains the Prime Directive and governs every step HS2 Ltd takes. This is achieved through a vast programme of "engagement" with the public, media and politicians which sees any questioning and scrutiny of the megaproject as a threat and opponents of the megaproject as the enemy which must be destroyed by engagement in a military sense. Over the years, 17 Public Relations Agencies have been hired to smear opponents as Nimbys - that is selfish people opposed to local development out of principle, caring only about their own circumstances and incapable of seeing the greater good or public interest. The term "Nimby" which stands for Not in My Back Yard was a smear developed by the Nuclear Industry in the 1970's  to neutralise growing community opposition to nuclear power stations in the same way the CIA weaponised the existing term "Conspiracy theorist" to label, smear and discredit any investigative journalist or citizen probing the 1963 assassination of John F Kennedy. 

So what kind of dirty tricks so far have been used against HS2 campaigners and residents questioning this huge megaproject. Firstly, one of the most effective campaigns was conducted by Westbourne Communications in 2013 against communities along the first phase of the route " Their lawns, your jobs" smear - successfully labelled community groups as rich southern nimbys trying to block a worthwhile national project which would bring jobs to the deprived north. In fact most of the families being driven from their homes by HS2 are uncompensated lower income tenants rather than wealthy home owners haggling for a bigger payout.

Another campaign was organised by HS2 overtly to discourage residents using their historic rights to petition the Houses of Parliament against the scheme, by restricting access to the petition process through a chargeable fee and complicated online filing process. Members of Parliament and Campaign groups were restricted from representing residents at the parliamentary hearings.

Individual campaigners have been singled out for online abuse by a number of Rail Industry trolls who are indirectly funded to bully those community campaigners and also residents who dare to venture and opinion on HS2.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Face to Face with Grayling

Feb 2nd 2018 : Morley Town Hall - having spent 18 months attempting to meet with Chris Grayling Transport Secretary via official channels to no avail, we ambushed him by buying a £25 ticket to attend a Conservative Dinner where was speaking. We Presented this letter to him, telling him that the two junior ministers we had met and informed of the HS2 Data scandal had left office soon after. Chris Grayling now knows that the M18 Eastern Route was chosen on the basis of false information and must now act of be part of this scandal himself.
Right Honourable Chris Grayling
Secretary of State for Transport

February 2nd 2018

Dear Mr Grayling

Re: HS2 Data Scandal

I am formally giving you this document on behalf of the residents of Crofton & The Crofton HS2 Action Group. We have provided this information to two of your Junior Transport Ministers on two occasions in 2017 : 8thFebruary 2017 in the House of Commons with Andrew Jones MP and Jon Trickett MP and then September 12th2017 at Portcullis House with Paul Maynard MP and Jon Trickett MP. The first meeting took place within the Public Consultation Period for the Phase 2B M18 Route Decision, the second after that decision had been made.


At both of those meetings we told the Ministers that HS2 Limited had misinformed the Department for Transport and yourself as Secretary of State for Transport on the number of property impacts on the M18 Eastern Route in comparison with the Meadowhall Route. HS2 Limited claimed that there were an estimated 1,000 residential properties within 100 metres of the track for the Meadowhall Route compared to a 40% lower 600 residential properties on the M18 Eastern Route.

Independent Analysis of the published HS2 Ltd plans draw up by Mott McDonald shows however that the exact number of residential properties on the M18 Eastern Route to be 445. The same process was carried out for the published Mott McDonald plans of the Publicly Consulted Meadowhall Route of 2013 and FOI obtained copies of the unpublished Refined Meadowhall Route of 2016.

The Number of Residential properties measured to within 100 metres on these two routes are 296 properties and 341.

Therefore the claims contained in the 2016 South Yorkshire Report and the 2017 HS2 Advice to Ministers is based on false information. We presented these numbers to HS2 Limited in a 2.5 hour meeting in Leeds on October 19th 2017 with head of HS2 Phase 2B Engagement Leone Dubois.

In this meeting it was disclosed by Jared Brook – HS2 Environment Manager that the property count estimates provided to DFT and parliament was indicative only, not intended to be accurate and for the basis of decision making. The GIS postcode datasets used were from 2014 and not geographically accurate. New Build construction such as the Shimmer Estate in Mexborough due for partial demolition would not be included in these 600 property estimates. He admitted to everyone's astoundment that despite HS2 Ltd maps showing properties in Crofton being under earthwork embankments, the GIS data could not identify them as being demolitions!

Despite this admission HS2 Limited continue to argue this data is robust, and that they do not validate estimates against actual properties on maps to check accuracy.

Since the lower property/population impacts form part of the case for the M18 Eastern Route change from Meadowhall we consider that you have been misled by HS2 Limited.


We communicated these concerns to Andrew Jones MP and Paul Maynard MP shortly before both of them left office and have not received satisfactory responses on these issues. Indeed when we met Paul Maynard he was unaware of the written evidence provided to Andrew Jones MP or the existence of the Refined Meadowhall which was used to make the decision, rather than the publicly consulted route.

We must ask you to instruct HS2 Limited to release their datasets (as they have promised to do and not done) and to meet with us to hear further similar evidence of false or inaccurate estimates being used to justify the change – including cost evidence, projections on number of jobs created, journey times, connectivity and disclosure of information.


We have zero confidence in HS2 Limited to treat communities fairly or honestly – evidenced by HS2 Limited failing to disclose enhanced Redundancy Payments to the DFT, A complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman of misleading statements from a community. We hold an FOI disclosure from HS2 Limited that the M18 Eastern Route is nearly identical to the East of Rotherham Route which HS2 Limited rejected in 2011 due to connectivity and impact grounds, yet in advice to Ministers in 2017 HS2 Ltd claimed was entirely different.


We have Zero confidence in HS2 Limited making the correct decision – evidenced by your overruling of their recommendation to place the Rolling Stock Depot in New Crofton (we still await a final announcement on the move to a more suitable brownfield motorway site, they failed to identify in 2011, 2013 or 2016 when our campaign group identified in 2017) HS2 Limited vouching for the financial viability and fitness of Carillion to receive a £1.4bn JV Contract after a major profit warning, share slump & flight of Institutional investors.

As the Mott McDonald Report of 2017 for Rotherham and Doncaster Councils showed, the M18 Route would created fewer jobs and GVA for South Yorkshire than Meadowhall, and have £1.7bn higher operating costs.


We are asking the Department for Transport in conjunction with Transport for the North to make a study of the plans of High Speed UK, who proposed a low impact, high connectivity alternative route to Meadowhall and M18 Eastern Route because this route has only 2 residential demolitions and would allow access to the Woodhead corridor to connect Sheffield and Manchester for HS3 at the same time offering a faster lower impact route to the West of Barnsley linking Sheffield to Leeds. The Northern Powerhouse Rail objective of sub 30 minutes journey time between Sheffield and Manchester cannot be achieved because the HS2 route has moved to the East, whereas HSUK plans achieve faster journey times for a saving of £5.5bn


We would remind the Secretary of the State that if 52% of the voters on the issue of Brexit constitute the Will of the People, 94% of the respondees to the HS2 Eastern Route Public Consultation in 2017 opposed the proposition to move the Route from Meadowhall to the M18 Eastern Route.


Analysis of your HS2 plans shows that the Eastern Leg has only 2% tunnel, reduced from 5% tunnel on the Meadowhall route, compared to 31 miles of tunnel for Phase 1. This effectively makes the Eastern Leg an unmitigated route with communities in Crofton, Mexborough, Bramley, Bolsover & Hemsworth requiring tunnel if the same rules of mitigation are followed. HS2 Limited has already ruled out a tunnel at Mexborough on cost grounds.

The 2015 Strategic Review of HS2 caps costs on the Phase 2B requiring any mitigation such as expensive tunnels to be funded by contingency or value engineering elsewhere. As Dennis Skinner MP rightly identified in the House of Commons, the North is being short-changed on mitigation, we seriously doubt whether the petitioning process in the hybrid bill is fit, as HS2 Ltd can veto tunnel proposals on cost grounds, even if called for by parliament, the Secretary of State or Environmental Impact Assessment.

It is clear, that the NAO Cost reduction programme and HS2 Value Engineering programme has already stripped out tunnel cost and mitigation along the route, leaving communities like Crofton and Mexborough to live with division and noise.

We invite you to come to Crofton, to see the harm continuing blight has caused, speak to residents who have terminal illness yet are refused a house purchase by HS2 Limited, view the evidence amassed on what is a criminal fraud against our community, parliament and the taxpayer and hear the will of the people that Crofton is not a safe place to put this railway.

Our Question to you is, now you know you have been misled by HS2 Limited to add to previous occasions such as the unauthorised redundancy payments will you be content to allow a flawed decision not to be reviewed ?

Best Regards

Jonathan Pile

Business Owner in Batley
Resident in Crofton
Chair of Crofton HS2 Action Group

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Why Failing Grayling must go

When Transport Secretary Chris Grayling visited Crofton in Secret in August 2016 - a week after our community protest against the new HS2 route affecting Crofton, he instructed HS2 Limited to think again about the planned Rolling Stock Depot as it was clear that encircling the village with high speed track and depot was unacceptable even to him. When he announced in parliament in November 2016 - a study would be made by HS2 Limited into alternative locations we cheered. When we met Junior Transport Minister in London Andrew Jones we asked him to thank Chris Grayling for getting this right. But despite our best efforts and those of our MP Jon Trickett, Grayling has dodged all attempts to fix a meeting with him either in November 2016, March 2017 or July 2017. Now 16 months after his secret visit, the depot move announcement remains unannounced. An encouraging sign is that HS2 Limited has safeguarded the alternative Leeds Depot site next to the Nostrop Sewage Works but the silcnce is deafening. The results of the October Consultation remain unpublished. Paul Maynard, the replacement Junior Minister for Andrew Jones has left the Department For Transport and still no news. This has blighted the Economic Energy project at New Crofton Mine.
During the 2017 General Election Chris Grayling came to Crofton to get phorographed next to the new Wakefield Eastern Bypass. When Rail Fares rose in January 3.6% to pay for the increased cost of HS2 - Grayling few to Qatar to dodge questions. A Few weeks later HS2 Contractor Carillion went into Liquidation owing billions of pounds, and it emerged that Grayling had awarded Carillion a £1.5 billion contract on Phase 1 in July 2017 ten days after they issued a profit warning and their share price collapsed. The very same day Grayling announced that he was ignoring the 94% of Yorkshire people including 99% of Crofton Residents who opposed the New HS2 M18 Eastern Route plan. So much for his championing the Will of the people. It has now emerged that as Justice Minister in 2015, Grayling awarded Carillion with a £200m Contract to run 50 Prisons (comments on a postcard please). For 27 Seconds in January Grayling was announced to have left the Transport Department as Conservative Party Chairman before it was announced as a mistake. Strikes on Northern Rail and Southern Rail show how funding is being taken from existing rail services to fund the £111bn HS2.
Attempts to get a review into the M18 Decision by MPs have been rebuffed, even though Doncaster Council, Rotherham Council have shown it will cost more money, create fewer jobs and create more property impacts than the old Meadowhall Route.
We will be protesting at Morley Town Hall on Feb 2nd when Grayling speaks at a Conservative Dinner and at the Royal Armouries on March 2nd when the speaks at a Northern Rail Conference in Leeds. Our Message, Grayling must go, HS2 must go and a money must be put into a Yorkshire Transport Plan instead. The Transport for the North Strategic Plan has been drawn up in the knowledge that Sheffield does not connect to Leeds under current funding plans and the plans to link Sheffield and Manchester within 30 mins (currently 48 mins) cannot be achieved. Our plans drawn up with High Speed UK achieve all of these things but Grayling, Transport for the North and HS2 Limited still refuse to listen.

The Carillion Collapse, the Property Data Scandal, the Quitting Ministers, Redundancy Fraud all have made many cracks in the HS2 Dam, which continues to look about to fail yet still stands but for how long?
We will keep the pressure up through our supporting councillors, MPs and campaigners and support those in the South fighting HS2 as attemps are made to bully & intimidate peaceful residents  protesting breaches of HS2's own environmental commitments. Shame on HS2, we carry on the fight.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

How HS2 Limited fooled parliament on M18 saving

How HS2 Limited fooled parliament on costs

  1. Purported £1billion saving Meadowhall V M18

The Truth:

The actual figure was £985m , however that was on the Consulted Meadowhall route v M18

in fact in 2015, HS2 Limited had refined the Meadowhall route saving £212m by scrapping tunnels at Hoyland and contrary to claims in 2016, used this route as the comparator rather than the Consulted Route.

This meant the actual saving

Refined Meadowhall Route V M18 was £773m

Cost assumptions

  1. Midland Mainline Electrification costs £300m
  2. Loop Line Upgrade £400m
  3. South Yorkshire Parkway £200m

So the real cost of the M18 route is plus £127m more than Meadowhall on capital costs

Hidden Mitigation & Engineering Costs

As local campaigners have pointed out additional mitigation costs on M18 would involve compensation, tunnelling and mining subsidence aleviation adding hundreds of millions to this, - Crofton has asked for an 8km deep tunnel to mirror the Chilterns Tunnel which would cost £1.6bn

So in reality the £ 1 Billion capital saving was actually £127m of additional cost 

Friday, 9 December 2016

HS2 Limited spends £280,000 on pro-HS2 propaganda to 7 year old Children in HS2 Affected communities

In a move which mimicks the world of George Orwell, HS2 Limited has awarded a £280,000 contract to a London based consulting company to target pro-HS2 propaganda at primary school children aged 7 as well as Secondary School students in the very communities affected by the HS2 route. At the very time these same communities are being consulted about the many objections to the route, schools in Wakefield are being solicited on behalf of HS2 to promote the scheme. Since anyone of any age can reply to the consultation, this is a clear breach of the consultation by HS2 Limited. Children in Wakefield district whose families are facing the demolition of their homes are invited to make the fastest train using a balloon. Older Children are given a project to plan a Zoom Train route and calculate the cost saving of demolishing peoples homes compared to tunnelling underground. It is outrageous that Wakefield Council which has voted to oppose HS2 should be party to promoting corporate propaganda aimed at indoctrinating children while parents and Grandparents are lobbying to protect their communities and families from the same destructive project. If this wasn't so sinister and unacceptable it would be funny, but to the hundreds of families facing enforced relocation by HS2 and the thousands being financially blighted and facing years of noise and construction pollution it is anything but a joke.