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From Broad Street to Curzon Street

From Broad Street to Curzon Street

🕔18.Sep 2013

Honorary Alderman Mike Olley ‘intuitively’ supports HS2 – but he argues we need, and must, ask the tough questions about the project.

Intuitively I think I support HS2.  How wonderful to have all those shiny new trains roaring around the countryside and jobs in abundance, as London becomes yet another suburb of the mega, mighty metropolis of Birmingham. With journey times cut to a fraction, proud Brits for the first time will be on a par with our Johnny continental colleagues!  Thank goodness wine now has a screw top. There will be no time on HS2 to whip out the corkscrew.

Yet it’s all been going so smoothly to date.  Of course the country set have been moaning about losing their bottom field or paddock.  “Shame” we all cry with complete indifference as another duck pond comes under the cosh.  My own aunt is complaining that the view from her garden will be ruined.  What a pity auntie; such a nice house in the rolling Warwickshire countryside.  Yet her concerns are treated with the same indifference.

But it’s not going that smoothly now.  Mr Darling, the former chancellor is against it.  Mr Darling I suspect is a man back on the up, someone to listen to.  It seems that captains of industry are also now against it.  However the government reckons we shouldn’t listen to them.  Not because they don’t agree with the government of course but because they are so insignificant.

Apparently the opinion poll, against HS2, undertaken by the Institute of Directors only considered the views of 4% of its members.  Norman Baker, transport minister commented, as he thrust the knife into the IOD, that they had misled their members.  That’s terrible; what a bunch of rotters they must be then!

I suspect Norman needs to put the CBI right before long, another bunch of business interests who have told Norman that they are not fully behind HS2.  No doubt Norman will be behind them before long, knife in hand!  Norman needs to work on the Institute for Economic Affairs, a bunch of respected economists, this time.  They reckon HS2 is going to cost £80 billion.  Well Norman’s mates in the Treasury will tell you that’s not true, it’s only £73 billion. However they did at first say it would cost only £40 billion.  At this point I do become somewhat alarmed.

Perry Barr’s MP, Khalid Mahmood, has a keen interest in HS2.  He supports the project and has done for some time now.  He has spent some considerable time on the High Speed Rail (preparation) Bill.  He roughed up and wasn’t that pleasant to those herded before his select committee.  Khalid quizzed them about connectivity.  “How will people travel from Curzon Street to the airport?” he asked.  CENTRO supremo Geoff Inskip confidently told Khalid not to worry about the geography as they have a “one station philosophy”.  Fantastic Geoff; that’s my mind at ease then.

Khalid Mahmood not content with pitching a difficult question to CENTRO also made outrageous suggestions to the Government such as the need to monitor expenditure and report back every six months on how well (or not) the public purse was being spent.  Cleary the government were having none of that.  That soft comprehensive school type suggestion was rejected in favour of an open cheque book policy.

There is dollops of manure for any troublesome member of the public asking awkward questions over how their money is being spent.  Mahmood was sent packing.  Albeit I reckon he may well be back; not an easy chap to see off.  Many will tell you this as they rub their bruises.

So of course I still intuitively support HS2, but not with a blind, dumb allegiance.  We need to know the correct price, not a Mickey Mouse figure pulled out of the air.  No hot air with imaginative, yet shallow, baffling, terminology.  What we need are clear sensible answers to clear sensible questions and, of course, accountability on how our money is being spent.

Most of us work jolly hard in order to give our tax sterling to the government.  Now it could be that, that’s just what our chums in the country have been saying all along.  I suggest they flog less of the green wellies, how wonderful our countryside line is and we urbanists whip off our green tinted prejudices and listen methinks.

Honorary Alderman Mike Olley writes here in a personal capacity. He is also Manager of the Broad Street Business Improvement District.

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