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Mind the Gap

Mind the Gap

🕔20.Sep 2013

Kevin Johnson crashes HS2 Week into the buffers


So, we have come to the end of the line. We have reached our final destination – please take a moment to look around and make sure you have collected all your personal belongings. Please mind the gap….etc. etc. Not a moment too soon I hear you cry.

What have we learned? Well, possibly nothing that new. There are wide disagreements about whether HS2 is a good or bad thing. Value for money or not. Will counter a capacity crisis – or is the wrong solution. A vanity project or a scheme of significant national import. HS2 will rebalance the economic geography of the UK, or will simply embolden London and the South East. The debate will continue – and so it should.

I think there are three major conclusions we might broadly agree on:

1. The management and campaigning for HS2 has thus far been – let’s be kind – sub-optimal. If HS2 is to progress, there needs to be an overhaul not just in the machinery but in the clarity of message that spearheads the project. The focus on speed – there it is on the tin of HS2 – is misplaced in the priority order. The common theme of many of the week’s articles in favour has been, to misquote Tony Blair, ‘capacity, capacity, capacity.’

2. We built a platform (sorry) for HS2 this week as we believed the project needed a communication turbo boost. Our thanks to those who jumped aboard. However, there are a number of key players who failed to make the train. If HS2 is that important, as many leaders say it is, surely they can find the time and use their resources to conjure up a few words of argument for any reasonable opportunity that passes (even a small blog site run by a public affairs company).

3. In contrast, what is notable is the strength of those facing against the HS2 express. The number of views, retweets and comments on Prof Mike Geddes piece in particular (one of the few we ran which are anti or neutral to HS2) are significant. Supporters, as well as key leaders, of HS2 also need to show up and buy a ticket. We are being impressively outgunned, at least in terms of volume.

I set out RJF’s position on HS2 pretty clearly before the HS2 Week train left the station. We’ll continue to do all we can to make the case and promote quality debate. But you can have too much of a good thing, so I promise we’ll allow Chamberlain Files to return to normal – Council jaws of death and management shake ups; Commissioner Bob telling us how much he doesn’t want the job and the next phase of GBSLEP’s grand plans.

Thank you for travelling with HS2 Week on the Chamberlain Files.


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