‘Mitigation, not opposition’

Ashford International - journey times to London cut from 84 to 35 minutes

Ashford International – journey times to London cut from 84 to 35 minutes

‘Mitigation, not opposition’ was the lesson Kent had learned from high speed rail, according to Kent County Council’s principal planner Stephen Gasche.

Mr Gasche was reflecting on the authority’s experiences of high speed rail in his address to the Greengauge 21 conference – ‘HS2: The Wider Network, the wider benefits’ yesterday (Sept 19) in Birmingham.

Mr Gasche showed a map of Kent with details of house prices and gave examples of industry attracted to the Kent coast by high speed rail. The map showed marked rises in property prices along the high speed rail route.

He said Ashford was a good example of a town transformed by journey times (to London) cut from 84 minutes to 35 minutes by high speed rail.

Kent’s lesson was ‘mitigation, not opposition,’ he said and added that Maidstone had lobbied hardest against high speed rail and now regretted being bypassed.

Economist Paul Ormerod gave an interesting talk comparing growth in Pyonyang, North Korea with Seoul in South Korea and their relative fortunes due to open trade links.

Birmingham City Council chief executive Stephen Hughes told the conference that high speed rail was vital and that the same kind of questions were not asked when it came to investing in London.

In the West Midlands £225 per head per head is spent on transport compared to £800 per head in London, he added.

Keith Brown MSP, Minister of Transport for Scotland, said rail journeys had grown by 261% between Birmingham and Scotland and said a record 83 million passenger journeys were made in Scotland last year.

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3 Responses to ‘Mitigation, not opposition’

  1. “Mitigation, not opposition” fails to understand the bulk of opposition to HS2. Most people object to the breathtaking waste of money, on a project that will take so long and be of benefit to so few people other than big construction shareholders and directors.

    • gohs2 says:

      The post reports Stephen Gasche’s considered opinion as Kent County Council’s principal planner. It is his experience and conclusion.
      Birmingham City Council’s chief executive Stephen Hughes commented at the same event that schemes benefiting London/SE were not questioned in the same way as HS2.
      This is certainly true. The Jubilee Line Extension went ahead despite criticism of the business case.

  2. Offa says:

    The problem with your original post is that it is only half the story and half truths are not whole truths! By contrast, the then Chief Planning Officer of Kent CC covering the 1988 to 1998 period of HS1 (Chris Waite) gave a rather different story. He said that Kent CC absolutely opposed the western route of HS1 (through open countryside and protected areas) and only when that was changed to parallel the motorway/roads, could they move the focus to mitigation. It cost the council £1m to achieve this change. They put in a mitigation claim to cover the full loss from HS1 at £10 million and only got £2 million so it wasn’t exactly a success in his view. Nor was the noise mitigation ‘cutting edge’ as promised – only minimal 2×4 planks, 6′ high (eg Harrietsham). Moreover, the ‘success’ of HS1 as far as KCC was concerned, very much depended on 2 key things – the Javelin service getting access to HS lines so as to improve ‘classic’ services locally; and the Ebbsfleet stop. In fact the Ebbsfleet development has got no where – it is a massive empty car park and brownfield site – and illustrates the very ambiguous claims being made for HSR as ‘an engine for growth’. Additionally, Kent CC campaigned vigorously for the maintenance depot to be sited in Ashford – a depressed railway town with skilled labour. Instead it was sited in the green belt at Singlewell. So HS1 is absolutely not a story about ‘mitigation not opposition’ and certainly ‘mitigation not opposition’ has had virtually nil success in relation to HS2.

    From a user and taxpayer point of view too, there are real problems with HS1. It is running way under forecast demand and again underlines the doubt about the demand figures being made for HS2. The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee talks about this. To talk about the WHOLE truth of the impact of HS1, you also have to look at the negative impacts on local services eg in 1987, Folkestone Central to Charing Cross fastest time was 1h 13mins. Folkestone Central to Charing Cross fastest time is now 1h 41mins. And then there are the ticket prices….

    The story could go on but the message is both that there are large differences between HS1 and HS2 which make comparisons silly; and that even where lessons could be transferred over, they are not being learned. So cut out the half-truths – it just comes across as naked propaganda / ideology.

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