HS2 Ltd forced to admit defects in their consultation
22 July 2012: HS2AA along with 412 others have learnt from HS2 Ltd that their detailed response to the 2011 consultation got lost due to ‘processing errors’. Despite this HS2 Ltd say none of the omitted responses introduced any new matters hence the consultation summary and HS2 decision still stand.
Apparently lightening can strike twice. In both of the two HS2 consultations HS2AA submissions (a leading opposition umbrella group) were ‘overlooked’. In the 2011 consultation our submission ran to 150 pages, and raised matters that have still not been covered in the published materials.
Far from Government volunteering that there was a problem, this admission only comes after HS2AA alerted them to omissions on their website back in May, and raised why key matters had not been covered.
The latest report on the 413 responses also raises new questions about how responses were analysed, suggesting possible omissions or misrepresentations that are now being urgently followed up.
It is no doubt a coincidence that not only were the 413 omitted responses overwhelming against HS2, but as well as HS2AA they contained 2 other organisations so dissatisfied with the process that they are already mounting a Judicial Review covering the flaws in the consultation process.
Hilary Wharf, Director HS2AA, says “The Government’s Consultation was a sham. We already know that they had concealed crucial evidence and now we see that they ‘lost’ responses they didn’t like. To lose our first consultation response back in 2010 was unfortunate but to lose it again smacks at carelessness. As a leading opposition organisation this is quite shocking. We gave extensive evidence in our 150 page report which covered material that is still excluded from the Consultation summary (concerning outdated and overstated figures on benefits).”
“Natural justice demands Government now does one of two things - abandon HS2 as it lacks proper justification or re-run the full consultation with all the facts on the table, including the awkward ones they tried to hide.”
“We have also been talking to our lawyers, and it is hard to see how the HS2 consultation and the decision to proceed, can conceivably meet the standards set for a public consultation. These latest revelations on top of everything else, can only strengthen our case against Government. They should simply admit that the decision to proceed was wrong, rather than wait to be forced there by the courts”
Note for editors:
1. HS2 Action Alliance is a national organisation making the powerful case against HS2. It is a not for profit organisation working with over 70 local groups, who all believe HS2 does not represent an effective answer to the UK’s transport, economic or environmental needs.
2. On 20 July HS2 Ltd wrote to all those whose responses were omitted from the 2011 consultation. This included HS2AA, and other Action Groups (eg Offchurch, Chiltern Ridges), as well as councils, individuals and covered 3 of the 4 organisations already engaged in legally challenge the consultation process. The full list is on page 10 of the new Addendum report by Dialogue By Design (who are responsible to DfT/HS2 Ltd for analysing the consultation).
3. The omitted HS2AA 150 page report represented a distillation of a huge amount of referenced evidence that had been pulled together. As a national umbrella group for over 70 local groups it is a serious omission in the consultation process, made worse by the fact it was left to us to identify the problem.
4. For HS2AA this is a repeat of what happened in 2010. We then successfully demanded that the analysis was redone to include our new evidence. Again important new issues have been omitted that we will be pressing for inclusion eg the use of outdated and overstated figures to value benefits (using a very high 11 yr old estimate of business rail travellers earnings (£70k/a), which are also not representative of the near six-fold increase in business travel forecast).
5. The new Addendum report for the 413 responses (rather than the full 55,000) enables checks to be done on how the responses have been analysed. This has thrown up new questions about the analysis process itself eg we know more groups made certain statements than the new report suggests. Offchurch have already raised issues and HS2AA and others are doing similar checks.
6. HS2AA are pursuing a Judicial Review of the HS2 decision. Some of the other organisations taking a similar action also had excluded responses (Heathrow Hub and one of the 19 councils within 51m). A Case Conference is being held very soon to sort out various timing and related matters for all the cases, and HS2AA are investigating how these new errors strengthen their case.
7. These latest revelations come hard on the heels of
• The 2 hidden 2009 reports on valuing time – delayed until after the decision announced
• Refusing to release the Major Projects Authority Report that gave HS2 amber/red status
• The Public Accounts Committee call to re-visit and rework the HS2 figures because of ‘untenable’ assumptions (on pricing and value of time)
• Refusing FOI information on things as basic as passenger counts data on WCML – leaving us to organise our own survey
• Not updating the core business case for latest GDP forecasts
• Using an outdated passenger demand forecasting model – and hiding the research that showed it was misleading
Taking account of these adjustments and the BCR for HS2 produces more like 20p benefit for every £1 spent by the taxpayer ie an 80p loss!. See http://www.hs2actionalliance.org/index.php/business-case/latest-bc-review