HS2 update – June 2021

I am writing this on 11 May, which is only significant as it helps demonstrate how our community, and no doubt other communities are being “engaged” with by HS2.

An accepted use of the word engagement comes from the marketing industry. Engagement: “meaningful interaction between a consumer and a brand”. Or Social Engagement: “a measure of one’s engagement with a community or society”.

HS2 Ltd, EKFB and Fusion have dedicated teams to “engage” with us, but is it “meaningful interaction” or is it something else?

On 18 February we were invited to an engagement event, a webinar, and yes it was as bad as it sounds. At it I asked …

Q. Could HS2/EKFB/Fusion provide examples of how the engagement process had influenced/improved the design of the scheme?
A. I’ve had no answer to date.

Q. I asked that copies of permits and licences granted to HS2-related works be made available on sites and produced on demand. This was my attempt to clarify the arguments over the legality of works, arguments that currently fuel the confrontations between site workers and protectors/protesters.
A. No answer to that one either.

On 25 March I added these three parishioners’ questions. Answers received on 10 May are shown:
Q. Road Barn Farm. What is the timetable for demolition works at this site? This house and barn are much loved landmarks and many people have asked for clarity on their fate.
A. Fusion are currently undertaking the soft strip of the building and EKFB are tasked with the demolition and we are currently clearing vegetation within the area. Due to the location of the illegal protester camp, from a security risk element, we restrict the details around the date of the demolition and will inform the council when it’s imminent.

Q. Lorries. Reports of HS2 related HGV’s entering or passing through the village are increasing. Can you confirm that lorry movements are tracked and recorded and that HS2/EKFB/Fusion vehicles are identifiable as parliament expects? Is that data available for community audit?
A. EKFB have a VMBS (Vehicle Management Booking System) which tracks lorry movements along our works. This software allows us to allocate approved routes and set arrival times and even provides departure times based on real time traffic information. If a vehicle arrives on site which hasn’t complied with the route, the HS2 identifier isn’t visible or the vehicle isn’t correctly booked into that site, the vehicle is rejected. Unfortunately this data would not be available to the communities. If local residents do spot a vehicle which they think shouldn’t be travelling along a certain route, then we do encourage people to get in contact with details such as time, vehicle registration numbers and locations and we will investigate it.

Q. Lorries 2. There are reports that lorry identifiers are inadequate. I understand that signs on the dashboard of vehicles are being used and that these are controlled by the driver. Is that the case?
A. The identifier in the cab is currently an A4 sign which clearly displays HS2 so it’s identifiable that vehicle is on HS2 business. They are controlled by the driver and they have to keep them displayed or they will be rejected from site. If however there are any targeted attacks by protesters on vehicles, the use of these identifiers will be reviewed under security measures.

Many of us will remember the promises made to Parliament by HS2. The clearly identifiable lorries, tracked and controlled, the whole good neighbour thing and the offer of a dialogue. Is that what this is?

Neither Buckinghamshire Council nor WPC feel that HS2 engagement is delivering on earlier promises.

I did come across another definition. The systematic propagation of a doctrine or cause or of information reflecting the views and interests of those advocating such a doctrine or cause. So can I leave you to decide whether we are being “engaged” with or this latter definition – it’s a definition of propaganda – is nearer to the mark.
Tom Walsh