Questions over HS2 and Fracking

This week Jim asks whether two major investment projects have a future, HS2 and fracking for gas in Lancashire. He also casts doubt on nuclear power investment as the government seems to be relying on ever cheaper renewable resources

Jim Hancock

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… but first that issue

I am going to leave Brexit alone this week except to say I haven’t changed my view that Theresa May’s game is to run the clock down, rely on a last-minute concession by the EU and get her deal over the line. Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn also wants to leave the EU, without being responsible for the “Tory Deal” damage that will ensue.

Tory and Labour Remainer MPs are being played for dupes, their strategy is confused and their agonising embarrassing; as is the continued speculation about a breakaway centre party. If it is to have any credibility, it won’t derive from London cocktail parties where they come up with the idea of JK Rowling becoming leader.

Future of HS2

I did some work facilitating meetings of the talented rail engineers planning this massive scheme and shared their enthusiasm for it. It was a huge mistake to associate it with high speed when the real justification is that the West Coast mainline is at capacity for passenger and freight. However, Britain was at last going to match the French and Japanese in fast rail.

I would still like HS2 to go ahead but the daily misery being faced by passengers commuting in the North of England has forced me to conclude that the government may need to pause HS2 to invest massively on rail in the North. I don’t just mean connecting the big cities with Northern Powerhouse Rail but doing something about the chaos on lines between places like Flixton to Urmston highlighted on TV this week.

Transport for The North’s investment plan, recently revealed, should get urgent approval from whoever is going to replace the hapless Chris Grayling when he is removed as Secretary of State for Transport.

As I say I would like both projects to go forward, but the benefits of HS2 won’t be seen in the North until the 2030’s, whilst urgent investment in local rail would see improvements much sooner.

I acknowledge the improvements now coming on the Preston to Manchester link, but progress has been slow and the investment programme across the North needs a rocket boost to investment.

It is not acceptable for a heavily pregnant woman to have to miss three trains because of overcrowding on short formed services

Government energy policy

Again, I must begin with a transparency notice, I have done webcast work for Lancashire fracking firm Cuadrilla.

I have found the government’s response to developments in the nuclear and gas industries in recent weeks very interesting.

The collapse of plans for three nuclear power plants because of the withdrawal of Japanese investment did not send ministers into tailspin.

Justified demands by Cuadrilla for the lifting of earth tremor restrictions at their Preston New Road fracking site in Lancashire have been refused along with permission to drill at all at nearby Roseacre Wood.

Meanwhile the cost of renewable energy is plummeting. It suggests the government are pivoting to green energy solutions and it could mean difficult times for our nuclear and fracking companies.

Follow me @JimHancockUK

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