Monday, March 17, 2014

HS2, political footballs and democracy

Last October I suggested that the HS2 project had become an example of what Roger James, a populariser of Karl Popper's philosophy, has called "solutioneering".

He defines this concept as:
Jumping to a solution before clearly formulating what the problem is (or indeed if there is one at all) or how success or failure are to be judged. Achievement of the solution then becomes the goal; and, when opposition develops, the problem becomes how to get the solution accepted, while the question of how best to solve the original problem, if there was one, never gets discussed at all. I call this mistake solutioneering.
Today, as if determined to prove me right, the head of the HS2 project complained about the level of parliamentary scrutiny the it is receiving.

The Guardian writes about Sir David Higgins' appearance at the launch of a new report on HS2 in Manchester this morning:
Higgins said he was hoping that the HS2 bill would get royal assent in 2016 so that work on phase one could start, as planned, in 2017. Challenging the politicians to get legislation through as quickly as possible, he said: "The more certainty there is about the timescale, the more possible it is to control cost through economies of scale. That is why getting clarity over the duration of the parliamentary process is key. The more clarity parliament can provide the more I can reduce contingency and therefore the ultimate cost. 
"This project is too big to become a political football," he said, adding that parliamentary scrutiny of HS2 was important, but was obviously time-consuming.
The argument that, because HS2 is a major project, it must receive only limited scrutiny is odd. Surely that is precisely why it should be closely examined?

Note too that this morning's report envisages yet more major changes to the plans for HS2. Again, these changes should be examined, not waved through.

I like railways, but I know a weak argument when I see one. If people think HS2 is a bad idea they should say so.

This is not making 'a political football' of HS2. It is called parliamentary democracy.

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