Grand plans and utopian visions

This was originally posted on Stop HS2 on 15th November.

“We should look sceptically at grand plans and utopian visions” said David Cameron at the Lord Mayor’s banquet last night.

Although David Cameron was talking about Europe, he should also use this scepticism when he looks at HS2.

We are often told that the Europeans embrace high speed rail, and that we should welcome it with the same fervour.  In reality, there is a growing opposition to high speed rail from ordinary people: in the Susa Valley project in Italy, in Stuttgart, and elsewhere.

In Britain, we do have high speed railways: the West Coast Main Line, the East Coast Main line and the Great Western Line are all high speed railways, according to European definitions.  We should celebrate them, rather then allow politicians to denigrate what we have.

There are serious high level concerns in Europe about the cost of high speed rail – for instance, earlier this year the finances of the Dutch high speed company were discussed in the Netherlands Parliament, because of the parlous state of the company’s finances.  (The company is 95% state owned.)

If HS2 went ahead, we would spend more per kilometre on this high speed railway then any other country in the world, but the relative saving will be significantly less.  It takes less time to get to our large cities from London then from other European capitals to their regional cities. If others are questioning the cost of their lines, shouldn’t we be concerned about the cost of ours?

Here at Stop HS2, we hope that David Cameron holds true to his intention to look sceptically at “grand plans and utopian visions”.  And we hope he starts with HS2.


Penny’s being doing internet stuff since 1993. She was a founder member of Stop HS2 and now runs the Stop HS2 website.

Penny can also be found on Twitter and Pinterest.

About Us

Stop HS2 is the national grassroots campaign against HS2, the proposed new High Speed Two railway. We formed after several months of studying the HS2 proposals in depth.

Our mission is

  • To Stop High Speed Two by persuading the Government to scrap the HS2 proposal.
  • To facilitiate local and national campaiging against High Speed Two.


Our supporters come from a wide range of backgrounds and from across the political spectrum.  Over 108,000 people signed our original petition, which we took to Downing Street in October 2011, on the day of a House of Commons debate on HS2.


Stop HS2 supporters work with a variety of international, national and local groups and individuals, with the intention of getting HS2 cancelled.


Our aim is to be inclusive and empowering.   We actively encourage individuals and groups to campaign against HS2 in a variety of ways.  These have included staging alternative consultation events, releasing a music single, delivering an advent calendar to Chequers, information stalls, setting up action groups, participation in academic and other conferences, discussing common features and strategies with relevant trans-European groups, baking cakes, walks, including the entire route, quiz nights and making films about HS2.


On a national level Stop HS2 has attended Party Conferences, organised lobby Days and demonstrations outside Parliament, a National Convention, the national ‘Beacon’ lighting event, submitting to reviews and consultations, appearing in front of the Transport Select Committee,  as well as getting significant levels of press coverage…




Stop HS2 is a campaigning  organisation.  As such, we are not eligible for charitable status.  We have a board of directors, which provides guidance and agrees strategy and an Annual General Meeting.


We also have regular meetings with other campaigners against HS2, including with Agahst (Action Groups Against High Speed Two).  Many of our supporters are active in their local Action Group.


Stop HS2’s Chair and Social Media Director is Penny Gaines.  Our Campaign Manager is Joe Rukin.  Our Treasurer is Roger Waller.


We rely on donations from our supporters to fund our work.   Maintaining the level of profile Stop HS2 has achieved costs money so, if you agree with our aim and are thankful for what we are doing, please consider donating direct to Stop HS2.


For information on how to register a local action group with Stop HS2 and on the use of the Stop HS2 logo, please see here. [Link to Terms and Conditions])


Please keep up with the national campaign on this website,  Twitter, Faceboook and Youtube, and through our mailing list.

“Saying a few words” – tips for public speaking

A few weeks ago, I was invited to “say a few words” at a meeting chaired by Seb Berry, a former LibDem councillor, with Nigel Farrage, the UKIP leader as the main speaker.

The event was on Friday and over the weekend I compiled a short list of a few tips I’ve picked up on public speaking.

  • Make notes and practise what you are going to say beforehand – lots.  But don’t  read it word for word, it may end up like a monotone. It takes practise to read a speech aloud well, and for most people the precise words used don’t matter that much.
  • It is worth being word perfect on the start of your speech and the end. Knowing exactly what you are about to say helps with any nerves you will be feeling: and practising the end enables you to finish without petering out.
  • Also, you may find you need to make last minute changes.  On Friday, we were asked to make our speeches shorter then originally planned: a speech which took seven minutes at home now needed to be reduced to no more then 4 minutes.    I changed the order round: not have been possible if it had been written out word for word.  (Even David Cameron made a note on his speech for the 2011 Lord Mayor’s banquet moments before he gave it.)
  • Allow for spontenaety.  On Friday the Now Show, the Radio 4 comedy program, talked about the campaign against HS2.  So I included a mention in my speech.
  • Knowing how to project your voice without a microphone can save you stress.  There will often be one available, but on Friday it was be broken.  Being able to speak without one – the venue was the size of a school hall, so not massive – made life a whole lot easier for the organisers and me.
  • Remember the audience is on your side.  They want the speaker to do well, and they will forgive a few mistakes and fluffed up lines.

Final thought: if you are a blogger, you’ll be thinking about your topic anyway. So why not practise bits of it for a speech, even if you haven’t got one planned?

Often at events like this, speakers compare what we are going to say.  One event I spoke at before, two of us would have covered the same aspics of the topic: I rewrote my speech from scratch in the ten minutes before I was due to give it.  The mini practises were what enabled me to make a reasonable speech.

Challange groups – all men

86. Following its establishment in 2009, HS2 Ltd established three challenge panels
(strategic, technical and analytical) “to provide independent expert scrutiny on different
elements of [its] work.” These panels continue to meet. Of the three groups, currently
comprising 22 people (all men), only the Analytical Challenge Panel contains any evident
critic of high-speed rail. The Strategic Challenge Panel comprises eight transport and local
government experts who are almost all publicly supportive of high-speed rail, including the
Director of Yes to HS2, the Director of Greengauge 21 and the Chairman of Network
Rail.211 Mr Hammond said that the details of the challenge panels were a matter for HS2
Ltd but he thought they had “worked well”.212


TSC review of HSR doc

Beyond Twitter and Blogging

This was originally posted on Stop Hs2 on January 12th 2011.

At the netroots UK conference on Saturday, I went to the “Beyond Twitter & blogging” workshop, a review of existing on-line tools for use in political campaigns.

The first tool discussed was ushahidi, which can be used for geographical data applications. It was used after the Haiti Earthquake, and is now being used for mapping reports during the flooding in Queensland. In the UK it is being used to gather information about spending cuts: could you work out a way of using it to gather information about HS2?

Google alerts will monitor the web or specific websites for terms of particular interest to you, and send you an email when one appears. produces several different democracy websites. monitors what your MP is doing, and also has an email alert service. is an easy means of sending emails to MPs, and will also monitor to ensure that people aren’t sending emails with duplicate text. helps you make Freedom of Information requests, and publishes the data online. monititors the groups having the most meetings with ministers. is an interactive online game, giving you points when you identify certain types of data, such as names, within the wikileaks data. has a database of election leaflets, matched to postcode. You can check whether your own MP is keeping to their promises – assuming that someone sent them a scan of the election leaflets. records county council spending on different companies. records spending by central government.

Most of these websites rely on the enthusiasm of volunteers to produce the tools and to input the data. Please check the “get involved” links on the different sites.

If you use any of these tools to find out information about HS2, why not comment below or let us know. If you could write an article for the website, we’d be extra grateful.

Edited to add: UK Members of Parliament, 2010 – 2015, Listed in order of majority