WELL, the new chairman of HS2, Doug Oakervee, was recently appointed, and showered himself straight away in unglory by declaring he needed to educate all of those who are against HS2.
Maybe he should start by getting his team to answer all the freedom of information requests they’ve been refusing. Surely education needs information?
So what has he done as chairman? Well nothing much so far. It seems he has been earning a pretty penny for a part time role and been pretty invisible until this week, when his face graced the cover of HS2 Ltd’s first newsletter.
Our group has sent 20 newsletters already just in Hillingdon and Ruislip – it’s not that hard. Sadly, indications from the newsletter are that he needs educating. At last they are communicating we thought. Good, about time.
Until you tried to open the attachments that came with the email – nine of them were a copy of a picture – the same one! It was of Alison Munro, the chief executive of HS2 Ltd. Not the best picture of her I’ve even seen.
Lots of complaints about that from recipients who wasted their time opening and closing the pictures, assuming they might be interesting or important documents.
Lesson number one, Mr Oakervee: when emailing thousands of people who don’t like you or your quango very much, don’t attach (in error) loads of unsightly and unnecessary pictures and waste peoples' time.
So then we read the newsletter, thinking it can only get better. Then he tells us why there is still no compensation consultation, two and a half years in. He makes some half hearted excuses (but no apology) and promises to write to people at some point.
Lesson number two: when something is in your control and you are late, say sorry and set a new deadline quickly.
He then talks about finding out who owns what in terms of property and land, without mentioning that they have already sent quite scary letters to lots of people asking for access to their land or telling them they hope to compulsorily purchase their homes.
He later talks about kind permission of landowners, many of who have been terrified by the legal jargon in HS2’s letters.
Lesson number three: when peoples' lives, homes and futures hang in your hands, at least try to sound like you care and have an idea what you are doing.
He then gives a phone number for queries about surveys they are doing in local communities along the route. Well, when someone rang the other day and asked about noise surveys they refused to give any information. When they trespassed on Hillingdon Council land and put up traffic counters without permission, they denied it. We know it was their surveyors. In the newsletter he calls surveyors 'our'. You can’t have it both ways; either they are your surveyors or not.
Lesson number four: trust. It’s important – you have to earn it!
He then talks about community forums, which we all know the length of the route have been a fiasco, ineffective and some groups have had to withdraw from them because HS2 Ltd are being unreasonable.
That may well happen here yet. He says all the information is online and gives a link, to the wrong type of forums. Really!
On top of that, all the information isn’t there, loads of minutes are missing and documents that are given out at the meetings are not available online. It’s really just an out of date web page from March.
What a shambles!
Lesson number five: do your job properly and be accountable. Lots of community and voluntary groups are doing a better job at disseminating information than HS2 Ltd.
So Mr Oakervee, my conclusion is maybe when you have learnt some basic lessons in courtesy and communication you can talk about educating us.
For now, get your house in order, stop recruiting and spending money, train your staff properly and answer freedom of information requests and be transparent.
Although I hope HS2 never gets built, you need to start behaving as if you deserve to be in charge of this budget of £36billion.
So far you are not worthy, and it is those along the route that suffer and taxpayers who pay.