55,000 pages of law for a new railway line

I awoke this morning to the news that the HS2 Bill will be 55,000 pages long. I suppose it’s good to know we get something for the millions of pounds being spent on preparing for the project, but why does all this need to be passed as a law? The environmental impact of this railway in general terms is pretty obvious to anyone looking at the project on a map, and will not be changed by the knowledge that it has been so extensively studied we can now have 55,000 pages written about it.

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  1. Bert Young
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    I am always suspicious of anything that takes too long to explain itself . This project should be kicked out ; I sincerely hope Ed. Balls will do the honours .

    • Bob
      Posted November 25, 2013 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

      @Bert Young

      This project should be kicked out ; I sincerely hope Ed. Balls will do the honours

      Ed Balls would continue with the project as it has been decreed by Brussels.
      The same applies to all three EU parties.
      If in opposition, David Cameron would be expressing mild disapproval of the project and saying that it’s costing hard pressed taxpayers too much.
      That’s the way it works.

  2. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Six meters of A4 paper for one copy of the law?

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted November 25, 2013 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      I think you will find that the length of an A4 sheet of paper is 297mm., 55000 pages is therefore equivalent to 16.335 kilometres per copy of the law. Not sure where your 6 metres came from – must be some EU measurement! Good for the paper industry though.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted November 25, 2013 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

        @Brian Tomkinson: Brian, in our country we usually put A4 sheets on top of each other instead of spreading them on the floor 🙂

        • alan jutson
          Posted November 25, 2013 at 4:31 pm | Permalink


          Yes I got it !

          But it just shows how bloody daft this government proceedure and system is.

          Who is ever going to read all of this, before they vote on it, absolutely not one MP.

          I guarantee it !.

          They will simply rely upon assurances given, hence our problem with not only our government, but the EU as well.

          They all just seem to want to bury you in paperwork until you cease to breath, because you are crushed under the weight of it all.

          Joke is, we pay them to do it !.

        • Brian Tomkinson
          Posted November 25, 2013 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

          Thanks for clarifying that it was the thickness of the documents to which you were referring; I should have realised. In which case, I guess that you assumed one side printing, or your printing paper is much thicker than ours, as I estimate the thickness as about 2.75 metres. In any event, I hope we can agree that it is a colossal waste of paper and money.

      • Brian Tomkinson
        Posted November 25, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

        I meant to add that if the sheets are printed both sides then 55,000 pages requires 27,500 sheets of paper and the total is of course halved, but still 8.1675 kilometres.

        • Edward2
          Posted November 25, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

          Worth mentioning is that 1 tree makes 16.67 reams of copy paper or 8,333.3 sheets so for each copy of this report that is printed, 6.6 trees are devoured.
          How about that greenies?

      • Acorn
        Posted November 25, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

        According to CLS, H.R. 3962, The [US] Affordable Health Care for America Act has 1990 pages; a total word count of 363,086; a substantive word count (no menus; contents; titles or tables), of 234,812. It is cited as being the wordiest Bill in the US Code.

        Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – 257,000 words. HS2 at 55,000 PAGES, (are we sure they didn’t mean words) would imply say, at 260 substantive words per page average (this is a wild guesstimate looking at a few pages of Bills in PDF format) would yield 14,300,000 words. Has it got any pictures in it?

        Does this have to go through a Public Bill Committee? Fetch the Guillotine Bill.

        • Acorn
          Posted November 25, 2013 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

          Some of us are reading a similar outcome in recent ONS data for the UK, as fellow number crunchers across the pond are identifying in the US data. Both countries follow the same economic model but remember, “accounting control fraud” is not a crime in the UK, but it is in the US.

          That is, Banksters and Spies don’t do jail time in the UK. Remember all those aristocratic communist spies, like the Trinity College mob, Blunt, Burgess, Maclean, Philby etc. It’s the same for anyone that works in the City of London.

          “Household debt jumped US$127 billion in the third quarter, the biggest increase since the first quarter of 2008. The rise was across the board as Americans went into greater debt to buy everything from houses to cars to schooling. Household debt is now growing faster than both gross domestic product and disposable income, returning to the pattern that drove both economic growth and serial bubbles in the past decade.”

          • Acorn
            Posted November 25, 2013 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

            I have been advised from another website, that if RBS ever gets prosecuted for asset stripping small companies, using Secretary Vince Cable’s evidence, then that will be the nearest the UK has ever got to prosecuting “accounting control fraud” other than BCCI. Good old Vince! Imagine a Conservative Business Secretary ever allowing such evidence to see the light of day.

            I bow to their superior knowledge in these matters. Apparently, the trick is the bank runs an invoice discounting scheme for its business customers (to free up cash in the business). This would normally be circa 85% of an invoice, but the bank suddenly drops it to circa 60%. This will wipe out most small businesses overnight. The bank then forces the small business into liquidation and rips off its assets for pennies in the pound to make a tidy profit.

            Reply Dr Cable has referred it to see if there is evidence of an offence. So far there is not.

          • Acorn
            Posted November 26, 2013 at 7:38 am | Permalink

            Reply Dr Cable has referred it to see if there is evidence of an offence. So far there is not.

            Oh yes there is. “Poole haulage company forced into liquidation as bank slashes funding.”

            http://www.thisisdorset.net/news/4202182.Poole_haulage_company_forced_into_liquidation_as_bank_slashes_funding/ .

            Reply Even RBS is innocent unless and until proven guilty, and so far there are no formal charges against the bank.

          • alan jutson
            Posted November 26, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink


            I see yet another huge Compensation claim against Banks in the pipeline if this investigation is proved.

            Very many businesses have been poorly treated by the Banks in recent years.

            The fact is, the more you owed to them as a percentage of the value of your business, the less options you had.
            Hence the reason many businesses prefered to pay off loans rather than invest back into trying to grow their business.
            One of the knock on effects was that the recession lasted rather longer than it needed to.

    • Robert Taggart
      Posted November 28, 2013 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      Begs the question…
      Recto ‘solo’ or Recto Verso ? – vis-à-vis the actual printing of this Bill.
      Johnny – guessing you have perused said document ? – the answer is… ?

  3. lifelogic
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    As someone with properties in London within just a few yards of the line will anyone pay me for my time to read these 55,000 pages, of what I assume will be mainly meaningless, ambiguous drivel.

    We are already hugely blighted and yet we have no clear compensation system even outlined as yet. I still think the project will die as it is clearly such an absurd project. Not that that is any guarantee with the UK system of Government & the Tories under Cameron/Clegg.

    • eddyho
      Posted November 25, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      You mean Cameron/Clegg/ Milliband. No difference between the three.

  4. English Pensioner
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    There are probably some hidden “nasties” which it is hoped that will be overlooked by MPs. It will need a really dedicated MP, with plenty of spare time, to read the lot, especially if it is all written in legalese !
    There is method in the madness.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted November 25, 2013 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      MPs should kick it out on the basis that it is too long for them to consider properly and they should not pass anything at all without doing that. They should take to same approach to all the endless drivel from the EU too.

      • Richard1
        Posted November 25, 2013 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

        I agree with this. Parliament needs to assert itself. 55,000 pages cannot be sensibly debated. The project should be blocked until the whole case can be set out in a clear public document capable of being read by an intelligent person in 1/2 day.

        Can someone explain why we do need a law?

        • lifelogic
          Posted November 25, 2013 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

          Why we need a law? I assumes so the government can rob people of their personal property assets with and devalue their properties but still have the law on their side.

  5. Bob
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    So that works out to about £1,500,000 per page. Such a bargain.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted November 25, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      Then we have the on going running costs and the huge blight and costly damage for millions, and the lost opportunity costs. Still far, far cheaper than the climate change act I suppose.

      • APL
        Posted November 25, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

        lifelogic: “Still far, far cheaper than the climate change act I suppose.”

        If we could have one or the other, yes I’d settle for HS2. Problem is we get both. Our government is really intent on giving this country … as Bazman might say … a Ramming.

  6. alan jutson
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink


    Just shows what you can do when you have someone else’s money to spend.

    Are there any blank pages left for the usual design changes and cost overruns, as they are sure to happen.

    This in a nutshell shows exactly what is wrong with large projects in this country, and at the same time the complications of written laws which try to cover every single aspect, instead of using good old fashioned commonsense.

    Any indication of the level of compensation to those who’s houses will be affected within this bill ?
    A rather important element to those people involved I would think !

    I wonder how many will read all 55,000 pages ?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted November 25, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      I wonder how many will read all 55,000 pages ?

      Perhaps one or two more than the number of dogs who read the Dangerous Dogs Act, and modified their behavior as a result.

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted November 25, 2013 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      In answer to your final question: not one MP who will vote to approve it.

  7. Gary
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    They have chosen to baffle by deluge. Not one MP will be able to , or bother to read it.

    • matthu
      Posted November 25, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      Unfortunately, MPs have form for approving legislation that they have neither bothered to read nor understand.

      Witness the Climate Act and the Treaty of Lisbon.

      • Bob
        Posted November 27, 2013 at 8:56 am | Permalink

        Caroline Flint, when in post as Europe minister, admitted that she had not read the Lisbon Treaty.

        This is where we’re at with the current occupants in the HOC.

        Perhaps they should all be forced to read the document before any further money is spent on the project.

  8. Iain Gill
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Good post John,

    You see it partially like the rest of us.

    Lots of politics amazes us. All that dangerous dog legislation and still everytime I take a child down the park they get chased by pit bull like dogs, is this really what the people want?

  9. Paul Perrin (@pperri
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Make sure you read every page, probably find it transferrs more human rights control to the EU…

  10. A.Sedgwick
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    At 300 pages a day, about my maximum easy reading attention span these days, it would take six months reading every day, never mind make notes and re-read confusing passages. Our society will collapse in a bureaucratic heap one day.

    • lifelogic
      Posted November 25, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      “collapse in a bureaucratic heap one day”

      I thought it had done already look at the number of lawyers around most doing little of any use.

  11. Mark B
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    A clear case of, Government gone mad !

  12. BobE
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Any Tory or Lib dem with a seat along the line of HS2 will loose it in 2015 (16 months) for certain.

  13. lojolondon
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Typical of our government(s) over the last 15 years – pay a fortune for consultants to create so much garbage that no-one can ever read the thing and tackle the points made. Consultants are happy because they are paid for this rubbish. Typical money-no-object bureaucratic back-covering. When the HS2 gets deservedly canned, they will still have their money. No-one in the civil service ever got fired for paying too much money to consultants. Unfortunately.

  14. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Quite, the financial drain begins now and when the project actually starts it will need lots more funds no doubt.

  15. Mike Wilson
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    How did we ever make do with 10 commandments on two A3 sized tablets of stone?

    This the state gone mad.

  16. David Hope
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    I have no idea why I decided to pursue a job that involves adding some value. I’d be making a lot more money as a solicitor living off government contracts.

    Seriously why does everything that happens these days involve such huge amounts of paperwork and legal process that benefits only large law firms whilst tax payers money just disappears

  17. Edward2
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Its the same idea with the numerous IPCC reports on global warming.
    Hundreds of dull, dense pages with a summary which doesn’t always follow the text in the main body of the report.
    Most politicians and journalists only do a quick read of the summary points to make their pronouncements.

  18. Antisthenes
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    There is method in the madness of those with influence and power and bureaucrats. The more wording there is in a law or treaty and therefor more complicated(think EU, perhaps a trick learned from them) the easier it is to dupe the people now and in future for those in power and want to misuse it it can be interpreted anyway that it suits them.

  19. Tad Davison
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    The thing that seldom gets mentioned if ever, is that the whole HS2 project is prone to obsolesence. Magnetic levitation could conceivably go on a pace in the meantime, and eclipse the traditional two rail mode. And then there is the train in a tube system presently under consideration in the United States where it is envisaged one could travel from Los Angeles to New York in just 45 minutes. Echoes of the prop-driven Bristol Brabazon when it was already known that the future lay with a different technology altogether.

    However we look at HS2, it’s a nonsense. If the government is hell-bent on the thing, why do they insist on yesterday’s mode of transport?

    In any event, its necessity is at best questionable. Glamourous projects have a nasty habit of turning into white elephants pretty damned quick once the tax-payer has to stump up the cash.

    Tad Davison


  20. uanime5
    Posted November 26, 2013 at 12:15 am | Permalink

    I suspect a journalist will try to get a copy of this bill, take a photo of themselves next to it, then write an article about just how long it is without mentioning anything about its contents.

    If this bill is every passed we’ll need a lot of vellum to record it on.

  21. rick hamilton
    Posted November 26, 2013 at 1:50 am | Permalink

    Look at any document written in the days before typewriters in neat copperplate handwriting. Straight to the point, simple and clear because it took too long to write a lot of needless verbiage. Now with computers on every desk they can churn out reams of gibberish to satisfy regulators, lawyers, observers, checkers, supervisors, commentators, activists and grievance groups of every conceivable kind who are salivating at all the taxpayer-funded work the endless argy-bargy about HS2 will bring them.

    What percentage of the working population is employed in creating an original product or service that people actually want to buy, and what percentage is parasiting on them with regulation, compliance, legal argument, security checking, audits, commentary, criticism, and general bullshit? There are always far more observers who know what’s wrong with everything than practical people who can put it right.

    Thanks largely to the tidal wave of regulation from the EU the old British common sense way has completely gone and has been replaced by a bureaucratic nightmare that is gradually choking our economy to death. Which is of course why almost nobody in government wants us to leave the EU. Not only would they lose their ticket to the gravy train, they would actually have to read all the small print in the exit agreement drafted by Brussels and understand what the outcomes would be. Which they manifestly failed to do when they signed away our sovereignty in the first place.

  22. Mark
    Posted November 26, 2013 at 1:51 am | Permalink

    This is contempt of Parliament.

  23. Leslie Singleton
    Posted November 26, 2013 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Still no credible comment against Great Central and its obvious advantages

    • Robert Taggart
      Posted November 28, 2013 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      Agreed, but, oneself claims that idea – as our own !

  24. The PrangWizard
    Posted November 26, 2013 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    It is beyond parody. May the Lord protect us from the official mind. We need Him because there seems no end to its stupidity, its incompetence and its stark lunacy. This item links in nicely with the annoying train announcements, and the ‘something must be done’ and ‘we must introduce controls on..’ frame of mind. A State and Local Authority bureaucracy staffed by ‘jobsworths’. Thus no-one in ‘authority’ is willing to say ‘that is not needed’.

    Meanwhile, as Nero fiddles Rome burns.
    Will we ever be free of such tyranny?

    By way of a post script I am pleased to see, Mr Redwood, that you are a signatory to the Amendment concerning the extension of controls on immigration from Rumania and Bulgaria.

  25. Alan Wheatley
    Posted November 26, 2013 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    If there is, as is claimed, a sound business case for HS2 the government should leave it to private industry and investors. They could undertake to facilitate any legislation that was required to enable a credible bid to build and run the line.

    This is a proven method; it is how we got the railways in the first place.

  26. stred
    Posted November 26, 2013 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    The HS2 website gives costs and distances. Also it states that half the track for Phase 1 will be in tunnels ans cuttings. There will be a link to HS1 and to Heathrow. The total length given is 330 m. Ph 1 is 140 m. Working out the % distances and costs, Ph1 is 42.4 % distance and 40% cost. Phase 2 to Manchester and Leeds will therefore be 57.6% distance and 60% cost. Dividing distance by cost gives figures of 1.06 for Ph1 and 0.96 for Ph2. This means that they think they can build Ph2 for about 10% less than The London -Birmingham part.

    A few questions:-
    Will Ph2 not be in tunnels and cuttings and has any detailed design been done yet?

    If Ph1 is being linked to Heathrow, why could the line not have gone past Heathrow and alongside the motorways, as an alternative design by the engineer who had to redesign Hs1 to follow the M20? And if this had been done, would it have been necessary to put much of if under ground level?

    Will the trains be able to run at 250 mph in the tunnels? If not, is the advantage of running in a straight line through the Chilterns reduced in terms of travel time?

  27. ferdinand
    Posted November 26, 2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    WSC had the right idea. “Give me the case for this on side of a sheet of paper.”

  28. Alan Wheatley
    Posted November 26, 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    On several occasions I have written in this site contrasting the poor use of public money on HS2 with its the far better use rolling out “super fast” broadband. I have now discovered a Government commissioned report that agrees with all that I have been saying.

    On November 14th Dept. Culture, Media and Sport published UK Broadband Impact Study. It is available to download as a pdf from

    From the Executive Summary I quote the following:-

    “we estimate that the availability and take-up of faster broadband speeds will add about £17 billion to the UK’s annual Gross Value Added4 (GVA) by 2024”;

    “these interventions are projected to return approximately £20 in net economic impact for every £1 of public investment. This is an unusually high level of return for public funding, but we consider it to be realistic.

    And as to the environmental impacts, it is estimated that by 2024 there will be savings of 2.3 billion kms in annual commuting, 5.3 billion kms in annual business travel and 1 billion kWh p.a. of electricity.

    The current “government spending” on rolling out broadband is in fact money top-sliced off the BBC licence fee. And it is a pittance compared with what is being thrown at HS2. Current broadband funding is inadequate to achieve the speeds with 100% coverage: why should any areas be left out, especially as the most difficult to reach will tend to be those that benefit most. Broadband needs more funds, and clearly it will be money very well spent.

    So, here we have the government’s own report showing how to get a very good return on OUR money. And also confirming that if the broadband is good enough the need to travel will reduce.

  29. Mark
    Posted November 26, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    I note that the main bill is 155 pages – longer than the proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem, which runs to just 150 pages. I suspect the latter is easier to follow.

  30. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted November 27, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    I wonder how many copies of those 55,000 pages are to be printed and how many trees will have to be felled to provide the paper.

    Perhaps the supporters of HS2 and the legal profession will care to explain how this is ‘environmentally friendly’.

  31. Andy
    Posted November 27, 2013 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    I just do not understand why they don’t reopen the old Great Central Main Line. Even where it had been built over it would be a damn sight cheaper than this.

    • Robert Taggart
      Posted November 28, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      Here, here, here – have you been reading our own previous blogs ? !

  32. Robert Taggart
    Posted November 28, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    NO2 HS2 – the ‘Bill’ be simply too big !

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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