Transport secretary Philip Hammond has been accused of manipulating the High Speed Two (HS2) public consultation after he contacted rail employees, asking them to support the project and respond to the consultation.
In a statement published on Friday on East Midlands Trains’ staff intranet, Hammond urged employees of the company to respond to the consultation before it ends this Friday.
In the 300-word statement, Hammond also argued the case for HS2 and reminded East Midlands Trains employees that they may “have a very significant stake in seeing HS2 come to fruition”.
Hammond wrote: “How often in the past has Britain baulked at big decisions, while other countries modernise their infrastructure? We have before us a once in a lifetime opportunity to reshape our economic geography and build a railway fit for the 21st century. This time, let’s take it.
“I hope that many of you will have already have responded to the Government’s consultation on high speed rail. If you haven’t, there is still time to have your say.”
Campaign group Stop HS2, which circulated the internal statement, said the strategy was manipulative and “desperate”.
Stop HS2 chair Penny Gaines said: “For a government minister to act in this way is an abuse of his position and shows a complete contempt for the great many ordinary members of the public who are taking part in the HS2 consultation process in good faith,” she said.
Meanwhile, train drivers’ and operators’ union Aslef general secretary Keith Norman also lobbied his union’s members earlier this month by sending out pre-written consultation response postcards and urging members to sign and return them.
Norman urged colleagues to respond to the consultation and “make sure a privileged few do not prevent job creation for the many”.
An email sent to subscribers by pro-HS2 group Campaign for High Speed Rail on July 15th claimed that “at the moment, the number of negative responses [to the public consultation] is far greater than the number of positive responses”.