Publish and be damned

I am reliably informed – well by the BBC actually, an organisation that used to be reliable – that 28th January 2013 marked the two-hundredth anniversary of the publishing of Jane Austen’s masterpiece Pride and Prejudice. Interesting then that it should also be the date that the Government should choose to publish High Speed Rail: Investing in Britain’s Future – Phase Two: The route to Leeds, Manchester and beyond (Cm 8508). Whilst I don’t think that Cm 8508, even with its jazzy cover, can be regarded as a match in any way for the sublime literary style of Ms Austen, or will attract anything like the readership and devotion that, rightly, she commands, it will, I’m afraid, become something of a page-turner for the sad group of people who, like me, have lives that have become dominated by HS2. I’m sure that, in the coming days, every syllable and punctuation mark will be carefully scrutinised and conclusions drawn.

I only wish that I had the sense (and sensibility) to read Pride and Prejudice instead.

At this point I had planned to make some disparaging remarks about writing fiction, but then I remembered that I had already employed that particular angle in my blog A work of fiction (posted 8 Sep 2012), so I won’t. However, I thought that I should interleave this short blog into the normal four-day sequence in order to assure any of my readers who may be concerned about my apparent silence on phase 2 in the coming days, that I will be turning my attention to matters phase 2 as soon as I have sufficient grasp of the proposals. From a first glance at Cm 8508, it looks as if I will not find myself short of inspiration for further blogs; rest assured also that I still have a fair head of steam up on matters phase 1, so I won’t be letting go there either.

Just at the moment, though, I am suffering from an excess of bovine manure, as I have just listened to the Transport Secretary’s statement to the House of Commons. It was largely the same old mantra, although I noticed that a new catchphrase has been coined by the backroom boys: this masterpiece is that HS2 will be “an engine for growth throughout the country”. However, the old favourites were not forgotten. We had one reference to “Victorian” railways, and the usual stuff about the West Coast Main Line “filling up”, and we were assured that the benefits would be £2 for every £1 spent. The Transport Secretary must have had his fingers crossed behind his back. I think that he must have crossed his toes also when he claimed that HS2 was “completely integrated with the existing network”.

In the face of such extreme provocation, I am sorely tempted to rush out a condemnation of the Y route plans. However, as I have already said, I want to read everything thoroughly before I commit my fingers to the keyboard.

However, I notice that others are not exercising such caution. The Institute of Economic Affairs put out a press release “ahead of the government announcing more details on the HS2 project”, in which it claims that “High Speed 2 is being driven forward by politics, not economics”. The IEA characterises HS2 as “a loss-making scheme with a very weak business case based on a series of flawed assumptions”. Anticipating the “engine for growth” claim, the IEA says that:

“The government is deluded if it thinks HS2 will regenerate the North. The region’s long-term economic problems will not be solved by faster rail links to London. Towns such as Doncaster already enjoy fast links, but remain among the poorest places in the country. Indeed, HS2 will be used as an excuse to waste billions more on flawed regeneration schemes in northern cities, at further expense to taxpayers.”

Now that’s the sort of rhetoric that I prefer.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by chriseaglen on January 29, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    It is already possible to discern the contraditions between phase 1 and phase 2 namely that objectives against resiting alignments in phase 1 are acceptable in phase 2. Inconsistency is the different between the past HS2 design and planning and the present. The £33B or £35B price also being fiction.

    Reply

    • Yes Chris, I have a similar initial reaction; the link to Manchester could hardly be described as direct. Subject to a more detailed look at the proposals, this aspect of the Phase 2 design is something that I will be working into my narrative. If HS2 Ltd has employed a different design philosophy for Phase 2, then the obvious request is “please go back to Phase 1 and do it again”.

      Reply

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