£30b, 20 years to completion – see what happens when politicians get seduced into vanity projects like HS2. Plenty of photo-ops of ministers poring over maps, futuristic graphics, promises of reviving the north….don’t they just love it.
Of course we can predict the reality – costs will double/treble, incompetent management will cause delays, unions will blackmail progress and, by 2032 technology might well have made the whole caboodle outdated.
But just, for a moment, imagine what we could do to improve our shambolic infrastructure with £30b over five years – improve thousands of choke point road junctions with right turn lanes, mini roundabouts, traffic lights. Upgrade existing track and signalling on our existing railway network. Above all convert the A11 into a motorway into the heart of East Anglia. Ensure that the pathetic A303, supposedly the main route between London and South West England, becomes a dual carriageway along its entire length with no roundabouts or junctions. Do the same with the A30 and A38 into the heart of Cornwall and, while you’re at it create a south coast expressway using the A27 and A35.
Our road network has remained frozen for the last thirty years – nothing much has changed (apart from the completion of the M25) since 1980 – which was the year I first began driving regularly in France. In those days the Autoroute network was fairly limited and centred almost exclusively on Paris – and few towns had a bypass. Since then the French have embarked on a steady programme of motorway development and traffic circulation projects that has transformed the whole transport system – as well as a state of the art intercity rail network.
Meanwhile Britain has been asleep at the wheel – often literally.
Still at least we can maybe invest now in a ticket to Leeds by HS2 and bequeath it to our heirs yet unborn to enjoy at some vague time in the future.
That sound? Don’t worry – its Brunel turning in his grave….