Wednesday, 11 January 2012
High speed to nowhere.
By and large I'm in favour of trains and can still get quite excited at the prospect of a new rail journey. Railways are a much more civilised way of getting around than road transport and no rail station could ever match the tedium and squalid indignity of most airports. You can turn up at Waterloo or St Pancras safe in the knowledge that you will not be expected to wait around in your socks and knickers while some jobsworth checks your baggage for overdue library books. The war on terror has yet to reach us rail passengers. We still live in a world of Railway Children, Rupert Bear and Brief Encounters. Well, those of us who don't use the trains to get to and from work anyway. So if I'm so keen on railways how come I have all these misgivings about the High Speed link to Birmingham and beyond? It's not just the 32 billion quid either and much as I love the English countryside I know that it's been "spoilt" not by transport networks but by second homes and the erosion of the rural economy. It's not even my failing to understand why anyone could be in such a rush that shaving three quarters of an hour of the journey time to Brum is that important. No, it's just that like Iain Sinclair I tend to be a bit suspicious of Grand Projects. From Pyramids to Olympic Parks these monuments to hubris create only jobs (unwanted labour) and, I suppose, ruins for future tourists to wonder at.