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Very Unfair to the People of Old Oak Common
This Green and Surprisingly Pleasant Land - grand projects
The time has come to stand up for the ignored good people of Old Oak Common. After centuries enduring the ignominy of being nestled between Harlesden and Acton, this sleepy northwest London suburb was promised a place in the sun after being told that their very own station would become the endpoint for the HS2 railway.
Just imagine! Old Oak Common was to take up the role once promised to Euston Station, inconveniently located right in the heart of London. Old Oak, on the other hand offers the prospect of easy access to visitors to nearby Wormwood Scrubs Prison avoiding the trek into the city centre after whizzing down to London from Birmingham.
The delights of Acton would be just a stone’s throw away. The Old Oak Common Café, admittedly a bit down at heal, was poised to become a hipster’s hangout or whatever. Indeed it was possible to think bigger, why not a M&S grocery, for example.
Alas, at least at the time of writing, it appears that these hopes are to be dashed by Britain’s courageous and forward thinking prime minister. He’s the small rich fella with an even richer wife who is poised to announce that HS2 will no longer be going to Manchester but will confine itself to the delights of Birmingham. As a sop to the People Who Matter (POM) it will however be stopping at Euston, the original plan which made the blithe assumption that the majority of travellers from Birmingham would not desire Old Oak Common as their final destination.
This was clearly a blow and far less understandable than the bold decision not to take the railway further North, a place rarely visited by POMs.
Absurdly when the HS2 was conceived in 2009 it was planned to go somewhere called Leeds. As few people in London could find Leeds on a map, that idea soon fell by the wayside. Instead Manchester, by way of an even more outlandish place called Crewe (details, please) was declared to be the railway’s endpoint. It sort of made sense because Manchester is better known to POMs as home to two prominent football teams and a rather decent orchestra.
Frankly, most of the North is much of a muchness so it made sense to conclude that getting the train up to Birmingham would be sufficient to honour the government’s obligations to the North, where people often have impenetrable accents. Despite this politicians have been known to brave the journey North so they can be photographed supping a pint, that common touch works really well with these salt of the earth types. The small rich fella tends to travel up there by helicopter because he’s no fool.
That’s unlikely to change, even assuming HS2 gets to Birmingham, despite the fact that it will be much faster than HS1, a really important project that whisks travellers from the capital to Paris, such a civilised place. We are now told however that speed was never the issue for a railway with high speed in its name, the real aim was connectivity.
This begs the question of why London needs all these connections to the North. What are self-respecting Londoners expected to do when they get there? I suppose it’s more about giving Northerners a chance to come to the capital. As they lead such blighted lives, one should perhaps be understanding here.
But my oh my, it’s all rather costly. The government has thankfully not bothered the Great Unwashed with financial details but rumours abound that the price tag hovers around £100 billion, or roughly three times the original estimate.
Before anyone gets shirty about this mouthwatering sum of money, mature reflection will find that we are talking about Other Folk’s Money, which is not the same as our own money. True, it emanates from taxpayers but once handed over to the government coffers, those who put it there have little business meddling in its disbursement. POMs, who know far more than we could ever know then decide how to spend it. And the great thing about POMs is that they also know other POMs, who can share the joy of disbursement.
The other thing about Grand Projects, such as HS2, is that they can be spun out. There is no rush to finish them off.
The importance of avoiding an unseemly scramble to get the work done is underlined by the shocking example set just the other day by Indonesia which incurred a mere four year delay in completing its bullet train speeding from the capital Jakarta to the old capital Bandung.
A four year delay smacks of amateurism of a kind unknown in the United Kingdom where we remain world leaders in avoiding the horrors of on time and on budget completion.
Idiot of the Week
In 2021 Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, said : “Here’s the truth: private schools are not charities. And so we will end that exemption and put that money straight into our state schools.” Now the Labour Party is saying they never intended to scrap private schools’ charitable status because getting them to pay VAT is quite enough for a future Labour government. Was there a deliberate plot to make Ms Reeves appear to be an idiot or did she do it all by herself?