The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Unambitious Britain

Posted by The Futility Monster on February 19, 2010 @ 10:15

Will we ever see one of these here?

A couple of papers this morning are featuring the Tories sudden reversal of interest in backing a new high-speed rail line. Upon closer inspection, however, the story does not quite match the headline.

Apparently, Labour and Lord Adonis are backing a very specific route, while the Tories have decided to become more coy over the issue, instead claiming that they will not back anything this side of an election. Now there’s a surprise. Why would you want to tell the voters what you plan to do, after all?

There is still a fair chance that a new high-speed rail project goes ahead. After all, we are now light years behind our nearest economic rivals, and we are going to have to catch up. Only the US is as stunningly unambitious as we are, but even then Obama’s latest budget is promising to spend at least some cash on the railways.

But, in reality, we have missed the boat. Instead of that trifling little VAT cut, which cost the Treasury billions in lost revenue and was of questionable economic value anyway, why was that money not spent on getting this high-speed rail project up and running? At least it would have employed thousands of people, putting money directly into the economy, and ending up with a legacy that would, surely, have paid back the initial cost of construction in good time?

Instead, here we are, two years into major economic turbulence with no real end in sight, and no further money to get us going again. Options are now almost non-existent; and, in any event, costs are rising all the time.

But let’s go further back. We did, after all, enjoy something like 13 years of ceaseless, unprecedented growth. Quarter-on-quarter, year-on-year, more and more economic development, resulting in more and more tax take. Why didn’t we use just a small portion of that investing for the future of this country? After all, the private sector is not going to spontaneously build us a new railway, let alone any other form of infrastructure. Governments have to lead.

Ours didn’t, and has never really been bothered about transport, despite it being almost the only government “service” that everyone uses every day. Whether by road, by train or by air; or whether it’s the goods arriving by lorries, or the letters and parcels being delivered across the nation… our reliance on transport to sustain our modern existence is overwhelming.

And have we done anything to support it?

Have we bollocks.

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