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D I A R Y
The Old Un’s diary All the news that matters. And some that doesn’t
Wheelspin The Department for Transport went in for a highly dishonest bit of news management over its proposals for HS2, the new high-speed line between London and Birmingham, later stretching out to Leeds and Manchester.
Three days before the launch of its HS2 plans, the Department leaked a document produced by Network Rail which debunked the alternative proposals to HS2 supported by various opposition groups. These alternatives are based on boosting the capacity of the intercity services at Euston by lengthening trains, running more services, separating out suburban and long-distance services, and various other relatively cheap measures.
The total cost of the alternative proposals would amount to perhaps a couple of billion pounds – considerably less than the £32 billion that the whole Y-shaped network to Leeds and Manchester will cost.
Network Rail’s document cursorily dismissed these alternatives as not providing sufficient capacity and causing major disruption at Euston – a bit rich, since HS2 will require Euston to be rebuilt and a swathe of property in Camden to be demolished, displacing at least 250 households.
Then, on the day of the HS2 launch, more new documents relating to the train line were suddenly released onto the Department’s website – press conferences are clearly too risky for the spin doctors these days. One of these was a report by the Atkins engineering consultancy which found that the HS2 opponents’ alternative proposals were, in fact, rather a good idea. Indeed one had a benefit to cost ratio – the measure used to assess projects – of 6, far higher than the measly 1.6 scored by the London to Birmingham scheme.
The alternatives would cost perhaps a couple of billion pounds – considerably less than the £32 billion that the network will cost
‘Hey, Dad! The Man in Black is here – but he hasn’t brought his guitar!’
Widow’s pique Rosalind Runcie, widow of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, died on 12th January aged 79. She was an unconventional woman who once posed for a photographer lying full-length on top of a grand piano.
Our editor Richard Ingrams remembers meeting her at one of Paul Getty’s cricket matches and listening to her complaining about Humphrey Carpenter, her husband’s biographer. Carpenter had embarrassed her husband by including several indiscreet ‘off the record’ remarks that Runcie had made about the Royal family. Ingrams countered that, sadly, Carpenter was now suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
‘Jolly well serves him right,’ was the rather uncharitable response from the Archbishop’s wife.
Refuse collection To be on the honours list ought to bring pride and pleasure, but then a niggling thought occurs: who wants to belong to a club that has Sir Fred Goodwin as a member? Such misgivings may become more common now that we can see who turned down gongs between 1951 and 1999. John Piper,
March 2012 – THE OLDIE 7