A very interesting item it today’s G2 about the on-going saga of the upgrading of the West Coast Main Line, one of the key railway routes in Britain:
One of the most disturbing facets of the west coast saga is the failure of democratic government that it represents. Not just of a particular party, but the whole system of government.
And yet we cannot accuse our elected representatives of looking the other way. In mid-February and early March of 1995, after the consultants had delivered their report but while Railtrack and the government were still mulling over it, members of the House of Commons transport committee questioned Edmonds, Horton and the heads of some of the big signalling firms about the WCML project … Members of parliament had done what they were elected to do, conscientiously and thoroughly scrutinising a big plan by an unelected organisation with power over the lives and purses of the public. It had pointed out its weaknesses. And nobody paid any attention.
What the article does highlight is that, today, projects of national importance and public good like this one come second to short-term profit, power and – to some extent – ego. I wonder if we will ever see a situation where transport planning is for all our good rather than the few?