Tag Archives: Richard Branson

HS2: does it matter that it’s an unknowable phenomenon?

“Who’s right and who’s wrong?” asked the orange tanned young woman of her six and a half foot track suited skin head boy friend as they were waiting for the bus.

Were they talking about the vague ties of family kith and kin? Or recent events in the HS2 saga? Or the vagueries of post modern knowledge? Were they wrestling with contemporary epistemological challenges about how we know what we know and who knows what they’re talking about? Who indeed is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong’?

I tried broaching the subject with them both as we muscled our way past the mums with prams, lads with bikes and senior citizens sporting shiny new roller blades.

Travelling by bus has changed beyond all recognition I mused, they’ve turned into freight transportation for lesser forms of transport, hijacked by the mass transport equivalent of the cuckoo.

No longer is it possible just to get on a bus and meet other people. They now have their own internal highway control processes: bikes go there, prams go there, wheelchairs have to put up with whatever the driver determines and the mere passenger scrabbles around for whatever’s left. The bus driver does at least know he is no longer driving a bus but a Scalectrix track on wheels.

Doris and Gyorgi I later learnt were indeed struggling with the state of knowledge, not least the reliability or otherwise of bus time tables. Like Doris pointed out, “they’re shite those timetables”.

It’s the challenge of the modern day traveller – how do you know what you can rely on when it comes to going from A to B? George Stephenson didn’t have that problem back in 1830 when he invented the first intercity railway: he knew nothing, and he knew it. He had a plan of sorts but even then the first train was three months late leaving the platform -a phenomenon which has clearly taken root in the DNA of the British rail network ever since.

And what about HS2? What can anyone truly know about what that is or will be? The budget falls apart daily; the unintended consequences multiply like rabbits in a field looking at a stationery Virgin Pendolino and the route hops from one village to another depending on which village feudal baron shouts the loudest and is able to cajole their villagers into brandishing enough pitchforks in the general direction of Richard Branson.

The sad fact about HS2 is that for all our speculation, we know nothing whatsoever about it: its budget, its route, it’s timetable or the colour of its livery. It would be better for all concerned if they acknowledged their complete ignorance, threw up their hands and admitted it’s a terrifically ludicrous project and damn the expense and the disruption and the egos and the politics and the legacy.

At least if they employed Doris and Gyorgi to run the project, they would have someone who knew what they don’t know and have the orange sun tan, track suit and torn up bus timetables to prove it.

Who should be the public champion for HS2?

The difficulty with the Not-So-H-HS2 campaign is that has still to find its champion – someone who can wave the flag, force the big boys to cough up bucket loads of cash and enchant the good burghers of Great Missenden that property blight is good for them and their grandchildren.

Some have suggested that they need the equivalent of Seb Coe. This is difficult for the Not-So-H-HS2 campaign because Seb lead the Olympic campaign dance over a mercifully brief 7 years from the announcement in Singapore to the closing ceremony in Stratford when Russell Brand cavorted amongst the drug free athletes in a drug fuelled frenzy with his acolytes and assorted celebs.

Not so the Not-So-H-HS2 campaign who have the unenviable task of keeping that party going for a mere 30 years. There’s not a figurehead on earth who has that kind of staying power, not even Richard Branson, despite his recent foray into immortality technologies.

No, what Not-So-H-HS2 Ltd need is a mythical figure who can keep the troops rallied and on permanent message well after this, the next and probably the next 6 governments. Someone who will live on well after all of us have been laid up in the sidings.

So – here’s your chance to contribute to the urban myth that Not-So-H-HS2 is turning into. Answers welcome below!