All about the infrastructure?
The government’s announcement about its planned investment in the rail network is welcome for several reasons. Firstly, government investment in current circumstances is a good thing. Secondly it is going to rail, which is relatively non-polluting, and will be even more so with electrification. And thirdly, the government has resisted the desire for another ‘show off’ project and has decided to spend its money on making existing services better – conceptually this is only a couple of notches up in status from fixing potholes in the road.
Of course, nothing is perfect. A large chunk of the money had already been allocated, so Government is trying to make more political capital than it really deserves – but what’s new? There is some doubt about where the rest of the money will come from although it is amusing to hear pundits alternately complaining ‘Does this mean the taxpayer will pay?’ and ‘Will rail fares go up?’ Surely one or the other is inevitable, unless we find a fairy godmother – and we may have more urgent calls on her largesse than rail electrification.Thirdly, not everywhere will benefit equally. Cornwall, for example, one of the least advantaged regions, is not only worried about not receiving any benefit, but also that its services may actually be cut.
Finally, does a government that sees most buildings as an unacceptable luxury unless they are so basic that they are scarcely usable have less of a problem with infrastructure? This bias would not be great. Outdated railways need an upgrade but so do failing schools. Perhaps the coalition partners could talk about that when they need an announcement to make up their next tiff?