How to spend £56 billion
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When was the last time you heard someone say ‘I’m really keen on hs2’? Supporters of the new railway line— costed at £56 billion so far—don’t show themselves often. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine who wants the thing; lovers of the Chilterns’ beechwoods don’t, locals who can’t actually board the train anyway don’t and even commuters don't.
The rebuilding of euston will equal the ‘great earthquake’ Dickens described when the railway arrived in the first place. Creating hs2 will inflict years of even greater misery on the poor travellers who use that ugly, inconvenient terminus for little discernible gain and the north of england is less than ecstatic about a route that, in the first instance, only stops outside Birmingham. Improved cross-country connections and air-conditioning is what we need.
Scrap hs2 and there could be, dare we say it, a dividend, which could come in handy now there’s no eu money for such projects. We use the word cautiously—the Brexit dividend has proved to be a will-o’-the-wisp —but here are 10 ideas for spending it. 1 Bury the power lines blighting landscapes. 2 Invest in the science needed to remove plastic from the oceans. The money spent on finding a solution to this horrendous problem would supercharge British science.
3 Restore the Caledonian Forest. For all the beauty of the heather, the highlands have little of their old biodiversity, having been nibbled bald by deer.
4 Bring back wildflower meadows—the national Trust has just bought 460 acres of Peak District meadow for a mere £2.15 million.
5 Redevelop out-of-town shopping centres as housing. You could keep the shops, but those car parks and retail sheds are a flagrantly poor use of land at a time when we need to build more places to live.
6 Develop a safe TB vaccine for cows. We’re not against the badger cull for now, but the vaccine is long overdue and, as a bonus, an orally administered form of birth control for Brock—and grey squirrels—could save argument and the balance of nature.
7 Get solar panels out of fields, where they’re hideous, and, through grants, onto factory, barn, warehouse and office roofs.
8 ensure every village has decent broadband speeds. 9 Make the entire A303 a dual carriageway.
10 Fund apprenticeships for British craftsmen—and, while you’re at it, a school that teaches the values of Classicism and traditional architecture.
hs2 was someone’s dream once. With a war chest of £56 billion, several others could be realised.